The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Yeley vs Busch? Good vs Bad Teammates? Robby vs Reality? And More ... by Thomas Bowles -- Tuesday February 26, 2008

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Did You Notice … That other than Jeff Gordon's lucky break on the final lap, there were a total of zero engine failures at California Speedway Monday? It's only the third time in the track's history that's happened; the lack of mechanical problems were especially notable in this case, considering there were all sorts of debris and dirt littering the track over the course of a wet weekend.

That strong performance by parts and pieces seems to bode well for the long-term; however, to me that's not always a good thing. There's an air of unpredictability in having the occasional engine failure now and then; but based on early results and technological innovation, it looks like they'll be happening less often than ever before.

Did You Notice … How inflated certain statistics can be nowadays? There were 32 lead "changes" at California - a new "record" - but that's because most of those occurred during a cycle of green flag pit stops, where cars will surrender the lead to slower backmarkers who inherit the top spot simply because they have better fuel mileage. I wonder if we should start changing this statistic to "passes for the lead under green;" as far as I'm concerned, there was no way the California race was record-setting in terms of competition.

Did You Notice … That in the first CoT race on an intermediate track - a new innovation that should level the playing field — we didn't hear so much as a peep from any rookie? Sam Hornish, Jr. was involved in an early crash, while Dario Franchitti and Regan Smith struggled to keep up. If you're in Vegas this weekend, I'd bet the farm on "No Rookie Winning A Race This Season" before the odds get any worse; if it weren't for the road courses at Infineon and Watkins Glen, I'd almost be willing to lay some money down on "No Rookie will finish in the Top 5 in 2008."

Did You Notice … Top 5 finishes for Kyle Busch during the first two races of the season in the No. 18 car: 2. Top 5 finishes for J.J. Yeley in two years in the No. 18 car: 1. Average finish for Kyle Busch in two starts with Joe Gibbs Racing: 4th. Average finish for J.J. Yeley in two starts with the single-car program of Hall of Fame Racing : 27th, with zero laps led.

I'm not trying to hate against Yeley; he's a funny, intelligent, talented guy by all accounts. However, it's taken just two weeks to show the difference between a good driver and a great driver in this series. For anyone who wants to know why top-name owners will put up with Busch despite his volatile personality, reread that last paragraph.

Did You Notice … That along those same lines of good vs great wheelmen, Kyle Petty's driven the first two races like he has a 20-ton weight attached to the back of his car. Seriously … at Daytona, he couldn't even hang on to the lead draft, and at California, he experienced brake problems after being the slowest car in the field virtually all race long. If Bobby Labonte's going to stay at Petty Enterprises, Kyle's going to have to be a bit of a better teammate on the track than that; and if he can't focus on the driving anymore, he may need to come to terms with the fact his behind-the-wheel career may finally be over. The future of PE could depend on that.

Did You Notice … How quickly and easily Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer swept their controversy under the rug after Daytona — as opposed to Matt Kenseth hanging on to some bad feelings for David Ragan? Then again, Burton and Bowyer didn't wreck each other … but still …

Did You Notice … There were no less than half-a-dozen cars who start and parked in the Nationwide race at California Monday - and even with that high a number, the series still couldn't fill a field of 43 cars? What's especially disturbing in the two races so far is that even though the number of Cup drivers was drastically reduced in California - a product of the Car of Tomorrow not yet being raced in the series - only one non-Cup driver was able to crack the Top 10 (Stephen Leicht). Just two races into the season, Mike Bliss is the best-positioned Nationwide driver going for the title; but he's already eighth, 144 points behind Tony Stewart in the championship battle.

Now, if that's not a sign of an unhealthy series, I don't know what is. But here's what's particularly disturbing about the start and park trend angle of things … two of the cars who were obviously there to park it (the No. 90 and No. 91) are co-owned by none other than SPEED's Phil Parsons. A full-time analyst of the Truck Series races, why would one of the most visible NASCAR personalities be actively associated with a practice scorned upon by the majority of fans and other competitors? It's a legitimate question, one that will hopefully receive an answer at some point. If this new MSRP Motorsports venture is simply saving up cash to one day be able to run the series full-time, that's somewhat understandable; but if they're seizing an opportunity to make a quick buck, shame on them.

Some fans are throwing their support behind Robby Gordon after he was slapped with a 100 point penalty after Daytona. But did he bring it on himself with his quick manufacturer change?

Did You Notice … How out of hand this whole "Rally For Robby" thing has become? Here's the thing; NASCAR can't assess fair penalties if they start playing favorites. Let's forget the past for a second; at the beginning of each year, a sanctioning body has the right to reassess the way they give out penalties; and in this case, they've determined that a pre-inspection body style violation will result in a 100-point loss for both driver and owner, a $100,000 fine, and a six-week suspension of the crew chief. As long as they stick with that, then I'm OK with a penalty of that magnitude being assessed if they're going to get tough across the board.

It's true that what happened to Robby was an unfortunate, tragic mistake. But, no one told Robby he needed to switch from Ford to Dodge mere days before the season opener. And if Dodge couldn't handle that last minute request … well, he's got to live with the consequences, and hope that Dodge compensates the team for their newfound support.

Don't get me wrong; I feel for Robby. But who said sympathy equaled fairness?

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alan4s
02/27/2008 07:23 AM
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Tom, on the Robby issue, here’s a point many of you journalists keep ignoring – the potential competetive advantage of the infraction.

Okay, NASCAR can’t judge intent. Fine.

NASCAR can’t be lenient for a suppliers mistake. Fine.

NASCAR won’t budge because thier own rulebook is unclear. Avanger, Charger, same part number? Fine.

But by thier own admission (Darby said so) there was virtually no difference between parts, and the nose Robby had would not give an advantage in the race.

So, manipulation of the car to gain an advantage does not warrant more of a penalty than a wrong part that gives no advantage? Out and out attemps at cheating doesn’t deserve more of a penalty? Last years COT infraction by HMS was clearly an attempt to create an advantage (and it can’t be overlooked due to “thinking this area was okay” because we ignore intent).

What happens the next time a team really and truly tries to cheat? They get the same 100/100/$100,000/6 week penalty?

Don’t you find something wrong with that?

Mike C
02/27/2008 07:33 AM
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I don’t follow your comparison between Kyle and J J . They drive for different teams . Both Toyotas , both with Cronquist engines , but different crew chiefs , crews , shops , resources , technology . Put J J into the 18 , or Kyle into the 96 for a race or two and then we can compare . Do a quick check of Yeleys’ credentials , and you’ll find that he has far more championships and race wins than Kyle . And as a writer covering NASCAR you should not have to rely on “ by all accounts “ in describing Yeley . Aren’t you supposed to know ? You sound like D W , Joy , and Larry Mac who only seem to know or care about two drivers and one car owner .

Douglas
02/27/2008 08:20 AM
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A couple of things come to mind while reading your article:

1. NA$CAR unfairly (OK, who ever admitted NA$CAR was fair) penalized Robby! NA$CAR interprets it’s ever changing rule book as it See’s fit! What about the Hendrick car, AFTER TECH INSPECTION, MODIFYING THE SPOILER WITH ALL DUE UNTENT TO CHEAT, and getting Jr. & Hendrick a “mere” 50 point penalty?

INTENTIONALLY I SAID!

And is it not true the NA$CAR’S own rule book has some bad information in it regarding what nose was what?

And the part number of the nose is right there for all to see! And no modifications were done to that particular nose!

Is that a deliberate “intent to cheat”?? NO!

2. In Jim Beam backing Robby, what a great thing to do for a sponsor! On speed TV it was mentioned in passing by Robin Miller, that a LOT OF CURRENT SPONSORS IN NA$CAR AREDIS-GRUNTLED”!

Is the Jim Beam effort to support Robby a sign of frustration by the majority of sponsors that they are not getting what the are paying for in/from NA$CAR?

After all, within the NA$CAR ranks, and of ALL the bill paying sponsors, only a VERY SELECT FEW get any publicity whatsoever! All you hear about, and all you see on TV are the same 3 or 4 sponsors and of course their drivers. All of the “other” 40 cars/drivers/sponsors are totally ignored!

Just watch a race on TV! Particularly and specifically during the “CHASE” (now that’s one sick puppy for sure), 38 FORGOTTEN CARS, HECK, YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE INTERNET AFTER THE RACE TO SEE THE LISTING OF WHERE ALL THE CARS FINISHED! Watching on TV you would never know there are 43 cars in the event!

Is the day of reckoning for NA$CAR near??

One can only hope!

Racinsince55
02/27/2008 08:26 AM
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The comparison of Yeley and Busch was spot on.

Simply put, Kyle Busch will be competitive in anything he drives.

Yeley has won a number of championships. True.

But, by the time Kyle Busch reaches age 32, Yeleys age, his accomplishments will completely overshadow anything Yeley has ever done or ever will do.

Robert Isaacs
02/27/2008 08:46 AM
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You are way off on the Robby Gordon thing. I have always believed the punishment should fit the crime. Robby is going to do 20 years to life for jaywalking. Zero points and a 10 Grand fine would have been justice. And I only say a fine because technically a rule was broken. People should quit hiding behind the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit of the law. Give the guy a break.

William
02/27/2008 12:29 PM
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Did You Notice….that NASCAR of old, with primary sponsors of Booze and Cigarettes has now become Cell Phones and Insurance??

Did You Notice….that Kyle Busch is a better driver than Jr. will ever be? But, Money talks and the Earnhardt name brings more of it in, so there you have it.

Did You Notice….that Jr. is a “back of the pack” Sunday driver just like “Cow Patty”….I mean Kyle Petty….???

Frank Emm
02/27/2008 12:45 PM
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Any way you look at it Robby Gordon got ripped,there was absolutely no intent to gain an advantage.Nascar has now got to the point where fans are losing interest and if they keep it up the sponsors won t be far behind.With the unification of the open wheel series these sponsors have another choice of where to spend their advertising dollars.

aircrewman
02/27/2008 12:46 PM
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I agree william…..kyle is a true talent …hendricks made a mistake in letting him go!!!

Travis Rassat
02/27/2008 04:14 PM
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I have to admit that when I heard J.J. Yeley was going to come to NASCAR, I thought that he was going to be a championship contender. I’m not sure what has happened, but it’s really unfortunate for him.

I also agree that Kyle Petty needs to step aside and get someone new in that car – they need to build the future of Petty. Why not bring in a rookie who Labonte can mentor (while he’s still there)?

Finally, Tom, you’ve changed my mind about the Robby Gordon deal. I was of the camp that the penalty was too harsh, but you’re right about NASCAR being consistent. While I like Robby and feel that he was kind of a victim of circumstance in this situation, I guess it’s good that NASCAR is being consistent and we’ll know what the penalty will be next time. Consistency is definitely important for NASCAR’s integrity.

Now, if someone else gets caught doing something to the body and the penalty is different, then I’d go back to being mad about Robby’s penalty… Hopefully, Dodge at least helped him out with the $100,000 fine.

Ralph Dailey
02/27/2008 05:22 PM
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J.J. Yeley will not be as high in the point standings as Tony Raines. The guy he replaced this year.

Daryl Mouw
02/27/2008 06:09 PM
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the only thing Hendrick won by dumping Kyle Busch for Jr was the money race. Kyle will go on to win more races for Gibbs the Jr will for Hendrick. Hands Down! I am not a Jr. hater but people need to take a real racers perspective of that comparison. Kyle is wild but so was Dale Sr. , Tim Richmond, Darrell Waltrip and many others. It takes an internal drive to ignore the haters and win at NASCAR’s level. I don’t know if Jr has got the fortitude. He’s definately got the fan base and the souviner sales.

Lis
02/28/2008 12:19 AM
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The Rally for Robby t-shirts came from Jim Beam. Their reps were handing them out at the speedway. Robby’s fans are not the only ones supporting him right now…. he has widespread support.

Nascar NEVER practices consistency when it comes to Robby Gordon. This penalty was way over the top and if it stands will hurt his team more than cheating HMS and MWR with the big bucks behind their teams could imagine.

Dan Schaummann
02/28/2008 04:56 PM
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I couldn’t agree more with the comment asking for zero points and $10k penalty. NASCAR should penalize Mike Helton 100 “stupid points” for “actions detrimental to stock car racing” – if this penalty stands, it would be way more detrimental than the wrong car nose could ever be. There was no intent on Robby’s part or dodge’s part. The only intent is NASCAR’s intent to hurt Robby Gordon and show their power by being idiots in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Larry Burton
02/29/2008 10:09 AM
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Nobody I know has said that Kyle Busch is not a good driver but his arrogance, attitude, personality has hurt him a lot and I suspect before the year is out will raise its ugly head again to bite him. Junior may not be the greatest driver out there but certainly is a good driver as seventeen cup wins and two busch championships has proven. A lot of these questions will be answered before the year is out. Until Kyle grows up some more it was an easy choice for Hendrick. Heck, Kyle even wrecked his own brother and himself and has demonlished quite a few cars during his career by not being a little patient.

 

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