The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Kyle Busch Throws Away The Win, NASCAR's Discrimination Lawsuit Stalemate, And Jeremy Mayfield: MIA by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday July 2, 2008

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Did You Notice? … That in the wake of Kyle Busch’s scuffle with Juan Pablo Montoya in New Hampshire, nobody’s realizing that Busch shouldn’t have been back there in the first place. Call me crazy, but wasn’t the man supposed to be utilizing strategy, pitting with some backmarkers on lap 219 to try and stretch his fuel mileage in order to win? At the time of the lap 273 caution, Busch was the highest-ranking driver amongst the group of cars that had stopped just 54 laps before. But while the rest of those teams stayed on the race track, Busch darted down pit lane for an extra splash of fuel – costing him what would have been an almost certain victory.

When asked after the race why the heck he pitted instead of gambling for the win, Busch replied, “I didn’t feel like that was the way to win a race, just to stay out and play by the rain. I didn’t feel like we had a shot with the guys that were going to be behind us.”

“We did what we did to try to pass some more cars.”

OK, wait a minute … did Busch just say he voluntarily gave up a win just because he didn’t think it was the right way to do it? And did he really think people like Michael Waltrip and J.J. Yeley were going to pose a challenge in the closing laps of the race?

I’m scratching my head on this one, I really am. I’ll tell you what … don’t think for a second Dale Jr. would “voluntarily” give up his win at Michigan just because fuel mileage isn’t the way to win it. It’s news to me that every win needs to come by beating and banging someone out of the way; you take ‘em when you can get ‘em these days, because wins are so hard to come by.

Don’t get me wrong; I do have all the respect in the world for this brash young kid. But that rationale is one of the silliest explanations I’ve ever seen!

Did You Notice? … That despite all the talk by people in the Truck Series and in Sprint Cup, Montoya’s bump was the first time Kyle Busch has been spun out intentionally all season long. And the big question is, now that Montoya has done it and gotten away relatively scot free — a meaningless two lap penalty considering his position on the track at that point — will other frustrated drivers begin to follow his lead?

Did You Notice? … That amongst the euphoria surrounding Michael Waltrip’s second place finish at New Hampshire – his best run since Phoenix in the Spring of 2005 – he had some rather ominous comments surrounding the future of his race team?

The struggles of his three-car race team over the past eighteen months have certainly taken their toll on Michael Waltrip.

Among the snippets from his post-race press conference …

“I’m going to slip out here with my 170 points, 150 grand, start putting some patches on a sinking ship, what has felt like a sinking ship, for a year or so.”

In response to the team’s current financial state…

“Well, it’s tighter than it was this morning. We are met with challenges. We don’t have a full-time sponsor for our third car.”

Considering this is coming from a guy who’s usually so optimistic, it’s borderline sickening that’s some pretty honest rhetoric. And we didn’t even show you the gushing he gave to sponsor NAPA, a company whose contract expires at the end of 2008.

Let’s see … no full-time sponsor for McDowell, UPS leaving the team, and NAPA in the last year of its deal. You see a team like the No. 40 of Chip Ganassi Racing close down, and you take a deep breath and realize it’s not out of the question for something as big as an entire three-car operation to disappear off the face of the earth come February 2009 – even with an investor in the fold, as MWR claims to have with Robert Kauffman.

Did You Notice? … That with the shutdown of Chip Ganassi’s No. 40, we’re now officially reduced to 43 full-time Cup teams. Start-and-parkers, step right up!!! And with Franchitti’s departure, just two of the four open wheel Rookie Of The Year candidates remain with a Cup ride halfway through the 2008 season. Boy, that fad didn’t last long …

Did You Notice? … That there hasn’t been much printed about the Mauricia Grant diversity lawsuit as of late? That’s because there’s not much to say … because no one’s talking.

In my three plus years of working the NASCAR garages, I’ve never seen so many people closed-mouthed about a topic. Whether it’s NASCAR officials or outside companies who work in the garage, all have stepped in line and won’t give you the time of day when asked about specific incidents regarding these charges. There are sources I’m good friends with – who have given me exclusive information without so much as a second thought – that have told me they’re not able to communicate with me on this topic out of plain fear. The message is clear: whether these accusations are true or not, nothing negative’s going to leak out without NASCAR’s heavy hand of approval.

So, what happens next in this case? There’s a limited period of time for NASCAR to answer this complaint, and then we’re likely to see depositions collected as the controversy moves toward some sort of trial. In the meantime, the key will be whether anyone else speaks up and backs Grant’s claims of discrimination by relating some of their own personal experiences. Should that happen, the sport will have a PR nightmare on its hands the likes of which it’s never seen before in its history.

Did You Notice? … That amidst all the Silly Season talk, no one’s brought up the name of two-time Chase participant Jeremy Mayfield? Since parting ways with Haas CNC Racing earlier this season, Mayfield’s been nowhere to be found. Did his difficult divorces from Penske Racing and Gillett Evernham Motorsports permanently damage his stock on the open market?

While I think that might have made an impact, in an era where talent is at a premium and men like Mark Martin are going back to full-time racing at 50, you’d have to think there’d be a spot open for Mayfield somewhere. A good writing friend of mine brought up this crazy scenario: what if Newman leaves for Tony Stewart’s new team and creates an opening at the No. 12? Would Penske be crazy enough to bring Mayfield back into the fold? If Truex doesn’t jump ship at DEI, Mayfield could very well be the most accomplished driver left on the free agent market … so, it’ll be interesting to wait and see what happens. Highly unlikely? You bet … but then again, no one thought Sterling Marlin would ever race for Chip Ganassi after their 2005 divorce, and there he was in May helping the No. 40 team stay afloat in Darlington.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this sport, it’s never say never …

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ATHLON SPORTSBOWLES: Is Kevin Harvick A Hall Of Famer?
Racing to the Point: I’ve Got the Green-White-Checkered Blues
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Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Darlington – Off Week Edition
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07/02/2008 07:20 AM

Are NA$CAR teams losing a large portion of their sponsors & income? When a Chip Gannassi & others lose sponsorship, things do not bode well for any team. And in another article, it was stated that Dario Franchitti’s contract was for some $30mil?

We have known all along, at least for the past several years, that NA$CAR is no longer about the racing, it is about the BIG BUSINESS of making money, scads of money, just ask Brian France!

Folks! The sport has changed, and certainly not for the better, and certainly not for the fans!

And! Regarding Kyle Busch’s comments about the “fuel mileage” thingy! Did it ever occur to the interviewers/writers that day in and day out these guys get asked question after question after question and have to say “something”?

He said “something”, now people jump on him like
“well, that’s not what I wanted to hear”!

07/02/2008 09:50 AM

Wait until the BIG? three pull their factory support. Then see how many viable teams they have left. Change is coming, anyone who doesnt realize it better pull their head out of the sand, or wherever it is!

07/02/2008 12:03 PM

Why would anyone put Mayfield in a car? He is an absolute terrible driver. The way he handled himself at evernham was a joke and he took a protected car from Johnny Sauter and drove it into Go or Go Home oblivion by race 6.

Somewhere Jeff Green and Sauter have to be laughing (as well as Tony Raines) at their supposed “great replacemnts” did to those teams…

07/02/2008 12:20 PM

It wasn’t that many years ago when 50+ cars would show up each week. This year, I think the normal showing has been about 44 – 46 teams.

I always wondered when the day would come when we would have a field of less than 43 cars. Given the current economy, top 35 rule (another great idea, Brian!!), and TV coverage that will only cover the Chase drivers – I wouldn’t be surprised to see a field of only 40 legitimate teams by Homestead.

As for as Franchitti – now that the open wheel series has been united, it might work out better for him. Could we be seeing a reversal of fortune with NASCAR sinking and IndyCar being the new favorite?

Travis Rassat
07/02/2008 12:29 PM

The Truck series has started with less than a full field for about the last 4 or 5 races, and the Nationwide series has several start and park teams. It was just a matter of time before the same happens at the Cup level.

It’s a pretty unfortunate situation. As someone else mentioned, it’s only a matter of time before the manufacturers start cutting back somewhere. I gotta give Dodge credit – I honestly figured they would cut back drastically after going private, but they’ve held fairly steady.

Robert Eastman
07/02/2008 02:18 PM

And people ask, “why did JGR sign on with Toyota, the world’s most proftable auto manufacture? Duh…!!!

07/02/2008 04:44 PM

I think it would be a wonderful awesome day if Penske rehired Jeremy for his team. They have talked the past out, and are friends.
At evernham’s was promised he could finish out the year, but Jeremy was betrayed by his good friend, when he fired Jeremy over things that were ‘going on’ over there, at the time.
I think it was partly of the team’s crews fault that helped put the 70 car where it was in points, when Jeremy left it. You can’t drive a car that isn’t fixed right when they wouldn’t listen to what was needed to run better.
People don’t know all the true facts about Jeremy and the teams mentioned,if you knew the facts many wouldn’t put Jeremy down for things that wasn’t his fault.
You have your team, crew chief…than it is taken away from you and your team mate drives to victory lane with your stuff..and didn’t even tell you THANK YOU at the Banguet…You get r&d stuff to drive with a crew chief that wouldn’t listen to you, what needed to be done, you were promised your job till the end of the year, and it was taken away by betrayal of a friend, and lastly, if changes aren’t msade to your car that are needed, or botched up by the crew…you can’t drive an ill handling car…
Know the whole story before you critize a driver.

Yes, Roger Jeremy would look good driving for you with PEGASUS as his sponsor. PEGASUS wants to win with Jeremy again!!!

D Jones
07/02/2008 06:54 PM

Coors told Ganassi at the last minute that they were not going to sponsor him. It was too late for him to find a sponsor.
The lawsuit will settle out of court. No more will be heard.
NASCAR has alot on their plate. Karma Brian.

07/02/2008 07:48 PM

Makes the IRL with $7 million to sponsor a car annually a real deal. Nascar needs to rethnk the COT concept and go to Stock Cars…not the current spec car format.

The best race year after year…the USAC midgets on the mile at Phoenix. Real race cars = Real racing. Remember, you can race anything with wheels…that doesn’t make it entertaining, just racing.

If better technology produced better racing then F1 would be the best racing in the world…it’s not.
Best looking cars… probably, best sounding cars…definately, best racing…NOT!

P.S. or by the way…Rubbin’ isn’t Racing…it’s Wreckin’, just my opinions.

07/02/2008 08:06 PM

The fact that no one in the garage is talking about The Lawsuit is nothing new at all.

It is common practice that parties involved in a suit zip their lips at the advice of their lawyers. Simply put, once a lawsuit is served, all parties involved both defendant and plaintiff are put under a microscope and anything that is said is fair game if the case ever goes to court. And, if there is any way someone’s words can be twisted to help the opposition, they will.

I was the defendant in a suit after an auto wreck that I was at fault for.

My insurance company took care of the suit, but I still had to give a deposition and the FIRST THING that the lawyer told me was not to talk to the plaintiff or her lawyers.

And, one unfortunate thing about how the world works today is that NASCAR may pay even if they think they are right because its cheaper and better PR to just pay some money and get the plaintiff to keep quiet as part of the settlement. As much as I hope the allegations are false, I really want to know if any or all of what Ms. Grant claims happened is true. But, realistically, we’ll probably never know.

07/02/2008 09:42 PM

Ace, I think two named officials being suspended, as soon as the lawsuit was brought forth, should give some indication of the truth.

07/02/2008 10:03 PM

mkrcr, ask the people at Georgia Pacific what happens if someone even whispers sexual harrasment. Automatic dismissal, no chance to tell your story. It happens all over in the name of political correctness.

Herbert-racing fan
07/03/2008 08:16 AM

Jeremy had nothing but good things to say about the 70 team. He said they had issues in the pits that kept them from finishing where they were capable of. Things like leaving a lug nut loose, like putting in a spring rubber when the the crew was suppose to pull a spring rubber etc. But he said once the crew got better and he didn’t screw up, they would start showing better results. I guess it didn’t make much difference. You can’t be in the chase two times and not be able to drive a car, it shows how much a good team behind the driver makes a lot of difference.


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters
Did You Notice? ... Keep On Asking, And You Will Receive A Qualifying Sigh Of Relief
Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost

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