The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... The Next NASCAR Breakdown, Playing Favorites, And Fun With Twitter by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday June 9, 2010

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Did You Notice? … A developing trend? In the last two weeks, we’ve had two mild-mannered veterans go all Jekyll and Hyde, losing their cool while venting frustration in a way we’ve never seen before. First, there was Jeff Burton, pulling a tantrum on Kyle Busch through a blown tire that’s got him nominated to the Finger Pointing Hall of Fame. Then, Joey Logano followed suit last Sunday, a late-race incident with Kevin Harvick the final straw in exchanging the Disney Movie high road for a pair of boxing gloves and an R-Rated mouth. It’s a one-hit wonder of good guys losing their patience we don’t often see this close together, let alone in the same season.

Well, you know what they say about celebrity deaths: everything comes in 3s. Are we on the verge of another goody two shoes – or NASCAR bad boy – blowing his temper to finish off the trifecta? Let’s look at two possible candidates:

Jeff Gordon. Quietly lost amidst the Pocono post-race drama was Gordon refusing comment upon leaving the infield care center. After getting involved in that last-lap melee with a car that was handling like it had no power steering, 32nd place was not what the doctor ordered for a team still riding a winless streak in 2010.

Like Burton, Gordon has come close but no cigar on Victory Lane during half-a-dozen races this year. He also said the dreaded “P” word just a few months ago in Talladega, disgusted over the way teammate and driver Jimmie Johnson raced him two weeks in a row. It was a shocking moment for the man everyone considers a mild-mannered superstar; but let’s not forget, this guy’s the same one who shoved Matt Kenseth at Bristol a few years back. Heck, he even punched Mike Bliss in the face after an ugly incident at Chicagoland.

So after all the bad luck that’s headed his way in 2010, you’d have to think it wouldn’t take much to send Gordon over the edge. Could he and Kyle be the next ones to dust up? The former Hendrick teammate threw a few jabs his way in recent weeks, most importantly comparing Gordon’s driving style to Hamlin’s allegedly “dirty” move that sent Busch into the wall and cost him a win in the All-Star Race. Considering how well both have run at Infineon, perhaps a little road course tangle is on their agenda for the month of June.

Tony Stewart. I usually don’t get offended by Stewart’s dealings with the media, but Friday’s press conference was something else. All it took was one writer to ask a question about his season, and he immediately was given a verbal reprimand. Stewart then demanded a change in the line of questioning to this week’s “Prelude To The Dream” … and that’s exactly what he got, all of us backing down while the press conference was controlled by him from start to finish. How grumpy is Stewart lately? He was lashing out on Sunday even though he wound up third…

“Not a stellar day,” he said, attributing his run to track position and luck before turning his attention to frustration over the other drivers on the circuit. “I feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long ways away. We still got a lot of work to do.”

“Restarts were idiotic today. I’ve seen some of the worst driving I’ve ever seen in my life in a professional series right here today. So for anybody that’s looking for drama for the next couple races, start looking, ‘cause I can promise I’m going to start making the highlight reel the next couple weeks.”

Mired in the midst of his driver/owner sophomore slump, it’s easy to see why Stewart’s so temperamental these days. Sitting one point outside the Chase in 13th, he’s been down this Heartbreak Hotel road before and would rather not endure it a second time. With so many competing for a spot in the top 12, there’s little margin for error and he knows it; so one bad move by someone else, and Tony’s wrath will let loose a season’s worth of frustration on an unsuspecting victim.

Juan Pablo Montoya. Listening to Montoya’s radio channel as of late, you’d think the car was running 35th, not towards the front, based on how much he’s been complaining about handling. In the midst of a trying season, four top-5 finishes are balanced by four DNFs that make a Chase bid a serious longshot heading into the summer months. Add in getting wrecked by his own teammate, and it’s not like this Colombian has a warm and fuzzy feeling inside the Sprint Cup garage right now. For a repeat of the Harvick-Montoya fracas, or even Montoya-Newman, it’s honestly not going to take much.

Did You Notice? … Joe Gibbs Racing showing some inconsistency? Here’s what bothers me about the whole Joey Logano aftermath: a number of scheduled interviews with him were canceled on Monday, including a big one on NASCAR Now that went straight to JGR President / damage control spokesman J.D. Gibbs. That also ties into a little story we heard from Tom Logano this week, lost in the criticism of him running down on pit road to get involved in something that was none of his business. When defending his actions, the elder Logano noted that he wasn’t trying to push and shove but instead keep Gibbs guys from restraining the 20-year-old, crewmen that ultimately prevented him from getting the 1-on-1 convo with Harvick he sought.

Why is this important? Well, when’s the last time you saw Gibbs boys sitting there restraining Kyle Busch from getting in someone’s face? And how about Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski? I didn’t see the Gibbs bunch pull the block when they were both up in each others’ faces at Dover. It’s a noticeable change in philosophy, done for one of two reasons:

A) Gibbs is Tom Logano, Jr., unwilling to let their child prodigy let go for fear he might do something stupid.

B) There’s an image of him as a mini-Mark Martin they’re interested in upholding.

I’m going to go with option B. Consider Home Depot is one of the more sensitive sponsors on the circuit, who’s fined its own driver in the past for bad behavior. Add in the uncertainty of its future with the team, especially when the company has been up and down financially, and JGR is going to do everything possible to keep it in the fold. If that means having a squeaky clean driver behind the wheel, well, they’ll stop at nothing to make sure they get it.

It’s just a shame if JGR did put the muzzle on, because Joey on Sunday was a breath of fresh air after what’s seemed like a pre-programmed personality upon reaching the Cup circuit. He won so many new fans by speaking his mind; I just hope he’s allowed to keep doing it.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits:

- Chad Finley is teaming up with Brad Keselowski after all. After a third-place finish in the ARCA race Saturday, Finley said at first he wouldn’t be driving in the Truck Series for BKR. But in emailing me earlier this week, he explained it was a simple misunderstanding of the question; Keselowski is looking for sponsorship to run the 18-year-old in a handful of races this Fall. In just six career ARCA starts, the teenager has two top-5 and four top-10 finishes, including a pole at Rockingham last Fall.

- Hard to believe that it was two years ago this week where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wound up in Michigan’s Victory Lane after fuel strategy got him up front. Looking over his press notes, here’s what he said on that fateful day after ending a two-year winless streak that had lasted since Richmond in May 2006:

“I never wondered, man, will I never win again. You know, I’m going to be around here if I can have my way, I’ll be around here for quite awhile but I’ll have good opportunities driving good race cars for hopefully a good time, and more opportunities to win.”

You wonder what his mentality is like now, in mid-2010, going winless for 72 races in a Hendrick car that was supposed to bring him multiple victories and a shot at the season championship. Would he say the same thing… and actually believe it?

I don’t know.

It’s been arguably the toughest year of Jack Roush’s career, overseeing four Cup teams and four Nationwide cars that have gone winless through 27 races this season.

- A very interesting quote from Jack Roush’s teleconference yesterday. We’ve talked a lot about how so much of the setup nowadays is through electronic simulations, leaving little drivers can do if cars get to the racetrack and those sims are off. Well, Roush confirmed how these engineering glitches are affecting the program:

“We’ve got third-party vendors, not Ford and not Roush-Fenway, that were engaged in our data analysis and in our simulations,” he said, “And quite frankly, we haven’t got the results this year that we had expected. Certainly, the results aren’t as good from the simulation data, that analysis point of view, as we had in 2008, and given the fact that we don’t have testing that has been a handicap.”

“We didn’t have the correlations that we’d expected on many of the simulations.”

In English, that means the computers have led Roush astray, and they don’t have any on-track time to make up for that loss in data. It’s amazing; a sport that used to be all about the driver is now make-or-break based on how quickly you can get your computer geek to fix your electronics.

Did You Notice? … There’s a NewKyleBusch and an OldKyleBusch after all? Someone started up Twitter accounts with both handles, comparing and contrasting the different “personalities” he seems to be displaying in 2010. Following them could be the best thing you’ll ever do if you need a random laugh during the day. Here’s a sample of what you’re missing:

OldKyleBusch: [Fiance] Sam got mad when I wanted to put a mirror above our bed, then I told her it was only on my side.

NewKyleBusch: I am positively giddy w/ anticipation right now – @ScottSpeed is coming over tonight to watch the season finale of Glee.

OldKyleBusch: I wish I had a body pillow with me printed on it, so I could cuddle with myself.

NewKyleBusch: I am trying to calm Joey down, and bring out the NewJoeyLogano in him.

And, my personal favorite…
NewKyleBusch: I’ve got Bieber-Fever.

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DansMom
06/09/2010 06:36 AM
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Did you notice… 17 Days til Danica’s return!

VaBlueGrass
06/09/2010 07:07 AM
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Tom – Since when is Logano a “mild-mannered veteran”?

I guess his rookie campaign really settled him into veteran status.

Annie Mack
06/09/2010 09:25 AM
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Tom Logano is the reason we shouldn’t have children racing in the cup series.

The Mad Man
06/09/2010 10:23 AM
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Tom Logano reminds me of those dads who start fights at their kids baseball, football, and soccer games.

wcfan
06/09/2010 10:51 AM
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Tom
Who are you trying to replace, D.W. or Larry Mac?

Very Weak Column this week

Mark
06/09/2010 11:04 AM
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Talking to Jeff Gordon after the last lap crash wasn’t “ quietly lost “ . Nobody cared what Gordon had to say . And if Jeff does go off on someone , he will be carefull to pick someone he can go toe to toe with . Someones’ grandmother or a sixth grader for instance .
Tom Logano should have been man enough to charge in after Harvick instead of trying to push his son to do it . And then we see Tom in the background ( safely out of harms way ) egging his son on . Not a very inspiring view of what a father is supposed to be .
You really should try to actually go to the track sometime Mr. Bowles . There has never been a confrontation between drivers in NASCAR where crew members didn’t ( as soon as they could get there ) try to restrain their driver and block their driver from the opposing driver and/or crew . And that goes for the Gibbs guys keeping Kyle from going after someone . Now of course as we’ve seen , thats not always totally successful . Harvick weaving his way through numerous officials and crewmen from both sides to leap over the trunk of a race car and confront a driver was a classic .

Carl D.
06/09/2010 11:39 AM
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The OldKyleBusch vs. NewKyleBusch stuff is hilarious! So is seeing him the commercial with a mullet. And even though the “kittens, bunnies and baby seals” car commercial is starting to get old, it’s still pretty funny. Kyle Busch may be a jerk, but he’s providing me with some good laughs this year.

24Crazy
06/09/2010 12:21 PM
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@CarlD Although I agree the commercial is getting old. I LOL every time I think of the O-KB driving a pink car w/kittens, baby seals, and I love you on the back, wearing a kitten helmet. I would pay to see that. CLASSIC

Keeping It REAL
06/09/2010 04:09 PM
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Few points:
1) Are you all really suggesting Joey (change to Joe, already …) is growing up when Daddy still interferes with his every altercation and rather than finding a way to talk to Harvick after the event he bashes his wife. Grow up, son. People – this kid has a LONG ways to go, stop suggesting he’s already a man.

2) Everybody asked for NASCAR to let drivers show their real personalities. Now, all I read is about “oh my god, Jeff Burton spoke out!” and “what’s up with Jeff Gordon walking away??”. Come on people. This stuff used to happen every single weekend every single year and nobody thought twice about it. Is society that wussified (yes that’s a word) that we get all stressed out when adults disagree? And why are some people crying about this sudden burst of personality in the sport after they themselves begged for it?

3) Too many NASCAR reporters suck. They attempt to create stories out of non-stories continuously. How about taking that time to do some tech specials, or tell stories behind the real stories, or highlight some great moments of the past, or teach people about the inner workings of the sport and teams – i.e. educate and entertain with something worthwhile rather than talking about Delana’s firesuit and “new Kyle Bush vs. old Kyle Bush”, etc.

4) Speaking of new vs old Kyle, can we just stop doing just that – speaking about it? People don’t change, they just get corrected and develop some restraint (and some do not). He’s the very same guy. STOP writing about new vs old. Seems I’ve seen enough of his actions in the last few weeks to convince me they are one and the same, which of course I knew anyway but far too many fans drink this new Kyle coolaid. I think the fans are the ones that need to mature …

5) Tom Logano’s boy will never grow up with Tom at the track. Get away and let your boy become a man. Everybody has to get their a&& handed to them at least once in that process and let that happen to your boy for his benefit. As a previous posted commented, Tom is exactly the kind of father who is involved in fights at T-ball games. Sickening. Tom, sit down, shut up, or get out.

Just keepin’ it real, folks.

Keeping It REAL
06/09/2010 04:12 PM
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BTW, most of my comments were not aimed at the other comments above. I agree with almost all of them, great points made. Some of the other comments I’ve seen have alarmed me but the comments on this article are spot-on, except for the ones liking the N-KB vs O-KB crap (god, makes me sick just writing that). Other people – thanks for helping KEEP IT REAL! In this era of WWE-style NASCAR and lame-a$$ reporting/media, it’s gonna take all of us to right this ship!!

DansMom
06/09/2010 05:28 PM
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KIRFINALLY!?!?! Someone agrees with me!

Wayne
06/09/2010 06:03 PM
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I think Logano’s comment about Harvicks wife wearing the driving suit in the family was so funny and right on target.The only thing now is that he must dump Harvick back and do it really good. Shake him up, because Harvick deserves it. Had Logano paid Harvick back after the first incident, which was a brutally intentional and uncalled for dumping, there may not have been a second incident.Harvick is a wise punk posing as a good guy. Thank goodness TNT is back and Larry, DW and Hammond are gone.

Keeping It REAL
06/09/2010 06:41 PM
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Dansmom – I have to admit I love your comments. Whether I am in agreement with them or not (often I am), they are entertaining as all get out and get people stirred up!! I’m sure some of my KIR comments will do the same, but seriously I love this sport and care about it enough to call the crap when I see it and call the good when I see it too. Just too much of the former and not enough of the latter and I really hope that changes.

BTW, yeah, only 17 more days until DANICAMANIA version 2.0!! Fun! Can I throw up now?!?!

Evan in WV
06/09/2010 07:16 PM
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Tom,

Doesn’t RFR run four Nationwide cars? The 60, the 98, the 16, and the 6. Sounds a little more severe about the winless streak with another car added.

Managing Editor
06/09/2010 08:06 PM
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Evan,

You’re right. I always forget about the 98 because, well, Menard’s pretty much a non-factor during most Nationwide races. Correction made … thanks!

mkrcr
06/09/2010 09:24 PM
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Roush’s comments sum up one of the major problems with NA$CAR in regards to competition. How much money does NA$CAR really think the teams are saving without testing, when that money is just diverted to “high tech” in house testing facilities? And obviously the results are flawed, costing even more in money and results. Meanwhile, the teams who can’t afford to lease this equipment, much less own it, would be better served with on track, real time data at a much lower cost. The testing ban is just one more way NA$CAR killed competition.

Matt
06/10/2010 01:48 AM
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Managing Editor, you do realize that Menard is 6th in points with top 10 finishes in over half the races this season, right? And that he finished third literally four days ago? And that two of his team cars that are, apparently, “factors” in the races are below 25th in owner points with a combined 3 top ten finishes? His average finish is less than 3 spots worse than Edwards’, and that includes getting dumped on the final restart in Dover when he was on pace for another top ten. There have been some complaints about terrible reporting and writing about this article already, but that response certainly takes the spot for worst offense.

Managing Editor
06/10/2010 03:10 AM
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Matt,

Come on, now. If you’re a full-time Cup driver entered in the Nationwide race with any type of funding, it’s pretty much an automatic top 10. I was being facetious with that comment, but since you called me out check out these Menard stats: one top-5 finish and five laps led in 2010. I’d call that being a non-factor.

As far as crappy writing and reporting, I always maintain if you don’t like the column, don’t read me. I try and make every column the best it can be, but there are ups and downs just like any job or project you have in life. I appreciate those who like my work, and for those who don’t, I take the criticism in stride and try to learn from it. I wish every column could be a hard-hitting, investigative report or an inside story … not enough hours in the day or scoops to always go around. I also think it’s nice to mix it up a bit, hit on a wide variety of topics and strike a different tone each week. Keeps it fresh; what you might find weak this column, you’ll love in the next one.

The crazy thing I’ve learned about six years of sportswriting is you can’t please everyone, and the critics all think they’re experts. Alright, well if you know it all and we're all terrible then let’s see you write a column! It’s easy enough to do, about 5,000 sites and blogs where you can go for free. Teach us how it’s done.

Mark
06/10/2010 08:57 AM
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Managing Editor , that self imposed title sure sounds like it should carry some weight . And if it were held by a true journalist it would .
Tom , you are a hack in the truist possible sense of the word .
The critics thinking they’re experts isn’t really the problem with the Frontstretch blog . The problem with this site is the bloggers who PRETEND to be experts . The average fan seems to know far more than most of the staff on this site . Witness the almost daily call outs and subsequent corrections in these “ columns “ . The above reference to the 98 car for instance . Mind you , not everyone of the bloggers on this site is clueless about racing . There a couple of people who compose very good stories on this site . But the majority know far less than the readers .
And as for your usual smart ass reply to anyone who dares be critical of your important contributions to literature “alright , if you’re so smart go to a site and write columns “ , i would say there are many readers who could easily outdo the weekly crap you come up with . And by the way , thats a great business strategy you have there Tom . Insult the readers , tell them they don’t really know what they’re talking about , and send them to other sites .

Matt
06/10/2010 01:48 PM
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Why is it that Roush’s struggles explain why everyone else is bad, but they don’t explain why Menard is behind? His driving style is similar to Kenseth, Martin, etc. He doesn’t lead many laps, he’s conservative for the early part of the race, and he avoids dangerous positions. For an example of the opposite, see: the 6 and 16. When the car isn’t as good as it should be, he’s not going to finish higher like a more aggressive driver, like Edwards, would. Also, it’s basically his first year with the team and his first year running double-duty. All of these would be used as excuses for drivers with different last names. And as far as him being a Cup driver in Nationwide, most people (including at least some on Frontstretch) continue to rate him somewhere just above Conway, so it’s fair to say that they don’t find top 10’s to be an automatic for him. As far as the writing goes, I don’t have much of a complaint about the actual piece. I mean, there are some terrible ones on here sometimes, but they get their due criticism. Critics aren’t always wrong.

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
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

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

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