The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder...After Darlington by Tommy Thompson -- Monday May 12, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder...After Darlington

Tommy Thompson · Monday May 12, 2008


1. No Popularity Contest – Joe Gibbs Racing “hot shoe” Kyle Busch, winner of Saturday night’s Dodge Challenger 500 won honors as the First Quarter Driver of the Year for 2008. The voting panel, made up of individuals knowledgeable in the numerous disciplines of U.S. motor racing, picked the 23-year old Las Vegas, NV. native for his winning performances in not just his Sprint Cup gig, but his impressive results in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck Series and Nationwide Series as well. Busch trounced his nearest rivals, totaling 142 points to runner-up and fellow NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who garnered 72 points. IndyCar driver Danica Patrick, the first female in history to score a win in that series, placed third with 51 points. The voting period ended after the Talladega race and well before Busch was involved in a controversial late race accident while battling fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Richmond. Busch went on to finish second to Clint Bowyer, while Earnhardt, Jr., though also finishing in the Top 10, lost any chance he may have had to end a two-year winless streak due to what many believed to be overly aggressive driving on the part of Busch.

Earnhardt Nation will not be allowed to cast votes in the Second Quarter Driver of the Year for 2008 balloting, either!

2. Everything’s Cool – Neither Denny Hamlin nor Michael Waltrip received further discipline for their transgressions at Richmond during the Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400. Hamlin appeared to have intentionally stopped on the track to bring out the caution, a no-no that cost Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 25 points in 2004, when he intentionally spun his race car to get a yellow flag. Waltrip intentionally drilled Casey Mears in the rear and stayed on the gas long enough to push Mears’ Chevy from the top of the track into the grass infield in retaliation to being accidentally slammed into the outside retaining wall by Mears. Waltrip was parked for the remainder of the race and Hamlin was given a two-lap penalty at the time of the infraction.

Is this part of NASCAR’s new “get back to our roots” policy…or are they just taking Mondays and Tuesdays off now?

3. No Repeats – The legendary Wood Brothers Racing Ford Fusion went retro for Darlington, with a paint scheme that harked back to the days of tremendous success for the now struggling Sprint Cup team. The No. 21 Ford Fusion, driven by Bill Elliott was painted candy apple red and white with the recognizable gold lettering that they campaigned with great success during 1971 while running Mercury’s. Elliott placed 30th Saturday night, four laps off the pace.

Carl Edwards got some tips from David Pearson this weekend at Darlington. Perhaps his former team should have done some eavesdropping.

The car looked great, but hardly had the results that the “Silver Fox” David Pearson enjoyed while chauffeuring the No. 21. Pearson who leads all drivers with ten wins at the track “Too Tough to Tame” scored five of those wins, as well as eight poles with the “old school” look.

4. Bow Tie’s or ‘Yota’s? – Chevrolet has announced that its racing division has completed development of a new purpose-built 2.7 liter, 4-cylinder race engine that conforms to specifications to compete in the USAC Midget Series. The new engines will debut in Tony Stewart Racing Midgets driven by Tracey Hines and Levy Jones. Said team owner Tony Stewart, who is under contract to Joe Gibbs racing, a team that switched from Chevy to Toyota this season, “The Chevy Racing and marketing staffs have really embraced the TSR racing programs, and the debut of this new engine is the start another new chapter in our relationship.”

Gee…any guesses as to what the next chapter might be?

5. Sidewinder – Four-time NASCAR Cup Champion Jeff Gordon is pleading with the sanctioning body to take a closer look at the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Ford driven by Carl Edwards. Gordon believes that a rear housing adjustment that has the car appear to go down the straightaway sideways gives him a competitive advantage in the turns. NASCAR officials aren’t buying it. Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby insists that the car is within allowable tolerances and noted that Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teams were among the first to experiment with the rear housing adjustments.

Okay, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line…but it’s not necessarily the fastest?

6. Who’s Counting This? – Kevin Harvick and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team extended their current streak of consecutive races without a DNF (Did Not Finish) to 55 races at Darlington even though Harvick pretty well waded up his Chevy early in the event. Fourteen crewman went to work replacing front-end parts, most of the right side sheet metal and the rear spoiler, to name just a few of the repairs required to get Harvick back on the track some 80 laps later. Several more visits were made to pit road to get the car to maintain the minimum required speed. The modern era record for consecutive races without recording a DNF is 58…also held by Harvick and his Pennzoil team.

Ahhh….come on! Harvick finished 102 laps down and in 39th place.

7. Good Job, Guys – How well did Darlington’s new $7 million resurfacing job go? A new track record in qualifying was set by Greg Biffle at 179.442 mph, besting the old record, posted by Ward Burton 12 years ago by 5.645 mph! The famed “Darlington stripe” was not lost!!

And…two-tire pit stops at Darlington!!?

8. Redheaded Stepchild? – New track record holder Greg Biffle was pretty tough on his Roush-Fenway No. 16 Ford team, when, after leading much of the early going of the Dodge Challenger 500, his engine expired, relegating him to a last place finish. Said Biffle, still unsigned after this season, “Typical of our equipment, I guess. Lost wheels…then we blow up.” The disgruntled driver then concluded, “All I want is equipment that holds together.”

“The Biff’s” three Roush-Fenway teammates weren’t complaining about the equipment, though. Carl Edwards, who already has three wins this season, finished second. David Ragan continued his much-improved string of finishes with a fifth-place run, and Matt Kenseth came home in sixth place.

9. Even Steven – Before the start of the Dodge Challenger 500, Darlington track officials announced that the event was a sellout for the fourth consecutive time since having their remaining race date moved to Mother’s Day weekend. The track had hosted the Southern 500 on Labor Day for more than four decades and was stripped of that event in favor of the California’s Auto Club Speedway, due in part to lackluster ticket sales. At the time of the schedule change, many believed that the race date would be a difficult one to sell and might be the beginning of the end for the “Lady in Black.” The Fontana, California racetrack has yet to come close to selling out either of their two Sprint Cup race dates per year.

Is it possible that Darlington Raceway would be willing to “sacrifice” their only race date of the season, swapping Mother’s Day weekend for that sorry ‘ole Labor Day date? You bet. In a heartbeat!

10. They Are So Cute When They Are Babies – Kyle Busch became the youngest winner in the 58-year history of Darlington Raceway on Saturday night. The driver has now won a race in either one of NASCAR’s three top divisions or in a Late Model for six consecutive weeks. However, not quite a fan favorite, he was loudly booed and jeered as spectators showed their personal dislike for him during driver introductions…even with his mother by his side.

Or were they booing Mom for her role in bringing the extremely unpopular driver into the racing world?

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Tommy Thompson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

05/12/2008 07:25 AM

Beer cans and a complete cooler thrown on the track after the race. It’s a shame that the Jr. fans haven’t followed Jr’s lead in the growing up department.

While everyone has been trying to compare Busch to Earnhardt Sr., Jimmy Spencer dared to compare Busch to a far greater driver than Earnhardt Sr. Spencer thinks he’s much like Tim Richmond. And, for Busch, that has to be the ultimate compliment.

And, on a final note, Jr. has already begun with the excuses. “They changed my car and didn’t tell me.”

Busch continues to find reasons/ways to win. Jr. keeps finding excuses why he didn’t.

Patiently awaiting the tirade of childish Jr. nation comments.

05/12/2008 08:02 AM

It wasn’t only JR fans throwing stuff eddy,
I think the Biffle fans, and Gordon fans had a lot to do with the stuff flying over the catch fence, also a lot of Stewert fans arn’t in love with the 18 either…. Seems like he’s getting all the good stuff and the only new part Tony’s getting for GJR is the Drive Shaft.
Lets face it the driver of the 18 is just irratating.
20 rules

05/12/2008 08:43 AM

The 18 is an idiot ..drives over his head 95% of time and other 5 % hes looking to wipe someone out to keep from losing to them …Biffle was only one close he punted him and WOULD have wiped him out had it not been for real talent …OH WAIT fox guys say it was the car …ALWAYS the car of tommorow ..

05/12/2008 08:47 AM

Why does everyone assume that when fans throw things on the track that it was Jr Nation? There are other drivers out there who have fans that don’t like Kyle Busch!

Proud of JR Nation
05/12/2008 09:15 AM

Tommy you wrote:“Earnhardt Nation will not be allowed to cast votes in the Second Quarter Driver of the Year for 2008 balloting, either!” I beg to differ….
Yes we can vote, and we will vote for anybody but Busch!!!!

05/12/2008 10:01 AM

I disagree smoke fan. Tony’s getting the same stuff that Kyle is getting. Tony will never, ever be good in the first half until he gets that Indy 500 lust of of his system.

And, yes, it was more than likely the Jr. fans who were throwin stuff on the track.

I noticed that no one has commented on Jr.s making of excuses. Most of of, who aren’t blinded, were waiting for that to start.

If Jr. doesn’t want stuff done to his car that he doesn’t know about, maybe he should spend a little more time in the Garage area.

Larry Burton
05/12/2008 10:41 AM

No one seems to be commenting on this but I think the Toyotas have a big horsepower advantage right now. Why? Because these same drivers-Busch and Steward and Hamlin were with great teams last year in different makes and had no where near the success they have had this year. And, if not for a few wrecks and blown tires would have won just about every race in the Sprint Series this year. Look at last week where Hamlin dominated Richmond. Look at Bristol where both Tony and Kyle dominated before events took them out. Someone needs to go back to last year and compare laps led by Kyle, Tony, and Denny along with wins. Its very evident that they are way ahead of last year with the car being the only change for the most part. Busch dominated Sat. Night even having to go to the rear and coming back to the front to win. Tony was two laps down and wound up having a good finish. I certainly don’t recall Kyle having success last year anywhere near the success he has had this year. This is just the second year for Toyota in Nascar and they are absolutely dominating right now. You can’t tell me that they don’t have an advantage in the engine right now. I don’t agree with Jack Roush on much but he was absolutely correct on Toyota spending unlimited money in Nascar to win that alot of the other makes won’t be able to match. Like I said, compare Busch, Tony, and Hamlin last year to this year and there is obviously a big difference. It was rumored that Toyota paid a big amount of money to Nascar(Brian France) to get into Nascar. Also, don’t forget the big check they paid Gibbs to switch. Again, just compare Busch last year driving for the powerhouse Hendrick Chevy Team to this year driving for a new Toyota Team. Busch was not even close. The Toyotas have definitely got a big advantage and if Nascar doesn’t level the playing field then it will definitely hurt them in the long run. There are still a lot of Ford, Dodge, and Chevy fans out here.

Kevin in SoCal
05/12/2008 01:04 PM

Larry, you’re right, you need to go back and look at laps led by Hamlin and Stewart last year. They were contending for wins throughout the first half of the season and only bad luck and pit road mistakes kept them from victory lane. The two of them led more than half the Spring Bristol race before having fuel pump problems, and remember Hamlin’s temper tantrum over the pit road mistakes at Darlington that cost him the win?

Regarding #9, I’m beginning to think puts these anti-California comments in their articles just to get a rise out of me. Nah, I’m not that important.

05/12/2008 01:45 PM

I’m am so glad someone started to notice that Jr is making excuses for his third place in the points position. How dare he not be 1st. I for one will no longer pull for Dale Jr. he is just not worthy. Ya right excuses, you guys need to get a grip!!! Jr. didn’t make any excuses after the race, what he said was that they changed a lower control arm and that He thought, (at the point of the interview, post race) “maybe” they shouldn’t have. Yes, thats quite the excuse for finishing 4th.

05/12/2008 02:09 PM

Larry, you are very correct,
94 million was the amount given to NA$CAR by Toyota. I guess you can buy wins. It has been said by few insiders that the engine package toyota is running is based on Ford and Chevy designs (Ford Blocks and Fuel Pumps and Chevy heads and porting). After Daytona, the JGR toyota’s power band was listed as making 50 to 60 more horsepower on the chasis dyno’s. No wonder nobody can catch them when they get out front.
If I were Hendrick and Roush I would make sure that not one toyota finished a race with it’s fenders still intact.
If toyota wants to thow money around NASCAR I’d make sure they where spending it on sheet metal instead of buying wins by lining Brian France’$ wallet.

And while I’m getting things off my chest:
It’s time for Fox to re-evaluate it’s standards on TV personalities, it is unethical to have announcers that are on the payroll of Car Manufactures and are listed as Team Owners. I’m tired of hearing the biased commentary that comes from The FOX Nascar Announcers.
Enough Said.
As far as the future of the sport…………just look at the stands…………the empty seats speak louder than words…

05/12/2008 02:17 PM

So what if Toyota is dominating THIS YEAR. Why was if OK for Chevrolet to dominate last year? If you must change the rules let them have their year and make new rules in the off season. I may own Chevys and NO Toyota’s but I don’t pull for them by ANY means. I for one am sick of the same guys winning year after year. It’s time for someone other than the Hendricks drivers!

05/12/2008 06:17 PM

Just gonna say this to you one time – If it has Kyle Busch in the storyline, I will not read the article.

Larry Burton
05/12/2008 06:37 PM

Paul, the thing about Toyota is this is their second year in Sprint Cup and they are already dominating against teams like Hendricks, Roush, and RCR with cars that have been in Nascar for years. If Toyota can do this in just their second year, imagine what it will be like once they really get established. You can say what you want to but Toyotas have got some kind of advantage and I personally think its in the Engine. Money buys speed and Toyota has got unlimited amounts while the other manufacturers are not doing so well. I read on Jayskis a few weeks ago that Toyota had rented Nashville Speedway seventeen times this year for testing. I’ll bet none of the other manufacturers even comes close to that. As for Kyle, Tony, and Hamlin, I just don’t remember them being this dominate last year. Somebody with the time ought to do some checking on laps led and races won last year for them as opposed to this year. I think the facts will bear me out.

05/12/2008 06:48 PM

Sharon – What happens if they don’t include Kyle until the last paragraph and you’ve already invested all that time in an article that had Kyle in the storyline? Will you skip another article that wasn’t about him to make up for it? What if it turns out that that article had Dale Earnhardt, Jr in it and it’s linked at your favorite “Jr’s so dreamy” board? Now you’ve got quite the dilemma on your hands, don’t you?

That’s quite a commitment you’ve made there. Hope you can live with it.

05/12/2008 08:42 PM

I tried to speak out and defend California Speedway, aka, the AutoClub Speedway now, last year and just got beat up on from everyone here.

Anyways, even though I am a SoCal native, I think 3 California races is too much (Sonoma). I know I, and a lot of people I’ve talked to here, would rather have another race in Las Vegas. It’s only 3 hours away, plus you aren’t stuck with having to drive home every night if you aren’t camping out or staying in the “beautiful” city of Fontana. Vegas has something for everyone any time of the day. :)

Mike In NH
05/12/2008 09:02 PM

Sheesh, all these complaints… sparx, guys who run out of control 95% of the time don’t finish races. Shrub just is better at handling things on the edge than most drivers are.

Larry, JGR has been around for years, so that’s why THEIR Toyotas are doing well (notice that most of the rest of them still aren’t, just like last year). It’s not the make anymore, it’s the knowledge in the shop and JGR has always had some of the best – if not THE best – engine builders in the business. Don’t forget they helped develop the R07 engine Chevy runs now.

And the other conspiracy-oriented comments by others elsewhere is just silly. Ultimately, these are the same complaints that have been levelled at every team that’s performed well in the past – Hendricks last year, Rousch before that, and so on.

05/12/2008 09:33 PM

i agree with mike, if jgr was a startup team they would be struggling like mwr and red bull. knowledge my friends is the answer in cup. maybe just a 5/16 instead of a 1/4 inch rear end aligment might be the answer

05/12/2008 10:48 PM

If Toyota really does have a HP advantage, but their engines still are within the rules, then good for them – that’s engineering. There is no rule that directly limits HP, so whatever any team can get then that’s their advantage and that’s why they should win races.

I only wish that the Dodge boys would figure out the trick.

Larry Burton
05/13/2008 09:47 PM

Alan, the thing Nascar has stressed for years is they wanted all the cars pretty well equal in horsepower so it would be left up to the drivers, pit crews, etc. to determine who wins. Money buys horsepower, as has been stated before, Toyota has unlimited amounts of money to spend and find horsepower. Take last year. Kyle drove for Hendricks, the best powerhouse Chevy team out there. How many wins did Kyle have last year at this time? If I’m not mistaken they said Sat. Night that Kyle had won seven races this year. Three in Sprint Cup, Three in Nationwide, and one in the Trucks. If Gibbs is the great team you say it is, how come their drivers last year didn’t win this much driving Chevys? Another thing I’d like to bring up that I havena’t seen anywhere. Did anybody notice Kyle Busch in his interview Friday Night call another driver and “SOB”. Now, we all know what that means but why didn’t Nascar penalize Kyle like they did Jr. several years ago when he let a bad word slip? Jr was just celebrating and Kyle was referring to another driver as an “SOB”. To me that seems even worse than letting a word slip in celebration that Jr. did.

05/14/2008 01:13 PM

Larry, what makes you think that ALL Hendrick cars get the same HP engines? Like I said before, let Toyota have their year and make the changes if needed during the OFF season for ’09.

Kevin in SoCal
05/15/2008 12:50 AM

Son of a bitch may be a derogatory word, but its not one of the seven banned words on TV and radio. Junior’s sh!t slip is one of the seven banned words, hence his penalty. Its that simple. Juan Pablo Montoya said pissed off earlier this year as well, and some people reacted to it, but that’s not one of the bad words you cant say on TV either, hence no penalty.

05/18/2008 11:17 AM

All i have to say about Kyle is he better think we still have Daytona and Dega or even a road course to race he will be taken out of a race for payback for taking out Jr u even seen Kyle turn right to help spin Jr out he is as dirty as Tony if Jr dont take him out it then the Biff will i would love to see Kyle get spun out on the last lap at Daytona or Dega and i hope the person that spins him out is Jr and if Jr gets in trouble for doing it then that shows Nascar plays the favorite card and that is not right

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