The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder... After The Coke Zero 400 by Tommy Thompson -- Monday July 7, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder... After The Coke Zero 400

Tommy Thompson · Monday July 7, 2008


1. The Other Big Three – American automakers GM, Ford, and Chrysler have just about reached the panic stage, as their financial well-being becomes a critical concern. GM stock has lost approximately 75% of its value over the last year, Ford Motor Company has seen a 50% decline of stock value in the last three months, and Chrysler is expected to either file bankruptcy or sell off what profitable segments of the company they can. NASCAR’s Chairman and CEO Brian France, speaking on whether there’ll be continued support from the “Big Three” in the sport considering their financial crunch, summed up the situation by saying, “…we’ll just have to see.”

On the other hand, in 2007 Toyota earned about $16 billion on sales of 9.37 million vehicles, surpassing GM as the No. 1 maker of automobiles. But although they’re expecting a decrease in profits for 2008 due to the economic downturn, the company’s expected to still be very much in the black and continue to expand their world markets.

Brian… time to give Honda and Nissan a call and see what they are up to!

2. Gettin’ Kinda Old – Mark Martin, who finished 10th at Daytona Saturday night, embarked on the “Salute To You” tour in 2005 with Roush Racing, following an announcement that he no longer wanted to race full-time and would dabble in the Craftsman Truck Series. Later, Martin capitulated only when longtime owner and friend Jack Roush asked him to return full-time in 2006, filling a driver void in his organization that occurred with the departure of 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch.

Immediately following the 2006 season, the Batesville, AR, native announced that he had signed to drive part-time for now-defunct Ginn Racing, an agreement that was honored by Dale Earnhardt, Inc. when they bought out the Ginn organization. In fact, they agreed to keep Martin as a part-time driver through the 2009 season. But on July 4th, absent fireworks, Martin announced that he will drive the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet full-time in 2009…and, oh yeah, part-time in 2010.

Ummm…whatever, Mark!

3. Call The Cops! – Chip Ganassi Racing is rumored to be facing hard financial times, spurred by the announcement that the No. 40 Dodge driven by Dario Franchitti in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series had ceased operations. In part due to the loss of the No. 40 team, the organization has embarked on a plan to reduce its work force by more than 100 employees — over 70 of those have already been released. But the layoffs didn’t just affect the members of the No. 40 crew; in fact, many of the cuts came at the expense of longtime employees that were around well before Ganassi bought into Felix Sabates’ operation in 2002. Many of those personnel were assigned to positions on the No. 41 and No. 42 CGRFS race teams, with employees from the defunct No. 40 car moving over to replace them in the race shop. Apparently, many of the soon-to-be-displaced employees were not too happy with the decision to let them go… and, according to an article in the Florida Times Union, Chip Ganassi Racing called in 12 police offers to maintain order.

Well, well, well… so it’s not just Talladega where people can get unruly.

4. The Family Car – During his post-race interview, third place finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr. repeatedly congratulated Tony Stewart on his win Friday night at Daytona in the Nationwide Series Winn Dixie 250. It was a nice gesture by NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver … except it was not Stewart who Earnhardt, Jr. followed to the checkered flag, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin! The mistake is understandable, though, as Stewart has taken the No. 20 Toyota to Victory Lane five times this season. Hamlin’s win Friday night was just his second in the car for 2008; victories have also been recorded by JGR stablemates Kyle Busch and 18-year-old development driver Joey Logano.

If you add ‘em all up, that’s nine wins with four different drivers so far this season. Impressive! But in the future competitors — just to be safe — should consider just congratulating the No. 20’s crew chief, Dave Rogers…

5. See… That’s How It’s Supposed To End – Mike Wallace was noticeably irate after being wrecked by his nephew Steven Wallace on the last lap of the Winn Dixie 250 Friday evening. Mike Wallace, currently eighth in the Nationwide driver point standings piloting the No. 7 GEICO Toyota, had a solid finish in his grasp before being spun by the younger Wallace and hitting the inside wall hard. But not everyone in the family believed Mike’s side of the story …

“Stevie…Way to go cuz! That’s what I’m talking about,” offered Mike Wallace’s popular TV cousin Loren Wallace after the race.

6. Hint? – Kyle Petty, who is on “hiatus” from driving the No. 45 Dodge for Petty Enterprises while serving as a race commentator for TNT, was the honorary driver of the Corvette Z08 pace car for the 50th running of this summer classic from Daytona.

Honorary pace car driver…hmm. Don’t retired drivers usually do that kind of stuff?

7. R-E-S-P-E-C-T? – Generally a stout qualifier, Ryan Newman could muster only a 32nd place starting position for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. The Penske Racing driver quickly made his way up to 18th before being spun on lap 45 by Jamie McMurray, requiring a pit stop for repairs to fix the damage. Then, after battling back up to the Top 10, he was hit by David Gilliland on lap 124 when Gilliland had a tire blow going through turns three and four.

But wait … there’s more. After staying on the lead lap and still pushing his race car towards the front — despite heavy damage on the right side — Newman was then collected in a lap 136 accident that occurred when Martin Truex, Jr. hit Denny Hamlin. Hamlin then collected the No. 12 of Newman as he lost control coming off turn four, making heavy contact with the Alltel Dodge. It took extensive behind-the-wall repairs to fix the car after that one, but Newman returned to the track to ultimately post a 36th place finish in the final running order.

Guys, is that any way to treat the defending Daytona 500 winner?

An ill Tony Stewart talks to Greg Zipadelli after getting out of the No. 20 Saturday night before making a return trip to the infield care center for fluids.

8. Oh, Nurse! – Tony Stewart, who started 17th for Saturday night’s race, felt ill and had taken fluids intravenously before the start of the event for what was considered flu-like symptoms. When those conditions worsened once the green flag flew, he had buddy J.J. Yeley relieve him during a lap 72 pit stop. “Before the race, the nurse said she was going to buy us a couple of hours, and we got three hours out of it,” said the two-time Sprint Cup Champion of his decision to vacate his seat. “We still had to go out there and try, [but] it wasn’t worth putting those [other drivers] at risk and me making a mistake in front of them and creating a bad day for those guys.”

Good decision, Smoke!

9. Ohhh… Brother – Coke Zero 400 runner-up Carl Edwards, speaking about the green-white-checkered finish that had him racing with Kyle Busch before the last-lap yellow flag that ended the race: “I hate to lose that. I had his brother [Kurt Busch] behind me. I know they don’t get along that well, so I was planning on a really good finish.”

Well…maybe that is a little vindication for those that just can’t warm up to the exceptionally talented driver of the No. 18 M& M’s Toyota. Even his brother prefers the other guy!

10. Not Half Bad – Kyle Busch won the Coke Zero 400 for his sixth Sprint Cup Series win of the season. The victory extended his points lead in the series to 182 ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who gained one position in the driver championship standings by moving ahead of Jeff Burton.

Six wins in a season is awesome! Oh, wait … that’s in a half of a season, isn’t it. Still plenty of time left in the year … and plenty of more opportunities for Busch to double that total in the second half.

Contact Tommy Thompson

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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Kevin in SoCal
07/07/2008 07:56 PM

Point #4: I think somebody needs to drug-test Dale Jr. He’s been drinking too much of the Hendrick Kool-Aid, I think. During his pre-race interview on Friday, he was talking very slowly, choosing his words carefully, and acting like he was out in left field. During his interview on RaceDay Saturday afternoon, he exhibited the same behavior, with slow, drawn-out speech and picking his words carefully. Lastly, he did it again in an interview on the TNT pre-race show just prior to getting in his car for the race. He has talked this way in several interviews this year, most notably after getting out of his race car after Pocono in June. It was mentioned on this website, and his fans summed it up by saying he was hot and tired after running 500 miles in the heat. But this time it was BEFORE the two races he ran this weekend. What gives? At first I thought it was because he was tired and bothered by the constant questions from his fans and the media on when he will win again. But now that he’s won, he’s still talking with that slow, tired, confused speech. So what is it? Too much Hendrick Kool-Aid? Something else?

07/07/2008 09:55 PM

Glad to see Newman’s hellish race get some air for the debacle it was. I’ve been a #12 fan since 2003 and Saturday night was the first race of his I couldn’t make it to the finish of. Ugly.

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