The Frontstretch: Voice of Vito: 2010 Season In Review - Final Thoughts on NASCAR’s Grand Finale by Vito Pugliese -- Wednesday November 24, 2010

Go to site navigation Go to article

Wow. After 36 weeks the 2010 NASCAR season is now a memory. There were many memorable moments this year that stand out, an indelible image burned from each one. Jamie McMurray winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 … Denny Hamlin hobbling to his car a week after knee surgery … Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton slap fighting on the backstretch at Texas, then taking a ride together about ten seconds later.

Oh, yeah, and Jimmie Johnson winning his fifth consecutive title.

Yeah I know, I picked Hamlin to win it by the narrowest of margins a couple of weeks back, but let’s all be honest here – are any of us really that surprised that the No. 48 team won? This past Sunday brought about a number of final thoughts regarding the final weekend of the 2010 season, as well as what 2011 and beyond might hold.

The Emperor Has No Clothes. Or Clue.

Is there any other major sporting organization that has an owner as erratic and out of touch as Brian France? For somebody who is as obsessed with the NFL and yearns to have his body of work mentioned in the same breath as America’s favorite sport, how can he be so utterly disconnected from the realities that his racing series faces?

During a Q&A session at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the question was broached regarding the possibility of the Chase being eliminated, due to rampant fan disapproval. France’s reaction was incredulous, retorting, “You met somebody that’s telling you that?” The Chase has long been seen as France’s brainchild, the one thing NASCAR needed to be mentioned alongside other major league sports. Seven years into it and one guy has won it five times – and if not for some dumb luck in the final race, he very well could have won _all_of them.

That is not to diminish the work done by Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the entire No. 48 team – or Hendrick Motorsports for that matter. Is there any other team in racing outside of Maranello that embodies the “team” concept more than five-time Sprint Cup champions? The only other driver and crew chief combo that really resonates the same as Johnson and Knaus is Petty and Inman.

The only thing this proves is that the system is inherently flawed. One team has successfully figured out how to be the best in the final 10 races every single year. As close and drama filled as the 2010 final championship race was, it still does not come remotely close to the 1992 fight that went down to the closing laps between Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott under the traditional points system.

No Reich Turns

One of the more interesting tidbits of info this weekend was the announcement that Volkswagen is interested in potentially pursuing a place in NASCAR, and will be meeting with them to discuss this. VW is currently in a tussle with Toyota as the world’s largest automaker. If you thought the ire of such luminaries as Jack Roush and Jimmy Spencer were aroused when the announcement was made that Toyota was coming to NASCAR, imagine the furor of der Fuhrer-mobiles coming down south. How long until somebody cuts loose with some Battle of the Bulge or Dresden smack?

If one blows an engine will Mike Joy make with a V-2 or Messerschmitt blast? You can already hear cries of “Nazi-Car” when and if the German brand does come to NASCAR. Irony in auto racing will have reached a high point once two companies that were synonymous with helping to curb the tide of national socialism in Europe, will be competing against them on the track – having had just been taken over by the federal government.

Shell Game

Despite being re-signed to the No. 24 team earlier this year, Steve Letarte was one of a number of key personnel reshuffled within the Hendrick Motorsports camp as they attempt to pursue a sixth consecutive Cup title in 2011.

There were a few key personnel announcements at Hendrick Motorsports a couple of months ago. One was the re-signing of Steve Letarte as crew chief for the No. 24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon, and the reassertion that Lance McGrew would likely be back as Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s crew chief. Well, both of those commitments were undone Tuesday, as it was learned that Letarte is now calling the shots for Earnhardt, Alan Gustafson will be atop Gordon’s war wagon, and McGrew joins with Mark Martin in his final season with Hendrick Motorsports.

So what does this all mean?

For Earnhardt it’s pretty clear – this is the best opportunity he has had to race and be competitive at Hendrick Motorsports, and he better make the most of it. Joining Letarte, he also joins Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, with cars being prepared in what now will be known as the 4-8-8 shop. No more carping and moaning about inferior equipment or lack of preparation. The sister cars to the best in the business are being built just feet away by the same guys who have been wrenching on them the last five years.

Gordon should benefit from some fresh thinking and new tactics with Gustafson as his new crew chief. Gustafson has been with the No. 5 team during his tenure at Hendrick Motorsports, and produced well with the cars prepared in the “other” shop in the building.

McGrew gets a major league reprieve from having to resurrect the career of the most popular driver in American motorsports, while getting a shot at helping one of racing’s most revered drivers win his first Cup title. Martin has historically had career years when welcoming a new crew chief; runner-up in 1998 with Jimmy Fennig, second again in 2002 with Ben Leslie, and returning with a vengeance full-time in 2009 with five wins and another runner-up finish.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

If there is a feud that is most curious, it is that between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Harvick sent Busch spinning after being passed – cleanly – on lap 244 at Homestead this past weekend. Harvick said that Busch had been racing him “like a clown” while Busch called Harvick “two-faced.” Both drive yellow cars, are polarizing figures in the sport, and are Nationwide Series champions and Truck team owners. So why the sudden mutual disgust?

If you really want to factor in six degrees of separation, factor in Carl Edwards in the mix, who earlier this year deemed Harvick “a bad person” as well as “underhanded and cowardly.” Edwards drew the ire of Busch two weeks ago after allegedly jumping the final restart at Texas. Busch and Edwards have also had their mutual run-ins with Brad Keselowski this year, begging the question: Are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Carl Edwards in some twisted dimension of time and space, all actually the same person? If I just totally blew your mind, I apologize.

Also, I’ve seen the movie Casino a few times (hey, I’m Italian … we all think we’re Joe Pesci at some point in our lives), and if I were Harvick, I’d be a little leery of strutting into Busch’s hometown of Sin City in a couple of weeks for the awards banquets.

With that, thank you again to everybody who takes the time to stop by and read my weekly article or my newsletter offering, What’s Vexing Vito. I have enjoyed bantering back and forth with all of you in the comments section, in e-mail, and those who are friends with me on Facebook. I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year. I will be happy when it is 2011 – because that means Daytona is right around the corner.

This time, with no potholes.

Contact Vito Pugliese

NASCAR NEWS, RIGHT TO YOUR INBOXAND IT’S FREE.
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:
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
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/24/2010 08:30 AM
permalink

Thanks, Baby. Happy Thankgiving.

Jacob
11/24/2010 08:31 AM
permalink

Regardless of what brian said, or what the context of the question as he understood it; you are right Vito, brian france has no clue.

I wouldn’t expect too much from the HMS shake-up, except Chad will have to get his information over the phone instead of in person. Otherwise, all Rick did was put his dollar signs in order, and show Jeff that he is free to retire anytime that he is ready.

You started out with six degrees of seperation, and ended up in the matrix. I hate the matrix. Keanu Reeves is to acting what Tom Cruise is to racing!

Vito, unless you have stuck a man’s head in a vise, and popped his eyeball out, you are not Joe Pesci!!! Have a happy holiday season, best wishes to you and your family.

Gordon82Wins
11/24/2010 09:48 AM
permalink

I wonder if giving Junior Gordon’s crew chief will save Hendrick from the wrath of Junior Nation when he continues to run like crap.

Oh, who am I kidding!

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/24/2010 11:34 AM
permalink

Susan –

I remember it well…Davey, Bill, Alan, Harry,Kyle, and Mark were all in contention for it. I was just fast-forwarding in my head to the final laps after Ernie took out Dave and Mark burned a piston while leading.

EZ
11/24/2010 08:35 PM
permalink

RG
Here is the exact Q & A
Q. You said back in July you wanted to create Game 7 type scenarios, but in other sports you really don’t see that every year, maybe every two or three years and baseball this year wasn’t that way. And a lot of fans that communicate with us say they are just as disenchanted with the Chase in general, they want to go back to the other points system

FRANCE You met somebody that’s telling you that?

Read more: http://www.thatsracin.com/2010/11/19/52277/transcript-brian-france-remarks.html#ixzz16FjQGMEh
So no matter what the context, he’s a big a__hole, and that’s the reason the sport is in the wonderful shape that it is.

Gary
11/30/2010 01:55 PM
permalink

Susan: no one deserves a championship. They need to win it. Alan Kulwicki may have not won as many races as your favorite Bill Elliott but the fact remains the same “he won it.” Whether he calculated the exact number of laps he needed to win the championship or won the race the result was AK was the 1992 Nascar Champion. Pretty good since he was a one car team against a multi-car team run by the legendary Junior Johnson. And it was a great race. Lot of sour grapes you *****

Contact Vito Pugliese