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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Robby Gordon’s Problem, Joe Gibbs’s Reality & Why Kurt Busch Is Craving… Miller Lite?

“Big picture, we didn’t gain many points on Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. today or any of the guys because they ran well. But the other big picture is all the Americans that enjoy Miller Lite with us today, I encourage them to go out to the convenience stores, grocery stores or their pubs, grab a fresh Miller Lite and celebrate with us all week – ’cause we’re here and we’re gonna try to get in the Chase.”

Yes, that was our boy Kurt Busch from Victory Lane this past weekend, doing his best Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn impression after dominating the Pennsylvania 500. Congenial, media-friendly and an all-around great guy, Busch ripped off one helluva commercial that would have made any marketing guru proud (and any true pitchman cringe).

I have nothing personal against Kurt, but I wish he would concentrate less on what he thinks his image is – or is supposed to be, and just be himself. The guy seems likable enough nowadays – that is, until he goes into “I-have-to-come-up-with-cool-ways-to-pitch-Miller Lite-because-I’m-on-camera” mode. We all want to be liked, Kurt, but ripping off 10 sponsor plugs and the aforementioned commercial in a minute and a half isn’t the way to endear yourself to the masses watching ’round the world. Oh, and the three cliches you threw in later didn’t help, either, but I’m just as guilty in my writing… so I guess I’ll let that slide.

There is a lot going on out there this week, so let’s hear your comments, questions and opinions.

Q: NASCAR screwed Robby Gordon again. I think he did the right thing by staying out and getting his money’s worth of a penalty. I’m not going to argue the rights or wrongs of the penalties themselves, as I’m sure you all will take care of that in Mirror Driving. My question is, what is keeping the drivers from forming a union that can file grievances when incidents like this occur, a group that can look out for the drivers’ best interests (insurance, salary, etc.)?Piledriver

A: Ah, the age-old union question. Well, first you need to ask the president of the now-defunct Professional Drivers Association, Richard Petty. Since you probably can’t get him on the phone, I’ll tell you that he, along with most of the drivers on the circuit, formed a union in 1969 to protest prize money, confront safety issues, and figure out what was to be done about the new 2.66-mile behemoth of a track now known as Talladega that had been constructed in Alabama.

When the union drivers decided to boycott the first race at Talladega over fears that the tires Goodyear and Firestone had supplied would not hold up to the speeds and conditions they were being exposed to (sound familiar?), other drivers from the NASCAR Grand Touring Pony Car Division simply stepped in and raced in their place.

Therein lies the reasoning why a union in NASCAR’s three touring series will never work: In the event of a strike, boycott, etc., there is always someone willing to take your spot in the starting field. It’s that simple, really. Of course, the fact that it is impossible to get a large group of drivers to agree on anything would be a major hindrance as well. Besides, what do these guys need a union for anyway? They make millions already. I’m sure that although Robby had a legit gripe last weekend, he went to his lakeside home on Sunday and slept well knowing that if his biggest problem is a blown NASCAR ruling, he’s in good shape.

Q: What will DEI do now that Kyle Busch has signed on with Joe Gibbs? I think Kyle made the right choice, but it seems like DEI was banking on the younger (more talented) Busch brother to replace Junior. Now, they’re up the creek. Maybe they can replace Earnhardt Jr. with Kerry Earnhardt? Seriously, though, what are DEI’s “free agent” options?Rush Rocket

A: I agree with you that Kyle made the right decision in going to Gibbs. As for an heir to the throne: JJ Yeley has talked to them and David Stremme‘s name has been thrown in there, although I don’t see that happening. Also, Jeremy Mayfield just hit the market.

Honestly, Rush, I believe Greg Biffle is the guy. We’ve seen drivers wiggle out of contracts before, and DEI has made no bones about wanting a championship-caliber pilot in that seat. No offense to Yeley or Stremme, but title contenders they are not. Biffle, on the other hand…

Q: Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart on the same team? Are you kidding me??? Joe Gibbs better hire a sports psychologist! Is that going to work? Doesn’t seem like a good fit to me because of the personalities. John Paul F.

A: They’ll make it work. Tony and Kyle will get along as well as Tony and Denny do.

Q: What does JGR stand to gain longterm with Toyota that they can’t achieve with Chevrolet? They have won three of the last seven championships. Why move when you have a good thing going? With Kyle Busch, they only stand to be better.Shawn R.

A: It’s simply a matter of where they stand on the totem pole. Joe Gibbs Racing will never unseat Hendrick Motorsports as top dog in the Chevy food chain – they would be the unquestioned No. 1 at Toyota. But don’t get too worked up over all the JGR/Toyota talk just yet, Shawn. There have been talks between the two, serious talks, but there are a lot of issues to work through for this to happen. I’m not sold on this just yet.

Along the same line, but in the opposite direction, is the Red Bull to Chevy rumor; I’m even more uncertain of this materializing.

OK, that’s all this week. Enjoy the Glen, and keep your fingers crossed that Marcos Ambrose makes the race. That bloke deserves a shot.