A note of foreboding before we get this week’s questions rolling: It has been only one short year since a flashy real estate developer hit the sport with the force of a hurricane. A “five-year plan” to bring a title to the former MB2 Motorsports team; a hiring coup in grabbing the sport’s elder statesman, Mark Martin; an expanded palace of a race shop that included the Christmas toy on every team owner’s wish list – the seven-post shaker; a play for the sport’s most sought-after free agent, Dale Earnhardt Jr.; the expansion from two cars to three; heck, he even threw in two new team jets for good measure.
Well, we all know how this chapter ended for Bobby Ginn. After pouring in more money and talking a bigger game than any other owner in that short run, Ginn’s house of cards came tumbling down with one small gust of wind. Bills still unpaid, the entire story not yet told, Ginn was saved by Dale Earnhardt Inc., who bought the operation and now have to pay off creditors that continue to come calling.
Enter Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel, executives with the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball franchise. Following a swift majority buyout of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach’s Hall of Fame Racing team, the two hard-ballers nabbed the No. 1 available free agent on the market in JJ Yeley, and will follow parent-team Joe Gibbs Racing to the Toyota camp at the conclusion of the season.
Those are awful big moves in an awful short period of time for two gentlemen that have held the title, “majority owners” for just over one week.
Let’s hope that the lessons learned by Bobby Ginn will force this new breed of investor to stand up and take notice… because more are coming. Raw cash and promises only get you so far in big league auto racing, and surrounding yourself with people who know the sport and allowing them to make the right decisions are the keys to being successful in NASCAR.
Alright, onto the questions.
Q: Why isn’t Carl Edwards getting any play as a darkhorse for the championship? I keep reading about Kurt Busch (who admittedly has made a nice charge) and Tony Stewart and his yearly summer run. But no one mentions Carl and the fact that he has six top 10s in eight races, or that his Bristol win may have been the biggest of his career. The momentum from that win alone should carry this team for a few more races. – Mizzou99
A: No arguments that this team is rolling; by my estimation they’re the hottest bunch on the circuit. In one sense, yes, they fit the darkhorse tag to a tee as they’ve come on strong down the stretch after a somewhat bumpy season. The problem I have with calling them, or any team, a darkhorse is that there is still a lot of racing to do. Plus, Carl is fourth in the point standings, hardly a back-marker.
Remember back in 2004? Jimmie Johnson was 247-points out of first with a scant few six races remaining in the Chase. Now he was a darkhorse for the title. Of course, he came up eight points shy that year, but those four wins and a runner-up finish in the last six races was nothing short of superhuman.
Q: I read in your column last week that Matt Liscano doesn’t think the Bristol repaving was a success. He asks what the fix is. Here’s the correct response: The fix has been made!!
We saw two- and three-wide racing all night, no bump and runs, three quarters of the race run under green (not yellow) and more cars cross under the checkered flag than taken away on a roll back. What more could a race fan ask for? I don’t understand why so many “fans” were disappointed in a lack of bent sheetmetal and carnage.
To those of you who would rather see one-groove wrecking, here is a suggestion: Go to the demolition derby at the local fairgrounds. – HummVee
A: Never have I seen a single race that so polarized NASCAR Nation. Believe me, we here at Frontstretch have witnessed plenty of drama and received our fair share of feedback on the heels of the Sharpie 500. I guess all that’s left to say which has not been said is, “Only at Bristol, baby!”
Q: Matt, I was hoping you could answer this question that my daughter and I had concerning women in NASCAR. In short, why aren’t there more females pushing to make it to the Nextel Cup level? NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity seems to have placed an emphasis on Hispanic and African-American drivers. The program is working in that area, but we don’t see that there are any female drivers who are close to making it to the Cup level. Any thoughts? Thanks! – Lynn Kienle
A: Yeah Lynn, my thought is that if there were any women working their way up the ranks that displayed legit Cup talent, they would have been identified by a Cup owner by now.
See, the female Cup driver is the ultimate marketing tool. You find the next Danica Patrick and you’ve got yourself a gold mine. Sponsors far and wide would jump on that bandwagon.
I believe the other issue is NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity has been put on a backburner at the moment because of the foreign talent that is in or on the cusp of joining NASCAR. Juan Pablo Montoya was the ‘get’ NASCAR has been looking for, and foreign drivers like Jacques Villeneuve and Marcos Ambrose, not to mention the possible defection of soon-to-be IRL champ Dario Franchitti, are filling the diversity docket.
The female Cup phenom will come someday. At the moment, there are none good enough to make that jump.
Q: How does the No. 1 free agent on the market (now that Shrub and Junior are off the board) go to Hall of Fame Racing? Hello? Doesn’t RCR, DEI, the Wood Brothers and RYR have seats open? If Yeley was that in demand, I don’t think he would have settled for HOF (a one-car team going to Toyota next year). I thought Yeley would land at DEI or RCR… at worst, the Wood Brothers. So with Yeley off the board, where do these other teams go to fill the open seats? – Chris Phelps
A: Yeley’s signing with Hall of Fame was perplexing to me. He complained of not getting the primo equipment with Gibbs, yet he thinks HOF, a Gibbs satellite team, will give him what he wants?! OK…
As for the remainder of those open seats, I first must point out that when this letter was submitted, one DEI chair remained in play. Not so anymore. With Regan Smith in the No. 01, we have Robert Yates needing to fill a seat. I think the organization asking Kenny Wallace to do some testing for them speaks volumes. Suddenly, Herman is your frontrunner there.
Childress, as mentioned before, has talked to Franchitti and the open wheeler seems, well, “open” to the idea (I just can’t wait for Ashley Judd and her sundress to grace our presence on pit road each week, Go Cats!!). Of course, there is no guarantee RCR runs a full slate of races with a fourth car anyway, so this is still very much up in the air.
That leaves the loveable Woods, who could put Jeremy Mayfield in the seat. Although he doesn’t have to worry about getting along with teammates there, I hear his sales pitch has been falling on deaf ears. And the wild card in all this is David Reutimann, who is supposedly being courted but is doing a good job of keeping a lid on things.
In short, Chris, there are still a few dominos to fall. Frontstretch will let you know when we find out.
That’s all for this week. One last thing, though: I don’t care that the Race to the Chase is not scintillating this season; we still get to enjoy a good ol’ Richmond race under the lights. Enjoy the show and have a great week!