Count me as being of the opinion that Tony Stewart‘s Chase hopes are officially dashed. Yes, I know Stewart is arguably the most talented driver on tour (case in point: wheeling that aero-deficient car with Band Aids on the nose to a seventh at LMS) and that Jimmie Johnson overcame a 146-point deficit after Charlotte last season to win it all. However, I just don’t see it being in the cards for Smoke this year.
Being nearly 200 points behind the Chase leader is bad enough for the two-time champ, but considering that the points leader is also averaging a fourth-place finish over the last five races, and you start to see the hill Stewart has to climb. That’s not to say he can’t make it interesting; on the contrary, he’s recorded wins and runs competitively at the next three tracks on the slate, Martinsville, Atlanta and Phoenix, but so have, and do, Jeff Gordon and Johnson.
So I’m ready to throw in the towel on my preseason pick and extend my “can’t pick the champ” run to four years running.
Q: Hey Matt. Can you tell me the specific differences between the Busch and regular Cup cars? – Braden Hiltner
A: There are actually more similarities than differences, but the Cup machines, which generate roughly 800-850 horsepower, are more lethal than the Busch cars’ 750. Because of this, a Cup engine turns more rpm and generates more torque. The engines, though, are both 5.7 liter, V-8s that drink 112-octane fuel with slightly different gear ratios.
The cars weigh the same (3,400 lbs) and are the same length (200.7 inches) but the Busch cars are one-half inch taller. The wheelbase of a Cup car is 110″, which makes it five inches wider than its Busch brethren, while the Busch bodies, at 74.5″, are actually two inches wider. Finally, the Busch cars run a spoiler that is two inches wider and 1.25″ taller, except at the plate tracks, where the spoiler specs vary.
Honestly Braden, even when you’re standing next to them in the garage area, it’s virtually impossible for the untrained eye to tell the difference.
Q: The Talladega race got me wondering what exactly the teams can do to the cars after qualifying in an impound race. Anything whatsoever or totally hands off? – Kim D’Antonio
A: Not totally hands off, but close. The crew can do any of the following on race day, but not without a NASCAR official present: Heat the oil using a generator, crank the engine, set the tire pressures, prime the oil system, torque wheels, and add, remove or adjust tape on the nose. Of course, plugging in the radio and getting the driver strapped in are allowed, but you can’t make adjustments to the chassis or body, and you can’t top off the gas tank.
Q: Yo, Matt! I had to write you one last time about David Reutimann. It was good to see he has a full-time home at MWR. I think he really has the talent to be successful in Nextel Cup and am just glad he has a place to prove himself in NASCAR. – Darwin12
A: I thought I might hear from you this week, D. I agree; it’s nice to see Reutimann signed, sealed, and delivered with a Cup team, in the UPS car, to boot. While some may question the quality of Toyota’s equipment, I’d say give them another year and guys like Reutimann and Dave Blaney, not to mention the Gibbs boys, will start to make some noise.
By the way, I was at the Michael Waltrip Racing press conference at Lowe’s Motor Speedway when the announcement was made and Dale Jarrett said there was, “no doubt” who UPS and Jarrett wanted in the No. 44 once he stepped aside. That’s high praise from a loyal sponsor and championship driver.
Q: I heard differing stories about Ryan Newman when he crashed at Lowe’s. Did he blow a tire, get in oil or just lose it? Thanks Matt. – Dallara3
A: Good question, but one I can’t answer with any certainty, though. Newman had this to say in his post-race press conference, “We ended up blowing a left-rear tire. It blew a left rear and spun around. I felt it pop and it spun around and hit the wall. We tried to complete some more laps after that but that was it.”
Goodyear claimed the tire did not blow, but Rick Heinrich, Goodyear’s Nextel Cup product manager, did state that the left-side tires brought to Lowe’s for this race were different than those brought to the May race, which may add a touch of credence to Newman’s take.
Honestly, I don’t know who has their story straight, but it’s hard for me to believe Goodyear would contradict Newman’s statement unless they had a very good reason, like they were telling the truth.