NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Plotting The Forecast For Vegas, For Robby, And For Bobby Labonte

Whew! This column almost didn’t get posted this week. See, I developed a weeper in between the F4 and F5 buttons on my keyboard, and I had to put the hair dryer to it. Sorry, sorry… had to get one final shot in before we move on. Drop me a line in the next few days, as I’ll actually be in Vegas, away from the snow and 30 degree temps in Nashville and looking to kill time between practice sessions and the like.

First up on the agenda this week? Yep, you guessed it: California.

Matt, I have been watching NASCAR for close to 20 years and I am speechless over the events that happened on Sunday at California, oh, I’m sorry, Auto Club Speedway. Having been watching for what feels like a long time, I don’t ever remember NASCAR handling a weather problem with as much ineptitude as I witnessed at the Auto Club 500.

Not only are California races boring to watch (don’t get me started on the Labor Day date!) but having to watch all day and all night (because I’m a fan of the sport and I’ll watch them race in quicksand if that is the case) just to see nothing but two crashes that should have and could have been avoided was just a senseless way to spend a Sunday. Could this whole ordeal have been avoided, or is this a problem that happens when the conditions are right?

Thanks for letting me be heard, Matt! I really enjoy your column. – Mary A. Dunne

A: Thanks for using this column as it was intended, Mary. I believe you’ve expressed what many confused and frustrated fans were thinking. And yes, I do believe that circus could have been avoided. Those grooves we watched the track crew chisel into the surface could’ve been done as early as Friday, when we first realized we’d be dodging drops all weekend.

Weepers are nothing new. Not commonplace, but certainly nothing new. With the amount of precipitation weather.com told the entire civilized world was heading Cali’s way, any weak spots should have been identified and properly addressed well in advance.

By the way, for more on this you can get another dose of Frontstretch‘s California opinions by clicking here in case you missed our Mirror Driving column yesterday… hope this helps!

I have to ask what owner in their right mind would want Robby Gordon on their team? Why does Ray Evernham think this makes his team better? – MW Sims

A: You used the word team on two separate occasions, and that’s the precise reason Ray Evernham and George Gillett were interested. More than Robby Gordon the driver… they were after Robby Gordon Motorsports.

Throw out Robby and what you think of him as a driver or a person or whatever. The driver that GEM just aligned with comes with infrastructure. Sponsors, equipment, personnel, haulers, a business model… this translates into additional information, note-sharing, and resources. All the principals at GEM had to do was plug RGM into the network, and voila! Instant connection and assistance for one of the last single-car teams.

As for the driver himself, I get the feeling you’re not a fan. That’s fine; I’ve had many discussions in the Mirror Driving feature and on this site’s message boards where I came across as not caring for Gordon. It ain’t true. Whether you agree with his style of racing or what he says in interviews, you can’t deny that the boy is a racer to the bone… and I like that.

Will Michael Waltrip Racing take owner points from any of its cars and apply them to another once Dale Jarrett retires and the seats are shuffled? The Nos. 00 and 44 probably won’t need them, but what if the No. 55 does? – Deejzz

A: MWR’s general manager, Ty Norris, addressed this a couple of weeks ago with SceneDaily.com when he said, “David’s earning points for Michael McDowell and Dale Jarrett is earning points for David Reutimann – that’s the way we’re approaching it. If one of them happens not to be in the Top 35, obviously we’ll have to consider what’s going on then.”

No mention of Mikey, but I’d bet my new gold rims that if the No. 55 needed the points, namely the No. 00’s points,  the No. 55 would get the points.

Is there anything to the Bobby Labonte to RCR rumors? I have a soft spot for Petty Enterprises, but as a Bobby fan, I would like to see him back in competitive equipment. If it happens, who takes the No. 43? – Terri Schartung

A: I’ve been told the rumors have merit, Terri, and it makes a lot of sense. Childress wanted that fourth team this year but things fell through, possibly because he got serious about it too late and couldn’t make the stars line up. If RC can lock up a driver like Labonte and use him in the sales pitch to prospective sponsors, he’s got a much better shot at getting the new operation off the ground. Also, Labonte will be the most current past champion next year outside of the Top 35 if he were to make the move — that’s guaranteed money.

As for who would slide into the No. 43 , I couldn’t even begin to speculate. We’re talking about the No. 43 here, and there is still no proof BLab is flying the coop.

That’s it for this week. Four minutes left in the UT/Vandy game and Memorial is rockin’. I gotta get back to this. Editor’s Note: Vanderbilt won the game.

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