NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Fueling the Engine Debate, Montoya’s Struggles & Joey Clanton?

Good batch this week, everyone; lots of questions to tackle. Keep ’em coming in… this column doesn’t exist without you.

Q: Matt, can you or someone tell the true story of what happened to Joey Clanton and Jack Roush in the Truck Series? If I remember correctly, Joey was a co-driver for some team in 2007. Joey came from Georgia, as well as his sponsor Zaxby’s Chicken. He and Zaxby’s teamed with Roush for 2008… but after the Daytona race, Joey left, and the official statement was he had family interests to pursue. Joey was a good up and coming driver, having won an ASA title a few years ago. It appears Roush used him to get the Zaxby’s sponsor and then booted Joey for someone else. Maybe Joey can make a comeback next year? Thanks for your help.  Blackie Adams

A: I believe Joey put it best himself after being released from his driving duties at Roush Fenway when he said, “I didn’t bring the truck home in one piece, and I’m paying the ramifications for it.”

This, after pushing the envelope three-wide on lap 24 of the Chevy Silverado 250 at Daytona with Mike Bliss and Terry Cook. Long story short: they didn’t make it, and the ensuing crash also eliminated fellow Roushian Colin Braun.

It wasn’t the first time Clanton and Braun mixed it up while in Daytona. The two, along with Kyle Busch, wrecked in preseason truck testing during the event’s first drafting session. Not the best way to make a mark with the new employer.

So, after the second incident Clanton was ahhh, how do I say this… let’s leave it at dismissed. Boom. Outta here.

But conveniently for Uncle Jack, the Zaxby’s sponsorship stayed. By the way, Blackie, you didn’t happen to have a gig in the ‘80s shooting fire from your… oh, nevermind.

Q: NASCAR has messed up racing! When you do what the drivers had to do yesterday [fuel-mileage gambles] is that racing?? You can idle around and win a race. If it had been anyone else but Dale Jr., they would have put him to the end of the field. Bill France is turning over in his grave with what they call racing today. Put the cars back to what comes from the factory and let’s go racin’.  70RACECAR (from the 1950 days, when we really raced)

A: Dude, we’ve had fuel-mileage battles in NASCAR forever. Personally, I don’t mind them. Kind of adds a new sense of drama every now and then.

As for Junior and the pace car pass… whew, this is a tough one. No, he shouldn’t have passed the pace car, but as I stated in Mirror Driving yesterday (you can view the exact ruling from the rulebook quoted there), his offense was not an egregious one. It was my understanding that the passing the pace car rule was applied so cars didn’t hightail it down pit road while the field was still in parade formation. And honestly, I do not recall ever seeing the rule enforced – namely because I’ve never seen anyone break it the way Junior did. That said, I don’t blame Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers for being perturbed that the action didn’t draw some sort of penalty. The rule, for once, seemed pretty cut and dry.

Q: Does Toyota have a horsepower advantage or not. And if so, how much?  Dave Chapman

A: Well Dave, it appears some of the Toyotas do. I mean, let’s be honest, I don’t see Dave Blaney blowing anyone’s doors off; do you? The Gibbs teams seem to have tuned their engines to make more horsepower than a number of other teams, but NASCAR has not allotted Toyota a larger engine block or anything like that. In other words, it’s the teams finding the extra muscle through innovation, not favoritism.

Dyno tests this year have shown a 30-horsepower advantage between the best car tested and the worst, but who’s to say that the No. 18 was the best when the No. 88’s just two horsepower off and, at the bottom end of the spectrum was the No. 78, 30 horsepower in arrears. Not surprisingly, you have a single-car Chevrolet program 28 horsepower behind a car from the (arguably) top team within the same manufacturer.

But this really isn’t anything new to the sport; heck, even teams within the same organization can produce varying amounts of horsepower with engines built by the same hands. This difference is typically in the 5–10 horsepower range.

Q: On Saturday Kyle Busch was late for the [Nationwide Series] drivers meeting and as a result, didn’t attend. Is it okay for his backup driver to attend in his stead? I had assumed this meeting was compulsory, but saw that two other drivers missed the meeting. For what sort of reasons would drivers miss the meeting, and why didn’t KB go even though it was halfway through? Thanks.  Danny

A: The reason Kyle did not attend the Nationwide drivers’ meeting prior to the Kentucky event was because Jeremy Clements qualified the No. 18 JGR Toyota for Kyle; thus, Kyle was going to have to start in the back anyway due to his replacing Clements before the start of the race.

And why didn’t Kyle go to the meeting midway through anyway? Well, he’s Kyle Busch and he’ll do whatever the hell he pleases, I suppose. And for the record, I have no idea why Danny Efland and Burney Lamar missed the same meeting. Although, I could think of one real good reason Lamar would be forced to skip it…

Q: Hey Matt, I am a big Juan Pablo Montoya fan and was excited to see him race again on Sunday, but the only racing he did was to see how fast he could get to the back. I was listening to MRN and his frequency, but got nothing all day long. Maybe I had the wrong frequency because I didn’t hear anything all day – not even from a spotter. and MRN failed to mention him at all unless they were giving the rundown. Can you please tell me what was wrong with his car? Was it an engine issue like Dario or something else?

Also, after hearing that the Chicago race was going to be run under the lights, I started to think about going. I’m only three and a half hours away and, with it being a Saturday race, I wouldn’t have to miss a day of work. So, I figured it would be a great opportunity to see my favorite drivers again at a track I’ve never been to. I just never thought I’d hit the speed bump that was Chicagoland Speedway ticket office. They won’t allow me to buy a ticket to the Sprint Cup race. I have to buy a ticket to the Sprint race, the Nationwide race, the ARCA race, and the IRL race. I only want to go to one – I can only go to one – yet I have to buy eight tickets (two for myself and my wife). Why do they do this? It’s a stupid idea. Please tell me that other tracks will not begin this practice. It’s doing nothing but keeping more and more fans at home. Thanks for your time.  Ben

A: Loose, loose, loose, Ben. Montoya started the race loose and fell from a starting position of 21st to 41st by lap 30. After losing a couple of laps, Montoya and crew chief Brian Pattie agreed to use the remainder of the event as a practice session for the return trip in August. It’s part of a continual problem at Chip Ganassi Racing; one that’s not so much the at-the-track performance but the lack of leadership in the shop. Montoya and his teammates are not close when they unload, and therefore are behind the big boys from the get go.

By the way, the frequency code I have for Montoya is 466.1000. Don’t know if it’s changed along the way.

As for the ticket situation, it seems more and more tracks are going that way. They have to put butts in the seats at every event, and the way to do it is sell an all-or-nothing package. Listen, though; just show up on race day and buy a couple from a scalper. Chicago will be nowhere near full, and you’ll be able to get them for a reasonable price.

And to Tony Landis – not to be confused with Fronstretch’s own Tony Lumbis – c’mon man, you know I can’t print stuff like that.

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