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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Unpopular Views on the Week That Was in NASCAR

WARNING: You are not going to agree with what you read in the following three paragraphs. Not many of you, anyway. See, I didn’t think the California race was as bad as most of you out there. There was an exciting battle for the win, a pass for the lead late in the pits, and four-wide racing scattered about the racetrack. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Darlington ’03… but it wasn’t Indy ’08, either. All things considered, I’ll take it over the Oscars.

Also, I didn’t mind the start time. I know that’s been such a sore spot amongst the masses the last two weeks, but I was able to go to church, get a good lunch in, run some errands, clean up a bit… and was ready to race at 5:30 CT. No worries here.

Lastly, I’ve read some pretty scathing opinions about the Darrell Waltrip/Dale Earnhardt Jr. pre-race interview on FOX. To the critics, I say: Get over it! Would we have preferred FOX not talk to him about the Daytona wreck at all in its five-hour pre-race show? And what would any of you do different than send Waltrip? How about Starched-Collar Myers (that would have been uncomfortable just watching) or maybe Krista Voda… yeah, that would have been just as appropriate, seeing as Junior just opens up to every reporter in the garage. And let’s not forget DW is a counsel of sorts to Junior – the kid has said so himself. The chat was laid back, it was honest, it was two racers talking racin’ – not Sam Donaldson vs. Ronald Reagan circa 1983.

Whewww… thank you, I feel much better. I’ve needed that release for some time… now, it’s time let me know what you think!

Q: Matt, I was wondering what your thoughts were on Todd Berrier as a crew chief? Although I think he does an admirable job, I’m left to wonder if it is time he and Kevin Harvick part ways. Seems like more often than not the changes on the car he makes throughout the race don’t always help – and sometimes flat out hurt it. They’ve been together a while, and I’m sure that means something – but maybe it’s time for some new blood on that team.

In my opinion, before this season I would have loved to see Harvick and Shane Wilson reunited; they were pretty unstoppable when they were paired together in the Busch Series. That said, I think Clint Bowyer has one heck of a crew chief this year! – Adam Dodds

A: A crew chief once told me that when all the tools are in place, you should be competing for a championship. I think this little nugget of advice fits the No. 29 team. That whole Richard Childress Racing organization may be just a tick behind Hendrick and Roush in the grand scheme of things, but I’m of the belief that one of those cars – that being Harvick’s – is capable of rising above and throwing down a serious gauntlet in front of the Nos. 48 and 99.

In my research for the preseason racing annual I publish with Athlon Sports each offseason, two rival crew chiefs had two different opinions about the No. 29 team. One says, “Todd Berrier is one of the best. They were strong in the Chase, and I could see them getting off to a fast start. If anybody at RCR can win a championship, it’s Harvick.”

Check one for Berrier. Another, though, isn’t quite so high on him:

“Harvick’s got the whole package, and he’d win more than he does if he had more shots at it.”

Did you catch that last part? That tells me Harvick’s not being given what he needs, and on race day that’s the job of the crew chief. However, if I’m RC, I give the duo another season together. If he posts numbers like last tear (namely, zero wins) I may have to pull the trigger… until then, I still like the pairing.

Oh, and the Shane Wilson/Clint Bowyer combo will win some races down the road. Just remember they’ll need time to gel before they’re consistently good; but Childress isn’t one to swap crew chiefs prematurely.

Q: Who was the driver with the least number of career Cup wins when he won his first Cup championship? Conversely, who was the driver with the most number of career Cup wins when he won his first Cup championship? I wasn’t able to find these answers with a quick internet search, so I turn to you, with more experience than I. Thank you. – Kevin

A: Kev knows my affinity for stat-snooping. Here goes:

It only stands to reason that the least number of career wins would come from a champion in the early days of the sport; and sure enough, the answer is Bill Rexford. Rexford won the 1950 Grand National championship (in its second year in existence) with one career win under his belt. The New York state native beat Fireball Roberts by just over 100 points, having raced in 17 of the season’s 19 events. Oddly enough, that year marked Rexford’s only career win, as he would compete in only 36 races in his short NASCAR career.

Benny Parsons is second on the list, and leads all modern era drivers (or rather, trails all modern-era drivers) in this category. BP only had two career wins to his credit when his mangled Chevy carried him to a Cup at Rockingham in ’73.

As for who had the most career wins when he earned his first title… I believe you would’ve guessed this one had you thought about it long enough. Bobby Allison ran his first NASCAR race in 1961, and between then and 1983, he finished second in the standings five times, racking up a total of 79 wins before hitting paydirt. He won this dubious award going away; if you’re wondering, Bobby Isaac sits second on the list at just 32 wins.

And last but not least, I kind of figured this one was coming this week:

Q: Hi Matt. My question is if anyone has won three races in a row to start the season? And what other drivers have won two races to start [the season]? Thank you! – Karen Collins

A: This was a trivia question in the Frontstretch Newsletter this week, but we’ll cover it anyway. The answer to who has won three races in a row to start the season is… no one. Nobody. Nadda. Zilch. Matthew Roy Kenseth now stands upon the precipice of history! OK, that may be overdoing it a little – but yeah, this would be the first time ever if he can come out of Vegas on top.

Besides M.R. Kenseth, there have been four to go Pick 2 on us. Of course, media outlets all week have been saying that “Kenseth is the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 1997…” so we know that one. David Pearson did it in 1976 at Riverside and Daytona. Bob Welborn won two of his nine career Grand National races at Fayetteville and Daytona in ’59; and Marvin Panch, by God, did it in 1957 at Lancaster and Concord.

Thanks for the time. See you down below.

Listen In To Frontstretch On iTunes!
Tune in every Thursday afternoon to the Inside Racing Podcast presented by Wrigley’s to get the inside dish on the week’s racing news. Frontstretch’s Matt Taliaferro and Tom Bowles break down last week’s events, discuss current issues within the sport, and take a look ahead to this weekend’s upcoming race. With host Braden Gall keeping things in order for segments like Tom’s Track Talk, Matt’s Hot Laps and more, it’s an action-packed, fast-paced 30 minutes of racing debate. So if you’re tired of the cleaned-up, glossed-over network coverage, Inside Racing presented by Wrigley’s is the place for you – Matt and Tom ask all the tough questions and provide the politically incorrect answers you seek. Look for our podcast on iTunes under the keyword: Athlon.

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