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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: A Silly Season Like No Other

We all know what the Jayski News & Rumors page is. We’ve all been there, many linked to this very article from that site. On slow weeks, it’s nothing but a smattering (or ARRAY or BATCH or SLEW) of by-the-book press releases, pitching anything from a new paint scheme to a charity appearance by one of the boys.

However, on those special weeks when the guys and gals in the garage area are able to catch a few team members in a talkative enough mood, it explodes into a teaming cauldron of innuendo, gossip and the requisite debunking by the subject(s) in question.

This was one of those weeks. Richard Childress and Mike Mulhern were going head-to-head. Mulhern and Sirius Speedway were being refuted by Richard Petty Motorsports. FOX Sports appeared on the verge of a “I-know-this/No-you-don’t” spat with J.D. Gibbs, as was SceneDaily. And it’s impossible to even keep score of how many outlets knew, and I mean absolutely had it in blood, where Miss Danica is going to end up (and, oddly enough, no one mentioned the obvious: that Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti most likely will score a new teammate in 2010).

The reason I bring this up is that recently I’ve had quite a few questions sent my way in regards to a Silly Season like no other. This one is centered not on driver movement, but on shifts (seismic shifts, at that) in the manufacturer and organizational landscapes. I have chosen not to address many of these inquiries for one simple reason: The same rumor mill churned out a hundred “can’t miss” sources that knew where Dale Earnhardt Jr. was heading following his announcement to leave DEI in May 2007. Roughly 99 of those were wrong.

I’ve talked to a lot of people over the past few weeks about everything from Brad Keselowski to Kasey Kahne to Richard Petty to Richard Childress… and everything in between. And during that time, I’ve gotten more confused than straightened out. Again, 99 out of a hundred.

Our first question serves as a perfect example of a Flamehead that wants to give an opinion, not stir the rumor pot:

Q: I have a suggestion of what to do with Keselowski: Send Junior over to SHR and give Brad Junior’s ride. Maybe Junior’s problem is he needs to get away from the father figure and his cousin. All new faces in all new places could have a positive effect. I believe there is some truth to Kyle Busch‘s statement about Junior. This would prove him (Kyle) either right or wrong and then we could all put the question to rest. That would make one hell of a three-car team… that is, if Tony Stewart will have him. Brad’s showing a lot more promise than Dale is at this point in time. – Butch

A: I’m not sure some of that isn’t as far-fetched as some might believe. There’d be a lot of drivers that would look good in Stewart-Haas regalia right about now and Keselowski is quite the commodity, despite the fact that he’s only run six Cup races (yeah, yeah, I know he won Talladega, but Jamie McMurray won Charlotte in his second start, too). I’m not sure what his rush is to secure that Cup ride, as another season on the second circuit has traditionally worked well for Junior’s understudies.

The fact remains that he’s had offers from elsewhere, though, so people smarter than me (or more desperate to catch the lighting) are willing to put him in a Cup seat – and those offers came before the Talladega win and the seventh at Darlington (which personally, I found more impressive).

I’m not writing anything off with the Keselowski deal just yet, Butch. This one could be “the domino.”

Q: Have they gone mad, Matt? Wait, I know the answer to that. No need for you to clarify. Carl Long… they reduced [the] suspension but not [the] fine? So not only did NASCAR blow the original ruling, but the stock car commission [messed up] the appeals hearing and now Charles Strang blows it a second time when he could have made it right? Is the common sense meter broken with these people?

Long is the guy like me who doesn’t have a lot but has been able to realize his dream and make it work. Now he has been exiled for a [crappy] engine that didn’t make the qualifying race to an exhibition race?

I’ve never wrote in before, but this one took the cake. Thanks for allowing me the forum. – Henry Goodman, North Carolina

A: Yep, Strang got it backward. The 12-race suspension was reduced to eight while the 200 large stood. By the tone of your email, I have a feeling your exasperation mirrored my own.

NASCAR hasn’t been black and white on an issue since Mark Martin got busted for bolting on a carburetor intake spacer, so I’m confused why suddenly Long is being used as an example. His words to Marty Smith still ring in my ears:

“Big Bill and Bill Jr. ruled the sport like a father – at the end of the day they took care of their family. These guys don’t care. They don’t have any heart. Basically, it seems like they don’t care about the sport, they just want to make a dollar.”

For the second email in a row, I have no tangible explanation, Henry. Maybe we should switch to commenting on and spreading rumors after all….

Q: OK, so the Sonoma race proved my point that a road race in the Chase would be much better served than another boring cookie cutter. Add a third road race to the schedule (Road America?) and take one (take your pick) of the 1.5-milers out. The racing on Sunday was about as entertaining as I’ve seen this year. Give me that any day over another trip to Kansas!*

And congratulations to Kasey Kahne in a well-earned win! – Jaime Settle

A: I thought the Infineon race was a blast myself, Jaime. Of course, you’re only as good as your last race, so let’s hope the Glen keeps us all riding high on a wave of road-love.

As for your opinion that a roadie in the Chase would provide more entertainment than another 1.5-miler, I tend to agree with you. I used to not be much on the road courses – I could’ve honestly done without ‘em – but I’ve grown to appreciate the change of pace they provide and the skill they showcase. I’d welcome one in the Chase with open arms if, like you say, it’s a third road date that’s added to the schedule and not a scenario in which we split the current two into a regular season and Chase date.

The road courses are such a polarizing topic within NASCAR Nation. You and I happen to be here, others over there. And that’s the beauty of it… we’ll never run out of things to discuss!