NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel & Other Assorted Oddities

I hear all the time that many of the races on the Cup circuit need to be shorter. Well, you get your wish this weekend. The Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 is actually only 312 laps, and on a 1-mile track, that makes for a pretty tidy show. Why is “500” listed in the race’s title, you ask? Because the distance at Phoenix is measured in kilometers, not miles. Why kilometers, you prod? I have no idea.

And that’s not a good thing for an answer man.

The point is I think Phoenix, with its short distance, tight confines, differing corners and backstretch dogleg makes for a great change of pace. Factor in that we run at night here in the spring and during the day in the fall so setups react differently, and you’ve got a cool little venue for Round 9 to play out. In fact – and this has not proven to be a popular opinion – it’s one of the most underrated stops on the circuit.

So PIR is the place, which means the end is in sight. Just hang with me for a couple more weeks, and we can take a breather (and I think we all need one).

Q: Any news on how Penske will handle the Pat Tryson situation now? Could a crew chief that just won a race be gone in the next two weeks to give Kurt Busch time to develop chemistry with a new guy? Or by now, is it too late and they will play the season out with Pat? – Brandon Butler

A: Mr. Penske addressed this after the race at Texas on Sunday. Without further ado, I give you The Captain:

“I think from a crew chief perspective, we’re focused on Phoenix and Homestead. Pat is fully committed. We got some great guys internally. Right now, we’re looking at internal candidates and external.”

“For one thing, we’re not going to announce what we’re going to do until after the season, right, Pat?”

To which Tryson replied, “We’re going to go finish it off.”

There ya go. In other crew chief news…

Q: Like many people, I was shocked that Steve Addington was fired from the No. 18 team. My question is where do you think he will end up, or will he remain at Gibbs as a Nationwide crew chief? Addington seems too talented with too good of a resume to not get a call from a good Cup team. Am I reading too much into his success with Kyle Busch, or is he really a hot property now? – Addie H., Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A: Conventional wisdom says he’s a pretty hot commodity at the moment… he led that team to 12 victories over the last two seasons, after all. And no, I don’t think you’re reading too much into anything. Even Kyle’s older brother stopped short of endorsing Addington a couple weeks back, although that’s not to say he’s the next in line to replace Pat Tryson.

You also have to figure that Addington could make a lot more on the open Cup market than being shuffled back into the Nationwide ranks, but he’s said he most likely won’t make a decision (or at least announce one) until the season is finished.

My honest opinion: It’d be surprising if he didn’t accept an offer from a full-time Cup team. And a pretty good one at that.

Q: Jimmy [Johnson] (sic) seems pretty pi**ed at Sam Hornish Jr. Sam should watch his back the rest of the way, or he will need to call his sponsor! Reutimann might want to stay out of his way too. – Maurice W., Daly City, Calif.

A: Oh for the love… folks, it’s “IE” not “Y”! And yeah, I’d imagine Jimmie was pretty PO’d, although I don’t think Reutimann played as big a role as some are making out. Hornish’s back end was sliding out before the No. 00 ever got there.

Now “Zipp-yng” over to the Rookie of the Year battle:

Q: So random because no one talks about it, but how out of hand is the Rookie of the Year standings? I can never find updated standings online. Thank you. – Enos, Richardson, Texas

A: Joey Logano 237 – Scott Speed 201. That may look close, but it’s not. The ROTY standings aren’t based solely on race points awarded, but on a scale that awards qualifying, a rookie’s 17 best finishes (scored on a 10-9-8-7, etc. scale) and bonus points for top-10 showings. A final portion of the scoring system is rather subjective: A panel of officials and insider types meet at season’s end to determine, on a 10-1 scale, how professional the driver has been throughout the season on the track, in the garage, with the media, etc.

Joey’s cuffed ‘em & stuffed ‘em, Enos.

And finally, I was sent this little jewel unprovoked. This is it, in its raw form. I’m still not sure what question I asked, but “Dorf on NASCAR” here seemed to have an answer:

Q: Let`s see———-mmmmmmmmm $$$$$ from SPONSORS??????????? – Dick Zielsdorf

A: Thanks, Dick. Give Tim Conway my regards.

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