NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Kyle Busch’s Pink Car, Tony Stewart’s Momentum & Jeff Gordon’s Mustache

I get the impression that there aren’t a lot of Kyle Busch fans out there. Oh, I know he has his little sect of followers, but it’s safe to say he’s more heel than hero. Yet while he’s such a polarizing figure, I think the one thing we all agree on concerning Kyle is the comedic value of his Sponsafy Your Ride commercials, decked out in little Kimmy’s pink driver suit, complete with kittens, bunnies and little baby seals he’d never be caught dead with in real life.

Hey, if nothing else that clip gives the Busch Bashers extra ammo. And once the engines fire on Friday night in Richmond, you’ll have plenty more than just a TV ad to load into your arsenal. Kimmy’s pink Toyota with Busch behind the wheel (yes, in a pink firesuit) will compete in this weekend’s Richmond 250 Nationwide event.

Will the car look exactly like the one we saw on television? It’s pretty close; while the kitten, bunny and baby seal look may be toned down a bit, expect plenty of pink and purple all over it. Oh, and expect the fans to have plenty of, uh, “encouragement” for Pinky Busch. You also might expect a pink car in victory lane, at which point David Pearson will swear off NASCAR forever and pledge allegiance to European cycling.

On to your emails after a great night of racing down in Atlanta. Speaking of, NASCAR’s ratings for the Cup race may not have taken another weekly decrease (two-tenths of a point, to be exact) had the race not ended sometime around midnight. Just sayin’.

Q: Big Smoke fan, Matt, and totally pumped about his Chase outlook with the Atlanta win. How much does momentum play into the Chase? Obviously, drivers like Hamlin and Kenseth that are slumping would rather have it, but what about the ones like Smoke that are going the right way? How does positive momentum play into a driver’s approach to the playoffs? Thanks, man! — Perry H., Morrison, Co.

A: It’s really hard to say, Perry. As you point out, every driver would rather be trending upward from a performance standpoint than falling off. Momentum, though, can be overrated, an easily-cited term that makes for a handy, if not abused, explanation as to why a team or driver suddenly and dramatically improves their performance.

Let’s see what your boy Tony Stewart had to say about the Big Mo. This quote came following his win on Sunday night:

“It’s a much better feeling right now this time of year than it was a year ago. I mean, we were on such a high leading the points and had won races already. But at this stage, we were pointing downhill [last year] and this year, I feel like we are pointing uphill. I don’t know if we are — I hope we are not as high as we are going to get on the thing.”

Sounds like Stewart believes momentum is a tricky devil to pin down, even for those that have it.

Carl Edwards addressed Big Mo as well, admitting it used to not factor into his thinking; but based on the events of a rocky season, he’s suddenly turned around on it.

“I used to never believe in momentum, but I think for us — I’ve never run so poorly for so long,” Edwards explained. “Now I’m seeing this turnaround, and it’s been a couple months, and I think I understand the team more and understand where we’ve been gaining. For that reason, I believe in the momentum we have and I believe it will apply to future races.”

Jimmie Johnson was in the Media Center post-race, too, so he got in on the act. He seems to think momentum is whatever you can use to motivate yourself and those around you.

“We all look for things to encourage our team and cheer guys up and get them rallied around something,” Johnson said. “If it’s scoring the most points, whatever it is — you’re trying to find something to build your team around [it]. We all find those things, build the team, and go from there.”

So it appears these guys feel there’s something to this mysterious and elusive idea we call momentum. But any time the conversation turns to explaining it, I can’t help but to recall what Jeff Burton said not long ago about the subject and how it builds off success – not vice versa:

“For me, momentum is about how you run every single week,” he explained. “Momentum isn’t something that comes from some force. Momentum comes because you are running well every week. You don’t run well this week just because you ran well last week. You might run well this week because of all the things you are doing to make your car go fast, the way you are driving it, and the calls that are being made.”

Q: Hey Matt. When is the IndyCar schedule going to be released? Any news on what Miss Danica’s Nationwide and Indy schedule will be next year? Any Cup races? Thanks. — Anne J., Marshall, Ill.

A: The IndyCar schedule will be released tomorrow, Anne. Check IndyCar.com then. As for Danica Patrick, she’ll be running a full Indy schedule in 2011 and around the same number of Nationwide races (12) that she’s running this season.

There are currently no plans for her to race Cup in 2011, but I’m sure that could change if the right pieces fell into place for a race or two. She’s a Phoenix resident, so what better place to start than her home track, right?

Q: No Wal-Mart for Gordo, so who’s next in line? DuPont at a reduced rate? And what is your thought about him winning the fifth championship? Realistic shot or pipe dream? — 24s Mustache

A: Nice handle. Maybe the best one here in three years. The DuPont scenario you mentioned? Probably, but I heard something about Allstate at one time – although that rumor faded quickly after Wal-Mart entered the picture. Stay tuned.

I don’t know about Jeff Gordon and a title. You know, it is something I could see happening, because I believe he’s got another one in him. However, in the Jimmie Johnson Era, I’m a believer that to beat the No. 48 you’ve got to throw some wins on the board; for whatever reason, the No. 24 hasn’t. And I’m talking, like, three or four wins in the Chase. I don’t see Gordon producing those in the next 11 races.

Thanks for answering my fantasy question [last] week. One more. Bowyer or Newman at Richmond? — Jim Cross, Orange Park, Fla.

A: The numbers say Clint Bowyer by a hair. I’ll take Ryan Newman by a couple spots, but both should be in the sixth-10th range. Regardless, it won’t shake up the Chase standings.

Before I get out of here, settle a score for me. My wife thinks I’m strange because I find penguin videos so funny. Is it me? It’s her, right?

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