NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Richmond Reaction, Fantasy Talk & a Junior Fan’s Last Stand

As writers, we strive to accurately report, comment and entertain. It’s often our job to take what the sports’ drivers, officials and the like say, then apply it to a relevant piece that informs. I find that listening to differing opinions of those within the sport — those affected by a rule change, penalty, etc. or the trusted old sages — helps me to form an educated decision on whatever the matter may be so that I can relay those thoughts.

That’s why it’s funny when a driver comes along and says something so perfect, so succinct and so completely in unison with what I’ve been thinking for weeks, but I haven’t been able state it just right yet.

See, it’s my job to say it “just right,” not Carl Edwards’s. He did, though, and when I read what he had to say about tweaking the points system, I knew someone had finally hit the bulls-eye. Take it away, Carl:

“My opinion is that you should just take the points and the rules and lock it in stone for a certain number of years. That repeated longevity of a system will lend credibility to it. If you keep changing it, it is hard to believe that this is the champion and [the person who] deserves to be champion.”

I haven’t heard anyone say it better yet. Thanks, Carl. If the roles are ever reversed, don’t expect me to drive your car as well as you express opinions.

OK, he we go with Chase VII.

Q: I enjoy listening to the podcast with you, Tom, and Braden. You guys sure gave a lot of hype to the Richmond race, which turned out to be a dud. How is it that all these guys with nothing to lose and no reason to not lay it all on the line for a win managed to bore us all to death. I nodded off over the last 100 laps and woke up in time to see the last 12 or so laps. What circumstance was more perfect for all of them to bring home the flag or the steering wheel? What is it going to take? Very disappointed by the show. Marc

A: I thought the race had its merits, and I was at least awake through the whole thing. I’ll agree with you in that I didn’t get the sense of reckless abandon from the drivers I believed I would have — in fact, many of their post-race comments had a shrug-of-the-shoulders feel. When asked about falling 10 additional points behind Denny Hamlin by virtue of his win, Jeff Gordon actually said, “Well, 10 more points, what the heck.”

He wasn’t the only driver with that attitude, either. Marc, I think they’ve figured out that the Chase is its own animal, run in its own unique set of parameters and over a long 10-week stretch. In other words, they’ve still got plenty of time. And because the Chase field was practically set on the way in, it was a throw-away race of sorts.

I also think that Hamlin was so good on Saturday, that not many guys, particularly without the aid of a few extra pit stops, could catch him. And had it been anyone else leading with five to go, Kyle Busch may not have been so kind while running second. Remember Richmond in the spring of ’08?

Q: Matt, some advice. My friends and I created a fantasy league for the Chase and without boring everybody with scoring, the basics are: Choose one Chase driver each week, but you can only use every driver once. Highest-finishing driver every week is awarded the most points. We have to make all selections before the New Hampshire race, so it’s not a weekly pick ’em.*

*Can you give me an edge? Your one pick for every race (doesn’t have to guarantee a win, just highest finisher). Thanks man! — Anonymous

A: It’s rare a fantasy question is signed. Hey, I’m a fantasy footballer… I know how it is, and I wouldn’t sign one, either. Can’t give up any ground. Anyway, this will largely be based on each driver’s average finish within the last year-and-a-half or so at each track (three races apiece). It goes:

  • New Hampshire: Kurt Busch (4.0, 0 wins)
  • Dover: Tony Stewart (6.7, 0 wins)
  • Kansas: Greg Biffle (2.3, 1 win)
  • Auto Club: Jimmie Johnson: (3.7, 2 wins)
  • Charlotte: Kyle Busch (5.7, 0 wins)
  • Martinsville: Denny Hamlin (1.3, 2 wins)
  • Talladega: Kevin Harvick (20.0, 1 win)
  • Texas: Matt Kenseth (9.3, 0 wins)
  • Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (12.0, 0 wins)
  • Homestead: Carl Edwards (4.3, 1 win)

Some of those are balanced out by feel (you could use Johnson basically anywhere), but that’s a snapshot for ya. Hope it helps.

Q: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Are you kidding me???? Six laps down with no engine or wreck problems? Matt, I asked you this before, do I have permission to jump ship? — Still frustrated in Boone, N.C.

A: And I told before — you don’t need it.

Q Matt, are the Pettys still planning on two cars next year, or is a third still an option? I’d like to see Elliott [Sadler] back there in the [No.] 19. Thanks. Becca, Hopewell, Va.

A: Actually Becca, the Gilletts own the team, and are planning on having AJ Allmendinger back in the No. 43 and Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9. Other than that, it all hinges on finding additional sponsorship to fund a third ride, and that’s not easy to come by these days. Just ask Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart.

I’d expect your boy Elliott in a top-notch Nationwide or Truck ride. Or both.

Thanks for hanging with me to the end, guys. Shoot me those emails and we’ll talk next week.

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