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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Carl Edwards’s No Caution Call at ‘Dega & Ryan Blaney’s Rise?

What a weekend we had at Talladega! There was some great weather, phenomenal racing and another victory in Alabama for Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sixth win at the 2.66-mile track. Seeing Junior in Victory Lane so emotional, and so happy with his first win of 2015,  was something special that NASCAR fans will remember for years to come. There’s no question that Earnhardt Jr. is a popular driver. He’s sold the most merchandise and has won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award for a record 12 years in a row. But what has always been discussed and questioned by many in the NASCAR fandom has been Junior’s level of dominance over other drivers in the sport. We’ve never seen the kind of racing out of him like we did last season, and while it looked like he and former crew chief Steve Letarte were headed for a serious run at the Cup, they fell short come Chase time.

Could this weekend’s display of performance at one of Junior’s favorite tracks help surge the No. 88 bunch into another solid season and run into the Chase for 2015, much like his win at Daytona did last season? Whatever happens, if these kinds of runs can come to fruition for Junior and the No. 88 team throughout the rest of 2015, fans and sponsors alike won’t be disappointed.Speaking of sponsors, Danica Patrick and long-time partner GoDaddy annouced that they would not be renewing their sponsorship of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing last week. Although Patrick will reportedly still retain her personal services sponsorship deal with the web hosting/domain company, the driver and SHR officials have already stated they are engaged in an active search for another primary sponsor on the No. 10 machine for 2016. What this means for Patrick is still unclear. Now in her fifth year of NASCAR racing (fourth in Sprint Cup), Patrick is a marketer’s dream when it comes to getting a product or service noticed, but the real question is, has her failure to produce results on the track hurt her marketability off the track, and in the board room?

Now onto this week’s Mailbox questions from you, our readers…

Q: Greg, during that last lap at Talladega this weekend, when Carl Edwards spun and wrecked, was NASCAR wrong to not throw the caution flag given that it was the last lap? Also, what do you think is up with Carl this season? He’s been really up and down to start the year. Thanks. – Roy F., Carolina Beach, N.C.

A: Roy, thanks for the question. What we saw on the final lap at Talladega on Sunday was scary, and although he was wrecked, Edwards thankfully walked away from the situation unharmed. The trouble that occurred was hard to avoid, but a caution in my opinion was not warranted, and NASCAR officals agree. Here’s what NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM’s NASCAR Radio “The Morning Drive” during his interview on Monday, according to Dustin Long of NBC Sports Network:

“It’s going to be a judgment call. We’ve stated that we’re going to make every effort to try to finish under green-flag conditions. That’s what the fans want to see. We’ve got to be obviously mindful of what’s occurring on the racetrack. It’s a split-second decision.

“I think yesterday if you look at the circumstances that played out with Carl, when we initially saw him get loose, he was down on the apron. As we made that quick decision, it was ‘OK, he’s clear we can go.’ Just as you make that, his car slides up across the track. That’s something you don’t want to see  under green or yellow-flag conditions, but, at the time, if we would have thrown the yellow, then it’s too late because he’s already up and across the track. We elected to let it play out. We certainly didn’t like to see how Carl came across the track but ultimately we were able to come back under green-flag conditions.

“People want to point to who’s leading, who’s not leading, what could have happened, what didn’t happen. I know it’s hard to believe for some folks, we don’t look at that. We look at the circumstances of the incident. We’ve got to make that call. We’re not always going to be right. We know with each decision we open it up for debate. That’s sports. We’ll talk to Carl and the competitors about that but did like seeing us being able to finish under green.’’

Ultimatly Roy, it is a tough call to make, and in this case, NASCAR made the right one.

As far as what’s happening with Edwards and the No. 19 car right now, I think you’re seeing a couple of things take shape. One, I think that Edwards built up his expectations and drove himself a little too hard to be successful right off the bat starting up with Joe Gibbs Racing. Two, it is just simply what one should expect when converting over to new equipment and a new crew chief. Both are huge changes for drivers at any level – even Sprint Cup racing. Give Edwards some time, though. If he doesn’t have a victory before the Chase, he’ll be one of the drivers we’re talking about as “on the bubble” going into Richmond. He has posted a top-10 finish this year at Texas, and started third at Bristol. He’s just had a lot of bad luck in many races this year, leading to sub-par finishes.

Q: Hey Greg, I’m a huge Ryan Blaney fan. I acutally live near where his family is from in northeast Ohio. Anyway, we were thrilled to see how he did in the race last weekend at Talladega! He’s really becoming a great racecar driver, and like his dad will drive just about anything. What do you think his prospects are in Sprint Cup down the road? Thanks. – Sue P., Warren, Ohio

A: Sue, thank you for writing. Blaney, I’ll be honest, has been a huge surpise to me this year – and last year for that matter. He’s a great young talent in the sport, and his future will be bright if his limited schedule with the Wood Brothers this year continues to trend in this very positive direction.
The fourth-place finish this weekend at Talladega (after starting third) really to me just showcased that the young Blaney is nearly ready to take that step into Cup racing on a full-time basis. The fact that he can compete and stay up in the front of the pack with the big boys of the sport, even on one of the series’ biggest tracks, is impressive. That’s something that I’m sure Roger Penske is also thrilled to see in his young development driver. It will be fun to see what the rest of 2015 holds for Blaney in the No. 21 Ford.

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kb

Ryan Blaney has had some very good runs, the problem is not enough consistent rides, time will tell.

As for the “specialness” of Junior in V-lane, I am sure it will not be one of my highlight reels. Good for him, but on to the next race. The problem the media makes is not all fans agree with the Frankenstein creations of NASCAR and the media. I reject the pity party line that every win Junior gets, it has to be some emotional milestone that we all must feel, be thankful and embrace and only he has experienced those highs and lows….bologna.

If his fans see it that way (and they do)…whatever, for years I found it creepy. The kitchen sink is dragged out at ever win. As a grown adult, I find it worse than middle school or high school angst and drama. Totally insulting, why is his win more special and hard fought than others?????????? Again, that isn’t a dig about him but the Godlike perception people have of him and the family. IMO, of course. The sport needs to grown beyond this constant hero worship, spread it out…but this narrative is never ending and tiresome.

JohnQ

Not to worry, Kyle Larson is going to win this week. Or was that last year?

russ

One success, but not a win, in a row doesn’t make anyone a savior of the sport. Maybe when its obvious the boat is taking on water you look for any good news you can find.

Tim S.

Yes, it was most definitely last year. With Chase Elliott, the future of the Hendrick, uh Cup series, now on the radar, Larson is old news. Talented though he may be, since he can no longer win as a rookie, Larson has little media value until his Oriental genetics are necessary for a diversity piece.

kb

So true…so true!!!!!!!!!!!!

Carl D.

I get what you’re saying about Junior nation, but don’t really see it as a problem. His fans are gonna hang on his every word, every great run, every win. That’s what fans do. The fact that he has so many of them is why the media goes out of their way to report every time he does anything even remotely newsworthy. It’s just the way it is. Based on his post-race comments last weekend, I think it sometimes surprises even Junior. After all, he was simply born with the name Earnhardt.

Bill B

“There was some great weather, phenomenal racing…”

Really? You thought the racing was phenomenal? That makes one of you.

JohnQ

GoDaddy retained their relationship with Danica an advertising money maker yet dumped NASCAR with its ever decreasing exposure. No problem here folks. Nothing to see. Move along.

russ

Pretty much sums it up. IMHO those who think that SHR losing the GoDaddy sponsorship is a good thing are extremely short sighted. It wont hurt Danica but it will hurt others.

Charles Jenkins

Bill B., I am a long time reader, but have never replied to an article till today. I, like you, wonder how anyone could think the “Dega” racing was phenomenal! The writer must work for Nascar.com among others. I was there when Bill Elliot made up 2 laps under green 30 some odd years ago. Now THAT was phenomenal.

GinaV24

I can agree on the great weather comment, it was great where I live, too. As far as great racing, well, the early part of the race seemed to be reasonably interesting with the usual pack racing stuff, but the end of the race was a dud.

I’m not taking anything away from Junior’s win, heck, he did what he needed to but as for the rest of the field, riding in a single file line at the end of the race, well, no, that wasn’t great or exciting.

I think that it is interesting as well that GoDaddy will try and keep a personal services contract with Danica but are cutting their losses with continuing sponsorship in NASCAR. Seems like many companies aren’t seeing the ROI for their $.

salb

I was interested in Dale Jarret’s comments on the lack of a caution at the end of the race. He pointed out that, had Carl locked the car down and stayed on the apron, there would have been no issue. Also, that the majority of the field had already passed carl, and no one hit the wall hard enough to need to send safety vehicles out STAT. Interesting from the driver who was caught broadside at the start/finish line years ago that made this an issue.

Tim S.

Jarrett is now a paid broadcast spokesman instead of a paid competitor spokesman. He is not going to disagree with the officiating.

JohnQ

Bingo! The vast majority of announcers function as apologists for NASCAR as do all too many of the racing press. As I am the only one I know still watching NASCAR it is only through comment sections such as this that I have any chance to see what other fans are thinking.

kb

Very good JohnQ….I feel the same way..and I also go nuts when I hear these paid shills promoting the lame product at all costs. A paycheck is a paycheck, but damn at what point do you lose your creditability you achieved all those years as a driver at the highest level. I wonder if they sleep at night.

Dennis

While I’m not part of Junior Nation I find Junebug’s comments and interviews interesting. He often wears his heart on his sleeve and is pretty honest and giving when he speaks. He lives, eats and breathes NASCAR and has for decades. He’s an historian and guardian for the sport. It’s no wonder he’s a popular driver.

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