The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
Note to Brad: Sometimes it’s best to temper your words
May 6, 2013
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Memo to Brad Keselowski:
Regardless of the circumstances, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and your Twitter feed shut down.
Don’t get me wrong. Your honesty and your willingness to say what’s on your mind are admirable. From a journalist’s standpoint, you’re excellent copy. When you won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship last season, we shared your joy.
You’ve become the poster child for social media in the NASCAR community, starting with your wildly popular tweets during the Daytona 500, after Juan Pablo Montoya lost his argument with the jet dryer.
Nevertheless, there are times when hair-trigger tweets don’t serve you well, and Sunday night was such a time.
I can understand why you were upset. You believed, and may still believe, that David Ragan usurped your rightful position on the outside of the fifth row for the green-white-checkered restart that decided the race.
The facts suggest otherwise. You are absolutely right that Ragan took the green flag from the outside row, in 10th place. He did so because NASCAR instructed him to line up there.
As the Cup cars circled under caution before the restart, those of us in the press box had Ragan scored eighth, on the outside of the fourth row, because that’s what the scoring monitors showed. Scott Speed was ninth, and you were 10th.
But before the green, NASCAR reordered the field after reviewing scoring following the Lap 183 accident that caused the caution and demoted Ragan two positions. That moved Speed up to eighth and you to ninth — on the inside row where you didn’t want to be.
I’m sure you caught Ragan’s explanation after the race.
“We were running eighth when the one-to-go around the caution (came), and NASCAR — I guess it’s standard procedure — they always go back through the running order and adjust any cars that need to be adjusted, I guess with film maybe, when the caution came out on that back straightaway wreck,” Ragan said.
“I knew that we were probably a little higher than what we should be, because we were running 20th or so when that wreck happened and we made it through, so they adjusted the lineup.”
Questioned about the race procedure, NASCAR issued a statement indicating that Ragan had lined up properly.
I’m sure, Brad, that you thought you had a legitimate beef, but that’s not the only issue here. There are times when you should simply hold your tongue to avoid appearing small-minded and petulant.
Front Row Motorsports got its first win and fourth top five in 406 starts. This is the moment in the sun for owner Bob Jenkins and the drivers who finished 1-2, Ragan and David Gilliland. Coming from your blue-collar racing family background, you ought to be able to identify with the enormity of what happened on Sunday.
Realistically, this may be the last win ever for Front Row. You, on the other hand, almost certainly will continue to win races and challenge for championships. The bottom line is that it’s unseemly to spit in Cinderella’s glass slipper on her one big night at the ball.
It’s also unwise to accuse another driver of “cheating the game” two days before your Penske Racing organization faces its final appeal hearing for using what NASCAR has deemed unapproved parts in your rear end housings last month at Texas.
You’re an elite driver and an outspoken, charismatic champion, but there are times when tact and magnanimity should temper your words.
Sunday night is a case in point.
Today, Monday April 29, 2013 is Dale Earnhardt Day. What is your favorite memory of Dale? Let us know in the comments below.
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Danica Patrick has brought many new fans into NASCAR, People who have never seen a NASCAR race before are now tuning in to cheer for Danica and the No. 10 Chevrolet. She has the fastest growing fan base in all of NASCAR
Patrick won the Most Popular Driver Award in the Nationwide Series for 2012. She is already appealing to fans to vote her into the Sprint All Star Race for 2013.
But Patrick is not as popular as NASCAR’s 10 time Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Yet. Earnhardt still leads in souvenir sales and fan surveys, but Patrick is closing.
The Most Popular river Award is determined by a fan vote, and it may come down to who’s fans are most enthusiastic about actually voting.
Acording to Earnhardt he is very proud of his awards in the past. He described last years’s as a great Christmas gift from the fans.
Should either driver score a race win that will surely drive more fans to vote for them, so in reality winning counts, even in a popularity contest.
The award has been given since 1956 and past winners include Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty.
You can vote at MostPopularDriver.com. How do you plan to vote?
Joey Logano knew what he was doing when he refused to lift his foot off the gas pedal on the final turn of the final lap in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 At California Speedway. Logano knew that contact with Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota was inevitable.
However, Logano did not intentionally wreck Hamlin. Logano simply knew what any smart racer knows. 8 wheels turn better than 4. Logano knew that if he could make the turn he had a shot at winning the race. It was just hard racing, pure and simple.
Denny Hamlin knew what he was doing, too. With 2 laps to go Hamlin, then running 2nd to Logano, knew that if he could get Logano’s car a little sideways he could get past. And that is exactly what Hamlin did, giving Logano a shot to the rear bumper and making a pass for the lead.
Logano also knew what he was doing on the final re-start when he took Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet to the apron to prevent Stewart and the rest of the field from passing. Again, that was just hard racing. No one did anything wrong.
Sure, Stewart was upset about it. But it’s not like he has never blocked anyone. Just look at Talladega last year when Tony Stewart’s late race attempt to block took out half the field. When it comes to blocking Stewart is the best in the business according to Logano’s team owner Roger Penske.
Logano didn’t intend for Hamlin to wind up in the hospital with a broken back. But he might have backed off a little if he didn’t feel like Hamlin had one coming after last week’s dust-up at Bristol.
In the heat of the battle both drivers forgot about 3rd place driver Kyle Busch who passed both drivers for the win. With Hamlin and Logano slowing each other down Busch would have made the pass even if the wreck had not occurred.
What is your take on all this? Did Logano cross the line, or was it just racing?
By Seth Livingstone
NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Across the board, drivers marveled at the speed of NASCAR’s Generation-6 cars during qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
None more than Kyle Busch, the fastest of nine drivers to break the 15-second mark on their qualifying lap. Prior to Friday, only three drivers (Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon) had turned a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying lap in less than 15 seconds.
“I like driving it,” said Busch, whose 11th career pole marked his first Coors Light Pole Award at Bristol and the first time he’d qualified higher than ninth on the .533-mile oval. “You can drive it a lot more like the older car we had years ago where you can abuse it a little bit.
“The previous (Generation-5) car was all about being smooth and precise. (With) this one, you can make a little more speed by driving it a little harder.”
Busch, no stranger to victory lane at Bristol, captured the pole with a lap 129.535 mph (14.813 seconds) in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Newman’s track record, set in 2003, had been 128.709 mph.
Each of Friday’s top three qualifiers — Busch, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin — shattered Newman’s mark. Hamlin looked like he might join his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate on the front row until Kahne knocked him down a peg.
Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. also eclipsed 15 seconds, with Joey Logano rounding out the top 10.
“The car felt great during that lap,” said Busch, who has come from off the pace to win five times (including four of the last eight Cup races) at Bristol. “We’ve never really worried too much about qualifying runs. We unloaded with a really good race car and we just kept fine-tuning to make it a little bit better — and we were able to get it where it was pretty quick in practice.”
For Hamlin, if even for just a couple laps, it was felt good to get back to all-out racing. Hamlin had spent recent days embroiled in controversy, refusing to pay a NASCAR-issued fine after critical comments regarding the Gen-6 car at Phoenix.
He had no gripe with his machinery on Friday.
“I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got,” said Hamlin, who earlier in the day said he had “bigger fish to fry” than worrying about the $25,000 fine. “For my team’s sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase. Any distraction is something that you don’t need — especially when the competition is so close. You just can’t afford anything that hampers your ability to go win, so this is going to be a step in the right direction for us.”
Kahne, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, thought he might have challenged Busch had he not been a little tight between Turns 1 and 2.
“I felt like I may have given up a little bit in 1 and 2, which would have made it really close for the pole,” Kahne said. “But still we were very good in 3 and 4. The car was balanced really nice.”
How fast can cars go at Bristol? Maybe closer to 14 seconds than 15, according to Busch.
For the first 8 days of his diet Dale Earnhardt Jr drank prune juice. Then he switched to carrot juice. For the record he likes the prune juice better.
Earnhardt noticed he was gaining a few pounds last year when he began having trouble getting onto his firesuits. Like most of us he thought the suits were shrinking. “Man, something is wrong with the washer,” Earnhardt said. But the scales were telling a different story.
In the past Earnhardt has been able to eat what he wants without giving much thought to his waistline. But at the end of last season he realized it was time to slim down a bit. During the NASCAR off-season he did just that. “I lost a lot of weight. 15 or 20 pounds. Just trying to do a better job of managing my calories and stuff like that”
Besides counting calories and watching what he eats. Junior spent 15 days on a de-tox diet suggested by a friend. No steaks. No burgers. Just veggies, chicken and fish. For 2 days it was nothing but fruit and vegetables. Prune juice to drink for the first 8 days, then carrot juice for the last 7. “It was pretty tough too. I was surprised I was able to make it,” said Dale .Jr
Did you notice Junior was gaining weight? What diet recommendations do you have for him?
My friend Sandy just doesn’t get NASCAR. She thinks it is just a redneck pastime. Not even a real sport. She asks me questions like “how can you just sit there and watch people drive around in circles?” Sandy even told me that the only reason to watch a race was to see the wrecks.
She just doesn’t see the personalities behind the sport like the speak your mind frankness of Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick. Or the intensity of Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or the usually unspoken inter-team rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Sandy thinks that anyone could drive a race car. “How hard is it to make a left turn, after all” she asks me. When those left turns are coming up every 15 seconds at 190 miles per hour. I wonder how she would do coming off turn 4 with Kurt Busch on her rear bumper and Danica Patrick to the inside.
The strategy of the race totally escapes her. Sandy doesn’t realize that races are won and lost on pit road. The decision to pit. 2 tires or 4? Gas only. These decisions can make or break a race team’s day. To Sandy they just stop when they run out of gas.
How about you? Do you have a friend like Sandy who is totally clueless when it comes to NASCAR? I’ll bet you have some funny stories. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
It was Kevin Harvick in Victory Lane at Phoenix after passing Kyle Busch with just a few laps remaining to take the win. But no one is talking about that.
The two big stories of the day were Jimmie Johnson losing the points lead to Brad Keselowski after a late race wreck, and Jeff Gordon waiting on Clint Bowyer in order to intentionally wreck him and the fight that followed.
Jimmie Johnson came to Phoenix the Sprint Cup points leader, and a sixth championship seemed to be in sight. But a blown tire sent Johnson hard into the wall and then to the garage for repairs. Johnson left Phoenix with a 20 point deficit to Brad Keselowski. A 15th place finish next week at Homestead will give the title to Keselowski no matter how well Johnson finishes.
Fights, Wrecks and Championship Hopes Gone
Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer were involved in a minor racing incident that escalated to a major melee late in the race. The two were racing for position and made contact which resulted in Gordon brushing the wall and cutting a tire.
An angry Jeff Gordon slowed on the racetrack and waited for Bowyer to come around. Gordon then crashed Bowyer hard into the wall in retaliation taking out Joey Logano and very nearly Brad Keselowski in the process.
After Gordon climbed from the No. 24 Chevrolet on pit road he was mobbed by Bowyer’s crew and a huge fight broke out between the two race teams.
But it did not end there. When Clint Bowyer heard about all that he made a run for Jeff Gordon’s hauler, and made it to the front door before being stopped. Bowyer was looking to even the score.
Jeff Gordon was wrong to crash Bowyer like that. Plain and simple. That wreck and its aftermath resulted in a lot of wrecked race cars, and nearly took out the championship leader.
Gordon and Bowyer were both summoned to the NASCAR hauler after the race, along with several members of both teams. NASCAR should do the right thing and park Gordon for one race as they have done Kyle Busch for a similar incident in the past.
What would you do if you were NASCAR?
Here is one of 6,788 Dale Earnhardt Jr Dark Knight Batman cars. Junior won at Michigan in this car.
Taking time off now would give him a chance to make a complete recovery and begin fresh in 2013′s Daytona 500. But Daytona is four months away and that is a long time for a racer to be out of a race car. Racing tends to keep the edges sharp.
It is a tough decision either way. What should Dale Jr do?