Ask The Insiders Wednesday #115

And now back to regularly scheduled programming.  In case you weren’t aware, we pushed back this post to allow for Wednesday’s post by Journo regarding “ClapGate.”  We felt it was necessary to run that post yesterday so as to keep it current (and it’s our site, so we can do whatever we want).  Now, let’s jump into another big batch of your NASCAR questions and our attempts at answers.  If you don’t know what this post is, we answer any and all reader questions every Wednesday, right here.  So if you’ve got one, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send one to us.  On to the questions…

1. From Walt:

The two engines the blew up on the RCR did any body find out why? And what about the Ethanol gas, did it make that much difference in the mileage?

They did not publicly come out and say what specifically went wrong, but I heard that their issues stemmed from not being able to keep the engines cool enough.  You can be sure ECR is working overtime to fix their issues for Talladega.  Fuel mileage at Daytona wasn’t an accurate representation of the mileage with Ethanol because of drafting, but the MPG is certainly worse then with the race gas used last season. – T.C.

2. From JC:

Each week I see a recap of the various “Tweets” by people within NASCAR. Interesting stuff to get the inside perspective. But often these highlights include Twitter messages from the spotters. And by the content, it seems they are sending these DURING the race. How can these guys Tweet during the race, especially a place like Daytona that requires so much attention?

Have you seen something specific? I don’t know of any spotters who tweet during races – given where their attention is, I have a hard time believing there is anybody doing it. – Journo

3. From Chris:

When was the last time that a driver has won both the DRIVE4COPD 300 & the Daytona 500 in the same year?

I believe it was Kevin Harvick in 2007. – T.C.

4. From Michael in SoCal:

Question regarding tires at the track – does Goodyear bring in locals to do all the tire mounting each week at the track, or is there a dedicated crew that travels for that? Thanks for all the insight you guys provide.

They have regional teams who come to the track to mount the tires. Champion Tire and Wheel is responsible for transporting the wheels to the track and the used tires home, but there isn’t a team that travels all the time - Journo

5. From Craig:

Last year Chad “borrowed” Jeff’s pit crew. During the off season Jr took Jeff’s entire team. Question is, which pit crew did he get?

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s pit crew is the group that was the 24 crew that later became the 48 crew in 2010 (Clay Robinson, Mike Houston, Jeff Cook, Matt VerMeer, Joe Slingerland, Caleb Hurd).  Jeff Gordon’s pit crew is a new group consisting of some guys that were at Hendrick, and some new guys (Kelly Kellis, Michael Oxendine, Bailey Walker, Gene Cornwell, Josh Kirk, Brad Pickens). – T.C.

6. From Frank:

First, like so many others, I love the inside information that you provide us.  I have a question about the cars that the “satellite” teams receive. I’m mainly thinking of teams like Stewart-Hass and especially RPM since I’m an AJ fan. What can you tell us about the condition of the cars that the satellite teams receive? How much work do they need to do to get them race ready and are there specific things, besides at-the-track adjustments, that they can do to their own cars to make it better than the “host” team’s.

Teams like SHR and RPM usually have deals to get cars that are basically a chassis and a body.  From there, the teams assemble them on their own.  These cars are usually built side by side with the cars that HMS and RFR build for their own teams, so the satellite teams are getting good stuff.  And once the cars are in the building, the teams are pretty much free to do what they like to them. – T.C.

7. From Robert:

Hey, guys, I never did hear who led the most laps in the 500. Care to enlighten me?

Ryan Newman with 37. – Journo

8. From Michael in SoCal:

With a short field in the Nationwide Series this week in Phoenix, I’m surprised that Harvick didn’t throw together a sponsorship package and a Cup driver to fill one of the open spots. How difficult do you think it would have been for him to put Paul Menard in the Menard’s sponsored 33 and slap together a deal for himself in the 4?

Well throwing together a sponsorship is generally not something that happens – especially for a team like Kevin Harvick Inc. You see smaller teams kind of do it, but those sponsorships are usually worth peanuts. You have to remember they knew there would be a short field a week out (and that isn’t always an indicator that there will actually be a short field). They just aren’t left with enough time to get equipment together and make it out to the West Coast. – Journo

9. From Lost in Texas:

I just finished reading you Friday post (2-25-2011). This is an example of NASCAR not being consistent on rules enforcement. NASCAR has in fact taken wins away. Ask Denny Hamlin or Regan Smith. If a part breaks in the motor and it fails the driver finishes where he finishes. If the spoiler breaks and would result in a black flag, then so be it. As “Insiders” in the sport, do you not think that NASCAR must be consistent with all its rules? As emotional as MW’s win last Friday and RP’s 200th in 1984, are not both tarnished with post race issues?

Well NASCAR didn’t take wins away from Denny Hamlin and Regan Smith, those drivers passed below the yellow line at a Superspeedway, in violation of a rule, and were black flagged. The video evidence is indisputable. On other issues I think NASCAR could do a better job with consistency – mostly with fines. I know their reasoning behind the recent upswing in penalties, but I think it would do a lot of good with the fans if they knew generally what kind of wrath a penalty might incur. People don’t tend to remember what happened after the race wins – for those who do I think it brings a bit of a taint to the win. - Journo

10. From Andrew:

Seems the only reason Robby Gordon is in Sprint Cup is to cause wrecks. What do the other drivers and teams think of Robby? Do you think he’d have a ride if he didn’t own his own team? I don’t.

I fear the wrath of the Robby fans for answering this question, but Robby isn’t the most liked person in the garage. He has a tendency to run through employees pretty quickly, and his issues on track and demeanor don’t make him a favorite among fellow drivers. - Journo

11. From Alex:

After winning the 500, NASCAR said that Trevor Bayne could switch from running for the NNS championship to the Cup championship. Then news came out that Landon Cassill is maybe going to run full time with the #60 Germain team and he is running for the NNS championship too. Does every driver have the chance to switch their championship (Cassill as an example) or did NASCAR only offer this to Bayne because he won and they want his popularity?

I would imagine that if they offered it to Bayne, they have to offer it to anyone at the same point.  It’s important to note though, that while Bayne would have been free to switch to running for Cup points, NASCAR would not allow him to have the points for the Daytona win.  Not that they were seriously considering it, but that caveat basically renders the switch pointless.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if NASCAR toyed with this rule some in the future, once they see how it really affects the competitors. – T.C.

12. From Pat:

Ryan Newman ran the Nationwide in Phoenix last night. I assume he likes his chances in the Cup cars tomorrow. Do Cup drivers work their way into cars at tracks where they know they’ll win? Or are they trying to get extra seat time to improve their Cup chances?

I think the reasoning really depends on the driver.  I don’t know specifically about Newman’s motivations, but Cup drivers that move down could certainly be seeking both.  I doubt though that a guy with Newman’s experience is really racing in the NNS for more track time. – T.C.

13. From Luther:

I see and hear that in order for damaged cars to continue in a race they must meet ” minimum speed”, but I have never heard what defines “minimum speed”…?….

I’m not entirely sure how NASCAR sets the minimum speed, but it’s within a certain range of the regular lap times that undamaged cars are able to run.  And it’s not some secret arbitrary lap time, as the teams are aware of what it is.  As a side note, a minimum speed rule is definitely a good idea.  Cars that cannot maintain a reasonable speed should not be on track, possibly causing dangerous situations for the other drivers. – T.C.

14. From John:

Does the entire crew and cars go back to their home base after each race or do they just go to next racing city?

Generally speaking everyone goes back home after every race. The exceptions are the West Coast swing races. The hauler drivers will just head to the next city (they generally are met by a secondary hauler carrying the necessary supplies and cars), and most crew guys will go home. For smaller teams though the crew guys will often stay out to save money. - Journo

15. From Kyle:

In sundays race Joe Nemecheck ran 22 laps and parked and picked up a check for 64,597. Mike skinner ran the whole race, finished 24th and got 66,700. There is no real money incentive to run the whole race. I garuntee it cost Frankie stoddards team alot more than the extra 2,000 in prize money, to run the whole race. Is there anything that NASCAR may do to fix this. There is really no incentive for these teams to run the whole race because unless they finish in the top 5 their not gonna win a whole lot more than last place due to NASCARS convoluted way of handing out the prize money. Wouldnt it make more sense to have set prize money for a finishing position. For example 1st 400,000 2nd 300,000, 3rd 250,000 and so on and have 43rd be something like 10,000. it would help cut back on the start and park problem because you would be paid more based on how high you finish. You cant run a S&P team on a 10,000 check.

Well they actually do do that. The variations that you’re seeing in the prize money are based on the added contingency programs teams take part in. For a very thorough explanation on how prize money is awarded I would encourage you to read this old, but very good piece from Lee Spencer. – Journo

16. From Big Jim:

How’s Chad Knaus doing with his pit crew?

Well, he hasn’t replaced them yet!  The conditions at Daytona meant pit stops weren’t as important (JJ was wrecked most of the day anyway), so Phoenix was really their first test.  And with a third place finish to their day, I’d say so far, so good. – T.C.

17. From Steve:

After Gordon’s win, it seemed like everybody was tiptoeing around the Letarte/Gustaffson switch, offering up merely generic positive comments about Gustaffson. Is there any talk around the garage that is more specific as to how he was able to win this time compared to last year? Or is his win viewed as simply a case of Gordon not having screwed up a winning car like he did many times last year?

I’m not really sure what there is to tiptoe around.  I think that both Gustafson and Gordon are very talented guys, and maybe they just work better together then they did with their previous partnerships.  Gordon has won a lot of races with different crew chiefs, and Gustafson wouldn’t be where he is if he didn’t know what he was doing.  But before we really pass judgement on the Hendrick swaps, I think we need to see how the season unfolds for all involved.  One race win does not define an entire season. – T.C.

18. From Bryan:

Again, great site guys and thanks for taking time to answer our questions. My question is: what are your opinions on qualifying order being set by practice speeds? In my opinion, it takes the focus off of what practice should really be about, and that’s getting the cars set up. During the Phoenix practice sessions, the TV guys mentioned several times that drivers were “working the system” in terms of practice speeds and qualifying order. It just seems to be an unneeded distraction during a critical point in a race weekend. Thanks again for what you guys do!!

Thank you! NASCAR did this s0 they could position qualifying as another show. If you’re tops in practice, that generally means you’re going to be good in qualifying so qualifying will be drug out to the very end. Has it worked? I guess. Whether teams are drawing numbers out of a hat or they’re being set based on practice speeds, I’m not sure it really matters. – Journo

19. From Eddie:

Does Sunoco transport fuel from track to track each week or the fuel just sits in the infield gas station until the next event?

I believe Sunoco has a similar setup to Goodyear, whereas regional suppliers bring the fuel to tracks each week. – T.C.

20. From Michael:

“One of the reason?s behind Eddie Pardue’s job loss last season” Why was he fired? With regards to journalists being unbiased, do we want them to be? NASCAR is a sport full of emotion. Daytona 500 1993, Ned Jarrett calling his so Dale home on the final lap, unbiased? The many drivers we have lost on and off the track, and the tributes that followed were most touching especially when told along with a fishing/charity/drinking buddy…..twist. Look at the robotic world of F1, do we want to go that direction?

Feel free to go look at Tom Bowles website if you want to know more. In order for a journalist to effectively perform his or her job there is an expectation that they will look at and report on scenarios free of an agenda. People who openly express bias (or don’t work to temper that bias) can not report without an agenda, or at the very least the perception of one. With a perceived agenda, or a real one, you lose all credibility for not only yourself, but the news organization for which you work. That is not acceptable, especially for people who respect the institution. Ned Jarrett is not a journalist. Darrell Waltrip is not a journalist. They are color analysts paid to talk about their expertise, their experience and show emotion. They keep broadcasts from being sterile just like Dick Vitale or Chris Collinsworth do. For actual broadcast journalists the RTNDA has it’s own code of ethics – view it here. So to answer your question, if you are parading around as a real, professional journalist, bias should only rarely enter your work. If your a color analyst, play-by-play announcer or columnist, it’s generally perfectly fine. - Journo

And that brings yet another “Ask The Insiders Wednesday” to a close.  Thanks to everyone who sent in questions.  And remember, if you’d like to be a part of next week, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send your question in!

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6 Responses to “Ask The Insiders Wednesday #115”

  1. Woogeroo says:

    Walt was asking about this… so here goes.

    Jayski.com had this to write about the RCR Daytona engine failures:

    http://jayski.com/news/teams/story?id=5992046

    Harvick not concerned about Daytona engine failure: From Kevin Harvick’s media availability Friday at Phoenix:

    DID YOU GUYS FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ENGINE? “Yes.”

    WHAT HAPPENED? “It broke. (laughter)”

    ANY MORE DETAILS? “Yes, not that I’m going to tell you but they have a good idea. They called me Monday morning and told me what had happened and I feel like they have a good direction to fix it.”

    WAS IT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT OR SOMETHING? “Both of them.”

    ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT GOING FORWARD? “No, I don’t think it’s something to worry about. I think it’s just something we have to make an adjustment on. I think the No. 29 and No. 31 both had the same problem.”(Chevy PR)

    AND: Kevin Harvick’s and Jeff Burton’s early Daytona departures were due to scuffed pistons in the engine. The Earnhardt Childress Racing engine department worked overtime this week to recreate the overheating situation that occurred because the current pistons were not designed to the same degree as the block.(Fox Sports)(2-26-2011)

  2. Neon says:

    RE #9 Lost in Texas: and yet to this day no one seems to consider Kyle Busch’s 2010 Talladega truck “pass below the yellow line at the stripe” vs Aric Almirola as an infraction. How’s that for inconsistency?

    RE#10 Robby Gordon: IMO he has the talent to win, its just a combination of his own doing and circumstance that prevents success.
    For those that feel Gordon caused JR’s wreck at Daytona…look again. The #7 re-enters the pack w/o contact. JR just seemed to over-react his way out of the race.
    Robby trivia: Gordon’s first race was as a replacement driver for who? #28 Davey Allison. Holy Moly…that’ll soon be 20 yrs ago.

  3. Mike says:

    Re #10….what amazes me is all you hear Nascar fans whining about is how it used to be, fastest 43 get in, you ran with what you came with on your own, the good old days…. yada yada yada…

    And yet in this age of lame vanilla corporate drivers and mega teams, there is only one driver in the field that emboides that old spirit of Nascar (who happens to also be one of if not the most talented racer in the garage) and everyone craps all over him…

    Everyone is giving Matt Kenseth a pass for Phoenix…hello..he got into Vickers which cause him get into the wall which triggered that melee…

    As God as my witness if you put Robby in Kenseth’s position and Little E in Vickers, Robby would have been shot after that race…

    Blinders and double standards when it comes to opinions on Robby Gordon.

  4. mrittenhouse84 says:

    Robby trivia: Gordon’s first race was as a replacement driver for who? #28 Davey Allison. Holy Moly…that’ll soon be 20 yrs ago.

    not to be nit-picky but Robby’s first Cup race was actually the 1991 Daytona 500 driving for Junie Donleavey

  5. Neon says:

    RE mrittenhouse84: nice catch. Somehow I knew that didn’t read right:( I had the “was” in the wrong place. Not being a journalist does have its perks. I can jump, holler and clap when the rookie wins the 500, w/o being fired for it.

    RE Mike: you hit the nail on the head.

    Now I’ve never worked for Gordon, only met him in person. But IMO NASCAR needs “gunslingers” like RG today and in the future to have value.

  6. Min says:

    I’m “just” a fan, so I can’t speak to how Robby treats his employees or his fellow drivers. However, while I’m a Robby fan (among others – there’s a reason my friends tease me about starting a NASCAR harem), my mom is both a fan of Robby AND Mikey, so she was in quite a pickle when Robby famously called Mikey a POS driver a few years ago.

    However, I can say that Robby treats his fans QUITE well. Two years ago, at Kansas Speedway, Robby had to change the time of his scheduled hauler appearance. He actually showed up SOONER than he was supposed to, so quite a few of his fans missed him. My mom and I were instructed by the woman working the hauler to put our names and addresses on a clipboard, and we would receive an autographed hero card in the mail. We shrugged and thought “Yeah, sure, as well as a bunch of other mailing list crap.”

    Several weeks went by, and I had honestly forgotten about it. But one day in the mail, I got the promised hero card, which was autographed. Along with a letter apologising for the incident. And a code to shop on his website for RGM memorabilia for a 10% discount. And anything I bought would be autographed before it was shipped.

    THAT’s how to treat a fan and ensure fan loyalty.

    Last year in Charlotte, when we saw him at his hauler, my mom almost (literally) fell into him because her toe got caught in the space between the steps to the hauler and the the hauler. Robby stopped the autograph line to personally make sure my mom was okay, and he wouldn’t let me step up until the step was moved. Cynics may say that he was worried about lawsuit, but he could have also had his handlers tend to my mom rather than talk to her himself.

    Sorry – but it’s gestures like that that will ALWAYS make me defend him.

    Again, I freely state that I have no idea how he treats employees, but he definitely understands how to cater to a fan base and build fan loyalty.

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