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SPEEDTV.com's Tom Jensen is the former managing editor of National Speed Sport News earned the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award in 1997.
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    Dover delay

    Q: Is there still going to be testing in Dover May 14 and 15? — Tony from Havre de Grace, Md.

    A: Here's NASCAR's answer: Due to the schedule change at Darlington Raceway this weekend (with inclement weather postponing the race until Sunday afternoon), the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series test scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday at Dover International Speedway has been cancelled and will not be made up in 2007.

    Hendrick holds on

    Q: Do you think that Hendrick will continue to dominate and how do you think it will affect the sport? As a NASCAR fan, I am finding it hard to want to watch races when the same people are in the front every race. Also, why is Kasey Kahne having such a hard time? — Taryn from Salt Lake City, Utah

    A: No one dominates forever. Roush won titles in 2003 and '04 and had five cars in the Chase in 2005. This year, they've had cars in the top 10, but only one victory and very few laps led. Hendrick may dominate this year, but they won't stay on top forever. No one does.

    Raising Juan

    Q: Do you think Juan Pablo Montoya needs to be reprimanded/talked to by NASCAR for not letting the leaders of the race pass? It seems he has caused numerous problems in this area. — Joe from Clermont, Fla.

    A: Yep. Montoya needs a little education in terms of NASCAR etiquette.

    Downforce with you

    Q: Whats with the No. 12 having tape on front of his car? Perhaps Mr. Engineer knows this will make him go faster...check it out! — Elizabeth from Gaffney, S.C.

    A: Adding tape on the nose gives more front downforce.

    Memory lane

    Q: My first ever race was the Tenth Annual REBEL 400 held April 30, 1966. I have an Official Souvenir Program ($1.00) in pristine condition, but I cannot recall who won that race. Can you help me? What a thrill that was sitting under the open canopy with the roar of the vehicles pounding in my ears. — John from Mansfield, Illinois

    A: Richard Petty won the 1966 Rebel 400 from the pole.

    All-Star difference

    Q: I am fairly new to the sport. What makes the All Star Challenge different from the other races of the season? — Ben from Charlotte N.C.

    A: No points and $1 million to win. That's why they call it "wreckers or checkers."

    Tearoffs flyaway

    Q:How do these tearoffs keep getting on the track? I thought they were removed by crew members and put into a bin. Wouldnt it be an idea to put a lid on the bin and stop them ruining peoples races (happened to a couple at Phoenix. — Steve from Birmingham, England

    A: Sometimes they get picked by cars in the pits and then work themselves loose on the track.

    Paving the way

    Q: Do you think the resurfacing of the track will move the cars off the wall and create a lower racing line? — Rusty Richie from Hartsville S.C.

    A: No, I don't think the resurfacing will create a lower racing line.

    Costly New Car

    Q: Do you know how much it costs for a team to build a COT (just the parts cost, not all the research and r&d)? — Joe from Lorain, Ohio

    A: The ballpark cost I hear for cars is about $150,000 or so.

    Caution concern

    Q: Why did NASCAR wait until everyone pitted before calling the caution for debris from the No. 13 car? It wouldn't be because the 11, 20 and 48 were on pit road pitting would it? — Ronetta from Ohio

    A: NASCAR waited for everyone to complete green-flag stops. Fair? I don't think so, because it left cars on track at risk for hitting debris and took a strategic element out of the race.

    Six of one, half-dozen of the other

    Q: Why couldn't Goodyear issue softer tires for the left side of the COT to help the cars turn better? — Mark from Loveland, Colo.

    A: Everything is a trade-off. Yes, Goodyear could run softer tires, but they likely would have wear issues.

    Rubber removal

    Q: I was watching the Darlington race, and with all the rubber balls, tearoffs and trash on the track, could NASCAR use some kind of vaccuum system on the bottom of the wall to catch the rubber and debris on the track? Or just some kind of vents on the bottom of the wall to catch the rubber balls that end up against the walls. — Paul from Everett

    A: NASCAR tracks are all different sizes and dimensions. What you describe would be very expensive to install, and I'm not sure it could be made practical and more efficient than sweeping the track after cautions.

    Darlington fuel run

    Q: How long is a fuel run at Darlington? — Big Iron from Bemidji, Minn.

    A: Fuel runs at Darlington are about 65-72 laps.

    Competition caution

    Q: Why throw an arbitrary caution, just for the sake of a pit stop? Isn't the idea of racing to RACE? Let the crew chief decide on strategy of when to pit. If it means pitting on a green, well, that's racing and would make the pit crew all the more important. When was this silly practice started anyhow? I watched a lot of NASCAR in the 60's & 70's, and don't remember anything like this. Back then, a race could be as easily won in the pits as on the track. It seems that NASCAR has become not much more than a parade, at least as far as the top 20 cars are concerned. I don't EVEN want to get started about the "clone cars." Smokey Yunick & some of the other old timers must be turning about 8000 rpm in their graves at this thing! — Al from McHenry, Ill.

    A: It isn't arbitrary at all. This is a brand-new type of car at a track where there was heavy rain the day before. NASCAR wanted to give teams the opportunity to check tire wear. By doing it at Lap 40 and Lap 40 only, it won't affect the outcome of the race. I take issue with NASCAR on many things, but this is a good safety call.

    Motoring for Mom

    Q: When was the last time NASCAR ran a race on Mother's Day? — Helen from GRAHAMSVILLE

    A: The Winston ran on Mother's Day in Atlanta in 1986. It was a disaster.

    Staying in his spot

    Q: How is it that Jr. made a change to his car and still kept his starting spot? I thought NASCAR says ANY changes to the car puts you at end of field! — Lynn from Richmond, Va.

    A: No, this is not an impound race. As long as you don't change the engine or transmission, you can keep your spot.

    Aero advantage

    Q: NASCAR claimed the brackets gave Jr an aero advantage, at Darlington? Are they kidding........ — Bryan from Boston

    A: Pole speed here was 165 mph. Aerodynamics play a huge role here.

    Inspection question

    Q: It sounds as if NASCAR decided that the brackets were "unfair" after qualifying... Doesn't NASCAR inspect the brackets before qualifying? Don't they give the wings to the teams at that time? How can there be talk about points being taken when NASCAR must have changed their minds after the fact? Or, am I missing something? — Jwd from Margaritaville

    A: They could have been changed after the initial inspection without NASCAR being aware of it, though I don't know for sure that's what happened.

    Problem with parts and pieces

    Q: I would give anything to know exactly what is "wrong" with the parts that teams are fined for using. Does NASCAR withhold the info from the teams as well as the fans? Or do the other teams know what is going on? — Jim from Fort Worth, Texas

    A: Usually, it's simply a matter of a piece or part not being the correct size, shape or dimension, or not mounted properly. And, yes, NASCAR always tells the teams exactly what they got wrong. Usually, they'll tell the media, too, the notable exception being the mystery blue goo in Michael Waltrip's engine at Daytona.

    Sabotoging Dale Jr.?

    Q: The mystery of the wrong bolts. Sounds to me like revenge from some of his team members to put the wrong bolts on the spoiler, knowing that it would hurt Dale Jr. in points....... — Sue from Dickinson, Texas

    A: If Junior's crew is upset with anyone, it shouldn't be the driver. It should be DEI management, who despite a year of intense negotiations never even was able to get close to signing Earnhardt. Look, I'll say it again. DEI needed Earnhardt more than he needed them. DEI has never placed a driver other than Earnhardt in the top 10 in points and no DEI driver other than Earnhardt has won a race since 2003. He will go to a better team that will give him the tools to win. The rest will be up to him.

    Unhappy Mother's Day?

    Q: Could the timing of Junior's dicission be a backhanded Mother's Day surprise for his stepmom? Might as well go ahead and start a few conspiracy theories. — Ray from Denver, Colo.

    A: Maybe it was a payback for sending he and sister Kelley to military school as kids. ... or not. C'mon folks, here's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Earnhardt wants to run up front regularly, he wants to win races and he wants to contend for championships. He looked at what he had at DEI and what other teams had at their shops and concluded he couldn't get it done at DEI and that his stepmother didn't share his vision. If it hadn't been the business his father started, he would have left a long time ago.

    MWR makeover

    Q: Tom, ou've alluded to "changes" that you think will happen at MWR. What do you think will happen over the next few weeks and months? As a DJ fan, is there any hope of seeing him competitive again? — Jeff from Richmond, Va.

    A: The NASCAR Nextel Cup season will be one-third over with when the Coca-Cola 600 is run in two weeks. So far, Waltrip has missed 10 of 11 races, got caught cheating at Daytona and left the scene of an accident at 2 a.m. on Easter weekend. Jarrett has missed two straight races and is out of provisionals. Eventually, either Waltrip's sponsor(s) or Toyota will step in. I have no first-hand knowledge of specific scenarios, but unless there is a rapid and substantial improvement in performance, it's hard to imagine all his sponsors remaining on board beyond 2007. Toyota has gone on the record as saying they are a patient company, but they are being embarrassed right now and even patient companies have to see results eventually. And, no, unless the team makes big changes, I don't see D.J.'s short-term prospects improving.

    Alternatives

    Q: If NASCAR uses so much gas, and gas is a limited resource, shouldn't we stop racing or find an alternative resource? — Paige from Durham, N.C.

    A: No, we shouldn't stop racing. An alternative fuel source? Maybe down the road.

    Darlington curfew

    Q: Is there a noise curfew in Darlington like there is in Richmond? If so, how long can they wait before making a decision? — Shannon from Kitty Hawk, N.C.

    A: NASCAR waited approximately 8:30 p.m. ET to call the race. But I don't believe there is a noise curfew.

    Mellow yellow?

    Q: Hey Tom, with most of the drivers complaining about how the COT won't turn at times, do you look for there to be a ton of cautions when the race gets under way? — Greg from Commerce, Okla.

    A: Honestly, I'm thinking just the opposite. I think everyone is going to be extremely cautious early on, because they want to finish tonight, if possible.

    Silly Season

    Q: Tom... with Jr. looking, and for sure one good seat taken, what are the scenarios for the other vacancies (or available fourth cars) in the 2008 Cup season? Which drivers will be looking? — Big Mike from Hillsborough, N.C.

    A: Here are a few early Silly Season observations. DEI wants to add a fourth team and Robert Yates wants to expand, though I think the departure of Junior makes a DEI-RYR merger all but dead. Ricky Rudd may or may not be back at the No. 88, which could be sponsored by Citibank in 2008. Greg Biffle is under contract with Roush Fenway Racing through 2008, though he admits he's had contact from other teams. Ginn Racing wants to add a fourth car. Hall of Fame Racing would like to add a second car. But all the teams that want to expand need sponsors, and it could be 2009 or 2010 before they can grow. I have to believe some fundamental shake-up in the Toyota camp will happen, especially at Michael Waltrip Racing. Although Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin continue to shine with Joe Gibbs Racing, that team's No. 18 has struggled. RCR and Hendrick appear to be solid for the future. I will also be closely watching the Dodge situation. A Chrysler sale could come soon, and despite public pronouncements to the contrary, who the buyer is might make a difference in the automaker's level of involvement in racing.

    No. 3 points?

    Q: If Junior were to take over the No. 3 car would there be any car owner points for him to rely on for the first 5 races of '08 or would he be in the "go or go home" group? — Steve from Sydney, N.S., Canada

    A: It depends on how the deal is structured. Some new teams have bought out old ones, others have started off without it. But it's way too early to talk about that. That probably hasn't even been discussed yet.

    Pacing the field

    Q: Who drives the pace car during restarts? And is it always the same person for each race? — Sharon from Missoula, Mont.

    A: Brett Bodine drives the pace car at all Nextel Cup races and handles all the restarts.

    Black widow

    Q: Where did the name "The Lady in Black" come from? — Bob from Middletown, Ohio

    A: Thanks for the question, Bob. The name "Lady in Black" refers to the walls of Darlington Raceway, which are white when the race starts. But as car after car after car bounces off them, the walls gradually begin to turn black as the race wears on.

    Debris at Darlington

    Q: Since debris from the track is such a problem at Darlington, how are the cars keeping the brakes cool and debris from blocking the blowers to the brakes? — Kelli from St. Petersburg, Fla.

    A: Darlington is a fairly high-speed track, with the pole speed Friday near 165 miles per hour. Debris is less of an issue here than it is at a short-track like Martinsville or Bristol. The teams will have large screens over the brake ducts, as they typically do, which should help them considerably.

    Ned's 14-lap lead

    Q: Ned Jarrett once won the Southern 500 by 14 laps. How did that happen? — Kim from Harrisburg, Ore.

    A: That's a fabulous question. The 1965 Southern 500 — which Ned Jarrett won by 14 laps — had a whole lot of strange incidents. Cale Yarborough's car went sailing over the first turn wall and left the track completely. Young Buren Skeen crashed on the second lap and would later succumb to his injuries. But the big thing was, in those days, you only had four or five cars that had a legitimate chance to win, and their equipment was markedly superior to the rest of the field. In this race, leaders Fred Lorenzen and Darel Dieringer were racing each other for the lead late in the race, when both their cars broke. Junior Johnson got caught with an illegal rear end in practice and broke early in the race. The other big thing is that Chrysler spent much of the year boycotting NASCAR over its decision to ban the Hemi engine. Richard Petty didn't race in the Southern 500, which had just two Plymouths and no Dodges in a 44-car field.

    DEI controlled by Teresa

    Q: With all the talk of Dale Jr. leaving DEI, I was just wondering if you could clear up something for me? Although he didn't get the 51 percent ownership he was asking for, he does still have some percentage of ownership, along with his siblings, correct? — Lita from Marinette, Wis.

    A: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. is a privately-owned business, so it is under no legal obligation to disclose who owns what percentage of it. The important thing is it's controlled exclusively by Teresa Earnhardt.

    MWR changes

    Q: How much longer will UPS put up with no car in the show? I've always liked D.J., but this is geting old. I wish he would have stayed with Yates. — Bob from West Chester, Pa.

    A: Clearly something has to happen at Michael Waltrip Racing, which has been awful this season. I expect some significant changes there within the next month.

    Who's the new No. 8?

    Q: Who do you think will drive the No. Chevrolet in 2008 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving DEI after the 2007 season? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Welcome to FOX and the Darlington weekend. Honestly, I have no idea at this point who goes into the No. 8. One thing to consider is how spooked would drivers be about going there, figuring if a family member can't win in a DEI car, what chance would they have? I haven't spoken with anyone yet about this ride, but I will tell you, there are some talented drivers out there regularly missing races who might value being in a car in the top 35 in owner points.

    One Junior goes, other stays

    Q: Hey Tom, just wondered what you think about Dale Jr. going to Hendrick next year (Hendrick already has four teams.) And what about Martin Truex Jr.? Do you know how much time he has left on his contract with DEI and what options he has? — Steve from Ellerbe, N.C.

    A: Hendrick, RCR and Joe Gibbs Racing are the three leaders in the Junior hunt right now. I really can't see him going anywhere else. I spoke with Truex within the hour and he's under contract through the end of '08. "I've decided I'm going to finish out the year and honor my contract because of all the things they've done for me in the past, and that's the bottom line," Truex said. "I'm going to stay."

    Gordon relocation?

    Q: Jeff Gordon owns part of Jimmie Johnson's No. 48. If he would take full ownership of it, would that open up a spot at HMS? — Barry from Bedford, Pa.

    A: No, it wouldn't. If Gordon bought out the No. 48 team, in order to make room for Earnhardt, NASCAR likely would make Gordon relocate the team out of the Hendrick campus and that would never happen.

    No. 3 for Junior?

    Q: Will Jr. be able to use his number 8 on whatever car he drives next year or does DEI have control over the number? And if he can't use the number do you think he would use number 3? — Shaun from Cedar Park, Texas

    A: DEI controls the No. 8. As far as driving the No. 3, Earnhardt said, "I've got to do a little soul searching about how I feel about driving a No. 3 car. That doesn't change my opinion of whether I would go drive for Richard or not. I don't have to drive the No. 3 car. But I don't personally know whether that's what I want to do, specific to that number. I need to really sit down. Because like I said, I'm going to make this decision once. So I have to really ask myself if I want to be driving that number the rest of my career. With respect to my father, I don't feel very comfortable with that. He made that number what it is. With respect to him, I believe that it belongs to him, you know what I mean?"

    Will Junior stay in the No. 8?

    Q: This may be a dumb question, but here goes. With Dale Jr. announcing that he is leaving DEI at the end of the year, is he still going to be driving in the remainder of the races this year? And how do you think his team will do? &3151 Dusten from Ionia, Iowa

    A: It's not a dumb question at all. Earnhardt should remain in the No. 8, unless Teresa decides to replace him, which I don't expect would happen, because it would make sponsor Budweiser really unhappy. But anything's possible. I think the team will have an uphill fight the rest of the year, but could make the Chase.

    Who to pick at Darlington?

    Q: Who should I pick for the Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington? — Irene from Denham Springs, La.

    A: Let's get this party started! Here's who I like most at Darlington:
    Jeff Gordon has six victories here and had finished no worse than third in the last three races here. Jimmie Johnson loves this track, too, and has two victories and four top fives in his last five starts here. Greg Biffle will be going for his third consecutive victory at Darlington Saturday night, something only Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt have accomplished. I also like Denny Hamlin, who has won a Busch race here, and Kurt Busch, who is on a team that's figured out the COT.

    Chevy's new engine at Darlington

    Q: Tom, in all my listening and reading about NASCAR, I have yet to find anyone who can justify NASCAR's approval of Chevy's new engine. They are winning all the races now, and it seems NASCAR's concern with parity got lost somewhere. Will any Chevy teams run the R07 engine this weekend? — Ron from Plain City, Ohio

    A: Good point, Ron. When you look at the utter domination by Chevrolet this weekend, I agree that it's hard to understand why they feel they need a new engine. My understanding is that Joe Gibbs Racing and Hall of Fame Racing are using the new engine this weekend. I spoke with someone at Hendrick Motorsports yesterday, and they are not using it again until the all-star race the following weekend. I'll check with the remaining Chevy teams Friday morning and will let you know then.

    Taking tire tests to task

    Q: Why didn't the Nextel Cup Series test at Darlington? Also, who tested the tires there? I say the drivers who tested there will lead the race. It make no sense not to test at a track where it's already tough to race the old car. With the COT, it would be a nightmare. — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: It's a tough call. NASCAR limits the number of tests it conducts in a season, and the reality is, they can't test everywhere. Next week, for example, they will test the COT at Dover. Do you take Dover off to add Darlington? I don't know, but like most things in NASCAR, however you do it is going to tick off some people. During the Goodyear Darlington test, the participants were Jeff Gordon, Dave Blaney, Reed Sorenson, Greg Biffle and Juan Montoya.

    Hendrick in a Toyota?

    Q: If Hendrick Motorsports were driving Toyota would they be having the problems the Toyota teams are having now? — Paul from Sioux Falls, S.D.

    A: In a word, no. Hendrick has been around since 1984; two of the three Toyota teams are start-ups and the third, Bill Davis Racing, has had some big victories, but never contended for a championship, which Hendrick has six of. That said, Hendrick would not have won seven races so far this season in a Toyota. There's just too much to learn with a new car.

    Car of Tomorrow laps led
    Manufacturer Laps
    Chevrolet 1,654
    Dodge 54
    Ford 4
    Toyota 4

    COT laps led

    Q: Adam from Erie, Pa.: The race Sunday had a list of laps lead by COT by type. After this race, how do the numbers work out for Chevy, Ford, Dodge and Toyota?

    A: I think Chevrolets will again lead the most laps at Darlington, and by a wide (though not quite so wide) margin. I also expect Biffle to lead laps in a Ford and Kurt Busch to lead some in a Dodge.

    COT schedule

    Q: Steve from Elk Grove, Calif.: Please provide a list of all remaining races with the COT car. http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/6285592

    A: Here you go, bud: Car of Tomorrow schedule from 2007-2009.

    Gordon no lock for title

    Q: Do you think the No. 24 team has what it takes to win that elusive fifth championship? Also, how many wins do you think they can wrap up this year? I think they can win the championship and possibly at least 7 races on the roll they are on. — Cody from Talladega, Ala.

    A: There's no question that Jeff Gordon can win his fifth championship this year. The big wild card of course is the Chase for the Championship format. It used to be if you were out to a 200-point lead after 10 races as Gordon is now, you could pretty much write him in for the championship. But the key now is getting hot at the end of the year in the final 10 races, and Gordon will have 11 other drivers to contend with as he pursues his fifth championship so yeah, he can, but he's certainly no slam dunk.

    Blaney's best Toyota

    Q: If Dave Blaney would have made it out of that melee, do you think his Toyota could have finished with a much-needed top 5? Which driver do you think will get the first top-five finish in a Camry? — Jon from Mountain Home, Idaho

    A: That kind of goes back to woulda, coulda, shoulda, of which there are a million in racing. Yes, he could have, but he didn't. I do think, however, Blaney will be the first driver to score a top five and maybe a victory in a Toyota. If you look at the way he's performed this year, he's had some bad luck in terms of accidents and getting caught in other people's messes. But in terms of on-track performance, he's been head and shoulders above the rest of the Toyotas in my opinion.

    Humpy: COT good for racing

    Q: Tom, the COT races are really horrible! I wonder if NASCAR will realize this before it is too late. I know safety comes first, but the races are horrible to watch. It seems NASCAR could just tweak the old car, inside, driver seat and new safety equipment. COT only makes big money teams better. Sooner or later this will all have an impact on ticket sales. — James from Sanford, N.C.

    A: I don't know how you can say the COT races are terrible. If you look at Bristol, that went down to the very last lap. If you look at Martinsville, that went down to the very last lap. At Phoenix, the winning pass came with just a couple of laps to go. The races themselves have been good, and I spoke with track president Humpy Wheeler Monday over at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He thinks long-term, the potential for this car is to be very racy. The big problem is all of the winning is being done by one team, and all the top performances are being turned in by one manufacturer. That's what's got everybody frustrated.

    Upfront costs won't work for Busch

    Q: Why does NASCAR say the Car of Tomorrow will even the field when I doubt it will? I wish it would give a smaller team a chance, but I do not see happening. Also, why isn't the COT in the Busch Series, where owners need to save more money than in Nextel Cup? — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: Those are both good questions, and I think the hope is that long-term, the Car of Tomorrow will equalize competition. I talked with some guys at smaller teams. Kyle Petty told me he thought it would be maybe 18 months before the smaller teams catch up to the big teams for the Car of Tomorrow. As far as why isn't it used in the Busch Series, it will be an eventual cost saver, but there's a big upfront investment to build all the new cars. They don't want to burden the Busch Series guys with the startup expense of having Cars of Tomorrow.

    'Cookie-cutter' questions

    Q: Why isn't the Car of Tomorrow going to be run on mile and a half tracks this year? If the COT is going to be full time in 2008, wouldn't they want to test it now on those race tracks, for example during this week's test at Lowe's Motor Speedway? — Megan from Loveland, Colo.

    A: That's a very good question. The reason the Car of Tomorrow is not being used on mile and a half tracks until 2009 or if they decide to condense the schedule next year, those are the size tracks that NASCAR had the most questions about the aerodynamic properties of the car and figured it would take the longest to get right so they wanted to see how the COT actually raced at smaller tracks like Bristol, Martinsville and Phoenix. That's why they started with the schedule they did.

    Carl plays catch up

    Q: What is wrong with Carl Edwards and the other Fords? They don't seem to get the cars running like the Chevys. Maybe they need new engineers? I am started to get frustrated to see Carl not able to keep up with the Chevys. — Stephen from St. Louis, Mo.

    A: Everybody who isn't a Chevy fan is frustrated right now. In the four Car of Tomorrow races that have been run to date, a total of more than 1700 laps, Ford and Toyota have only led five laps each, and Dodges aren't much better. They've led 42 laps. The Fords have a long way to go, and I think the Ford drivers are every bit as frustrated as the fans. It's just a question of how long will it take them to catch up.


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