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Virtual Crew Chief Instant Analysis: Charlotte

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SPEEDTV.com's Tom Jensen is the former managing editor of National Speed Sport News and earned the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award in 1997.
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  • Past races: Daytona | California | Las Vegas | Atlanta | Bristol | Martinsville | Texas | Phoenix | Talladega | Richmond | Darlington | All-Star Challenge | Charlotte | Dover | Pocono | Michigan | Michigan | Sonoma | Loudon | Daytona | Chicagoland | Indianapolis | Pocono | Watkins Glen | Michigan | Bristol | California | Richmond | Loudon | Dover | Kansas | Talladega

    Kyle's a pro

    Q: Were you surprised that Kyle Busch didn't wreck Jeff Gordon and take out some of the Top 10? — James from Evans City, Pa.

    A: James, no I wasn't surprised he didn't wreck him. He's a pro.

    Ku Bu engine on seven

    Q: What's up with Kurt Busch right now? They said something about a carburetor? — Kevin from Virginia Beach, Va.

    A: Busch's car dropped a cylinder.

    Setup goes south?

    Q: How important is Tony Eury Jr.? I know that many have said they don't understand why Dale Earnhardt Jr. would want to take Tony Jr., but after seeing tonight a race where he has had no input to the car, I think it is pretty clear why he wants him at Hendrick next year. He knows what he wants in his car and how to understand how much he needs. Just wanted to know your take on it. — Randy from Gilmer, Texas

    A: Eury is important because Earnhardt trusts him and listens to him and they understand each other.

    Softer is better

    Q: Answer Man ...... all the talk is about NASCAR being No. 1 in the racing world, yet ask any man on any team at any track and they'll all mention something about Goodyear. So I ask, "What's the deal?" Why does NASCAR make Goodyear bring such a hard tire to each and every race when race after race, the drivers just want something a little softer? If the tire were softer, wouldn't the racing be that much better, and if the racing could be that much better, then it can't be the best now! — Cliff from Indianapolis

    A: These tires are softer than what they ran here in the spring, and the racing is better as a result.

    'Smoke' signals

    Q: Do you think the pit road accidents of Tony Stewart were him being over aggressive or did Zippy not do his job of relaying information about other cars properly? — Trinidy from Americus, Ga.

    A: Without hearing the radio conversation between the two of them, that question is impossible to answer. Only they know.

    Future teammates fuss

    Q: Any idea why Gordon said he didn't want to race Earnhardt tonight after they had contact? Was he just concerned about retaliation? — Jason from Morrison, Ill.

    A: Yes, I think he wanted to give Earnhardt 50 laps or so to cool down.

    Four tires costs the 8

    Q: How did Dale Earnhardt Jr. get to the back of the lead lap? He was in the top 10, and TV hasn't said what has happened. — L.D. from Fort Worth, Texas

    A: Pit strategy. There have been a lot of stops where guys took 2 tires or no tire and he took 4. That cost him a lot of track position.

    How are yaw?

    Q: Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that his car won't yaw. What does that mean? — Stephanie from Stoneville, N.C.

    A: That means his car isn't leaning from side to side at the desired angle.

    Don't move

    Q: Hi Tom, I was wondering if Bruton Smith is actually going to move Lowe's Motor Speedway? — Jeff from Stafford, Va.

    A: No, absolutely not.

    Red Bull staying with Toyota

    Q: Red Bull and Yates = more Fords! Is that possible? Vickers, AJ and whoever Yates hires form a front for more Roush/Henry cars? — Paul from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

    A: I don't expect Red Bull and Yates to join forces in any way. I spoke with Red Bull's competition director Elton Sawyer yesterday, and that team is confirmed back with Toyota, Vickers and Allmendinger for next year.

    Remembering Coop

    Q: Hey Tom! I was sorry to hear that Ray Cooper had passed away. I met him a couple of times, and he was very nice. Did the track do anything to honor him tonight before the race? — Jo from Rock Hill, S.C.

    A: The NASCAR community lost a great friend Friday night with the passing of Ray Cooper, a former sportswriter and in later years a manufacturer's rep for first Chevy and then Dodge The track had a moment of silence in the media center, and we have a bunch of stuff in the works to honor Coop. He was a great guy, and there are a lot of heavy hearts tonight.

    Blessing the troops

    Q: I have noticed the last few weeks the prayer has not blessed the troops. Does NASCAR have control over this? Retired Veteran. — Brad from Urbana, Ill.

    A: The tracks generally organize the prerace programs.

    Four failures

    Q: How many cars do you think will be out of the race due to engine failures at the Bank Of America 500? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: I predict four engine failures.

    Sam not committed for '08

    Q: Since Sam Hornish Jr. did not qualify for the first four races that he has entered, do you think that he will remain with Roger Penske's Indy Racing League team in 2008? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Thanks for the question. To the best of my knowledge, Sam Hornish Jr. has not made a commitment one way or the other as far as his 2008 plans.

    Valentine's Day victories

    Q: Do you know when they are planning to run the Duel races since they weren't listed on the 2008 schedule? Also, what will they call it since Pepsi, who owns Gatorade, does not sponsor Daytona anymore? — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: Yes, the Duels will be run on Thursday, as always. In this case, it's Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2008.

    Why no turn signals, brake lights?

    Q: Everyone's complaining they can't see the hand signals. NASCAR blows its own horn about how "safe" its made the cars. So why don't they use what works on real "STOCK" cars: turn signal and brake lights? — Michael from Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    A: At 180 miles per hour, a NASCAR Nextel Cup car travels the length of a football field every second. Drivers wouldn't have time to react to brake lights. As far as the turn signals, it would be a nightmare, because not everyone would use them, some would use them and not actually change lanes, etc. It would be a mess.

    No one out, but...

    Q: Hey Tom, at this point, is there anyone mathematically eliminated from the championship, or are all 12 drivers still in? — Matthew

    A: Thanks for the question. The most points a driver can make up in a single event is 161 (185 for first place, 5 for leading a lap, 5 more for reading the most laps). If a winner leads the most laps, therefore, he gets 195 points, while the last-place finisher earns 34. So 195 - 34 = 161. To be out of contention with five races left would require someone to be 805 points back (161 x 5). So to answer your question, no, no one is mathematically eliminated now. But the furthest anyone's ever come back at this point in the season is 156 points back, so there a lot of guys in danger of being out of contention.

    All-star car

    Q: What is Dale Earnhardt Jr's Busch schedule for 2008? Does one of his sponsors have a clause like Budweiser did? — Austin from Heber City, Utah

    A: Welcome. I just went into the garage here at Lowe's Motor Speedway and spoke with Jade Gurss, one of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s public relations men, and he said Junior's 2008 Nationwide Series — what's now known as the Busch Series — schedule is not set. The plan, though, is to run at least 15 races in what's being called internally "the all-star car," a JR Motorsports Chevy with Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears all doing some races. Details remain to be finalized.

    Houston's broken record, connection to Teresa Earnhardt

    Q: Tom, I hope you take questions on Busch drivers. I see that Jason Keller broke Tommy Houston's record. What record did Tommy Houston set? Also, what relationship is he to Teresa Earnhardt? I know that her maiden name was Houston. Finally, what is your opinion on the partnership that Waltrip has formed? I assume this will be a financial arrangement. — Mary Lou from Harrisburg, Pa.

    A: Hello, there. Teresa Earnhardt is the daughter of Tommy Houston's brother, Hal, which makes her Tommy's niece. Tommy held the record for most NASCAR Busch Series starts at 417, a record that was broken last night by Jason Keller, who appeared in his 418th Busch race. As far as the Waltrip deal, like most racers, Waltrip is a driver first and a businessman second. He needed someone with bottom-line experience at running a business, and he got it. We'll be watching closely to see how it develops.

    Cup is U.S. only

    Q:This year, Canadian race fans were thrilled to see a Busch race in Montreal. Is there really a need for another road course for NASCAR to come to Canada or will it take a 1 1/2 oval plus for us to see the "Big Show?" — Steve from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    A: Greetings to the Great White North! NASCAR's public posture is that the Cup Series will race only in the United States, not Mexico or Canada. If that changes, we'll see.

    Stuck with the bill

    Q: Were the members of the Homeland Security Fact Finding group guests of the track or were they on the taxpayers dime? They should have gotten probed along with the shots. — SteveO from 29 Palms, Calif.

    A: Good question. As far as I know, the taxpayers footed the bill. Don't they always?

    Top 10 for Junior

    Q: How do you think Dale Earnhardt Jr. will do this Sunday? Do you think his engine will hold up? I'm a 48 fan, but would still like to see Jr. win a race this season (so long as Jimmmie wins the championship again). — Jill from Flagstaff, Ariz.

    A: Thanks for the question. I think Junior should be a solid top 10, and I do think his motor should hold together.

    Piston problems

    Q: Can you tell us exactly what failed in the DEI engines last week? — Don from Mattoon, Ill.

    A: Welcome. The failure of the DEI/RCR engines was believed to be due to piston failures, the same problem that struck the team during testing.

    Running hot and cold

    Q: Tom, how does the engine cooler used by teams for qualifying not damage the engines? I know that rapidly cooling metal will either become stronger or weaker depending on the method and time used to cool and heat. So how does that cooler work? — Eric from Grantsville, Utah

    A: Great question. I asked Peter Jellen, who is one of the crew members for the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet, and he told me that the water circulator the team uses gradually blends in the cool water with the hot engine water so that it doesn't introduce too much cold water too soon.

    Lock in top 12 in qualifying

    Q: Tom, with qualifying, do you think NASCAR should LOCK in the drivers who were in the Chase and have EVERYBODY else qualify on SPEED and please cut out "THE PAST CHAMPION" spot? — Al from Dover, Del.

    A: Welcome. Actually, I'd like to see the top 12 and the past champion locked in and everyone else qualify on speed. What I like about only locking in the top 12 is it will spread the DNQs over a larger group of drivers. But as I've said many, many times, no matter how you set up qualifying, people are going to complain about it being unfair for one reason or another.

    Slow home, Alabama?

    Q: Is it me or during the Talladega race, the COT look like it was slow compare to the old car? In reality, they were the same speed or a tad faster. — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: Excellent point. I think the reason they looked slow is because so many drivers hung back for so long.

    Silly Season

    Q: Hey, Tom, I read the statement that GEM announced they signed Patrick Carpentier, but they didn't say which number or sponsor. I heard Gillett say that one of the benefits he could bring is Canadian sponsors so is Valvoline out of Evernham? Or could they be moving Elliott Sadler to that car? Also, I hear that Penske has a third car with sponsorship ready for next year even if it's without Sam Hornish Jr. If it isnt Hornish, any ideas of who it might be? Also, what does the future hold for Ward Burton and Ryan Newman? Thanks for the time! — Ray from Madison, Tenn.

    A: Thanks for the many questions. We'll start with the last one first. Ryan Newman is under contract with Penske Racing next year and Ward Burton likely will return to Morgan-McClure Motorsports if sponsorship can be found. Don't know about Penske, but I'll try to ask tomorrow. As for Carpentier, here's what Sadler said today - "I don't know all the plans yet. I don't know anything about a sponsor, car number or anything like that. I just know he is coming to be a part of the Gillett Evernham team so hopefully he can get right on board, get his feet wet pretty early, cut his teeth pretty early and then go from there."

    Busch to meet with Miller

    Q: Tom, I was reading that Coors and Miller are going to merge their companies to close the gap and get closer to the profits of Bud. If this happens, what happens to the sponsors on the No. 40 and the No. 2? Will they both have a similar sponsor? Will they each keep their current sponsor, will they both change, will one change, etc.? Thanks. — Justin from Waldorf, Md.

    A: Welcome to the weekend. Coors will not sponsor a Sprint Cup car next year. No change is anticipated at the moment with the Miller Lite car. Kurt Busch said today he will be meeting some Miller officials next week to hear more about the deal.

    No DEI ties

    Q: Maybe I missed this information. But what will Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s sister be doing when he is gone from DEI? I thought they were a team. Is her job Junior's manager and she doesn't work at DEI? Thanks. — Tana from Hutchinson, Kansas

    A: Glad you could join us. Kelley Earnhardt Elledge does not work for DEI. She is her brother's advisor and business manager.

    Just truckin' for now

    Q: We know that Dario Franchitti is going to make his NASCAR debut in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville. Will he also run the Cup race? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Hey, bud. Have not heard anything about Franchitti running the Cup race at Martinsville. At Ganassi's announcement last week, the team said only that he'd run the NCTS event.

    I can see clearly now

    Q: Hey, why not just make the wings out of clear Lexan? We did this 25 years ago on midwest ashphalt short track cars -- works great for seeing through! Not only that, they'll look better!! — Buddy Bob from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: Great idea! Thanks for the suggestion. You'd probably still have issues with transparency as the wing got dirty during the race, but it might help solve the problem.

    Surprisingly so few COT infractions

    Q: Hey Tom. With Reed Sorenson being the latest of drivers in the Car of Tomorrow to have failed post-race inspection for the car being too low, is there something that's causing the COT to become lower during the race or is it just an isolated incident on the team's part? Out of the four recent drivers that were hit with the penalty for being too low, two were chase contenders — Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. — Joe from Fresno, Calif.

    A: Great way to lead off this week's questions. So far, I've not heard of a common theme in the "too low" cases. You have to remember, though, these cars are running 400-500 miles at speeds roughly from 130-200 mph. And they bottom out, occasionally have contact with other cars, etc. I'm frankly surprised more of them don't come up off during measurements.

    Junior out after Atlanta?

    Q: Hey Tom, two midweek questions for you. First, I talked to two different people today who say a rumor is circulating around LMS that Junior will be out of the No. 8 car after the Atlanta race. One of them has connections to Regan Smith, and the story goes he's been told he'll get a few races in a DEI car this year to start team-building for next year. Have you heard anything about this? 2) Has anybody asked NASCAR about the apparent contradictions in their policy -- that the rules are black and white for crew chiefs and car violations, but all written in gray when NASCAR is trying to make a controversial decision like Greg Biffle's finish at Kansas? — Jo from Rock Hill, S.C.

    A: Hi, Jo! I have not heard anything about Junior getting out of the No. 8 at Atlanta. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, just that I have not heard it. As for the policy contradictions, I'm with you all the way and have shared my opinions with them. It's all I can do.

    More on Junior

    Q: Greetings Tom. After another fantastic finish to an otherwise lackluster race, I can hardly wait to hear the sports radio pros telling everyone that Jr., again, didn't deliver the goods. Another DNF, they'll say. Makes me want to kick my radio sometimes...lol. Yes, I'm a big junior fan so maybe that makes me a little jaded on this matter, but so be it. My question for you is this: After six DNFs due to engine failure for just one team, exactly how many blown motors does it take for a team to rethink what they are doing and become a little more proactive? Three RCR/DEI cars DNF and two others had significant engine trouble today alone. Yes, I'm very aware that they were turning much higher revs at 'Dega, but I've toured both shops and seen the equipment that they claim to use. Maybe Jr. saw the writing on the wall when he cut ties with DEI and then didn't join up with RCR. — Brian from Aurora Ore.

    A: Good point. But I think it was much more of a case of Junior and his step-mother having deep disagreements about almost everything.

    Roush satellite under scrutiny

    Q: Tom, I keep hearing NASCAR say all teams will be limited to 4 cars in '09. Then, I hear Yates Racing is moving into Roush's garage, and Roush will move one of their drivers to Yates. Can anyone explain how this is not flaunting the four-car team rule? And if it is not, why doesn't Haas move in with Hendrick? They run hendrick engines so it would seem easier. — Mike from Hooks, Texas

    A: Another excellent question. I think NASCAR is going to be watching this situation very closely in the future to make sure it is within the letter and spirit of the rules.

    How the COT could get uglier

    Q: If the wing mounting height is making it difficult to see over/through/under the new wing, why doesn't NASCAR change the wing mounting bracket to a taller setup? Wouldn't this not only lift the wing so that drivers could see through the rear window, but also move the wing into cleaner air, thus requiring less angle to create the same amount of downforce? — David from Nassau, Bahamas

    A: Thanks for the question. If you moved the rear wing on the COT, it would completely alter the aero qualities of the car. Besides, they'd look even uglier.

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