Virtual Crew Chief Instant Analysis: Martinsville

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 Print   Email   Blog This'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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  • Martinsville pit selections

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    Record-settting wrecking

    Q: What is the record for the most cautions at Martinsville? — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: 21 cautions, set today.

    Don't knock Zippy

    Q: I used to think Zippy was the smartest, i know he is the most honest, but why the hell did he keep stewart out at kansas? and why didnt he pay more attention when short pitting last week? seems to me he has made either some crazy choices or some brilliant ones that backfired. what do you think? he won 2 championships, he should be thinking about 3, but i think its a wash this year. — Sheena from Union City, Tenn.

    A: It's not that simple - sometimes decisions fall your way, sometimes they don't. And sometimes the driver ignores the crew chief's orders or talks him out of it. Not saying that's what happened here, but Zippy's track record over his career speaks for itself.

    Shadows tough for drivers

    Q: I noticed that the camera on TV looking at turn 2 shows really bad shadows and the sun going down. Does this affect the drivers? Also, I know this has been beaten on so many times, but why not start earlier? — Mark from Venice, Fla.

    A: Yes, the sun does affect the drivers and make it hard for them to see. I think most of us wish the races would start earlier, but they start when TV wants them to.

    Yates surprises

    Q: Just wondering if you know for sure that Gilliland, Parrott and Barraclough are going to be with the #88 and #28 next year? I hear this Roush deal is not what they are saying it is. Please tell Robert thank you from us Yates fans. — Karin from Sidney, Ohio

    A: I'm sure of nothing when it comes to Yates this year. I am hearing some of the No. 38 guys are headed to JGR, but beyond that, with this bunch anything is possible.

    Conspiracy caution?

    Q: Oh geez what a surprise: Johnson once again gets a caution when HE needs it... and isn't it curious that it's an off-shoot team supplimented by Hendrick Motorsports? — Dara from Dresden, Tenn.

    A: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

    What about Dave?

    Q: What happened to Dave Blaney? It shows him losing laps and really nothing on TV. — Joe from Fresno, Calif

    A: A fifth of the way into the race, Blaney made contact with Denny Hamlin, who suffered a tire rub. It may have affected the No. 22 as well. He had a broken rear gear that put him off the track for 66 laps.

    Picking pits

    Q: Tom, I'm fairly new to NASCAR and wondered how are pit assignments made? How do they determine who pits where? — Fish from Memphis, Tenn.

    A: Teams pick their pits based on the order they qualify. If you win the pole, you get the first pick in the pits.

    Give 10 points for wins

    Q: Hi Tom, just a quick question. Why not 10 bonus points for winning in the Chase? — Nick from Montrose, Pa.

    A: I agree. There should be bonus points for winning in the Chase to discourage points racing.

    COT side effect

    Q: Isn't the whole strategy behind the COT is to make is permanently tight, thus safer? — Chuck G from La Quinta, Calif.

    A: If you mean tight in handling, I think that's a side effect, not an intent.

    Richie Gilmore recovery, rumors

    Q: Hi Tom! Have you heard anything about how Richie Gilmore is doing after his aneurysm? And is there any more talk in the garage about him moving from DEI to Red Bull next year? Having Gilmore and Mark Cronquist building Toyota engines next year would sure be an advantage for all the Toyotas! — Jo from Rock Hill, S.C.

    A: Happy Sunday! The last I heard, which was midweek, Richie Gilmore was still recovering. I don't have an update beyond that. And, yes, I've heard the Red Bull rumors, but at that point, that's all I've heard are rumors — nothing of substance.

    Chasers don't need separate system

    Q: Tony Stewart is calling for a separate points system for the Chasers. Why don't we get a system where the first guy to finish for the Chasers gets 12 and the last guy gets 1? — Bud from Faribault, Minn.

    A: Thanks for the question. This year, the reality is, it doesn't matter what the points system is, the three guys out front — Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer — have been head and shoulders above everyone else and would still be out front. Besides, why should there be two totally different point systems for NASCAR's regular season and playoffs?


    Q: Tom, help me please. Huge Yates fan here in Tucson ever since Davey Allison. I cheer for all Yates drivers. What, if any, news can help me out this winter? — Kevin from Tucson, Ariz.

    A: It's been a tough couple of years for Yates fans. The good news for next year is that they will be running cars built by Roush Fenway Racing.

    Stay tuned for Stremme

    Q: Alright, it is really starting to bother me that teams in Cup aren't giving David Stremme a look or thought. What is the point to fire David to throw open wheel guys right into the Cup Series without even thinking about ARCA guys? What about David?! — Sonya from Tomah, Wis.

    A: Welcome. I think David Stremme will land somewhere in the Sprint Cup Series in the next year or so. Even if he doesn't have a ride to start 2008, he could get a ride in midseason, when inevitably there will be some turnover.

    No qualify, no practice

    Q: Hey Tom. Let ask probably a dumb question. If a driver did not make the field, can he practice or is there a rule preventing someone like Sam Hornish Jr. from getting more seat time on a Saturday? — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: There are no dumb questions here. But if you don't make the race, you don't get to practice.

    McCumbee to Petty?

    Q: Answer Man! For what it's worth, Petty Enterprises ran in the Busch Series for many seasons. The King owned a car driven by Rodney Combs and later Dennis Setzer in the mid-90s, and then of course the team fielded cars for Adam Petty and then later for Kyle Petty after Adam's accident. Check and see what their plans are for Chad McCumbee. I've seen many rumors that he will be in a Petty Enterprises Busch/Nationwide Series car in 2008. — Chas from Toledo, Ohio

    A: Hello. Yes, you are absolutely correct about what Petty Enterprises has done historically in the Busch Series. While they are attempting to get Chad McCumbee in a Nationwide Series ride next season, it likely will be through a partnership with another team, not a Petty Enterprises car. That said, plans could change.

    Pettys in Nationwide?

    Q: I know that alcohol was always the reason Petty Enterprises would never run any cars in the Budweiser Shootout, but now that the Busch Series will no longer be sponsored by an alcohol-based product, will Petty Enterprises consider entering a car or two? — Steve from Miamisburg, Ohio

    A: Thanks for the question. I've heard nothing about the Pettys entering the Busch Series, and I don't expect them to.

    Vet to MWR?

    Q: Hey Tom! I noticed in one of your answers that MWR has a long list of drivers, and I was just brainstorming here but do think MWR could put Johnny Benson in for half the schedule and put a rookie in the other half like Josh Wise? Like DEI/Ginn did with Mark Martin and Regan Smith this year and Martin and Aric Almirola next year? — Dylan from Concord, N.C.

    A: Hello. Michael Waltrip told me last weekend at Charlotte that the team has not finalized the driver lineup or the sponsorship for the No. 00 next year. It wouldn't surprise me if that seat rotated among a couple of drivers, but the reason that Ginn and DEI did the split schedule is Martin wanted it. I can't think of a veteran who would like to run part-time in a third Waltrip car.

    Getting paid

    Q: Who pays the pit crew of the drivers in NASCAR? — Cleo from Virginia

    A: Welcome. The team owner pays the crew.

    Tweaks for 2008

    Q: Mr. Jensen, I would like to know what NASCAR's fix is for making next season more interesting to attend/watch. It's basically been a Chevy show this year with an occasional showing of the other manufacturers. Basically the Fords, Dodges and Toyotas have been racing to see who could be second. — Joe from Simpsonville, S.C.

    A: Thanks. NASCAR will make some changes next year — the Car of Tomorrow will be used in every race — and it would not surprise me to see a tweak or two to the qualifying system, but there are no adjustments I'm aware of — or even being discussed — to help a specific manufacturer.

    No primo free agents left

    Q: Hello, Mr. Jensen, how are you today? My question is how many (quality) rides are left open to be fielded by next year? The only two I can think of is one of the Haas cars and someone to replace David Reutimann after he steps into DJ's ride. Also, are there any other sought after free agents out there besides Stremme and Mayfield? Thanks for any info you can provide! — Bethany from Macon, Ga.

    A: Thanks for joining us this weekend. Of the rides that remain open, the No. 21 Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Ford might be available, as well as the No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge, and maybe a slot at Haas/CNC Racing to go with Scott Riggs. MWR already has a lengthy list of guys for the No. 00, including Jeremy Mayfield, Johnny Benson, Josh Wise and Michael McDowell. And, no, there are no primo free agents left.

    Silly Season rumblings

    Q: Hey, Tom, although I don't think Paul Menard was at fault for that pit road incident, what do you think about Tony Stewart's comments made on his radio show about John Menard buying his son a ride? Also, is it possible that if David Ragan doesn't start performing, that Erik Darnell could be the next in line for the No. 6 car? And what are the odds of Ryan Newman leaving after next year? Would he be a good fit to replace Greg Biffle should he leave? — Kenny from Cookeville, Tenn.

    A: Welcome. I did not hear Tony Stewart's radio comments, so I can't really address them. I've heard no rumblings about David Ragan being replaced, as he's run about as well as one would expect a rookie to run, especially with a virtually all-new crew. As far as Newman and Biffle, it's way too early to start speculating. An awful lot can happen between now and next spring that could radically alter everyone's thinking about staying or going.

    Implications of Kentucky lawsuit?

    Q: What is the status of the Kentucky Speedway-NASCAR lawsuit, and what implications will this have with other tracks that may want to come back, i.e. Rockingham? — Kelly from Americus, Ga.

    A: Thanks for the question. A hearing on a host of pre-trial motions is scheduled for Nov. 19 in U.S. District Court in Covington, Ky., with trial set for March 4, 2008. I don't think anyone knows what the implications will be until the case either goes to court or is settled.

    No washing trailers

    Q: With Atlanta being in such an extreme drought and under water restrictions, will this affect the race and racegoers? — Patty from Columbus, Miss.

    A: Great question. After receiving your inquiry, I contacted Marcy Scott, the very capable P.R. person at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and this is what she told me: "The only way it will impact us here is team transporters and motorcoaches will not be allowed to wash their vehicles as they normally do on our property."

    What's Hmiel's deal?

    Q: Hey, Tom, I read today that Steve Hmiel is leaving DEI, and I'm curious what his future holds and where he ends up? Could it be with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick or working at JR Motorsports? Also, why is everyone leaving DEI now? I understand Jr. leaving, but Tony Sr. and Jr., now Hmiel and I've heard Richie Gilmore is in talks to become Team Red Bull's new General Manager. Are they all leaving now cause of Dale Jr's departure? Appreciate any updates! — Dillon from Antioch, Tenn.

    A: Hello. If Steve Hmiel has a destination yet, he hasn't shared it. Obviously, we'll be following up on the story in the days ahead. Why is everyone leaving DEI now? I would imagine many felt personal loyalty to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or, it could be that guys want to work on a championship team, and since the No. 8 will have two part-time drivers next year, by definition it won't compete for a title.

    Won't farm out COT

    Q: Great job on Wind Tunnel the other night! If the COT is being designed for 1) Safety and 2) To keep the sport affordable for smaller teams, then how long do you think it will be before NASCAR farms out the chassis-building, engine-building and bodies to independent companies and just have the teams lease them? — Steve from Burlington, Vt.

    A: Thanks for the kind words. NASCAR won't farm out car building to independent companies. It would ruin the sport, and they know it.

    Menard vs. Stewart

    Q: I read on another site that Tony Stewart blames Paul Menard for the pit road incident at Lowe's. I am not really sure I understand. A driver who is trying to get to his pit has no idea which of the cars in the pits already will be trying to exit. I always thought that it was the responsiblity of the driver/spotter/crew chief to guide his car out of the pits. How could Menard have known Stewart was about to exit? However, Stewart's crew knew who had the pit stall in front of them and had the ability to see that Menard was heading in. I realize it isn't natural for a race car driver to wait after the jack drops, but shouldn't someone have told him to wait until after the 15 went by? Also, in addition to "Menard being wrong," does that mean Kasey Kahne was in the wrong too? — Justin from Waldorf, Md.

    A: Welcome to FOX. I'll make this answer short and to the point. When was the last time Tony Stewart had on-track contact and said it was his fault? The other thing is, he and Menard have some history, which I'm sure is coloring his views somewhat.

    Waiting on Regan

    Q: Has there been any word on what Regan Smith's car number/sponsor will be next year? They have announced Mark Martin and Aric Almirola in the No. 8 U.S Army car, but not for Regan. Is it just unknown or going under the radar? — Matthew from Cape Breton

    A: Hey, there. No word yet on a number or sponsor for Regan Smith. Expect an announcement within a month.

    Midyear for Mayfield?

    Q: Are there any updates or rumors on Jeremy Mayfield's options for next year? — Harry from Vacaville, Calif.

    A: Hello. The only team owner who I've heard say that Jeremy Mayfield is a candidate for his Cup seat his Michael Waltrip, who named Mayfield, Johnny Benson, Josh Wish and several other guys as people who could end up in the No. 00 next year for at least a few races next year. My guess is that Mayfield could end up as a midyear hire somewhere next year.

    Chaser vs. non-Chaser

    Q: I have a problem with Chasers thinking that non-Chasers should yield to them (i.e. the Stewart-Menard and Gordon-Jr. incidents at Charlotte). They're all racing for something, be it within the Chase or not. Perhaps NASCAR should have thought this out further before instituting the Chase format. What do you whink about those two incidents? — Susan from Newington, Conn.

    A: You get the first question this week. I absolutely agree with you that non-Chasers shouldn't just move over every time one of the top 12 drivers comes up on them. On the other hand, it's so hard to pass now — especially with the Car of Tomorrow — that I can easily understand a Chase driver's frustration if he gets held up for 30 laps by a guy 34th in points or whatever.

    Setback for Carmichael?

    Q: Tom, with all the changes recently between Ginn Motorsports and DEI, what ever happened to Ricky Carmichael, who was suppose to start racing a (Busch) Nationwide car in 2008 for Ginn Racing? Where will he race: NASCAR or Motocross? — Mary Lou from Harrisburg, Pa.

    A: Thanks for the question. Within the past week, Carmichael was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is forcing him to miss some motocross races. He is still listed as a development driver for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

    Takeover continues with COT

    Q: Tom, I finally believe that the COT will be what NASCAR needs in preventing the lopsided-type season we (most) fans are currently struggling with. So my question is will the teams with bigger budgets eventually take over the sport with the COT in the same fashion they have with the current car? I have also started seeing more driver comments about how much better the COT will make NASCAR. Thanks. — Don from Summer Set, S.D.

    A: Welcome. Will the teams with the bigger budgets eventually take over the sport with the COT? They have already! There have been 14 COT races so far. Hendrick Motorsports has won 7 COT races, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 2, Roush Fenway Racing has won 2, DEI has won 1, RCR 1 and Ganassi 1. What does that tell you? 14 races and Hendrick, Gibbs or Roush in the winner's circle 11 times already.

    First 1 1/2-mile COT race

    Q: Where will the first Car of Tomorrow race at a mile-and-a-half track be? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Hi, there. The first COT race on a 1.5-mile track will be at Las Vegas next March.

    Tagged: Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch

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