Virtual Crew Chief Instant Analysis: Pocono

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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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  • Pocono pit selections

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    Tire-d out

    Q: After leading the race, what happened to Reed Sorenson? — Mike from Atlanta, Ga.

    A: I think Sorenson simply was on old tires.

    No news on Kyle

    Q: I fell asleep earlier...I know, I know, shocking considering how exciting this race has been. But did NASCAR tell Kyle Busch to cool it? It was pretty apparent for awhile that he was going to eventually wreck someone. — Robert from Huntsville, Ala.

    A: I haven't heard that.

    No spin zone

    Q: I firmly believe that Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun his car out intentionally so he could get the caution so his crew and change the shock. It wouldn't be the first time he spun himself out to get a caution. — Dustin from Naugatuck, Conn.

    A: If Junior did spin himself out, it was a risky move given the speeds here. It's not like when he did at Bristol. He could have taken a huge points hit.

    Owner vs. Driver Chase update

    As far as the owner's championship, yes the top 12 in owner points are seeded the same way the driver's are. But, the only team recognized in any way is the championship-winning team. NASCAR doesn't publish Chase owner points or publicize an owner's championship. In addition, the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Media Guide says nothing whatsoever about owner points or an owner's championship in the Chase section.

    Short on brakes

    Q: Did I hear that Dale Earnhardt Jr. warped the brake rotors during practice, and they had to replace them with short-track ones? — Ginger from Waco, Texas

    A: Several teams have gone to short-track brake systems here.

    Still a Rocky Mountain high guy

    Q: I know that sometimes teams run special paint schemes for certain races. I've noticed for the last three races, including today at Pocono, that David Stremme is sponsored by Target again. Did Coors Light drop their sponsorship with the 40 team? If they have, will this affect Ganassi Racing and the 40 team? — Mark from Venice, Fla.

    A: As far as I know, Coors is still a Ganassi sponsor.

    Gibbs talk was good

    Q: I'll stop asking Gordon questions now... Anyway, have you noticed how Denny Hamlin has calmed down since Tony Stewart verbally abused him at Daytona? I like Hamlin, but it did seem that he was getting a bigger head. I think the whole situation, even as stupid as it was, helped both Tony and Denny. Granted, Denny ran horribly for a few weeks, but I think he now knows his place in that organization. — Robert from Huntsville, Ala.

    A: Sometimes clearing the air does a lot of good. This one, as you said, helped both drivers.

    Kurt just quick

    Q: Is Kurt Busch that much faster today? Looks like Dale Jr. doesn't have the "oomph" to make ground to catch them. I know it's a long race, but Junior needs a good finish. — Bonnie from Michigan

    A: For now, Kurt Busch is that fast.

    Driver title is driver points

    Q: Tom, You may want to check again. Earlier in the year Nascar said anyone in the top 12 in either driver's points or owner's points would make the Chase. — Paula from Chicago

    A: No, the Chase is set ONLY by driver points, NOT owner points. It's that way now and it's always been that way.

    Gordon says he's been cleared

    Q: But, but, but... If they looked at the scoring loop previous to when Gordon was spun, how was he not in 2nd place? Is there something in the rule book that you have to be moving throughout the entire caution period, or else you lose your spot? — Robert from Huntsville, Ala.

    A: The Gordon issue is still being debated. I'm sure we'll hear more in the next couple of days about the scoring and the loops. Gordon is claiming NASCAR is looking at the loop AFTER he spun, not before. FYI, Gordon said he's been cleared to compete in both the Cup and Busch races next week at Watkins Glen. We'll see.

    Driver points, not owner points, for Chase

    Q: During qualifying on Friday Mark Martin made the comment that even though he has set out some races he is in 17th, and said by using owners points they would be in the chase because they are 10th. How would this work, Junior is sitting 12th going into the race today, would that bump him out? — Linda from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho:

    A: Thanks for the question. No owner points do NOT figure into the Chase at all. Mark Martin was just trying to show how well his team was running.

    Ambrose leading under yellow

    One more comment/question about Robby Gordon... What I don't understand about the whole Gordon thing yesterday is that he was leading the race when the caution flag came out. In fact, I had time to think, "Why are they still racing, the caution is out" before Robby was spun. What happened to the field freezing at the point of the caution? — Robert from Huntsville, Ala.

    A: Thanks for asking. When the yellow comes out, scoring reverts to the last electronic check point — called a scoring loop. Ambrose was the leader at the last scoring lap prior to the flag coming out.

    Robby ruling explained

    Q: When Robby Gordon refused to get in line where he belonged before the final restart, why did NASCAR permit the race to go green that way? Why didn't they red flag the race and remove him from the track instead of allowing him to stay there in the wrong position and deliberately take out Marcos Ambrose? — M. B. from Pinebluff, N.C.
    Q: I actually am proud of Robby Gordon. He made a clean pass on the No. 59 and then the No. 59 deliberately took him out under caution. Why no penalty from NASCAR on that? Us fans are really getting sick of the inconsistency from NASCAR. — Brian from Atkins, Ark.
    Q: Why would NASCAR suspend Robby Gordon for the Cup race? A suggestion is to suspend him and his team from the Busch Series for a long while. — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: For all your Robby Gordon questions: Fans, since we're talking about the same incident, I'm going to answer these questions collectively. I spoke with a NASCAR official who told me the reason the race was not red-flagged is that NASCAR sent multiple directives to Gordon to park, and they expected him to comply. They also thought it would be unfair to other competitors to completely halt the race. The reason NASCAR suspended Gordon today — and could suspend him for additional races — is that his action showed extremely flagrant disregard for NASCAR's authority, and that cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Gordon did make a clean pass of Ambrose, but he roughed him up pretty good earlier.

    Seeing red during practice

    Q: I understand that during a race event if there is a red flag, teams are not allowed to work on the cars either on the track, in the pits or the garage (correct?). Does this apply for practice sessions as well? — Daniel from Adrian Mich.

    A: Daniel: Thanks for being here. Unlike under race conditions, the teams are allowed to work on their cars when the red is displayed during practice.

    Drivers pay fines

    Q: With all the fines being handed out these days who pays the fines? Is it the owner of the team or does it come out of the crew chiefs pocket or the drivers pocket? Where does all that extra money go? To me all the money in the world won't change things the driver will still do what they want when the time comes. They can all afford the fines so they will keep doing it over and over again. I think they should park them for races and then you will see things change. Money I don't feel will do the job for stars like them that have plenty. You have to take something away that hurts them more and that would be races along with the points. I really enjoy your website as I learn a lot from it. Have a nice weekend and enjoy the race. — Patti from Texas

    A: Who pays the fines is up to each team, but usually ends up being the owner. And the fine money gets put into the points fun, so ultimately it goes to the drivers.

    Nothing between Kasey and Paris

    Q: Paris Hilton and Kasey Kahne? Oh wow, that's a funny one. I dont think so but do you think it will last? LOL. — Lauren from N.Y.

    A: Welcome. No, no, no!!! There is NOTHING AT ALL to the Kasey Kahne - Paris Hilton rumors. No romance at all, just an arranged publicity stunt that brought them together.

    Expanding NASCAR's borders

    Q: Why has it taken so long for NASCAR to come to Canada? Canada has a much bigger fan base than Mexico and attracts more people when they race in northern states like New Hampshire and The Glen. Just want to know why it took so long. — Matthew from Sydney, Nova Scotia

    A: Welcome to FOX. You've got to remember, it's only in the last 10-15 years or so that NASCAR's popularity has truly exploded nationally. I think they wanted to cover their bases in the United States before heading to Canada. That said, Brian France has already been to China to look at some NASCAR opportunities there, and NASCAR's also visited Europe, so the sky's the limit.

    DEI bingo?

    Q: Hey, Tom, since Mark Martin is now part of the team that owns the No. 1 that Martin Truex Jr. runs, is there anyway that they could drop No. 01, give Mark the No. 1 for the Army sponsorship and possibly give Truex the No. 14 or even the No. 8 if DEI doesn't sell or trade it to Hendrick? — Kenny from McMinnville, Tenn.

    A: Thanks for the question. Anything's possible, I suppose, though I've not heard any rumors to that effect.

    Still the same

    Q: Tom, has Mark Martin released his schedule for next year? — April from Epps, La.

    A: Hello. Mark Martin has not released his 2008 schedule, but he's indicated he plans to run roughly the same number of races next year.

    Petty Pocono turnaround?

    Q: Do you think Kyle Petty might do well and get his points back? Do you think he might move up some places at Pocono Raceway? — Kenneth from Paris, Texas

    A: Thanks for being with us. In his last four Pocono races, Kyle Petty's finished 42nd, 40th, 30th and 41st. He hasn't finished in the top 10 here since 1997. So even though Petty Enterprises is running better, he's going to be challenged to do well on Sunday.

    Tax dollars sponsor teams

    Q: I'm a huge NASCAR fan however I'm curious about the military sponsors of NASCAR teams. Realizing the rising cost of sponsorship, especially those most recently mentioned regarding Dale Jr., I'm curious if our tax dollars through the armed forces pays for military sponsorship of cars. — Tom from Sulivan, Mo.

    A: Hello and welcome. It is indeed your — and my — tax dollars that sponsor Mark Martin, and from what I learned today, the U.S. Army will be back on his car next year, too.

    Pocono-Montreal shuttle is easy

    Q: Why is the Canada race this weekend instead of the off-weekend for the Nextel? During the off-weekend, it probably could have attracted more Nextel Cup drivers. — Tom from Cincinnati, Ohio

    A: You raise a good point, but the relative proximity of Pocono and Montreal to one another makes it a fairly easy commute. Besides, it's easier to attract Cup drivers to an early season off-weekend than one in the mid-season.

    Street course for NASCAR?

    Q: NASCAR has been experimenting with the Busch Series on these new road courses in Mexico City and Canada. Why doesn't NASCAR have a street course, and have they ever thought about it because most open-wheel car series have some type of street course? — Dylan from Malden, Mass.

    A: Thanks for the question. Honestly, 1,500-pound open-wheel racers handle street courses much better than 3,400-pound stock cars. On top of that, there are huge infrastructure concerns: How do you pit 43 cars on a street course? Where do you put 150,000 fans? And on and on and on. It's one of those things that sounds good on paper, but would be hard to make work in practice.

    Ganassi focusing on Cup

    Q: Why can't Chip Ganassi Racing put Kevin Hamlin in the No. 42 Havoline Dodge in the Busch Series instead of closing the No. 42 team? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Welcome to FOX. Chip Ganassi could put Kevin Hamlin in a Busch car, but he chooses not to, because he wants to focus his efforts on his Cup team.

    Ginn layoffs explained

    Q: Hi Tom! Have you heard anything about how layoffs were handled this week at DEI/Ginn? One report I heard said that all the employees were lined up outside the Ginn building and a list of "who still has jobs" was posted on the door--only those employees were allowed back in the building. If that's how things were handled, shame on everybody involved! Ginn lured a lot of employees to his shop with big promises. They deserved a lot better! — Jo from Rock Hill, S.C.

    A: Happy weekend, Jo! Here's the skinny on the Ginn layoffs:

    Ray will rebound

    Q: What do you see happening to Kasey Kahne, Scott Riggs and Elliott Sadler next season? And do you think a merger fix will solve Evernham Motorsports' problems? — Ronnie from Raleigh, N.C.

    A: Excellent question. The single biggest thing that Ray Evernham's sale of a majority interest in Evernham Motorsports will do is allow Ray to concentrate on the thing he loves most — making race cars go fast. I foresee a strong rebound for this team in 2008.

    Breaking probation?

    Q: You hear about drivers being put on probation. What is that and has a driver ever been held out of a race for breaking the probation? — Dave from Ann Arbor, Mich.

    A: Welcome to FOX. Probation is very loosely defined and it simply serves notice that if a driver acts up again, NASCAR may take more punitive action for the next offense. To the best of my knowledge, no driver has been held out of a race for breaking probation.

    Engine agenda?

    Q: Why won't NASCAR let Dodge run the hemi engine? The new hemi was specifically designed for NASCAR, but it seems when Bill Elliott went to Talladega and tested the hemi when the times were layed down for his first 10 laps, NASCAR bans the hemi just like in 1965. Are the bodacious Bowtie and the big Blue Oval so scared of the elephant engine it has to be banned? C'mon Chevy and Ford have 20-some years of experience and track time on their engines so please tell us all the truth that NASCAR tries to keep top secret. What's the real deal on the best engine ever built? The Chrysler Hemi... — Tim from Corbin, Ky.

    A: Thanks for the question. NASCAR has parameters every bit as strict for engines as they do for car bodies. In a sense, engines are held to common templates, just as bodies are. NASCAR wants all the cars and engines to be equal and therefore not a determining factor in who wins or loses. That's the real agenda behind the Car of Tomorrow.

    Truck or Busch ride for Crocker?

    Q: Where and which team do you think that Erin Crocker will race in 2008? — Chris from Latham, N.Y.

    A: Excellent question. The fact that Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker are publicly saying she's looking for a ride tells me she doesn't have anything lined up. My guess is she'll land in a Craftsman Truck or Busch Series ride, but with who remains to be seen.

    Short fuses at track

    Q: Someone commented on the fact that during the race Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said something to the effect that he was going to "park Denny". Was there such an incident and are they friends now? — Emilee from Fulton, Miss.

    A: I'll check on that at the track, but it's the first I've heard of it. You have to remember, the racetrack is a competitive, emotional place. This kind of stuff goes on all the time, and drivers can be furious on the track and have forgotten about it by the time they get home that night. I don't think long-term there's an issue.

    DEI-Ginn in transition

    Q: What is happening with Regan Smith? As a fellow Central New Yorker, I am very interested. I'm also very interested in Tim McCreadie. A friend used to compete against his father and had many great races with Bob. — Jon from Syracuse, N.Y.

    A: Thanks for the question. A DEI-Ginn Racing transition committee is deciding right now what to do with everyone on the newly merged teams, including the drivers. I'll check at Pocono Friday morning about what's going on and will tell you what I know then.

    Kahne not able this year

    Q: As a fan of Kasey Kahne, I just dont get it. How he can win so many races last year and get a multiple number of poles and have a year only getting two top 10s? Before Indy, they said they think they got everything figured out, but it doesn't look like it. Do you have any idea what happened? Was it the tires, or just a terrible car because he was slipping back even on the first lap? — Ashley Sue from Malibu, Calif.

    A: Greetings! Folks from Evernham Motorsports told me that the team had based all of their R&D this season off some fundamentally wrong calculations made earlier this season. They thought that by going back to the 2006 car, they'd be better at Indy, and they were — in practice. But they got it very wrong in the race, and Kasey was upset that he was so far back in the field when he got caught in the crash.

    Keep owner points for top 35

    Q: Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin got the short end of the stick last week. To prevent owners from selling top 35 points, do you think qualifying should be set by driver points? It would prevent owners from selling out drivers for the money. — Dave from Allentown, Pa.

    A: Thanks for the question. No, I don't think that's a good idea at all. You know why? Because teams would then try to buy drivers out of contracts and tilt the balance of power even further. Remember when Elliott Sadler jumped ship in mid-season from Yates to Evernham? You'd see that happen regularly, and that wouldn't be good for anyone.

    Ether you do or don't

    Q: Hi Tom. I'm new to NASCAR, and I noticed a the Brickyard race that Denny Hamlin couldn't fire his car back up when he came in to pit. I saw his pit crew spraying a tiny little can at the top of his hood. I heard them say it helps them to restart the car, but what exactly is that stuff? — Holly from Niagara Falls, N.Y.

    A: Hello, Holly and welcome! The spray stuff of which you speak is ether. It helps stalled cars start.

    Tagged: Sterling Marlin, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Denny Hamlin, Joe Nemechek, Regan Smith, Tim McCreadie

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