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Two Laps Down: Three Turns, Third Gear, and Tied for Third All-Time

June 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Because we’re Hall of Famers in our own mind – Scotty Wazz (from the Face Off Hockey Show) and I share our views on NASCAR each week in Two Laps Down. Here is the e-mail transcript of our latest conversation:

—–Original Message—–

From: Scotty Wazz
Sent: Sunday, June 12th, 2011
To: Todd – “Wilson!”
Subject: Three Turns, Third Gear, and Tied for Third All-Time

What a day, TB,

While he pretty much checked out after the last green flag barring the green flag pit stops, Jeff Gordon went on and won his 84th career race in the Cup series, leaving him tied for third in all-time wins in the top series with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. The crazy thing is, he wasn’t the most dominant car out there; Denny Hamlin led the most laps at what has become his favorite track to run at (though not this week) and both Kurt Busch and J-P Montoya were up there with Gordon most of the day. Heck, Landon Cassill was even at the front for a couple laps.

Was JPM only two tires away from a win Sunday...twice?

It was a pretty wide-open race, with only four cautions. But it was a great bounce-back day for a guy like Martin Truex, Jr., who got himself a top-ten finish after a pretty rough weekend all around. But I mentioned Montoya and he’s a guy who could have won this thing, but twice he took two-tires during stops and twice he was passed almost immediately. Was there some kind of method to the madness of the #42 or just a gross miscalculation which could lead to a shake-up in that camp??

But the big talk this weekend was the reintroduction of shifting, where guys would have to be on their game to actually race. Carl Edwards and the #99 decided against that, which looked to be their downfall as they had a cylinder blow up, dropping them to the bottom of the charts, 141 laps down. We only had a couple reports of an issue outside of Edwards, and that was with Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart dropping third gear during the race, leading Stewart to “thank” NASCAR for changing the gears. While you look at the top-ten and see a lot of veteran names up there, do you think that the shifting made that much of a difference??

The big focus at the start, from the crack TNT crew, were the “head games” that Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were playing with each other. So much so that NASCAR told both teams to stop the shenanigans and get back to racing; especially since the RCR crew was around Kyle during that stretch. And the thing that got to me wasn’t so much the head games, because that was fun– but the TNT crew and my distain for them already. It’s been a year since we last heard from that crew and I already can’t wait for ESPN/ABC to get the coverage. There’s something about Wally Dallenbach and Kyle Petty’s voices that just enrage me. I’m sure they’re insightful and all of that, but they get one my nerves. Your thoughts on TNT’s first race of the season and does it bug you as much as it does me??

Speaking of Kyle, he was in the spotlight after the race, being too low during post-race inspection; which has baffled the folks around the #18. While likely deductions are on the horizon, is this a case of the race track doing something to the car and not actually cheating or will NASCAR not give a pass to that squad anymore??

I’ll let you take the race-ball from here, but not before a little Gas-N-Go:

-An investor of Richard Petty Motorsports is pushing hard to get a NASCAR track in New York City. While it seems to be one of the more untapped markets out there, is this an option that NASCAR would want, especially since they have alienated a lot of fans with recent race placement decisions??

-Kasey Kahne has a sponsor for the #5, Farmers Insurance. The question now, does he start to check out now that his ducks are in a row at Hendrick or do you think he can keep his head in the game with Red Bull??

-Sprint has a contest with nicknaming Trevor Bayne. Great PR plan or recipe for silliness??

-Speaking of silliness, apparently Richard Childress is on the Twitter now. That begs the question whether or not he’ll hold back on Kyle Busch or not– but how does it feel to be the last guy without a Twitter, TB??

Passing the “mic” to you, TB– how much was the gear-shifting and issue in this race?? Could this have been different if JPM’s team didn’t make bad decisions?? What do you think about TNT’s debut?? Does Kyle get a break??

~SW

—–Original Message—–

From: Todd – “Wilson!”
Sent: Sunday, June 12th, 2011
To: Scotty Wazz
Subject: RE: Three Turns, Third Gear, and Tied for Third All-Time

That was an interesting race, Wazzman,

I literally almost fell asleep in the middle of this one, not because it wasn’t interesting to watch, but because we had that really long green-flag stretch in the early-going. Now, don’t get me wrong; I was perfectly happy with the green-flag run – I was actually more annoyed by the ‘debris cautions’ than anything – we never even saw any of the debris, so it was difficult to think NASCAR wasn’t just trying to make things more interesting by throwing the yellow a few times.

Another week, another controversy for Kyle. When will it stop??

And I’ll tell you – I don’t understand the two-tire decisions by the No.42 team at all. I mean, I understand why they were thinking about it; at the beginning of the race, a couple of guys tried two-tires and it seemed to work, so I assume that is what they based their decision on. But once they were already in the lead, I don’t get the idea of two tires at all – there was no question he was going to get passed by the guys with four tires. And then to try it again after it didn’t work the first time…it makes you totally wonder what they were thinking. A pair of four-tire stops, and JPM may have gotten his first oval-track win.

But that brings to mind the other pit-road topic of the weekend – fuel. It seems like half the garage was complaining that NASCAR’s new gas can design makes it difficult to get all the fuel in the car. Here’s the thing, and this is just me – yes, it is harder to get the fuel in the car now unless you hit the can perfectly, but is that wrong? Shouldn’t you have to be perfect to have the best pit-stop? I’m not saying NASCAR should make it artificially tough – but I like the gas can being more difficult – that way, the guys who have a harder-working pit crew will have an advantage. Agree, or no?

And I may be in the minority here, but I like the return of shifting. It is unique, and let’s face it – Pocono needs as many unique things as they can get to keep their two races. Like you said – Carl Edwards suffered because he didn’t shift, and guys like Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Marcos Ambrose suffered because they did…so, like a two-tire stop, it adds another decision – and possible consequences – to the race. And I’ll talk about the rest of the TNT broadcast in a minute, but the only good thing I heard the whole day is when Kyle Petty (aka – The Hippie) called Tony Stewart out – NASCAR didn’t tell Tony he had to shift six times a lap, Tony chose too – and he suffered the consequences of not taking car of his equipment. Overall, I liked the shifting, and based on the fact that we saw guys like Denny Hamlin and JPM up near the front, I don’t think it unfairly favored the veterans – what’d you think?

But OMG – that TNT broadcast wanted to make me bang my head against a wall. Lindsay Czarniak (while nice to look at) referred to everyone by both of their names (“thanks, Larry McReynolds, lets go to Ralph Shaheen…sound like a good idea, Kyle Petty?”), I have separate issues with Shaheen from all the motorcycle races that I have to suffer through with him doing the play-by-play, and Wally Dallenbach was lost most of the day – he thought turn 2 was turn 3 at one point and kept forgetting that Paul Menard had a speeding penalty. I’ll admit – I was starting to get a little tired of all of the Waltrip/Hammond ramblings on FOX, but TNT takes it to a whole new level. And I am convinced they didn’t broadcast more than 50 or so of the 200 laps run Sunday. Do they have the worst coverage, or what?

It will be interesting to see what penalty NASCAR hands down to Kyle for being too low (ended up being six points -ed). At a track as bumpy as Pocono, I don’t see the benefit of running the right-front low – since it just increases the chance of the splitter hitting the track – so maybe it was an accident on the team’s part. Can the Shrub get through a week without some sort of problem? I’m starting to think the dude is cursed.

Ok, Gas-n-Go:

– I totally get the idea of a New York track – there are tons of people in the area, and public transportation will make it possible to make it get to the race without spending an arm and a leg on hotel rooms. That said…if there is a track in NYC – will anyone really care? I think it would be great if they could pull it off, but I’m not sure I see it being popular.

– Man, I’d be nervous if I were Red Bull right about now. Kahne did enough to get a sponsor on paper…I’d be afraid he is about to check out – especially considering he is already 17th in the points. Do we still think the one-year Red Bull experiment was a good idea?

– Personally, I like Trevor vs. Ricky better than the nickname contest. Especially since I think there is no chance the nickname they come up with would actually stick. I would, though, like to suggest either “The Tick”, or “Spiderman” for him, depending on the source of the insect bite that sidelined him…too soon?

– HAHA – the first thing I though as I read you saying RC was on the twitter was “crap…he’s on it before me??”. Ugh…I feel so damn old. I gotta get on the tweety-page…as soon as I update my Facebook…

– Oh – is there something wrong with me because I watched about 21 hours of the 24 Hours of LeMans? I’ll admit – I DVR’ed the last few hours because I couldn’t stay awake – but otherwise I only missed it to eat and watch Cup qualifying. I think I may need to see a specialist. Mikey didn’t do too bad, BTW – his teammate almost killed a guy…literally – but Mikey held his own until his Ferrari’s clutch gave out.

Ok, Wazzman, take it away – Shouldn’t pit stops be a challenge, fuel and all? Should Tony have blamed NASCAR for his transmission going out? Could TNT be any worse? And would anybody actually go to a track in New York City (“New York City?!?!).

TB

—–Original Message—–

From: SW
Sent: Monday, June 13th, 2011
To: TB
Subject: RE: Three Turns, Third Gear, and Tied for Third All-Time

Great point with JPM, TB,

You’d think that the #42 team would have seen it at first that two tires didn’t work and then realize later it may not be the best idea. They had a fast car, had just decided to stay in for a couple more seconds– JPM may have been able to get the lead back. You have to wonder when it comes to the crew and where the confidence is at. Who’s call was it and if it was the crew chief’s– does that mean changes could be coming; either in the pits or on top of the box?? It didn’t hurt him too much, but at the end of it all; not a very good boost for JPM.

New gear ratios added another dimension of strategy at Pocono. Carl Edwards gambled on that strategy...and lost

But I agree with you on the long green-flag stretches. Sure, Pocono hasn’t been known as a place that’s exciting during the middle part of the race, but it’s usually a fun place to watch. Though, kudos to NASCAR to not close the gap towards the end of the race with another phantom ‘debris’ caution when Jeffy was pretty much in Allentown while the other guys were still in Long Pond.

Though I have to say, the shifting did throw in another attribute to the race and showed who wasn’t able to keep their hand off the shifter– and the Hippie did nail Smoke good on that– but when you have the option to do so, you’ll try to take every advantage, and like we saw with many drivers– gears started to blow-up. Then you look at Edwards, who ran a different ratio and it worked the engine too hard and blew up. It definitely puts pressure on the teams to set it up right for their driver and the driver not to screw it up when they get the set-up they like. And while I don’t think it necessarily favored the veterans, the top-ten kind of showed that it could have.

When it comes to the fuel, I’m with you that you need to be perfect….or at least screw up the least when it comes to the gas can– but at the same time, it could be an issue of safety. Now, follow me on this– and this could be way out there; one of two things could happen– first, the gas man thinks he has all the fuel out, the car pulls away and he drops the big ass can awkwardly because there’s more there than he thought and he gets injured or injures someone else. OR– same scenario, and he trickles some gas out on the pad; it ignites; and we’ve got a fire on our hands here. Sure, it’s crazy– and I’m sure they’d love to have all the shortcuts in the world– but I like to play the Devil’s advocate, because he’s really a great guy when you get to know him.

Let’s not kid ourselves– TNT was just there for NBC to play off of because Fox had FX to give the lesser races to and NBC didn’t want to ruin the “Wings” marathon every weekend on USA Network. But I have NEVER liked the TNT crew because they just seem like it’s public access with a better budget. Plus, how the hell is Larry McReynolds allowed to work EVERYWHERE?? Does he just have a contract with NASCAR and they treat it like a job placement program?? I’m just glad it’s a limited time only, if not only for the crew– but the whole Race Buddy gimmick, too– one week in and the ads are getting to me.

The crazy thing about Shrub’s deal and with other deals are really how things can pass the inspection at the top and then have the drastic change that they did. I don’t know if Shrub is cursed, but considering how much he’s popping up in the wrong ways– you may be on to something and maybe I need to get some tin-foil. But, I can’t see him getting flack for the ride height– that’s a crew issue; so it’s not AS bad, but still bad. No publicity is bad publicity though, right??

G-n-G:

-The thing with New York is that they have a better pull, like you said– but the price of staying in New York to what everything around you would cost could be the biggest turn-off rather than not caring about the track being there. People could show up in droves for whatever ones you can’t get to otherwise and it’ll give a bigger Northeastern presence, but too many negatives, honestly.

-While I think that getting Kahne in the Red Bull machine was good in theory, the ends don’t justify the means. It doesn’t seem like it’s peachy and if I’m Red Bull; I’m thinking that you need to start NOW to get that ride filled and maybe have him take over towards the end of the season.

-I don’t think that it’s too soon, I just think we’d have copyright issues. I do agree with the Trevor vs. Ricky promotion, you have to give it to Sprint to be able to corral the young, gullible kid to make this a big deal. I do like his T-Bayne nickname, because he’s always auto-tuned into the car– but if we’re going something a little more unique– I’d go with “Up”– like Trevor “Up” Bayne. It’s punny…..it’s silly…..it’s never gonna be used for more than a week….

-I just checked my Friendster page and it was disabled…..but I like the concept of Childress being on Twitter, but there’s not many things he could possibly reveal or say because NASCAR monitors that as well, so he can’t be too outrageous. Though, if you want outrageousness, twitter.com/scottywazz is the place to be….or not.

-And I don’t think it’s wrong to watch 21 of 24 hours; especially since it’s once a year. Yet damn– that was a helluva crash and for that guy to walk away from his car pretty much disintegrating is amazing and shows even those cars are build sturdy. And Mikey said he enjoyed his time and you have to like NASCAR guys going over there, even for the first time, and being respectable.

Take us home, TB– can we ditch TNT?? What can we think about JPM’s team and their future if there’s confidence?? Was the shifting rule a test in self-control for drivers?? Can NASCAR make NYC work at all?? What will your Twitter handle be??

~SW

—–Original Message—–

From: Todd
Sent: Monday, June 13th, 2011
To: Scotty
Subject: RE: Three Turns, Third Gear, and Tied for Third All-Time

I’m still tweetless, Wazz,

I was wondering the same thing about the No.42 team – for them to go two-tires twice in a row, especially when leading – it makes you think there is a confidence issue, like they were afraid that a four-tire stop would make them lose places because they can’t keep up with the top teams. When you are leading the race, though, you’ve got to take the chance – a lesson that JPM and Brian Pattie learned the hard way. At least that would have given Juan a opportunity to power his way back to the front and challenge Gordon. One way or the other, I think his performance bodes well for Indianapolis – a track where Montoya has almost won at in the past.

NASCAR moved Champions week out of NYC - are they going to make another try to put a race there?

I kind of throw shifting and the new fuel can into the same basket – they are both things that teams and drivers have to master, and by having that grey area in both – it makes things more interesting. You’ve got to be almost perfect to win, anyway, so why should it be any different in the pits or with the gearshift? I like both – it forces teams to work harder, and racing shouldn’t be easy.

And you’re right about the fuel thing – when the new cans first appeared, there were definitely issues with gas spilling out when cars left the pit box, and it still happens for some. As long as they can get that under control, I am all for it taking extra skill to get the gas in the car, for the same reasons I mentioned above.

When it comes to an NYC track, I am completely torn. On one hand, it seems so foreign to the sport, and it could just be another New York sporting event that gets lost in the mix of baseball, football, hockey, basketball, etc. But, on the other hand, it would expose the sport to a ton of new people, and it would help NASCAR escape some stereotypes – and I am all for that. I would be shocked if they could make it happen, though – with the combination of noise regulations and zoning laws, I think it would be a logistical disaster, even with the connections the RPM guys have.

I’ve been debating the past day what my Twitter handle might be. Maybe we need to open it to a Trevor Bayne-style vote. I figure TB is too short and Wilson is already taken long ago. I’m tempted to go with @pleasehireme – so I can get us a real NASCAR gig.

And a side note about LeMans – was that wreck crazy, or what? There were two like that, actually, both involving the same Audi team, and both guys walked away. The level of safety there – and in NASCAR, for that matter – is insanely good.

So, what have we learned?:

– Pocono can make you a little drowsy during a 100-lap green flag run, but shifting and pit strategy there always make things more interesting – and it doesn’t hurt when the guy who wins ties DW and Bobby Allison for third on the all-time victory list.

– While shifting may be interesting, TNT isn’t. The good news is that we only have to sit through six races with them. The bad news is that we have to sit through six races with them.

– Kyle Busch always, always seems to find a way to make things interesting…which is more than we can say for TNT

– A track in New York City (New York City!?!) sounds good in theory, but in practice…not so much.

– Red Bull Racing should be a little bit nervous right about now, because Kasey Kahne has a sponsor for next season, and he is already 17th in the points – if they are going to make a move for next season, they need to do it now, and have the driver standing by…just in case Kahne checks out entirely.

– It is official – I am the last person on the interwebs without the Twitter. If someone can suggest a halfway decent handle, I can join the ranks of the technically adept…matching Richard Childress…who is, by the way, 65 years old and more technologically current than me.

Next week – Michigan.

TB

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