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QUESTIONS & ATTITUDE Compelling questions ... and maybe a few actual answers
HOT TOPICS: 3 ISSUES GENERATING A BUZZ
A couple questions we had to ask — ourselves
Getty Images/JARED C. TILTON
Here’s a hunch: This car will win a race. Richmond or Talladega. Which track do you like best? GODSPEAK: Every time I went to Talladega, I got goose bumps. Guess I’m a ’Dega man. KEN’S CALL: Richmond is a purer race, Talladega is more edge-of-seat. I’m a Richmond guy.
When does Jimmie Johnson start getting nervous about finally winning a race? GODSPEAK: JJ should have at least three wins by now, but circumstances have denied him. He’ll get his fair share. KEN’S CALL: If he hasn’t won by the next time NASCAR returns to Richmond, that should do.
ONLINE EXTRAS news-journalonline. com/nascar facebook.com/ nascardaytona
FEEDBACK Do you have questions or comments about NASCAR This Week? Contact Godwin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ken Willis at ken. email@example.com
CUP POINTS Jeff Gordon Matt Kenseth Carl Edwards Dale Earnhardt Jr Jimmie Johnson Kyle Busch Brad Keselowski Joey Logano Ryan Newman Austin Dillon Greg Biffle Tony Stewart Brian Vickers Kyle Larson Denny Hamlin Clint Bowyer Marcos Ambrose Paul Menard AJ Allmendinger Jamie McMurray Casey Mears Kevin Harvick Kasey Kahne Aric Almirola Ricky Stenhouse Jr Kurt Busch Justin Allgaier Martin Truex Jr Danica Patrick David Gilliland Reed Sorenson David Ragan Cole Whitt Michael Annett Alex Bowman Josh Wise Travis Kvapil Parker Kligerman Ryan Truex Michael McDowell Bobby Labonte Jeff Burton Terry Labonte
this one wonderful exception from Aric Almirola, who drives the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. “I had a friend in high school that had a Cobra Mustang,” Almirola said. “I had an old, ratty pickup truck, and he let me drive that Mustang. He let me drive his Cobra and we put black marks around the street of our high school everywhere. I mean everywhere. That was a lot of fun.”
YOU ARE RIGHT If you think Cup racing is better this year than 2013, you are statistically right. Here are some quick comparisons. Leaders per race: An average of 12 compared with 8.6 last season. Lead changes per race: 25.6 this year, 17.4 in 2013. Total greenflag passes: 29,541 in 2014, just 23,178 in 2013. Green-flag passes for the lead: 346 this year compared with 181 last season.
Getty Images/CHRIS TROTMAN
Look at Mr. Social Media. Junior has taken to Twitter in a big way, but knows when to pull the throttle back.
Momentum is only as strong as your next set of tires. Financially, it’s only as strong as the next check in the mail. The latest example comes courtesy of Swan Racing, which would rather not be the current Exhibit A. The two-car team was riding high in February when both drivers — Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman — made the Daytona 500. Now: Layoffs and uncertainty. You can’t compete without money, and you rarely attract money unless you run well. Tough bind.
What in the world are the Cynopsis Awards? Not sure, but Brian France owns one. France received the “Vision Award” at last week’s Cynopsis Sports Awards in New York City. Rick Hendrick was there to do the presenting and tell everyone: “With all the stakeholders involved in our sport, it takes a leader who is willing to stand tall. Brian has revolutionized the sport of NASCAR.”
No, I think it’s based on technology. The press release indicates the award “recognizes the executive of the year from a sports league or organization who has demonstrated innovation and transformed an industry.” In other words, if some teams are still struggling to compete financially, don’t blame the Boys in I.T.
Ford asked several of its drivers to recall their favorite memory in a Mustang, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of production this year. Most of the responses were politically correct, with
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What happened to momentum in auto racing?
So it’s based on height?
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. got on the Twitter bandwagon after winning his second Daytona 500 in February. He had an account set up years ago but activated @DaleJr on Twitter after that huge victory. But he has not become addicted to social media, like many others in the sport. Earnhardt pops in and out, now and then, here and there. Earnhardt did say he took a peek after his fiery wreck at Texas Motor Speedway a few weeks back. “I guess Twitter can be a help in a situation like that,” Earnhardt said. “My fans certainly have my back and tell you to ‘brush it off, don’t worry about it.’ I’m sure there are some people on there saying the opposite, but I didn’t see many of those or any of those.” Earnhardt, who is introspective and pragmatic, said Twitter, like most anything in life, has a “positive and a negative” to it. “I didn’t really spend a lot of time on Twitter (after Texas) because we were working at Michigan,” Earnhardt said. “We had some things to do. Twitter is a bit of a playground, and I don’t want to horse around if we are not doing good. “I don’t want to be on there goofing off and making light of the situation because it was a frustrating mistake. It was something I don’t take very lightly. Just being able to get back in the car and test at Michigan was a big help for me to get past it and to get focused on the next race.” So the Twitter takeaway is this: If Earnhardt is racing well, you might see him tweet a bit. If he’s having a bad weekend, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is likely off the grid.
Getty Images/TODD WARSHAW
This isn’t what Parker Kligerman had in mind for 2014.
Ken Willis has been covering NASCAR for The Daytona Beach NewsJournal for 27 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
FEUD OF THE WEEK
Kurt Busch vs. Clint Bowyer: It’s been two weeks, but if you recall, Bowyer knocked Busch out of the race at Texas and created some major ill will between the drivers. Godwin Kelly gives his take: “The question is: Has Busch cooled down after an off weekend, or has he been plotting his revenge for Richmond?”
WHAT’S ON TAP?
GODWIN’S RICHMOND PICKS Godwin Kelly is the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s motorsports editor and has covered NASCAR for 30 years. Reach him at godwin. email@example.com
Winner: Matt Kenseth Rest of the top five: Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski Dark horse: Aric Almirola
Disappointment: Jimmie Johnson First one out: David Ragan Don’t be surprised if: Kenseth breaks through to win his first race of the 2014 season.
SPRINT CUP: Toyota Owners 400 SITE: Richmond International Raceway SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (Fox Sports 1, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.), qualifying (Fox Sports 1, 5:10 p.m.). Saturday, race (Fox, coverage starts at 6:30 p.m., green flag at 7:14 p.m.). NATIONWIDE: ToyotaCare 250 SITE: Richmond International Raceway SCHEDULE: Friday, race (ESPN2/ ESPNews, 6:30 p.m.)
WEEKLY DRIVER RANKINGS — BASED ON BEHAVIOR AND PERFORMANCE JUNIOR EARNHARDT Got Junior Mints in Easter basket
JEFF GORDON Finishes sixth at Richmond
KEVIN HARVICK Middle name is Michael
KYLE BUSCH Tip your cap to this week’s winner
MATT KENSETH Doesn’t even know baseball season started
CARL EDWARDS Hey, his middle name is also Michael
JOEY LOGANO Definitely got an Easter basket
TONY STEWART Hometown pop. (Columbus, Ind.): 45,429
JIMMIE JOHNSON His win comes next week (maybe)
RYAN NEWMAN Middle name ISN’T Michael
DARLINGTON REWIND MUST PRESENT COUPON
Carl Edwards on the emotions of flipping out after a win
FREE Tire Rotation*
The NASCAR media last saw Carl Edwards during the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. In the days leading up to the race, Edwards talked about the thrill of visiting Victory Lane. Edwards has 22 career Sprint Cup Series triumphs since 2005.
much work and that Victory Lane is what it is all about.”
Is the back flOil ip going Change to continue? with any Regular “I plan on continuing the back flip. I wasn’t so sure at
Bristol and I don’t practice it very often. When we win a race I get about 100 yards past the finish line and start thinking about if I should do it. When I get out of the car and see how pumped the crowd is — and my guys — it makes it easy to do a back flip.”
think Jack is still mad about me tearing up that race car. Other than that, I think anything that happens in Victory Lane is OK.” After you cross the checkered, is it all pure emotion? “I think every race is different, and for me it has changed over time. It used to be surreal and I couldn’t even believe I had won the race, and I still have to ask (spotter) Jason Hedlesky if this is really over. There is always a little bit of that, and as time has gone on, I feel a little bit differently about the wins. It feels more satisfying for my guys and for all my sponsors and for everybody that puts all the work in. Every race is different, though. There are some races I can’t remember anything other than the checkered flag, and that’s about it, because it is so intense.”
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Do you put any thought into what you are going to do when you climb out of the car in Victory Lane? “Victory Lane is so much fun. It is just cool. The hard part about Victory Lane is when you are sitting in the car Have you ever had a bad experience in Victory Lane? and they tell you to wait and you can’t get out yet but you “I have never had a bad experience in Victory Lane, but I want to jump out and celebrate with the crew and there is don’t know if you remember that All-Star race when I tore all this buildup and finally the TV folks say it is OK to get that car up after we won. That wasn’t too cool. I didn’t feel out of the car. It is so cool when you turn and look and *EXCLUDES DUAL WHEEL VEHICLES EXPIRES 5/31/2014 too good about that. The win made up for it mostly but I see all your guys and how excited they are. They put in so
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