The Frontstretch Newsletter: July 14th, 2009

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Jul 14, 2009, 10:26:59 AM7/14/09
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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com

The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!

July 14th, 2009
Volume III, Edition CXXVIII

Editor's Note: Our apologies on the delayed delivery of the newsletter this morning. A technical glitch caused the final product to be erased last night. Darn computers!

Top News Stories
by Tom Bowles

Danica Patrick Visits Stewart-Haas Racing

In a bit of a surprise move, Danica Patrick was spotted Monday being given a personal tour at Stewart-Haas Racing. Met by Ryan Newman, crew chief Tony Gibson, General Manager Bobby Hutchens, and several others, the IndyCar star was given a behind-the-scenes look at the team's fabrication shop, the seven-post shaker rig, and other various departments within the NASCAR facility before stopping briefly to sign some autographs for fans.

Fifth in IndyCar points, racing's most famous female is in the last year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing and is currently weighing her options for 2010. Garage chatter has narrowed it down to three specific teams should she make her way over to NASCAR: Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush/Yates (aligning with Ford), or Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Patrick had no comment on the tour and maintains her future plans won't be decided until after the IndyCar season concludes this Fall.

Menard Shopping Sponsorship

Frontstretch.com has learned that after a disappointing season driving for Yates Racing, Paul Menard and his family are surveying their options and shopping around their sponsorship package to other teams for 2010. The move is not surprising, as Menard is currently 33rd in owner points without a top 10 finish so far in 2009 after leaving the DEI organization to drive the No. 98 Menards Ford. In 94 career starts, Menard has yet to win and has collected only one finish inside the top 5, coming home runner-up at Talladega last Fall.

Both driver and sponsor are a package deal, although Menard's list of options on the current Sprint Cup landscape is rather short. Among those teams still under the pending four-car limit and with the ability to expand include Michael Waltrip Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing (extremely unlikely), Robby Gordon Motorsports (Menards has a relationship with Gordon already), Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (the team Menard left in 2008), and Penske Racing.

49 Cars Entered For Gateway

With the Sprint Cup Series taking a weekend off, the Nationwide boys take center stage with the running of Saturday night's Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250. But, as always, the 1.25-mile track outside of St. Louis won't be devoid of any Cup Series regulars. Chase hopefuls turned Nationwide championship contenders Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are among those on the 49-car entry list, along with former race winners Reed Sorenson and Kevin Harvick. Sorenson will be making his 2009 Nationwide debut with Braun Racing, taking the reins of the No. 32 Toyota usually manned by Team Red Bull's Brian Vickers.

Some other news and notes from the list this week:
- The No. 47 Toyota from JTG Daugherty Racing is entered once again, but Kelly Bires is expected to start and park the car. Ditto for another of the sport's top Nationwide-only teams, as the third Braun Racing Toyota, the No. 10, is without sponsorship and will pit immediately after the green with Chad Blount behind the wheel.
- The No. 81 Dodge continues to have former JTG driver Michael McDowell behind the wheel for a second straight week.
- Chase Miller returns to the series, as the former Gillett Evernham development drivers will man yet another start and park car, taking the reins of MSRP Motorsports' No. 91.
- Kevin Conway returns to the series once again, slapping his Extenze sponsorship on the side of Joe Nemechek's No. 87 Chevy.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Brad Coleman make one of their limited schedule of starts behind the wheel of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford and No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, respectively.

Have news for Tom and the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at ashl...@mail.com with a promising lead or tip.

Got NASCAR-related questions or comments?
Send them Matt Taliaferro's way at matt.ta...@frontstretch.com; and if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print when he does his weekly column answering back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat. Fanning The Flames returns Thursday with a whole new set of Fan Questions and Answers!

Today's Featured Commentary
NASCAR: Take Your Double-File Restarts To The Back Of The Class
Sitting In The Stands: A Fan's View

by S.D. Grady

OK folks, I’m gonna try not to rant.  It’s gonna be difficult, but I will make an effort.

Whose idiotic idea was double file restarts, anyway?  This sensation sweeping through the highest echelons of our sport seems to indicate we’ve found something new and exciting.  Well, that is just malarkey… bologna… cow pies… horse apples… choose your favorite colorful epitaph. 

Now, don't get me wrong; I am one of the dyed in the wool fans that believes in beatin’ and bangin’.  I love to see all the drivers trade sheet metal.  If a car makes it to the finish line devoid of any donuts on their door, the driver’s not doing something right.  That being said…

I am not in favor of NASCAR turning into a demolition derby for the sake of TV ratings, and that is what the infamous “shootout style" restarts are doing.  Maybe Jeff Burton did a 180 on his endorsement of this season’s big rules change when he declared, “I am about done with [double-file restarts].”  But I’ve thought this was a dumb idea right from the start.

Through the years, I came to look at our lap down on the inside system as something of a graduation gift for making it to the big leagues.  At my local short track, where Joe’s Garage is racing against a big name from Charlotte, it makes sense to have the sputtering 20th place car restart in the back of the pack.  Joe will most likely get run over by the sunglass-sporting star from the South, either by superior equipment or stellar driving.

In the Cup series, often the lap down car that used to restart next to the leader is just as fast as the leaders.  Or, even if his engine doesn’t have as many horses as the champion next to him, he does have the talent to restart next to the best in the sport.  Getting trapped in the pits, a blown tire, a blind rookie… anything may have resulted in that car going one lap down.  Why shouldn’t any competitor have the opportunity to win his lap back the old-fashioned, honest way, by outrunning the leader? 

Who said turning the race into a pair of 500-milers on the track was a bright idea?  There’s the lead lap, and then everyone else waiting to be awarded the Lucky Dog.  And if we're going to do that, well, why not just run a 100-lap qualifier and then let only the top 20 teams compete for the win… would that be better?  Or if allowing anybody to climb their way through the ranks through muscle power really bothers you, we could just cancel the race altogether and award the trophy based on the qualifying runs.  Just think!  A winner declared based on 60 seconds of speed…

The one thing that the double-file restarts have given us is bare-fisted brawls on every restart after halfway.  Since all the teams are competing for position, all bets are off and the thought of pulling a punch flying into Turn One simply isn’t contemplated.  Some may be calling these restarts great racing; but in reality, they are only great TV.

In the past, it’s been the standard gripe on the radio to hear Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart scream about the lap down cars that are in their way -- but isn’t that really the whole point of racing?  Why does it matter if it’s a team in 30th or in 3rd that’s hogging the track?  In recent weeks, it’s very clear that the stars of the sport are equally capable of wrecking -- whether they are about to win or simply making it to the finish line.

NASCAR is fooling themselves if they think banishing the lap-down cars to the back will accomplish anything.  Step after step, the sanctioning body is taking away opportunities to let the cars and drivers do what they were designed to do — race.

S.D. Grady is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com. She can be contacted at lar...@gmail.com.

Numbers Game: Lifelock.com 400
by Kim DeHaven

2
Cars dropped to the rear of the field before the start of the LifeLock.com 400.
(No. 34 - John Andretti and No. 71 - David Gilliland, both for engine changes)

2 hours, 59 minutes, 39 seconds
Time it took to complete the LifeLock.com 400.

3
Drivers who failed to qualify for Saturday night's race in Chicagoland.
(
No. 37 - Tony Raines, No. 51 - Dexter Bean, No. 64 - Mike Wallace)

4
Number of times winner Mark Martin led the LifeLock.com 400 Saturday night.

7
Caution flags for a total of 30 laps at Chicagoland.

10
Lead changes among six drivers Saturday night. 

14
Number of penalties handed out by NASCAR during the running of the LifeLock.com 400.

18th
Joey Logano's finishing position Saturday night, earning him Rookie of the Race honors for the 15th time this season.

33
Cars running at the end of the LifeLock.com 400; 19 finished on the lead lap.

39
Career Sprint Cup victories for Chicagoland winner Mark Martin in 741 starts.

43rd
Dave Blaney's finishing position in the LifeLock.com 400.  He completed just 10 laps before "losing the engine" in the No. 66 PRISM Motorsports Toyota.

133.804
Average race speed (in mph).

175
Points that Tony Stewart leads Jeff Gordon by in the Sprint Cup standings.

182
Career Cup wins for Hendrick Motorsports after Mark Martin's trip to Victory Lane on Saturday night.

195
Laps led by LifeLock.com 400 winner Mark Martin, the most of any driver.

267
Laps in the LifeLock.com 400, equaling 400.5 miles.

70,000
Estimated crowd in attendance at Chicagoland.

$317,825
Mark Martin's purse for winning the LifeLock.com 400.

$6,182,706
Total purse for the LifeLock.com 400.

Kim is co-publisher of the Frontstretch. She can be reached at kim.d...@frontstretch.com.

Think you have what it takes to write for the Frontstretch?
Are you looking for a fast-growing website that can give you an opportunity to not only share your thoughts on racing, but have FUN doing it with a group of laid-back, dedicated personnel?  Well, we have the place for you.  Frontstretch is actively seeking 1-3 additional writers for both our newsletter and website to add to our dedicated staff in 2009.  Follow this link for more information on how you can become a weekly columnist for the site and/or newsletter!

TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:

Beyond The Cockpit : Brian Vickers On Luck, Teammates, And Jumping Out Of A Perfectly Good Airplane

as told to Amy Henderson

Talking NASCAR TV: Lack Of On-Track Action Hurts All Broadcasts At Chicagoland
by Phil Allaway

NASCAR On TNT A Breath Of Fresh Air After FOX Hype
by Danny Peters

Who's Hot / Who's Not In Sprint Cup: Chicagoland Edition
by Doug Turnbull

Running Their Mouth: Lifelock.com 400
by Beth Lunkenheimer

FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:
Q.
Everyone knows Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon share the modern era wins record at 13. But who holds the record for most top 5 finishes in a single season? (Remember, the "modern era" is 1972-present)
Check back Wednesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Monday's Answer
:
Q. With 50-year-old Mark Martin's season-high four wins sparking talk of a possible title run, here's one we haven't asked in awhile ... who's NASCAR's oldest Cup Series champion?
A. Should Martin march on to the title this season, he'd become the oldest champion in Cup Series history. Right now, the record is held by Bobby Allison, who was 45 years, 11 months when he won his only Cup title in 1983.

Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee;  If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs!  If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to tri...@frontstretch.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!

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Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:

-- Top News from Phil Allaway
-- Full Throttle by Mike Neff
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!

Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:

Frontstretch Top Ten by Kurt Smith
With Jeff out on assignment, Kurt fills in for our weekly round of one-liners that looks to put David Letterman's daily list to shame.

Frontstretch Foto Funnies
by Kurt Smith
Poking fun at NASCAR superstars? It's second nature to Kurt, as he takes a look at some of the goofiest NASCAR photos from Chicagoland that should have never made it to print.

Voice Of Vito by Vito Pugliese
So far this season, Hendrick cars, chassis, and engines have dominated the sport, winning nine of the sport's first 19 races while sweeping the top 3 positions in the standings. But will regular season dominance ultimately lead to a cakewalk during the Chase? Vito takes a look as he analyzes their chances to take home the title.

Did You Notice?
by Tom Bowles
In a special midseason edition of DYN, Tom takes a look at some small stats indicating a few very big trends around the Cup circuit. Plus, a little lesson on "mystery" debris cautions, a check-in with Dale Jr. six weeks into his relationship with Lance McGrew, and more in this weekly column filled with small observations in and around the NASCAR circuit. 

Mirror Driving by the Frontstretch Staff
Are the double-file restarts responsible for the late-race carnage we've seen these last few weeks, or are drivers just getting too aggressive late in races? That's just one of several topics debated by our weekly roundtable of experts, along with Yates Racing's future and whether their struggles are associated with Ford's season-long slump.

Frontstretch Top 15 Sprint Cup Power Rankings compiled by Mike Neff
A late race tornado of wrecks jumbled up the finishing order in the Windy City Saturday night. But was it enough to cause our experts to vote your driver inside or out of the Top 15? Check in on our list of weekly rankings to see who's got the most momentum heading into that all-important race at Indy next week.
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