More Junior, more Smoke and a special fondness for the No. 28 Thunderbird
Wanna know what Marty Smith is thinking these days? Our readers do. He shares his insight on Junior, Smoke and his favorite Cup driver of all time.
Updated: March 12, 2008, 2:10 PM ETBy Marty Smith | ESPN.com
Whoa huge week for me, folks. All six Door-To-Door readers stepped it up with a barrage of questions -- must have been at least two apiece. I am honored. Let's get straight to it.
Marty, Dale Jr. has to be the best story of the year so far, man. He's taken the pressure from the move to Hendricks head-on, and he's doing great! Junior Nation is loving life. DEI was awful, and anybody who thinks Junior sold out is just stupid. You have to agree, man! 88 in '08!-- Stanley Thomas Cline, Murfreesboro, Tenn.Slow down, Stanley Thomas Cline. Whoa-'er back. (Great name, man. Do you remember Earl Thomas Conley? "Holdin' Her, and Lovin' You" great jam.)Anyway, Stan, don't go anointing Earnhardt champion yet. Yes, his start is very impressive. In fact, to quell the doubters, he HAD to start this well. And, interestingly, he's done so relatively quietly thanks to Kyle Busch, a suspect oil cooler lid and a bum tire compound.An aside that sticks in my craw: Heaven forbid, I just wrote about Dale Jr. AGAIN. After last week's column about adidas, a deluge of criticism poured in, like this sterling submission on the D2D message board from a guy named dulli68: "Wow! Marty Smith with a Dale Jr. story! Who would have thought!" Great analysis, dude.Look, I get it. I write about Junior a lot. But am I alone here? Doesn't everyone? There are a million great stories in NASCAR, and we try hard to spread it out. I've written about Doug Yates and Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. and Jeremy Mayfield in this space, but Junior is ALWAYS a story. You don't see those other cats on the cover of TV Guide, do you? If Earnhardt relieves himself, somebody's writing about it. He's NASCAR's Alex Rodriguez -- THE story whether he triumphs, chokes or just goes down to the Hop In for some cream. I'm glad that's off my chest.Now, on to the most impressive story of the year thus far from my seat: Brian Vickers. After an awful first season with Team Red Bull, The Sherriff came out guns a-blazin' in Year 2. In 2007, he failed to qualify for two of the first four races. This year, he's made them all -- from outside the top 35. I asked him recently to describe the pressure involved in having to qualify on speed every week. "I don't think I can," he said. "I'm not sure anyone can."It doesn't look like he'll have to worry about that much this time next week. Heading to Bristol, where he's always performed well, Vickers is ninth in points and on his way to earning a guaranteed starting position among the top 35 for the first time in Team Red Bull history. And he's not settling for just making races, either. On average this season, he improves 21 positions in each start, and last weekend at Atlanta marched from 35th to ninth. And Vickers in on my fantasy team. He was the 26th driver of 40 taken in my league draft. I stole him, folks.Marty, Is it the tire, or the car [lack of downforce] or both? Thirteen cars on the lead lap at the finish is not a competitive race. Junior put at least 17 cars a lap down on his initial run. It looks like you have to run the setup you start with, because very few cars improved once they finally got to where they could in the racing order [first through 43rd]. I still think Kyle says it best, "The car sucks!" Yes, it's safer and that is great, but the engineers set it up, and the one who hits it best wins. OK, I guess if you like F1.-- Dave Norris, IdahoWhen Tony Stewart lambasted Goodyear for its "pathetic" effort at Atlanta, this instantly became the issue du jour for NASCAR fans, by a substantial margin. (Suddenly, folks didn't care so much about how oil coolers work.) Dozens of questions and comments filtered in about tires. Fact is, Dave, it's not all on Goodyear.
AP Photo/John BazemoreWhy does Dale Earnhardt Jr. get so much ink? Because he can.
It's not Goodyear's fault that NASCAR implemented a new car, thereby rendering years of tire data obsolete for everyone. It's not Goodyear's fault that, in the past, teams pushed camber settings and air pressures far past Goodyear's recommendations and (shocking!) blew tires. But that doesn't mean Stewart doesn't have a point.
with Marty Smith
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