- Marty Smith, ESPN
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Every time Pat Green shows up, insanity ensues. Projectile beer cans and angry policemen and dudes losing their ever-loving minds. Just make sure there's gas in the truck.
I am a HUGE BV [Brian Vickers] fan and in turn I am a huge Red Bull fan. With that being said, why would Jay Frye even think about leaving with everything he has accomplished at Red Bull in this short time?
It cannot be for money because I believe Red Bull has more money than Tony Stewart. Have you heard anything more than the article you wrote on Sunday?
-- Natalie, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Simple, Natalie. Rick Hendrick. Frye's relationship with Hendrick reaches far beyond mere business. They have deep respect for one another, personally and professionally.
They've had a symbiotic business relationship for 12 years, from MB2's chassis-and-engine lease program to making room for Jerry Nadeau and Joe Nemechek in the No. 01 Chevy when they departed Hendrick's No. 25.
Hendrick Motorsports will provide chassis, engines and technical information for Stewart-Haas, just as they have for Haas/CNC since its inception -- and just as they provided to MB2/Ginn during Frye's tenure as GM there.
Frye has done amazing things at Red Bull, and he's very happy there. Otherwise this decision would be simple. He has had to crunch budgets and pinch pennies his entire career as an executive. Now, for the first time ever, he has Red Bull money and Toyota support. It's kid-in-a-candy store stuff for Frye right now.
And he loves Vickers, too, considers him a little brother of sorts.
This isn't about money. Red Bull can make a very enticing offer. But Frye is the perfect man to run Stewart-Haas Racing's day-to-day operations. He's a racer who has seen the business from virtually every angle and would offer Stewart the autonomy to focus on the No. 14 Chevrolet.
That is paramount for Stewart.
Song of the Week: Going back to the well this week for my man Eric Church -- the dude can flat-out write: "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag."
"They say country's fading, but we're still wavin' that flag, 'round here..."
Observation from the couch: It's high time NASCAR implemented double-file restarts, with the leaders running side-by-side rather than lined up nose-to-tail. Now, I understand it would take some -- and maybe considerable -- sorting out, and would probably be a pain in the keister for NASCAR scoring to get them all lined up correctly. Robin Pemberton and John Darby would hate it.
But with the Lucky Dog rule, the practice of nose-to-tail restarts for the leaders is antiquated. No one is getting his lap back on restarts anymore, anyway, so why not race like hell every time the green falls?
Fans would love those drag races into Turn 1. I know I would.
I live in Richmond and have been going to races at RIR since I was 4 years old. I'm 37 now. Here's why I'm writing you: You need to settle a debate between me and my friends from work, who happen to live in another NASCAR city [Charlotte].
They don't think Richmond should have the final race before the Chase. They think Lowe's or Bristol should. They're so damn hard-headed we had to turn to The Six. We need you to settle this fight. It's been going on now for three years.
-- Ronnie Summerset, Richmond, Va.
This is a fine debate, Ronnie, because so many different factors are involved. The deciding track must meet several criteria, namely three hours of thrilling competition for fans and options for the competitors.
One-groove racetracks and strung-out fields won't cut it.
This is going to read like a commercial, but bear with me for a moment: Richmond is probably the best racetrack in NASCAR. Speedway speeds; short-track havoc. As fast as Usain Bolt and as racy as Sharon Stone with more passing than a family-style meal.
(Good commercial, huh?)
RIR has always provided great competition, but when NASCAR implemented the Chase, Richmond was reborn. Richmond suddenly meant something completely different.
Richmond meant Judgment Day.
Elliott Sadler, Mr. Virginia, said it well Tuesday: The Chase "makes Richmond a top-three or -four race in the season because everyone is focusing on this one race -- who's in and who's out -- and it seems like every year of the Chase, the top 12 haven't been set until after this race.
"We've had a lot of dramatic finishes and situations that have happened in the past that keep making this race such a big focal point of the season. I think that it's a great racetrack for that; it's a good racing track. Things can happen pretty quickly there; I think it's a really good racetrack to have the last race before the Chase starts."
There you have it, Ronnie. And while it's easy to infer that Sadler's Virginia bias is speaking, that may not necessarily be the case. He's not so good at Richmond. In fact, this is a guy who claims he "needs a Garmin" to get around RIR. Funny.
Lowe's is a great racetrack, the best in the world by Mark Martin's count. (And likely Jimmie Johnson's, too.) And Bristol? Amazing -- and reborn in its own right after Busch/Edwards. But Richmond is it, the perfect place for Judgment Day.
You picked Jimmie Johnson at the beginning of the season to three-peat. (Way to stick your neck out, genius). And then, even after Kyle Busch won all those races, you stuck with Johnson on NASCAR Now during one of the Monday discussion shows. My girlfriend loves JJ and remembers all this.
So I'll give you credit for not flip-flopping, and you're looking pretty smart to some people right now. But not me. Johnson doesn't have it, Marty. You have to be consistent in the Chase, and Johnson isn't consistent. Busch has it this year. He is going to win the championship and you will eat crow. And I can't wait to remind you!!
-- Ally Linkous, Cornelius, N.C.
Whoa, Ally ... get a Tall next time. Skip the Venti ...
Now, about Johnson. I knew it would take a while for him and Chad Knaus to sort out the new car on intermediate tracks. Truth told, the No. 48 was mediocre on those types of tracks during the first third of the season. It's not every day Johnson looks average. But I knew they would eventually sort it out.
Knaus is obsessive. It's a man-over-machine thing for him. He won't let the race car outsmart him. He won't sleep if it is. So he and Johnson and the HMS test team skipped vacations and tested at every available opportunity.
Both can probably claim residency in Sparta, Ky., in 2008.
This championship Chase is going to be thrilling. Busch looked average for the first time all season at Fontana. Everyone misses the setup from time-to-time, and it won't happen again for the No. 18 bunch. And Carl Edwards is dialed in, too. The Chase is overrun with intermediate tracks, and those three teams are the very best at those tracks.
I'll stick with Johnson -- no reason to change now.
Cornelius? Ally, you live a 3-iron's distance from me. Why didn't you just come over to the Rusty Rudder on Sunday and have this debate?
Did you enlist? What's up with the Army cut man? Did you piss off the barber?
-- Sam Hairston, St. Louis, Mo.
It's my own fault, Sam. I walked into the Great Clips and told my girl Katie to chop it all off. She certainly took heed. But, man, I didn't realize she sheered me into Jeff Burton's twin until it was far too late.
I look like a Flowbee ad.
Fear not, though. The faux hawk will return in very short order. My hair grows like kudzu at BALCO.
D2D Chaseology -- Richmond
CHANGE IN THE AIR: Last season marked the first time the Chase lineup entering Richmond saw no one drop out:
• In 2004 Jeremy Mayfield jumped from the 14th points position to 10th by way of a rousing charge to Victory Lane.
• The following year saw Kasey Kahne venture to Richmond 30 points behind 10th-place Jeff Burton and 75 points behind eighth-place Tony Stewart. Kahne's third-place run nearly nipped Burton, who finished ninth, and ultimately supplanted Stewart, who came home 18th.
• And last year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rolled into Richmond in 13th position, 128 points behind 12th-place Kevin Harvick and 141 behind 11th-place Kurt Busch. Any drama was fleeting, however, as Junior limped home 30th while Harvick and Busch finished seventh and ninth, respectively.
That brings us to the what-if scenarios...
VIRGINIA IS FOR SHOVERS: At Richmond in the spring, Kyle Busch's banzai run at Earnhardt handed victory to Clint Bowyer, who hung around in the top five all night and reaped the benefits of key positioning. Bowyer will need a similar effort to maintain his Chase position this season.
He is just 17 points up on David Ragan -- arguably the season's biggest surprise. He finished third in this race in 2007. And don't forget about Kahne. He's just 48 points out of 12th and is one of the best drivers in the Sprint Cup Series at Richmond.
(I should have marketed the "Virginia is for Shovers" theme to track president Doug Fritz. Would have made some fine billboards and T-shirts. Just the latest missed opportunity for me.)
SCHOOL OF HARV KNOCKS: Kevin Harvick deserves mention. The No. 29 left Indianapolis in 13th place, two points outside of Bowyer in 12th. In the five races since, Harvick has been outstanding, posting finishes of fourth, sixth, eighth, fourth and fourth at Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol and California.
And, as always, he'll be a threat to win at Richmond.
Why not have special paint schemes for the 12 Chase drivers? Maybe yellow numbers and side skirts, or just a decal, to remind the other drivers and sell some die casts. What do you think?
-- Adam, Buffalo, N.Y.
I think you have a future at Motorsports Authentics, Adam.
I have heard a lot about "crabbing" the car this season. What exactly is that and how does it help the car go faster?
-- Greg Martin, Knoxville, Tenn.
Crabbing is a layman's term for yaw, Greg. In racing, yaw is an engineering method of rotating the rear-end housing a bit to create a dog-tracking-type motion for the car. The reason this is done is to create side-force in the hope that the car will turn better through the corner.
I asked a crew chief if that explanation was correct. His response, "Close enough for a media guy." Hilarious...
You had a question about a photo-finish tie last week. It has happened, but not for first -- for third. Ask NASCAR about the 1974 Firecracker 400: Buddy Baker in Bud Moore's Ford and Cale in Junior's Chevy came across the line even, and the photo showed no advantage to either. In the record books they are both credited with finishing third. Pearson won with Petty second.
-- Randy, New Bern, N.C.
Randy, great call, man. You're all over it. Here's the rundown from that day:
That's my time this week. Yes, I'm aware the Hokies lost. Thanks for the 300 reminders.
My son starts preschool today. He looks adorable. I've taken only 1,700 photos this morning. See y'all in the Commonwealth.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.
15dTom McKean, ESPN Stats & Information