- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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No Monster Mile for me this weekend, Six. My lovely bride took a plane north to Jersey to help her sister with our spankin'-new nephew. Thus, I'm Michael Keaton for the next four days. Pray for me, team.
This week I've slapped a few random thoughts down on paper. We'll call it Chasing Randomness
• Double-file restarts are NASCAR's Wonderbra. They take average and make it exceptional.
• Is it really that outlandish to contemplate driver eliminations during the Chase? Think about it: We'd get the excitement of Richmond three more times during the final 10 weeks. And imagine the excitement of a winner-take-all at Homestead, among four guys? Reset the points before the final race and have at it. It would make for some captivating stuff, in my opinion. Just sayin'. If we're going to continue the season into the meat of the NFL schedule, we have to do something to stay viable.
• Everybody wants something from Dale Earnhardt Jr. I'm sure he hates it, but I figure he's used to it by now after 10 or 12 years of pushing and pulling and prodding. It's part of being the face of a sport. I'm going to pile on. I want something from him, too -- something I admit is completely unfair and ridiculous. I want Earnhardt to get more ticked off. I know I'm speaking out of both sides of my mouth, too. I'm the same guy who a month ago said we as fans want Kyle Busch to be graceful in defeat. I realize that. I also know it's not in Earnhardt's nature to make a big theatrical scene when adversity strikes. But I'd hoped this time would be different. For essentially the entire season Earnhardt's team hasn't been able to hit its rear end with a 2-by-4. But at Loudon they had a top-4 car, possibly even better. So when Junior got stuffed in the fence by David Reutimann, I wanted him to get out, flail like a wind chime in a hurricane and throw his helmet at the 00. Or fly the bird. Or kick the 88 in disgust and stub a toe. Something. Now, I understand he called Reutimann out on TV, the whole "ran out of talent" thing. It's not much in his nature to trash other drivers very often, so that said something. But I'm ready for some tangible passion, fair or not. (Not, I know.) I know he cares. I'd just like to physically see how much.
• The ESPN "College GameDay" commercial with Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown, in which Kirk Herbstreit busts out the "Texas Fight" freestyle, makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. And I know what's coming. It is arguably the funniest ESPN commercial ever, along with Charley Steiner's "Follow me to freedom!" and Bobby Labonte's Pontiac being commandeered by an aardvark or a groundhog or some such mascot.
• I love Martinsville Speedway. And I love the idea of the Martinsville Hot Dog. It's the contents that concern me. That thing looks like a glow stick-in-a-blanket. I may pack a couple away when I'm there next month, just in case I happen to break down and suddenly need a road flare.
• My boy Eric Church is playing a set during prerace at Charlotte next month. Betcha a cold beer you'll find me there. Church, like me, is a Jack Daniel's guy. We are distraught over the fact that
• Jack Daniel's is leaving NASCAR. This development speaks volumes about the impact of the economic downturn in the sport. Average Joe NASCAR Fan sits right in the target demographic wheelhouse for both Jack and Beam, and yet they're still unable to get return on investment. The cost of NASCAR team sponsorship has gotten so outlandish that, to quote Travis Tritt, the whiskey ain't workin' anymore. That's craziness. I'm crushed. I love the sweet Tennessee nectar.
• Big, big scoop today, Six -- I don't know if you guys heard but Mark Martin is 50 years old. Fifty! I wasn't sure that had been noted anywhere. I also heard he really likes his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, and that he considers his team to be pretty good. Oh, and sources also tell me Martin adheres to an uber-strict workout program? Who knew?
• Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) is giving fans the opportunity to choose the start time for its February Cup show, noon PT or 4:30 PT. That's cool. Wish they'd let us vote on 300 miles versus 500, too. A 300-miler at noon sounds nice.
• Anyone who happened to catch Kurt Busch's nuclear meltdown on the radio Sunday at New Hampshire may have inferred that those types of tirades led, at least in part, to Pat Tryson's decision to leave Penske Racing. I did. And apparently I was wrong. I spoke with Tryson this week, and he swears the decision has nothing to do with Busch. It is instead based, he said, on a difference in philosophy between him and Penske, and that his opportunity for growth at Michael Waltrip Racing simply offers a better opportunity.
• A few folks asked me this week why I bothered reporting that a "spoiled millionaire" was no longer being paid. Simple: Reed Sorenson was mistreated. And I didn't like it, felt it was unjust. When you lose a lot in life, you view that which you still have very differently. And as a result some folks -- me included -- consider it best to strive for what's just and fair, futile as that effort may often be.
On that note, I'm out. The kids are hollerin'. A couple of your questions before I go
Juan Pablo Montoya is mad at Mark Martin and has every right to be. Martin is always patted on the back for racing clean, and he obviously brake-checked Montoya at the end of the race at New Hampshire. What are your thoughts? Was he dirty?
-- Sutherland Mullens, Knoxville, Tenn.
No, it wasn't the least bit dirty, Sutherland. Not that JPM's frustration isn't warranted. He got beat. When I get beat, I get ticked, too. But in the aftermath it seems Montoya settled down quite a bit, even went so far as to say Martin's strategy is great when he employs it, but stinks when it's employed against him.
And Montoya shouldn't question anyone's tactics or motives. As I recall he nearly sent Jeff Burton to Boston late in the race on one particularly aggressive dive-bomb. It's racing. Everyone just wanted to win, and was doing what it took to do so. No hard feelings.
My three greatest passions in life are the Buffalo Bills, the New York Mets and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Give me one reason why I should get out of bed in the morning.
-- Jack, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Robin Meade. Just turn on Headline News, dude.
Does Denny Hamlin really have a shot at a championship? I just don't think he's mature enough yet to stay focused long enough to win it all. Do you?
-- Arthur, Atlanta
By all means, Arthur. I picked Carl Edwards to win the championship back in February, but Roush Fenway just hasn't enjoyed the same performance level it achieved in '08. It's lost ground to Hendrick and Gibbs. So I figure Jimmie Johnson is still the man to beat. But Hamlin has everything it takes to win it: momentum, his team is peaking at the right time, fast cars and -- above all else -- confidence. Hamlin thrives on affirmation. He needs to know he's doing well to continue to do well.
With Brad Keselowski going to Penske Racing next year, do you think there is a chance that Rick Hendrick will make Tony Eury Sr. Dale's crew chief since they had such great success together when Dale first began racing in the Cup Series? Thanks.
-- Tim Larsen in Florida
No. Anything is possible, Tim, but there is no debate that Lance McGrew has earned the right to retain that position. They're making strides. The Hendrick organization is very engineering-based. There is a set manner of operation there, and Tony Jr. approached things differently. Tony Sr. naturally would, too. Both are very good crew chiefs and both have won a lot of races. It's just hard to input a non-"Hendrick guy" into the HMS equation with differing concepts and ideas.
I was watching "NASCAR Now" today and noticed your shirt collars are too big. You're a skinny guy. Take that into consideration next time you're buying shirts.
-- Cindy in Indiana
You know what they say about guys with big collars, Cindy.
That's my time, folks. Thanks for yours. Now if you'll pardon me, I have a diaper to change.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.
Marty Smith wants to see driver eliminations during the Chase the ingredients list for the Martinsville hot dog and Dale Earnhardt Jr. get more ticked off. What else is on Marty's mind?