Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hot Topics: The Waltrip Brothers square off on Inside NASCAR about from Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson and the chase and I’ll give you my take as well including the Clint Bowyer penalty.

Last night on Inside NASCAR on Showtime, Michael Waltrip and Darrell Waltrip squared off on Hot Topics discussing a number of different subjects from Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. I thought that both of them had some good points.

However, I too as a blogger and NASCAR fan have my take on not only the three hot topics discussed on Inside NASCAR, but also the breaking news on Clint Bowyer with his chase hopes. So check out the clip and then check out my answers below to the same questions.

1. Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. finish his career at Hendrick Motorsports?
I would say yes as well, however my advice for Dale Jr. would be the opposite, I would actually say he would be better off to leave Hendrick Motorsports in a sense and go to his own race team JR Motorsports in the future with complete Hendrick support from chassis’s to engines. The reason is, is that Dale Jr. just doesn’t seem to be clicking in that big organization namely Hendrick Motorsports.

I believe that Dale Jr. is a lot like Jamie McMurray. McMurray who use to drive for Roush-Fenway Racing just wasn’t getting the job done. However when he went to the smaller organization of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix, he found success and in a big way including winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

One thing that Jamie gets at EGR is the support of people behind him starting with Chip Ganassi himself. That doesn’t mean that RFR isn’t good, but it’s that Jamie just needed a different environment. Jamie said it himself that he had only talked to Jack Roush a few times when he was there. But he talks to Chip every week. It’s the personal touch that seems to make the difference, namely chemistry.

That same type of environment might be just what Dale Jr. needs and that includes working for himself, having family and support around him like Tony Eury Sr. and Jr. and Hendrick equipment. Another explain would be look at Tony Stewart. Stewart is successful at his race team Stewart-Haas Racing.

2. Does Jimmie Johnson’s reign as the champion end this year?
For some reason or another, a lot of people hope so and Michael Waltrip thinks so. However I don’t. In looking at the chase after New Hampshire and the Bowyer penalty (which I will address in a moment), I see four contenders from Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. Plus I will even through in Kyle Busch as a wild card.

However out of all of those four-five, Jimmie Johnson is the favorite and the front runner. Sure his team is not showing signs like they did in previous years, but I haven’t seen anything that says that Johnson is out of the chase or not going to win the championship.

Sure Harvick is strong, top 5 finishes are good especially after a bad day and Denny Hamlin is on a row as well. But Hamlin still has performance issues that need to be solved first. Stewart is down in points, but not out. And of course Kyle Busch, he is a wild card at this point, but can he overcome issues with his car as well. In all four cases, none of them are as strong as Johnson. And consider this, Johnson had a wheel issue, not a major problem and is only -92 points back from Hamlin with 9 to go. He can make that up.

3. Does the chase need changing?
One word YES, let me say that again, YES. I believe that the chase is broke and needs to be fixed. The hype, headlines and talk needs to be more on the races itself, not this manufactured chase. Each race needs to mean almost the same thing, of course you can still have a playoff and promote the top 10 drivers, but those drivers can change after every race as the top 10 in points changes. No more gifts.

I say get rid of the chase and change the points system. The point system is really broken and I’m talking about changing the points not for the entire season, but in every NASCAR series. A tighter, fairer points system will make for a better and simpler points battle all year long. Of course you can’t manufacturer something, it has to play out and happen naturally even if it’s a run away. That new points system could include giving the same amount of points from 30th to 43rd and bonus points for starting in the top 5 and finishing in the top 5. More later.

Clint Bowyer penalized:
Clint Bowyer went from winning and kissing the granite strip on Sunday at New Hampshire to getting penalized on Wednesday and the loss of most of his chase hopes.

Earlier this week, NASCAR said that Clint Bowyer’s Richmond car nearly failed post-race inspection. NASCAR meet with RCR to discuss being so close to tolerances. I believe that NASCAR should just hand each team a sheet with that car’s tolerances on it if the car nearly fails and leave it at that. It’s the job of each team to push the limits to win and that includes each tolerance. With NASCAR, it’s a pass or fail deal, so why talk about close.

However on Wednesday, NASCAR announced that crew chief Shane Wilson has been fined $150,000, suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup events, suspended from NASCAR until Nov. 3 and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Car chief Chad Haney has also been suspended from the next six NASCAR Sprint Cup events, suspended from NASCAR until Nov. 3 and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Driver Clint Bowyer and owner Richard Childress have been penalized with the loss of 150 championship driver and owner points, respectively.

What this means is that NASCAR found that the body was mounted on the chassis outside of the tolerances and penalized them 150 driver and owner points. This penalty is nothing new especially a team and driver being docked 150 points and a normal penalty. However the penalty drops Clint Bowyer from -35 points behind the leader to -185 points behind the leader and in 12th spot. That is well over one race to make up on Hamlin (the current leader). I understand what NASCAR did here, they have a pass or fail deal for each car with tolerances, and the #33 RCR Chevy failed in post-race inspection back at the R&D Center. I’m not surprised with the penalty at all and NASCAR stayed consistent here. Done deal.

And Clint Bowyer’s championship hopes took a major hit and I don’t think he can make it up period.