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Mailbag: Thoughts on Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Field Fillers

Updated on August 21, 2013

With the Chase approaching and the NFL still in its pre-season, NASCAR has been center stage for the past month. A number of different topics have sparked discussion on email and in the comment boards and as the end of August approaches we look back at some of the recent news and opinion from the world of NASCAR.

Reader Comment - NascarMomma

  • "Are you kidding me? I love the fact that Kyle calls it like it is. Kyle is not a moron...or out of touch. He voices what a lot of fans think...and what every other announcer won't touch. I all I can say is "keep it up, Kyle" I love it!"

Hamlin called Petty a moron. Many NASCAR fans though Denny should've just left the issue alone
Hamlin called Petty a moron. Many NASCAR fans though Denny should've just left the issue alone

This was a common theme of reaction to the Hamlin/Petty verbal sparring over the Pocono race weekend. The polls attached to the article showed that while 61% thought Hamlin should have ignored Petty's comments, 60% thought that ultimately Petty was in the right. He's picked fights with both Hamlin and Danica Patrick this year but what he's said hasn't been far off base. Petty also got a lot of support for his charity work through the Victory Junction Gang camp. Anything that brings more attention to that cause is worth the time.


Whether Petty truly is what he's perceived to be is another matter entirely. It's ironic that Petty, the ultimate NASCAR insider, is viewed as someone who speaks what's on the minds of many NASCAR fans. Petty is NASCAR royalty and little he says or does now will change that. He would do well to focus more the pulpit he's been given and less on stirring the pot.

Highlights of Denny Hamlin-Kyle Petty Feud

Newman and Borland's relationship goes back long before their current partnership at SHR
Newman and Borland's relationship goes back long before their current partnership at SHR

Reader Comment - DSM

  • “...it's been 5 or 6 years since Matt (Borland) was a crew chief. New Gen 6 car and Zippy telling everyone they were behind on getting all SHR the right equipment. They started this year with a young, inexperienced team whose trying to work out the bugs.”

Newman celebrates at Indy with one of his daughters
Newman celebrates at Indy with one of his daughters

It's hard to say just what exactly has been the issue with Newman at Stewart-Haas Racing. The match seemed to make sense given Newman and Stewart's Indiana backgrounds and similar desire to run up front. Yet with his fifth season more than half over, Newman has not lived up to the team's expectations. Four wins in five years is not going to cut it. Neither is twice in five years with a high finish of ninth place. The results do not justify the investment Tony's making. It doesn't help Newman's cause that if someone who identifies themselves as a good friend is cutting Newman loose, why bring him aboard?


That investment may also include the amount of time SHR has spent trying to get the car sponsored. The side of Newman's #39 car has been a revolving door of sponsors during his tenure at SHR. That's not all Newman's fault; Stewart launched his team during the worst economic period in decades. But the fact remains that the team has had to work extremely hard to fill Newman's sponsorship void and still ended up running it unsponsored (or sponsored by Haas Automation, which is essentially the same thing) for a number of races.


Those issues aren't “bugs” and they are not limited to the Gen 6 car. Bringing Borland aboard sooner may have helped but the core problems remain.


Reader Comment - Smoke14

  • “I think you're looking for the answer to a problem that doesn't really exist. The low budget teams need to start somewhere, and if a few start and park races gets them the funds to put a full race together, so be it.”

Ken Schrader's runs for FAS Lane Racing may not end in victories but they're no start and park operation
Ken Schrader's runs for FAS Lane Racing may not end in victories but they're no start and park operation

The answer to this is all in how you view the issue of start and park teams. My perspective on the issue is that start and park teams present a competitive hazard to the teams actually trying to run the race. This is particularly true on tracks where passing is at a premium such as the Watkins Glen race two weeks ago. Sure, a team that's starting deep in the field can use pit or fuel strategy to try and make up lost ground. But as a fan, I want to see races won on the race track.


There's also two different kinds of field filler. The first are cars like Ken Schrader's runs for FAS Lane Racing. They go into the race knowing that their equipment is several steps below that teams like Hendrick are running. Unless several different levels below freeze over, they have absolutely no chance at victory. Yet they compete. They have a pit crew, they've got the money to refuel the car and change the tires. They might come in 32nd but it's not because they quit due to a “vibration” at the 40 lap mark. The finishes fund their ability to come back and try it again down the road. These teams are true racers in my mind and I would never want to see them prevented from making the field.


The second kind of field filler is the true start and park. In the article, I called out one of the worst examples of this in Michael McDowell's runs for Phil Parsons Racings. Over the last two years, McDowell has started 50 races and finished five of them. This year, he's dropped out before lap 100 in 16 of 20 races. This is a team who shows up to collect a paycheck; they've got the hauler packed up before the checkered flag flies. They're like the fan who leaves halfway through a sporting event to “beat the traffic”. There's no effort to be competitive and no attempt to do anything more than they've done for two years. It's this kind of team that I'd like to see less of in NASCAR's future.

Reader Comment - Harry

  • "This smacks of Socialism. If start and parks are not ok then perhaps Nascar can build , fund and sponsor the slowest 18 cars if it is so lucrative . I mean just how much money has Nascar lost in the last few years?"

Junior Johnson left NASCAR because his single car team couldn't keep up with the larger outfits. Wouldn't it be worth helping others like him get in the sport instead of getting out?
Junior Johnson left NASCAR because his single car team couldn't keep up with the larger outfits. Wouldn't it be worth helping others like him get in the sport instead of getting out?

There were multiple cries of “socialism!” in response to my suggestion that NASCAR make some resources available for slower teams. NASCAR was built on a foundation different from other professional sports leagues; its teams do not receive a direct share of the annual television revenue. In fact, up until 2001 the individual tracks themselves would negotiate deals for the TV rights to their race. This led to a hodgepodge of races scattered across several networks. NASCAR would be on CBS one week then TNN the next followed by ESPN the following. While this made little sense it was in line with the individualist streak that runs deep in NASCAR culture.


I don't want to see NASCAR essentially sponsoring these lower teams but neither do I want to see a permanent racing underclass. Teams that are looking to take the next step up the ladder should receive some support. Whether that's discounts for fuel and tires at the track or access to equipment for testing during the week, those items help teams get to a level playing field with their competition. If they take that help and still park 40 laps in- or are still doing the same thing two or three years down the road, then cut off the support.


NASCAR has lost touch with many of its signature team owners over the financial piece. Legendary owners such as Junior Johnson and Bud Moore are long gone because they were unable to keep up with multi-car teams. James Finch is leaving after 20 years in the sport for the same reason. Former drivers like Ricky Rudd, Geoff Bodine and Darrell Waltrip got out of the ownership game after promising starts all over money. NASCAR needs to do something to keep this foundational people from leaving the sport. A little help isn't socialism; it's good business sense.


What NASCAR needs most is more competition. In order to get that competition, the sport needs more teams. There are many out there with the brains and the talent to field a successful NASCAR team. But the up front costs involved are staggering and the costs to become competitive are even higher. More people might be inclined to give it a try if there was help available along the way.

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