NASCAR America: Is NASCAR ‘dumbing down’ the sport for ‘parity’?

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NASCAR will see a number of changes in 2018, from Dale Earnhardt Jr. being officially retired to an even greater presence of young drivers.

There’ll also be rules changes, particularly the number of crew members that will be allowed over the wall to service race cars. One of those changes will include gas men being unable to do anything else but just fuel cars (in the past, they’ve been able to make adjustments and help out their fellow crew members, if needed).

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty all gave their thoughts on the new rule changes, particularly the over-the-wall limits.

Here’s some of what they had to say:

LETARTE: “Going from six to five, in my opinion, I’m not a fan. I don’t like it. I liked pit stops better than there were seven (over the wall members). While parity is the goal and while the rules should be in place to give every team the opportunity to go out and compete, I don’t see how limiting the number going over pit road is helping this at all.

“Now there is no argument over safety. Less people over the pit wall is safer, there’s no argument. But going from six to five and basically making the gas man only the gas man, means the other four have to be the most elite athletes, the best of the best, and I don’t think that creates parity.

“If anything, I think it’s the opposite. I think that the biggest teams, the ones with the deepest pockets, the ones that can get the best of the best, the Tom Brady’s of tire changers or jackmen, will have a distinct advantage. If anything, I think this separates the playing field more than it levels it.”

JARRETT: “I just see this as being something I’m not going to be a fan of. We’ll see how it works out. NASCAR has done a lot of good things to enhance the competition over the years, but every year we seem to get in a cost-saving mode, these owners are going to spend whatever it takes and some people will probably make better money because of this.”

PETTY: “There’s been lots of innovations on pit road, and almost always when a change is made on pit road, it’s for safety. You’ll never hear me arguing about safety. … This is 2017, 2018. This is the way the game is played.

“But the problem I have for this announcement is parity, to change the sport and make it equal. We’re dumbing the sport down. We’re taking Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing have worked their rear ends off to develop (air) guns and things and to be better, now we’re saying, ‘That team over there, they can’t do that, so guess what, you don’t get to use it this week.’

“(That’s like) the Patriots play and the other team’s quarterback doesn’t have the same quarterback rating as (Tom) Brady, Brady doesn’t get to play because we’re just going to dumb the sport down so we play it to the lowest common denominator.

“That’s my problem with parity. We should not have it. It’s up to the teams to go out and know how to win, to work towards winning. It’s not NASCAR’s job, and I’ve never felt to make me a winner. … If I can’t do it, that’s life, dude. I go out of business. That’s life in the coffee, farm and grocery store business. It’s not their (NASCAR’s) job to equal the field. It’s my job as an owner or driver to put the right people in the right places to go out and win races.”

For all that Petty, Letarte and Jarrett had to say, check out the full video above.

Front Row Motorsports adds Michael McDowell, expands technical alliance with Roush Fenway

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Front Row Motorsports will field entries for David Ragan and Michael McDowell in 2018 while expanding its technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, the team announced Thursday.

McDowell joins the Bob Jenkins-owned team after four years of driving the No. 95 Chevrolet for Leavine Family Racing before being replaced by Kasey Kahne.

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, replaces Landon Cassill as Ragan’s teammate.

McDowell, 32, has 249 Cup starts since 2008, but only two full-time seasons under his belt. He made one start for Front Row at Watkins Glen in 2013.

“Since I first drove for Bob at Watkins Glen, we’ve kept in touch and have felt like there might be an opportunity to work together again, and the timing worked out perfectly,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a teammate, so I’m really looking forward to working with David, whom I’ve become pretty good friends with over the years. As a team now, we go into the season knowing we have five or six races that put us in position to get a win and earn a spot in the playoffs.”

Ragan returns to Front Row for his fifth season with the team. Ragan earned the organization its first Cup victory in 2013 at Talladega. Ragan has two wins, 15 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes in his Cup career.

“Bob Jenkins and I have developed a good relationship over the years, both professionally and personally,” Ragan said in a press release. “I believe in this team and am proud to have been part of its growth and its successes. I’m excited that Bob and Ford have agreed to take the program to the next level, and I’m happy I’ll be here to help the team continue to grow.”

Crew chief assignments have not been finalized. FRM will announce sponsor partners and driver car numbers at a later date.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Last Ride’ diecast is Lionel Racing’s bestselling ever

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set a new benchmark for Lionel Racing’s most purchased diecast in its 25-year history.

Lionel Racing, NASCAR’s official diecast producer, has announced that the diecast of Earnhardt’s “Last Ride” No. 88 Chevrolet in the Cup season finale last month is now its bestselling diecast in company history.

The “Last Ride” car is based on the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet that Earnhardt drove in his rookie Cup season in 2000.

The previous bestseller was another Earnhardt diecast, for his 2014 Daytona 500 win.

Lionel Racing says that QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” show that featured Earnhardt and unveiled the car helped contribute to sales. But even without QVC, sales of the “Last Ride” diecast outpaced the 2014 Daytona 500 diecast by more than 10,000 units.

“The demand for this car has been simply astounding,” Lionel Racing President Howard Hitchcock said on the company’s website. “The fan response to this diecast is a true measure of how much Earnhardt has meant to both casual NASCAR fans and serious diecast collectors.”

Lionel Racing has also revealed the top-10 selling diecasts for the year, which you can find below. Earnhardt has six cars on the list. Chase Elliott has two and Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney each have one.

Casey Mears likely to split 2018 between NASCAR, Global Rallycross and Stadium Super Trucks

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Casey Mears still plans to compete part-time in NASCAR in 2018, but he’s also looking to expand his racing horizons.

The veteran NASCAR driver told The Checkered Flag recently that he also expects to race in the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, as well as Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks series.

“Right now I’m talking to a few NASCAR programs to do maybe limited stuff,” Mears told The Checkered Flag. “I don’t have anything that would be a full-time ride in a NASCAR series.

“I’ve been speaking with Robby Gordon in the Stadium Super Truck program. I think that’s a really cool up-and-coming-series and I’d definitely like to be involved with the GRC. It looks like a lot of fun.

“I think there’s enough difference between all those that it could leave room for doing a bit of both so we’ll see how it works out.”

Mears did not race in the Cup Series in 2017, having lost his ride at the end of 2016 to Ty Dillon in the No. 13 Geico Chevy. He has amassed 488 starts and one win (2007 Coca-Cola 600) in his Cup career, along with 13 top fives and 51 top 10s.

However, he did compete on a part-time basis in 2017 in the Xfinity Series, making 14 starts, with season-best finishes of ninth place at both Richmond and Road America. He also has 107 Xfinity starts with one win, 16 top fives and 34 top 10s.

Make donation to Martinsville toy drive to take laps around track

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Have you ever dreamed of making a lap around the oldest track in NASCAR?

Today and tomorrow, Martinsville Speedway is making that dream come true.

With a toy or monetary donation for the Grace Network of Martinsville and Henry County, you can drive your own car around the half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia.

A $10 donation gets you five laps and $20 gets you 10 laps.

The laps are being held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET today and Friday.