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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 74: Dale Jarrett on the ‘selfish’ new drivers vs. the ‘Young Guns’

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Just a few seasons after he won his 1999 championship in NASCAR’s premier series, Dale Jarrett’s position in the stock-car hierarchy was threatened.

The 2001-02 wave of the so-called “Young Guns” transformed the Cup circuit. As Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman entered the series, the trips to victory lane started to dwindle for establishment veterans such as Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott.

Nearly a generation later, Jarrett is watching as the same group of drivers that foretold his generation’s exit from NASCAR is facing similar threats from a youthful group of emerging stars that includes Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

“This group of (young) drivers, this isn’t saying anything negative, but I see this as a very selfish group, which you have to be to be successful,” Jarrett said on the most recent edition of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “They’re going to race hard. They’ll take what they can get.

“There’s a lot more taking among this group than giving. On the shorter tracks and road courses, it’s going to be fun to watch.”

The context for the discussion was dissecting Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s decision to regain the lead lap by moving leader Kyle Busch near the end of the second stage at Martinsville Speedway.

That type of necessary aggression typifies the drive that today’s youth must show, Jarrett said during the podcast.

“I think it’s the world they grew up in and how hard they had to fight to get there,” the NBCSN analyst said. “Once you get to that point, there’s no reason in changing what you do just because you’re there. You can’t suddenly become a nice guy when you reach the top or you’ll find yourself on the bottom trying to climb to the top again.

“Harvick, Johnson and Kenseth have been in that point, but now they’ve had their success. It’s not that they’re still not selfish, they still want to do well. It’s not taking away any of their great talents and that desire they have inside to want to win every week, but they go about it differently.

“Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, they’ll continue this push they have. One day, it’ll change for them, too, but you have to have a measure of success when you look at that. You still have to be selfish all the way through the last race you run in your career. If you’re not, then you’ve probably driven too long.”

Jarrett won his Cup title shortly before his 43rd birthday, and Harvick, Johnson, Earnhardt and Kenseth all are in a similar timeframe on age now.

“My success came late, but once you get to your 40s, you realize you’re closer to end than anything else,” he said. “You start thinking of things differently. Most of those guys have families. All of that changes the way you go about it.

“That’s one thing I like about some of these young guys. Kyle Busch became a father. Joey Logano recently married. Kyle Larson is a father now. I think that changes your way of looking at so many things. You might ask, ‘How in the world does that make you a changed or better race car driver?’ but it does. There are things that happen that just make you look at things a little bit differently and appreciate things a little more on a bigger scale. Suddenly, you’re having more success, and you’re happier in life, and if you do that, things will be different.”

Jarrett developed a close relationship with Robert Yates Racing teammate Elliott Sadler, who was 18 years younger. He sees a parallel to Johnson’s relationship to Chase Elliott (the Hendrick Motorsports drivers are separated by nearly 20 years).

“You appreciate that that you’ve gotten to that point to help someone,” Jarrett said. “I’m appreciative that Elliott doesn’t have to get out of the race car and say anything about me, but a lot of times, he does. I’m glad I took the time (to help).

“At that time it was if I can help him, he was going to help me, too, and make our organization better. So that’s the way I looked at it. I’m sure Jimmie is the same way. Because once you become an established driver and have the feel you want, things keep changing. So you have to figure out a way to get back to that.

Jimmie probably is looking at it as Chase is fast. He’s doing a lot of things that are really, really good, can I look at what he’s doing and benefit from that? So he’s doing it because he’s a really nice person and a good guy, Jimmie is, but it can also help him down the road.”

During the podcast, Jarrett also discussed:

–Why points leader Kyle Larson has made a breakthrough in performance this season;

–His outspokenness on NASCAR America about disliking the use of restrictor plates at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway for stock cars.

–The differences between being a booth and studio analyst.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR Stock Market: Who’s up and who’s down from last year

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No Cup driver has had a better turnaround in the last year than Clint Bowyer.

The Stewart-Haas racer is one of five who are 10 or more spots better in the points than they were a year ago. Bowyer, who is ninth in the standings, is 23 spots better than he was at this time last year.

The change is not a surprise. Bowyer was with HScott Motorsports, which ceased operations after last year, and now is with one of the sport’s elite teams.

“There is nothing in this sport at this level that comes easy,’’ Bowyer said earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway. “It doesn’t matter the racetrack or circumstances, it is always hard because there is always the next guy working every bit as hard to accomplish the same goal. That being said, I knew it would be a positive move.’’

Bowyer has two top-10 finishes, which is one shy his total last season. He also has five top-15 finishes in the first seven Cup races of the season.

On the opposite side, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 20th in points, 14 spots worse than he was at this time a year ago. He is coming off a season-best fifth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt’s challenge, in part, has been coming back after missing the last 18 races of last season because of issues related to a concussion.

“I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice,’’ he said after the Texas race. “I know our fans are really pulling for us. 

Here’s a look at the drivers who have gained the most spots in the points since this time a year ago and the drivers who have fallen the most in the same time.

MOST POSITIONS GAINED

23 — Clint Bowyer (9th in standings this year)

17 — Kyle Larson (1st)

14 — Ryan Blaney (6th)

12 — Chase Elliott (2nd)

11 — Trevor Bayne (12th)

9 — Chris Buescher (27th)

8 — Martin Truex Jr. (3rd)

6 — Ryan Newman (13th)

6 — Cole Whitt (31st)

5 — Brad Keselowski (4th)

5 — Jamie McMurray (8th)

5 — Michael McDowell (28th)

MOST POSITIONS LOST

14 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th in standings this year)

11 — Austin Dillon (21st)

10 — Matt Kenseth (22nd)

10 — AJ Allmendinger (25th)

9 — Jimmie Johnson (11th)

8 — Kurt Busch (15th)

8 — Denny Hamlin (16th)

7 — Kevin Harvick (10th)

6 — Kyle Busch (7th)

5 — Paul Menard (26th)

5 — Danica Patrick (29th)

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Monster Energy All-Star Race format to go back to ‘One Hot Night’ roots

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This year’s Monster Energy All-Star race format on May 20 will go back in time.

NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race held at night will be run with the same format as the first race that was held in 1992.

The “Silver Anniversary Gold Rush” of the iconic “One Hot Night” will once again have a $1 million prize to the winning team.

Here’s how this year’s format shapes up:

  • The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps, an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.
  • The final 10-lap stage will feature just 10 cars/drivers who earned their way into the main event, particularly with how they finished collectively in the prior three 20-lap stages that evening.
  • All three stage winners will be locked into the 10-lap finale for the big prize, but with a caveat – they all must be on the lead lap at the end of the third stage.
  • The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.
  • The 10 cars in the fourth and final stage will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.

“This new 70-lap format pays tribute to the 25th anniversary of ‘One Hot Night’ while pushing the drivers to the brink of insanity with the chances they’ll take to win $1 million,” Charlotte Motor Speedway president and general manager Marcus Smith said in a media release. “I’m as ready as our fans for a May 20 Saturday night shootout where only a daredevil behind the wheel truly has a shot at Victory Lane.”

There’s also one added bonus of sorts: each team will receive one set of “softer tires,” to be used at their discretion. Softer tires provide cars more grip and speed, but there’s one caveat: if a team holds off using its set of softer tires until the final stage, then its car will start the 10-car/10-lap finale at the back of the field.

According to Goodyear, “the Option set-up is projected to be three- to five-tenths of a second faster per lap, out of the box.” Also, instead of Goodyear’s traditional yellow letters – which will remain on the Prime tires to be used in both the All-Star events and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27 – the Option tires will feature bold, green lettering.

Several drivers have already clinched a starting spot in the All-Star Race based upon:

  • * Drivers who won a points event in either 2016 or 2017.
  • * Drivers who have won a previous Monster Energy All-Star Race and are competing full-time in 2017
  • * Drivers who have won a past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and are competing fulltime in 2017.

Those drivers include: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

 

“The Monster Energy All-Star Race is designed to be fun for fans, showcasing the best drivers and race teams in NASCAR,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “With the effort that Goodyear has put into this race with multiple tire compounds, I am excited to see how the stages play out, especially the final 10-car, 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.”

Qualifying takes place on Friday, May 19, including the “no speed limit” four-tire pit stop.

According to the media release, “Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include a mandatory four-tire pit stop with no pit-road speed limits enforced. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. The team that completes the fastest stop will earn the Pit Crew Competition Award.”

There will be two other ways for drivers to advance to the All-Star Race:

1.) The traditional Monster Energy Open will be held prior to the All-Star Race earlier in the evening of May 20. The Open will feature three stages of 20, 20 and 10 laps. The winner of each stage will advance to the All-Star Race, Qualifying for the Open will take place on Friday, May 19, where the field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying.

2) By winning the popular Fan Vote.

Lastly, both the Monster Energy Open and Monster Energy All-Star Race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 starting at 6 p.m. ET on May 20. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 will carry the radio broadcasts of both events, as well.

Here’s a list of all winners of the All-Star Race, dating back to its inception in 1985:

1985 Darrell Waltrip
1986 Bill Elliott
1987 Dale Earnhardt
1988 Terry Labonte
1989 Rusty Wallace
1990 Dale Earnhardt
1991 Davey Allison
1992 Davey Allison (first night race)
1993 Dale Earnhardt
1994 Geoffrey Bodine
1995 Jeff Gordon
1996 Michael Waltrip
1997 Jeff Gordon
1998 Mark Martin
1999 Terry Labonte
2000 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2001 Jeff Gordon
2002 Ryan Newman
2003 Jimmie Johnson
2004 Matt Kenseth
2005 Mark Martin
2006 Jimmie Johnson
2007 Kevin Harvick
2008 Kasey Kahne
2009 Tony Stewart
2010 Kurt Busch
2011 Carl Edwards
2012 Jimmie Johnson
2013 Jimmie Johnson
2014 Jamie McMurray
2015 Denny Hamlin
2016 Joey Logano

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Bump & Run: Which NASCAR driver would you like to see run the Indianapolis 500?

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Nate Ryan, Dustin Long, Jerry Bonkowski and Daniel McFadin answer this week’s questions.

Other than Kyle Larson, who is another driver you would like to see have a chance to run in the Indianapolis 500 some day?

Nate Ryan: Jimmie Johnson would be high on my wish list, but I don’t think he would be interested. Brad Keselowski has indicated interest in IndyCar, so he would be fun to watch, as would Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Dustin Long: Once he gets more established in NASCAR, I’d like to see Christopher Bell get a chance to run at Indy and see what he could do.

Jerry Bonkowski: His brother Kurt did it in 2014. I think it’s just a matter of time before Kyle Busch also does it. When? I predict the younger Busch brother does the feat by 2020.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Busch shares Larson’s desire to race anything with a steering wheel and expressed multiple times last year an interest in attempting “The Double.” Keselowski has time in an IndyCar, having driven a Team Penske car during a test at Road America last June. Wouldn’t it be something to see their rivalry play out over two races in different racing disciplines in the same day? 

Jimmie Johnson scored his 81st career win Sunday at Texas. He is 12 behind Jeff Gordon for third on the all-time wins list. Does Johnson, who turns 42 in September, surpass Gordon’s total? If so, when?

Nate Ryan: Yes, he will … in 2020, which also will be his final season in Cup. David Pearson’s 105 victories probably are out of reach, but he will surpass Gordon, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough.

Dustin Long: No. Johnson decides to walk away from the sport after the 2019 season and doesn’t surpass Gordon.

Jerry Bonkowski: Johnson has averaged 4.75 wins per season through his Cup career. I predict not only does he surpass Gordon by or before 2020 (which likely will be his final season), he may retire with as many as 100 wins.

Daniel McFadin: I don’t think he does. Johnson’s well behind Gordon when it comes to age. Gordon reached win No. 81 in 2009 – his 17th season – when he was 37. It took him until 2015 at age 43 to get to 93 wins. Johnson’s 81st win comes a little sooner pace-wise in his 16th full season, but I don’t see 12 more victory lane trips for the No. 48 team.

Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless. Who will be the first JGR driver to win this year and where?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch in the April 23 race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He consistently has been the best of the JGR drivers, he is very strong on short tracks … and I’m picking him to win that race (and every race) until he breaks through for a victory.

Dustin Long: Denny Hamlin at Talladega.

Jerry Bonkowski: Considering JGR won just two races in 2014, it could be a similarly long season in 2017. It surprises me most that Kyle Busch hasn’t won since last year’s Brickyard 400. I predict Matt Kenseth will be the first JGR driver to win this season. As for locale: Richmond on April 30.

Daniel McFadin: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyle Busch win at Richmond in three weeks, especially after how the race ended last year. Busch will want to redeem himself after Carl Edwards bumped him out of the way on the last turn of the last lap.

Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott lead playoff standings going into Easter break

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After seven races, we’ve reached the first off-week of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Teams will resume the long haul of the season April 23 at Bristol Motor Speedway (with only one more weekend break in late August through the Nov. 19 finale at Miami).

With that in mind, here’s a look at the playoff standings following Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway:

Only 16 drivers will qualify for the playoffs, which will begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson, who has one win and four runner-up finishes, leads the standings over Chase Elliott, who is the only driver ranked in the top four who hasn’t won this season.

Denny Hamlin is currently on the bubble, 164 points back from Larson.

The first four behind Hamlin are Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch have race wins but no stage wins.

Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick have multiple stage wins but no race wins.

Below is the top 20 in standings through seven races. Drivers in green would make the playoffs based on wins, drivers in yellow would based on points.

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