NASCAR on NBC podcast

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 on NBC podcast, Ep. 73: Eddie Gossage on Texas repaving and driver rivalries

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Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage stood on his fresh coat of asphalt in February and liked what he saw – or more specifically, what he couldn’t see.

The view of the new pavement, which should alleviate several years of drainage problems, was particularly pleasing staring into the first corner of the 1.5-mile oval.

“I can stand on the front straight, look into Turn 1 and have no earthly idea what the line is because it’s so wide,” Gossage said on a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast that was released Wednesday. “It definitely looks different.”

As part of an offseason repaving project, the banking in the first two turns was reduced from 24 to 20 degrees and the surface was widened from 50 to 85 feet wide. Meanwhile, the 24-degree banking and dimensions were kept the same the other two turns.

Gossage said the idea for distinct turns came from Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., parent company of the Texas track.

“By cutting the banking in 1 and 2, if you can get your car to run good through 1 and 2, it won’t run good through 3 and 4,”Gossage said. “It gives people passing opportunities. At least, that’s the theory.”

Gossage also discussed the difficulty in kick-starting rivalries in NASCAR, saying it was partly because of sponsorship, partly because of NASCAR penalties and partly because drivers are parked next to each other weekly in their motorhomes.

“It’s hard to hate the guy parked next to you,” Gossage said. “Because your wives like each other, and you’re all going to have dinner tonight and cook out a couple of steaks. It’s hard to have that rivalry.

“It may sound silly, but it’s a reality. They see each other every day of the year. It’s tough to hate your next-door neighbor.”

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 on NBC podcast, Ep. 72: Jeff Gluck on the Kyle Busch-Joey Logano video at Vegas

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Longtime NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his viral video of the Kyle BuschJoey Logano confrontation and his foray into self-service journalism.

Gluck, who started his own website (www.jeffgluck.com, which has a revenue model based on reader donations) to cover racing in January, captured Busch’s march through the pits at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and subsequent swing at Logano after the Cup drivers were involved in a last-lap crash.

For several years, Gluck’s postrace routine has been to canvas the garage and pit area for incidents such as this, but he had no inkling that he would capture this moment.

He was headed toward the No. 2 Ford of Brad Keselowski (who lost the lead in the closing laps because of a mechanical failure) when he spotted Busch.

“I see this yellow blur out of the corner of my eye, not walking super fast, but walking faster in the same direction I was,” Gluck said on the podcast. “And I turned around and thought, “Kyle! Why is he going this way? The care center is not this way? Oh he’s mad at somebody.’

“But I didn’t know who or why. So, the bottom line is when you see Kyle Busch angrily walking down pit road, you take your phone out.”

Gluck lingered in the pits and talked to Logano and briefly contemplated waiting on Busch outside the care center before deciding to upload the video, pronto.

“There was a huge moment of hesitation,” he said. “I stood there for about 30 seconds and was a little shocked.

“Judging by the Twitter mentions, I realized it wasn’t on TV. I should probably post this right away.”

The video quickly garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube and spread around the world (emails seeking approval of use arrived from Denmark).

“Thor from Denmark,” Gluck said with a laugh. “(He) said, ‘Hi, your great video has made it all the way to Denmark. We have much interest in this! Can we play it on our local sports broadcast?’ He of all people doubled back to me a couple of times to make sure there were no rights issues.”

Other topics discussed:

–The aftermath of the video and the decisions he made on distribution.

–The progress of his eponymous site through its first two months.

–Why he thinks there was such an overwhelming reaction to his site (he attributes some of it to the 2016 election cycle).

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.

 

Steve Letarte on pro athlete socializing in pregame: ‘Nothing irritates me more’

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During the latest episode of his podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said NASCAR “doesn’t want a bunch of buddies out there racing around.”

His former crew chief expressed the same sentiment on the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast.

“Nothing irritates me more than going to a football or basketball game early and seeing two superstars from separate teams speak to each other pre-event,” NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said on the episode released Wednesday. “Post-event is different. But pre-event, nothing is more frustrating. I want to turn my ticket in and leave.

“I’m a sports fan. I hate the Yankees. I’m a Red Sox fan. The last thing I want to do is go to Fenway Park and see the starting pitcher from the Red Sox chum it up with the Yankees. Nah, man. Take my ticket back. I’m leaving.”

The podcast also prompted a Wednesday night discussion on NASCAR America (VIDEO ABOVE) with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman weighing in on the topic.

Letarte, who was the crew chief for Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet from 2011-14, suggested NASCAR needs to consider reconfiguring its driver introductions.

“When I see prerace, these drivers hanging out, there is a responsibility to be civil,” Letarte said. “We jam them in this pen. I wish all that changed. I wish they wouldn’t even give them the opportunity to hang out with one another.

“As a sport, we do a disservice to our drivers when we put them in this holding pen behind driver introductions. I think it should be there’s a reason there are locker rooms on two sides of the stadium. They personally don’t want your paths to cross before battle.

“I wish there was a creative way to do that for race car drivers. Because I don’t like to see them hanging out and being buddies. I want them to beat the crap out of each other on the racetrack. Our fans are that way. Why shouldn’t the competitors be that way?”

The dynamic of driver relationships has changed since two decades ago with the introduction of motorhomes that created a virtual infield neighborhood that put stars inches apart all the time.

But Letarte believes precedents have shown that rivalries can exist despite friendships.

Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. had major businesses together,” Letarte said. “They had more respect for each other than anyone I’ve ever seen. Yet when that helmet strap went on, they hated each other. So it’s not too much. It’s been proven it can be done. So do it. I think you can live two lives and to be a professional sports star, you must.

“If you’re Kyle Larson who wants to play golf with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick and hang out because they all like sprint cars and have a lot in common, that’s fine. Until the day Kyle Larson doesn’t want to put the bumper to Ricky Stenhouse because he’s going to have to see him at the dirt track later.”

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 on NBC podcast, Ep. 71: Steve Letarte on the mystery of pit speeding penalties

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Why were so many NASCAR drivers penalized for speeding in the pits at Atlanta Motor Speedway and why will it happen again?

NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte provided an answer on the most recent episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

In a breakdown of the 13 speeding penalties at Atlanta (around the 18:00 mark of the episode), Letarte explained that the debut of the digital dashboard last year and the shortening of speeding vectors in the pits have combined to make it more likely for drivers and teams to err on speeding.

“That dash is electronic, and there’s a little bit of a delay,” Letarte said. “If I text you, it says it was delivered, but is it 1 second or 6 seconds? It doesn’t matter in a text conversation. But it makes a really big difference if you’re trying to run exactly at pit speed.

“The driver controls the speed with his foot, but it takes a few milliseconds of delay (for the speeding gauge). There’s a delay to the dash, and it’s the same for every team.”

There is no speedometer in a Cup car, so drivers must rely on other means for limiting their speeds since electronic timing was introduced in the pits 13 years ago. After once using tachometer meters, teams now use a system of lights connected to the tach.

“The only reason people speed is there’s an advantage to be had,” Letarte said. “It’s real simple, with the diameter of the tire, you can tell the RPM you’re shooting for from the engine.

“Forever you had this cool little tach, and you just had to look at the needle, like in your car.”

But that’s changed with the introduction of lights that are based on data received from the digital dash.

And with NASCAR virtually doubling the number of timing zones in the pits since the midpoint of last year (speeding is measured by time over distance), there’s less margin for error.

Teams are given a buffer of 5 mph over the speed limit, and Letarte said teams easily could avoid getting busted if they played it safe – but no one can.

“If you shot for 58 (with a 60 mph limit), you couldn’t be over because of this so-called delay,” Letarte said. “But you can’t because the next guy is going for 59.5 mph.”

Other topics discussed

–How crew chiefs handle a postrace confrontation similar to Kyle Busch and Joey Logano at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “The only person who has the ability to make the decision (to fight) is the driver,” Letarte said.

–Whether the lower downforce rules package is having an impact on racing in the 2017 Cup season (with respectful apologies and sincere gratitude to SiriusXM Satellite Radio host Pete Pistone for inadvertently suggesting the topic).

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.