Dale Jarrett

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Bump & Run: Should some Cup races have more points than others?

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Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte, who will be on today’s NASCAR America from 5:30 – 7 p.m ET, joins Nate Ryan and Dustin Long to answer this week’s questions.

With a maximum 70 points and eight playoff points available for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, should NASCAR look at some of its top-tier races having more points than most races next year? If so, what races should those be?

Parker Kligerman: I am torn here, as I understand the reasoning. I understand the intention. My problem is that the sport has already added numerous changes to the points structure this year with the addition of stages and playoff points. Now making a race worth more just because it is longer doesn’t work for me. In an era of NASCAR, in which I applaud them for being so open and progressive, I fear this is where I draw the line. This race should not have four stages and should not be worth more points. 

For example, in the IndyCar Series, they made the Indy 500 a double points event in addition to having almost a full race worth of points up for grabs in qualifying. Therefore, a bad two days in Indy could effectively end your championship hopes, which makes no sense to me. Why should one race be able to make or break an entire year-long championship? 

I know this is not the case in NASCAR, but it reinforces my point. No single race should have a larger impact on a championship than the other when it comes to a points value. 

Steve Letarte: I will go on record as saying that I was not a fan of an added stage for the 600 for the simple fact it wasn’t added in January. I think we need to stop changing. I think we have generated stage racing and it has been a great improvement. I do think the 600 needed another stage, just not this year. I really think we should have run an entire season and then evaluated it. The 600 perhaps could get an extra stage. The Daytona 500 could get an extra stage. The Brickyard, while it’s not a 500, another stage probably wouldn’t hurt that. I do think the night race at Bristol.

Nate Ryan: I think the Daytona 500 certainly will get consideration for extra stage points, and it should. The Southern 500 and the night race at Bristol also should be on this list. (This also would be a very good idea if it coincided with shortening other races on the schedule.)

Dustin Long: Yes. The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500 and Martinsville spring race (since the other is in the playoffs) should have more points than other races. That is a restrictor-plate track, 1.5-mile track,. 1.366-mile track and a short track. Instead of adding extra stages for some of those races, NASCAR could make stage wins worth 15 points instead of 10 points.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer are in the top 10 in the season standings but have yet to score a points victory. Who will be the first among that group to win?

Parker Kligerman: It is easy to immediately gravitate toward the most recent winner in the series, being Kyle Busch at the All-Star Race. But I wouldn’t be so quick to count out Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team. They seem to be good in the speed department and, therefore, just need to execute. Lastly, Chase Elliott has to be thinking that surely there is a victory lane reserved for him in the near future, as it just seems absurd he has not won a race yet. My pick is Kevin Harvick. 

Steve Letarte: I think it’s a tossup between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harivck. I think that they have moments of brilliance between the two of them. Kevin Harvick, in my mind, he won at Atlanta. He did everything he was supposed to do but win the race. Kyle Busch has had the same sort of thing with untimely cautions. I think it’s between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, but I will say that the entire list will win before the season is out.’’

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch seems ready to score the breakthrough for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Kevin Harvick would be next on the list. I think there’s a good chance that any of those on the list could win Sunday. In the past three years, the Coca-Cola 600 has been the winner’s first victory of the season.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick has four top-five finishes in the last five points races, signs that his Stewart-Haas Racing has gotten past many of the issues with switching to Ford. It’s time for this team to win and it will soon.

The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class will be selected this week. Name two nominees you think deserve to be in this class and why. 

Parker Kligerman: On NASCAR America a couple weeks ago, Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett made a case for Robert Yates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. And it made me realize he was right. When you break the sport down, the most important part of a motor vehicle is the engine, it is what makes it a motorized vehicle. So when you look at the importance of engines in this sport, you must look at the people who made those engines a reality. Therefore my first pick goes to a man who at times pushed the limits of what many people thought to be physically possible with a pushrod V8 – Robert Yates. 

My second pick goes to an absolute legend – Red Byron. Not only was he the NASCAR Cup Series’ first champion but a WWII veteran as well. His B-24 plane was shot at and he injured his left leg. But this wouldn’t be enough to hold him back from racing, where he pushed and pushed to find a way to be able to retrofit the car for his injury. He succeeded and became a champion. A veteran, a champion, a never give up attitude. What more could you want from a Hall of Famer? 

Steve Letarte: This is the easiest question every year until this year. Every year I see the class, there are two or three names that jump out to me as guarantees. When I look at this year, I see a class of Hall of Fame worthy nominees, all that I feel will end up in the Hall of Fame, but in what order should they go? I’m glad I’m not in that room. I could make a case for Davey Allison, but you have to argue what could have been. I can make the argument for Ray Evernham. I can make an argument for Red Farmer, Ray Fox, Ken Squier, Robert Yates. The list goes on and on.

Nate Ryan: The first two on my ballot will be Ray Evernham, whose influence and innovations as a crew chief are nonpareil, and Red Byron, who should be in by virtue of being the first premier series champion.

Dustin Long: Ray Evernham was a game changer. The garage often had to respond to what Evernham did, whether it was with the pit crew, strategy or what he did to the car. Robert Yates was one of the premier engine builders who also went on to have success as a car owner. His success in two disciplines and how the engine company that has his name on it remains powerful, shows his impact even today.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to struggle after Talladega

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Ten years ago today, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he would be leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., at the end of the season for Hendrick Motorsports.

That’s the jumping off point for NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Dale Jarrett as they discuss Earnhardt’s struggles in what is now his final year of Cup competition.

Through 10 races, Earnhardt has only one top-10 finish, a fifth-place finish at Texas.

His woes continued at Talladega when a loose wheel forced him to pit late in the race. He’s now 25th in the points standings.

“Junior obviously missed a lot of last year,” Jarrett said. “(He came) back to a race car that was really different with a lot less downforce. Junior is one of those drivers that has a certain feel for the race car that he is looking for, maybe a little on the tighter side. Now you got this downforce taken away. The crew chief, Greg Ives and this group, they’re going to have to listen to him as to what he needs in his race car because they have a lot of ground to make up.”

Watch the video for the full discussion.

 

Bump & Run: Who is next driver to snap long winless drought?

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Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman, who appear on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET today, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long, to answer this week’s questions.

This season has seen two drivers snap winless droughts of more than 90 races: Phoenix winner Ryan Newman (127-race winless drought) and Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (158-race drought). Who is next to win among drivers who have gone more than 90 starts without a Cup win? (* list below)

Parker Kligerman: Well the easiest answer here is Clint Bowyer. From the doldrums of outside top-30 equipment to now being a part of one of the top organizations in the sport, I can’t imagine a world in which Clint does not win. With that out of the way, I feel Austin Dillon could be a moderate shot of breaking a winless streak, but that may be better said as getting his first win. Lastly, Kasey Kahne is approaching 100 races winless at one of the largest, most successful race teams in the entire world. As Kyle Petty has said “Where is Kasey Kahne” I think Kasey has to be asking “Where is Victory Lane?” 

Dale Jarrett: The two that I look at are Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. I think they are both performing well enough that it can happen, pretty much any place and any time. I really give the edge to Jamie McMurray. I think that team and that organization right now, with the way Kyle Larson has performed and Jamie has too, he’s performed and continued to get better. If I look at the two restrictor-plate races to this point, I think he maybe had the fastest car. I think there’s a good chance that he might win Daytona or Talladega, but I think he might win even before then. Bowyer, I believe, is going to win before the year is out.

Nate Ryan: Jamie McMurray. If they were rerunning the final 10 laps of Talladega today, he might be ending this streak now. Kansas Speedway would mark a nice homecoming of sorts, too, for the Joplin, Missouri, native who is providing confirmation that points leader Kyle Larson’s success is indicative of across-the-board improvement at Chip Ganassi Racing.

A close second for the next first-place finisher is Clint Bowyer, then Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne and Aric Almirola.

Dustin Long: Jamie McMurray has shown more speed and more consistency and is a good bet to be the next among this group to end a winless drought. He has six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races. Now it’s just a matter of turning those into more top fives as teammate Kyle Larson has done.

* DRIVERS WINLESS IN AT LEAST THE LAST 90 CUP RACES

Reed Sorenson (271)

Landon Cassill (233)

Michael McDowell (223)

Paul Menard (206)

Danica Patrick (164)

Clint Bowyer (159)

David Ragan (144)

Trevor Bayne (138)

Austin Dillon (131)

Jamie McMurray (122)

Cole Whitt (122)

Aric Almirola (100 races)

AJ Allmendinger (96 races)

Kasey Kahne (93 races)

NASCAR competes on 1.5-mile tracks the rest of the month with Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway and the following two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. What driver(s) and/or team(s) will you be watching close the rest of the month?

Parker Kligerman: This is a tough one as there are so many I will be keeping a close eye on. 

  • First would have to be Joe Gibbs Racing and seeing if they can finally get into victory lane. 
  • Second would be Ganassi. I want to see if this race team can continue to display the raw speed that they have early in this season, as the races get hotter and the tracks shift toward 1.5 miles in length. This will be the litmus test if they are truly championship material. 
  • Lastly, our newest winners in Roush Fenway Racing. Can this race team continue to show performances that warrant them being a part of the playoffs in what feels like a generation ago when they were a lock for such a berth. 

Dale Jarrett: I’m watching the drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing. What are they going to do? This has been their strong suit, especially over the six months at the end of 2015 and then all of last year, they performed at a high level at these types of tracks.

This is just in my mind thinking that it seems that they have been more to the conservative side with the skew and the rear end where others have been willing to take that chance, get their win and then maybe they back off a little from that. It just seems like they haven’t given that much to their drivers, and are they going to bite the bullet and say, ‘OK, this is what it is going to take, we’ve got to figure out a way to do this.’ I know they don’t like getting caught pushing the issue too much, but I really believe it’s going to take something like that. I’m going to keep my eye on them because Kansas and Charlotte are places that they perform well whenever their team is at their peak.

Nate Ryan: Joe Gibbs Racing. After Denny Hamlin predicted last week that Talladega would be his best chance at a win for “a few months” and identified 1.5-mile tracks as the team’s major Achilles’ heel, it naturally put some focus on how JGR does at the next three events and tracks that comprise two of the five 1.5-mile ovals in the playoffs (and two-thirds of the second round).

Kansas and Charlotte will serve as a barometer of how much teams need to improve their aerodynamics/horsepower combinations to be championship contenders four months from now.

Dustin Long: Naturally, Joe Gibbs Racing. I want to see how they perform, what kind of improvement they’ve shown on the 1.5-mile tracks. Another team I’ll keep an eye on is Hendrick Motorsports. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. start to come back from his slow start? What about Kasey Kahne? Can Chase Elliott continue his strong runs on 1.5-mile tracks. Can Jimmie Johnson show more strength?

Watch Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NASCAR America on NBCSN.

Upon Further Review: Joey Logano’s rise since 2013 nearly unmatched

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Joey Logano arrived to NASCAR amid enormous expectations.

And cake.

Joe Gibbs Racing celebrated Logano’s 18th birthday with a press conference and cake at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2008. The occasion was about possibilities with thoughts of how the heralded youngster might reshape the sport as Jeff Gordon did.

Less than three weeks later, Logano won at Kentucky Speedway in his third Xfinity Series start. He won as a Cup rookie the following year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Such moments, though, were rare. Hurt by NASCAR’s decision to ban testing, Logano struggled in taking over Tony Stewart’s ride. Logano struggled with leading a team that included crew members old enough to be his father. Logano struggled with confidence that waned as results yo-yoed.

After four mediocre seasons, the struggles proved to be too much. Joe Gibbs Racing replaced Logano with Matt Kenseth.

Sunday, in his 300th career Cup start, Logano celebrated his 18th victory. After being applauded for the accomplishment, Logano sounded a measured tone.

“Eighteen out of 300 doesn’t sound very good, does it?’’ he said. “But the first 150 were pretty bad.’’

No argument there but if you look at the last 150 Cup races — dating to the Bristol spring race in March 2013 — Logano has one of the sport’s best records.

Only Jimmie Johnson (21 wins) has more victories during that time than Logano (16), who is tied with Kevin Harvick. No driver has more top-five finishes (71) and top 10s (103) than Logano. Not even Johnson, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski can top Logano.

The 2015 Daytona 500 winner is doing this at age 26. And he’s signed with Team Penske through at least 2022, creating the stability that can help a driver flourish. In this era of competitors retiring in their early 40s, Logano still figures to have 16 years or so in the series.

If he averages three wins a year during the next 16 seasons — he’s averaged 3.2 wins a season the previous five years — he’d be 10 shy of Dale Earnhardt’s total of 76 career wins.

If Logano averages 3.5 wins a year over the next 16 seasons, he’d be two shy of Earnhardt’s total.

Former champion Dale Jarrett says that Logano has the hard-charging mindset similar to Earnhardt in that “you have the position that he wants.’’

With Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retiring, Carl Edwards stepping away and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving after this season, there’s a greater chance for Logano to become one of the sport’s signature drivers the next decade and beyond.

To make that leap, Logano needs championships. That doesn’t mean he’ll become a fan favorite — it’s hard to imagine at this point the crowd at Martinsville showering him with as much love as they gave Kenseth the day Kenseth wrecked Logano in retaliation for their incident at Kansas in 2015 — but if he can collect multiple titles, Logano could become a lightning rod that will have fans, whether they like him or not, paying attention.

He’s one of three drivers to make it to the championship race twice in the last years. The others are Harvick and Busch.

But before one places Logano on the pedestal with some of the sport’s greats, challenges remain. As the sport goes through this transition, it creates opportunities for other drivers.

Some young drivers are getting off to faster starts than Logano. In Logano’s first 150 races, he had two wins, 16 top fives and 41 top 10s.

Kyle Larson has topped Logano’s totals in 120 races. Larson has two wins, 25 top fives and 48 top 10s. Chase Elliott, who has run 50 races, is winless but has 13 top fives and 23 top 10s.

When Johnson moved to Cup, he had one win in what is the Xfintiy Series. No one thought he’d tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with seven championships. Maybe Logano is the next Johnson. Or maybe the next Johnson is just starting in Cup. Or yet to race in Cup.

Either way, Logano is on a path that could see him in the top 10 in career wins when he climbs from the car a last time.

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Dale Jarrett on Dale Jr: ‘If he were my son I know I’d be extremely proud of him’ (video)

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At the end of his retirement press conference Tuesday, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was asked what he thought his late father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., would say about the moment 18 years in the making.

“I’ve always let other people tell me what dad would think in a certain situation,” Earnhardt said. “I never would have assumed he was proud of me when he was alive. I certainly wouldn’t make that mistake after he passed. I just never felt like I was worthy of assuming that of him.”

NASCAR America analyst Dale Jarrett is confident his former friend and competitor would be proud of what his son has accomplished during his NASCAR career, especially when it comes to developing future stars of the sport.

“He could have sat back and taken himself away from all that and said, ‘Ok, I’m just going to drive, I don’t want to do any of these other things and help other drivers get opportunities to come along in the sport,'” an emotional Jarrett said, citing 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski. “The way he’s gone about this, it just makes me proud. If he were my son, I know I’d be extremely proud of him. I’m just proud to call him a friend. Because you appreciate when people are put in difficult situations, how they’re going to respond. He responded by winning races and doing everything he could to make this sport bigger and better.”

Watch the video for Jarrett’s full comments on Earnhardt’s retirement.