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What To Watch: Tuesday
- Matt Kenseth will hold a national media teleconference to discuss his current season, NASCAR's recent penalties against his team at Joe Gibbs Racing and plenty of other off-track topics. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota, following a 50-point penalty for an illegal engine after winning the race at Kansas sits 13th in points, 102 behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
- Tire testing for Goodyear will go on at Indianapolis this Tuesday and Wednesday. This test does not count against NASCAR's four allowed each team during the season. Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart are expected to be in attendance for Ford, Chevy, and Toyota.
by Tom Bowles
Denny Hamlin Cleared For Talladega
Denny Hamlin will be returning to NASCAR competition this Sunday, if only for a few short minutes. Hamlin has been medically cleared to start Talladega, according to the driver's official Twitter feed and will run until the first caution of the race. Substitute driver Brian Vickers will then take over and run for the remainder of the event. According to NASCAR rules, all points will go to Hamlin, meaning the driver will begin his long, arduous task of climbing back into the championship Chase. As of now, the driver sits 29th in points, 71 behind 20th-place Kurt Busch and 126 outside the top 10. To be eligible for a "wild card," the winless Hamlin must at least make it up into the top 20, where he would currently have to win just once to make the field.
"I can not wait to get back in car," said the driver on his Twitter. "The smell of fuel and tires…"
Hamlin's status for Darlington and beyond remains unclear at this point. Substitutes for the driver of the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota have scored two top-10 results in four starts, with Brian Vickers bringing home an eighth-place finish at Texas earlier this month.
ESPN May Scale Back On Nationwide Series
The Sports Business Journal is reporting this Tuesday ESPN may scale back on the Nationwide Series under the next television contract, set to begin in 2015. The Worldwide Leader In Sports, who has been the exclusive rightsholder since 2007 may only bid for the Nationwide races it does in conjunction with Sprint Cup events, claiming production savings as a reason for the change in philosophy.
Currently, ESPN does the full season of Nationwide events but for the season's first half, they send out a full crew, truck, and separate vendors that work on Saturdays while FOX or TNT does the main Sprint Cup coverage. A new contract, one where they're working a reduced schedule would result in millions saved, the same crew working both the Saturday and Sunday races only similar to what they do once ESPN picks up the Cup Series in July.
ESPN is expected to be one of several networks in negotiations for NASCAR rights fees this summer, where the second half of the Sprint Cup Series remains up for grabs after FOX's 13 events. NBC, Turner Sports, and perhaps even CBS are expected to make a bid for the property, while FOX and its FOX Sports 1 network may move in on the Nationwide Series.
News 'N' Notes
- Full ratings for Richmond aren't in yet, but the early numbers don't look promising. Saturday night's race earned just a 1.3 Nielsen rating in the crucial 18-to-49 age group advertisers covet, according to statistics accumulated by zap2it.com. That's down seven percent from Texas, a few weeks ago in what became the lowest-rated race for the Cup Series all season long. So far in 2013, it's been a mixed bag for television viewership; while Daytona numbers were way up, five of the other seven Cup races have been flat or suffered Nielsen ratings declines.
- Set your calendars for Wednesday, May 8th at 9:00 AM EST. That's when Matt Kenseth's appeal, regarding penalties for both himself and the No. 20 team of Joe Gibbs Racing will be heard. The driver was penalized 50 points last week for a connecting rod in his engine that was three grams lighter than allowed according to NASCAR rules. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff was fined $200,000, suspended six weeks while owner Joe Gibbs also had his owner's license suspended. Should the penalty hold, Gibbs - who lost 50 owner points as well in the incident - has also been prevented from accumulating additional points over the next six NASCAR events (excluding the All-Star Race).
- Red Horse Racing drivers Timothy Peters and German Quiroga were among a group testing at Texas Motor Speedway Monday, in preparation for the Truck Series event to be held there June 7th. Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. was with them; speeds for the three drivers were not released. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet, Jr. was gathering information for Turner Scott Motorsports, on-track at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. That Truck Series event, which added an official sponsor Monday (Chevy Silverado) will be run on September 1st.
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GOT A NASCAR QUESTION OR COMMENT? WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
That's right; our Fan Q & A column is back once again in 2013. Send your question Summer Bedgood's way at email@example.com and if you're lucky, you'll get your name in print on Thursday when she does her weekly column. It's all part of our daily mission to give back to you – the fans that keep Frontstretch afloat!
Today's Featured Commentary
Brian France and Co. all agreed this ought to be the credo of NASCAR several years ago. Collectively, the fan base proceeded to cheer. At long last, our heroes would not be fined and suspended for failing to control their tongues in moments of extreme stress, or worry that rubbing a little too hard would sit them down for an inordinate amount of time. Awesome.
However, it has come to my attention that while no official memo was issued to the competitors, they might have needed one when engaging in post-race spats. Case in point: Nelson Piquet, Jr. electing to kick Brian Scott below the belt when they confronted each other after Friday night's Nationwide race. The inadequate demonstration of Piquet's ultimate fighting skills was, to say the least, a little sad. Not that Scott had wound up to land any sort of punch on his adversary's face, but kicking a guy is completely not cool.
On Saturday night, we observed a more sedate version of driver discontent when Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch pushed one another around the track on the cool-down laps. They then exchanged words by their haulers, with fingers raised. Nothing really dramatic, and we've seen much more physical displays by both of them in the past. After they went their separate ways, they still had a couple choice words for the cameras, but overall the excitement was over. Done. The confrontation now fell into the "not much to talk about" pile. Had they received the coaching on how to fight that Piquet and Scott haven't? Hmmm... and what would those unwritten, unspoken rules be if they did exist?
First and foremost, air your grievances face to face with your adversary. Rubbing a fender on a caution lap is all well and good, but going farther and using your car as a weapon should just be plain illegal. Ron Hornaday, Jr. let that little rule slip, of course when he decided he just had to take out Darrell Wallace, Jr. at Rockingham a few weeks back. Besides incredibly dangerous to the one being punted, it's downright cowardly. Hornaday earned his penalties.
Even more in the wimp category is exchanging your viewpoints on Twitter. Yep, Mr. Logano and Mr. Hamlin, I'm looking at the both of you. If you're going to call somebody names, don't hide behind walls and your phone. Man up, meet the guy who pissed you off at their car or hauler and vent.
Second, if you want to be respected at all in the garage, take off your helmet. It might seem counterintuitive, in the midst of the fight, especially when the other guy is swinging away and you've yet to get out of your cat. But it looks really lame when you're trying to get your two cents in and the other guy can't even dent your armor. Anybody remember Harvick and Montoya at the Glen in 2007? Both of them were so hopping mad, all they could do was push at each other's helmets. Pointless! And more than just a bit silly.
Third, recall the lessons you were taught on the playground regarding fair play. They were developed centuries ago by the gentlemen of this world who agreed upon a set of rules for the boxing ring to ensure a fair fight. While kicking is not forbidden, striking below the belt certainly is. I'm hoping Piquet's foot simply slipped and missed his intended target, but I've got my doubts. Also, hitting somebody when they're already down is bad form.
And, at long last, we forgive. Before we enter into the ring (or in this case, the track) we shake hands and repeat the process at the end. There should be respect for handling the whole matter in a mature and reasonable manner.
It all sounds easy, doesn't it, from the comfort of our offices and couches? However, I'm positive remembering these lessons isn't so simple when you've got a really good mad going and there's a trophy you've been denied. That's why it's clear at this point, when we've already witnessed more than our fair share of fights this year, the drivers might need a little bit of guidance when deciding that revenge is on today's list of things to do.
By leaving the drivers to settle their scores without supervision, NASCAR did permit the fans to see more of the humanity that dwells within our heroes. However, doing so did not benefit those superstars when we've seen the less savory portions of their character come to light. What should Nelson Piquet, Jr. and company do in the future?
Get angry, contemplate the just and righteous end to your nemesis and then, when you're good and ready get out of your car, walk up to his and invite him to settle your differences as men, face-to-face and with a sense of fair play. But if you remember nothing else... please! Leave bringing him to his knees to the WWE.
Kyle Larson Stats
Car: No. 32 Cessna Chevrolet
Points Standings: 10th
Series: Sprint Cars
Track: Port Royal Speedway
Car: No. 1K Abreau Vineyards
Points Standings: n/a
Website (under construction): http://kylelarsonracing.com/
Looking for a little history? Try... http://kylelarsonracing.net/
S.D. Grady is a Senior Editor for Frontstretch. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @laregna.
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Numbers Game: Toyota Owners 400
Laps led by Aric Almirola this season in the Cup Series.
Driver on the Sprint Cup circuit riding a streak of three consecutive top-10 results. That's Almirola, whose solid performance has bumped him up to 11th in points and resulted in an eighth-place finish Saturday night.
Driver to complete every lap of every race this season. Jimmie Johnson? Nope. How about Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard, whose worst finish is 21st at the season-opening Daytona 500.
Positions gained by Jeff Burton for his decision to stay out on old tires late in Saturday night's event. The result, a fifth-place finish was the first top 5 for the veteran at an unrestricted track since Phoenix in November 2011.
Total number of laps led by Kevin Harvick this season. Harvick, who led just three laps Saturday night had made it up front for just three of the last 19 Sprint Cup events before Richmond.
Consecutive Spring Richmond races won by Kyle Busch before Saturday night. Busch, who led 40 laps wound up 24th and saw his impressive streak come to an end.
Lead changes at Richmond, the fewest for any Cup Series event this season. For the first 253 circuits, only Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer led the race; neither one would get out front, though from that point on.
Laps led by Juan Pablo Montoya throughout all of 2012.
Laps led by Juan Pablo Montoya at Richmond Saturday night. Fourth place was the best performance for the Colombian, on track since a fourth at Martinsville in April of 2011.
Spots lost by Jamie McMurray in the final two laps of the race at Richmond. McMurray, on the outside of the front row for the green-white-checkered finish was pushed out of the groove on old tires and slid back to 26th.
Laps led by Kurt Busch at Richmond Saturday night. That's the most for the 2004 Cup champ since pacing the field for 57 circuits, at Phoenix driving Roger Penske's No. 22 Dodge in November 2011.
The average margin of victory this season, through nine events. That's compared to 1.759 seconds last year, one of many reasons NASCAR is claiming the Gen-6 car has been more competitive than the older version this week.
Percent of cars running on the lead lap this year, through nine races as opposed to 38.2 the year before.
The number of Cup Series starts for Dave Blaney since he scored a top-10 finish at an unrestricted track. Blaney was ninth at Dover, in June 2008 before beginning his current slump; he does have a top-5 result from Talladega, in the Fall of 2011 as his lone highlight.
Number of additional green-flag passes we've had through nine races, compared to 2012 which averages out to about 134 more per event.
Number of laps Matt Kenseth is on pace to lead this season. His previous high, for any year was 1,132 during a four-win season of 2006.
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TODAY ON THE FRONTSTRETCH:
Racing to the Point: Everybody Loves Talladega! Don't They?
by Brett Poirier
Who's Hot / Who's Not In Sprint Cup: Richmond-Talladega Edition
by Brad Morgan
Going By the Numbers: Plate Racing's Best At Finishing In One Piece
by Kevin Rutherford
Five Points To Ponder: Politics Surrounding Short Tracks, Injuries, And Jeff Burton
by Danny Peters
Couch Potato Tuesday: Drawing The Line Between Sports Coverage And E!
by Phil Allaway
Q: In 1986, Bobby Hillin, Jr. claimed his one and only career win at Talladega in the oppressively hot Talladega 500. Ricky Rudd is credited with a third-place finish, but he was not driving the car at the end of the race. Who was, and why?
Check back Wednesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q: For many years, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega had a Pontiac Le Mans that Phil Parsons crashed in the 1983 Winston 500 on display. What happened to make that Le Mans into a museum piece?
A: Parsons had contact with Darrell Waltrip exiting the tri-oval. Both cars overcorrected and went into the wall head-on. The force of the hit resulted in Parsons' car recoiling off the wall and entering into a series of barrel rolls before being hit by Ricky Rudd after it came to rest. Parsons was uninjured, but the car was a wreck. The crash can be seen here.
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Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Tom Bowles
-- WTF Wednesday by Ellen Richardson
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? by Tom Bowles
Did You Notice... How the drivers that switched teams have done so far? Tom takes a look at first quarter report cards for drivers in new places, sagging TV ratings amongst the 18-to-49 crowd and more.
Penske Appeal Preview by Tom Bowles
Open-Wheel Wednesday by Toni Montgomery
Toni returns with another look at the Izod IndyCar Series ahead of this weekend's annual assault on the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Side By Side: Single-Car Teams in Victory Lane? by Amy Henderson and Mike Neff
It's been nearly two seasons since a single-car team was able to break into Victory Lane at NASCAR's highest level, though a few have flirted with a win. Could we see one get back there this year?
Frontstretch Top 10 by the Frontstretch Staff
This week's topic: Top Ten Driver Excuses for Causing the Big One at Talladega. Our weekly list of NASCAR humor will have you giggling from your cubicle Wednesday morning.
NASCAR Power Rankings: Top 15 After Richmond compiled by Michael Mehedin
Jimmie Johnson's king of the point standings, up by 43 over Carl Edwards in second. But did he maintain number one on our power rankings list? Experts you love from across the web, not just Frontstretch rank the drivers heading into Talladega as our weekly top 15 poll comes up for a vote once again.
Happiness Is... by P. Huston Ladner
Our resident Hawaiian gives us a little peace, love, and some tidbits to smile about following a wonderful weekend of racing competition across the globe.
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