Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. To Miss Watkins Glen, Bristol

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Aug. 3, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXXX
What to Watch: Wednesday

- Today, work continues at the shops before teams load up tonight for the haul to the Finger Lakes.  If anything of note breaks, we'll have it for you here at Frontstretch.


Wednesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Earnhardt Jr. Out for Next Two Races, Gordon Remains Behind the Wheel

Tuesday, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will miss the next two Sprint Cup races as he continues to recover from a concussion that is believed to have occurred at Michigan.  Jeff Gordon will continue to drive in his place.  Read more

Entry List: Cheez-It 355 at the Glen

The entry list is out for this weekend's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, and 40 cars are entered, meaning everyone will qualify.  Boris Said and Alex Kennedy will make their 2016 debuts.  Read more

Entry List: Zippo 200

The XFINITY Series entry list is out for Saturday's Zippo 200.  There are a number of notable entries.  Team Penske has entered a second car for Joey Logano, the No. 12 in addition to the No. 22 for Brad Keselowski. Meanwhile, Kenny Habul makes his driving debut for JR Motorsports.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Today's Featured Commentary
Dale Jr.'s Concussion Quandry
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
As the health woes of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continue, I cannot help but imagine what seems to be nothing short of impossible. I find myself, like so many others (although they'd be unlikely to admit it) considering the unthinkable.

It's an extreme version of "What if?"

What if Junior's concussion problems linger to the point where he needs to retire from racing?

Not that Earnhardt would remove himself completely from the sport. He has far too many irons in the proverbial business fire to make such a drastic choice. The success of JR Motorsports alone is enough to keep Earnhardt active within NASCAR for many years to come. Creating such a race team always struck me as his not-so-much-golden-as-checkered parachute: a company broad enough to cover multiple cars in multiple divisions.

Think of JR Motorsports as Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated minus the influence of a controlling stepmother.

Junior, like his late father, seeks to build a lasting legacy in motorsports, one that far outlives his competitive driving career: a competitive driving career that, from where I sit, seems threatened by this recent wave of concussion-based nausea and imbalance.

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was interested in motorsports diversity and branching out from NASCAR. In the years just prior to his tragic death at Daytona, Earnhardt apparently toyed with the possibility of retiring from the Cup Series and racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans among various other, non-traditional options.

Finishing fourth overall (and second in the GTO Class) in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001 proved that Earnhardt could make a fairly successful transition from stock cars to sports cars in short order.  And one of "The Intimidator's" co-drivers at Daytona that year was his son.

Junior understands the importance of diversity within the business of automobile racing. Hedging your bets against sponsorship woes within a struggling economy, or a downturn in your sport's popularity that leaves both grandstands and cash registers empty, is always a good strategy. Better to plan ahead for an uncertain future than to sit on your hands and hope that conditions will improve.

Which returns me to the topic at hand: Earnhardt's recurring health problems from past concussions. While rest and medical attention are both essential, there are also longer-lasting effects to consider. In yet another, and somewhat bleak, round of "What if?": What if Junior suffers yet another serious accident? To assume that NASCAR drivers are safe in today's generation of Sprint Cup cars is to ignore the harsh realities of racing. When cars go fast in close competition, there is always the chance that someone will get hurt (or worse). The wrecks we see at Daytona and Talladega are often massive, multi-car accidents where 3,400-pound machines can get upside down in a hurry, regardless of roof flaps or other aerodynamic developments.

It's foolhardy to think that restrictor plate events are the only threats to a driver's overall health. Melting a bead or cutting a right front tire at a track like Dover, Michigan, Pocono, Indianapolis, or any place where the car can make a quick trip into the outside wall poses perhaps even greater potential for brain injury.

Don't believe me? Go back and watch Brad Keselowski's test crash in Turn 1 at Watkins Glen last week. Brad may have walked away from that particular impact, but the laws of physics suggest there's a lot of serious movement going on inside a driver's skull. SAFER barriers and HANS devices aside, a driver's brain will keep moving, no matter if the rest of the driver's head stays securely in place.

As much as I dislike having such thoughts, there's part of me hoping that Junior stays away from the No. 88 Chevrolet for a long time. I'm guessing his doctors feel that way, too. Rushing Dale Jr. back into competition without a suitable period of quality rest and rehabilitation is a threat to his overall future.

I, for one, hope to see his name missing from entry forms for weeks, and maybe even months, to come. Even if Dale Jr. takes the biggest leap of all, retiring someday soon from driving it's good to know that he'll remain a fixture in motorsports.

His father taught him well….

Dr. Mark Howell is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at
Numbers Game: Pennsylvania 400
by Tom Bowles

Career laps led by Pocono winner Chris Buescher in the Cup Series before Sunday's race.

Career top-15 finish for Buescher in Cup before Sunday - a 14th at Indianapolis the week before.

Drivers outside the top 20 in Cup points with victories this season: Buescher and Tony Stewart.

Wins for Front Row Motorsports since 2013. By comparison, that's the same as Furniture Row Racing during that span and one more than Chip Ganassi Racing.

Finishing position Monday for Regan Smith, tying a career best for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Straight finishes outside the top 10 for Chase Elliott.

Top-10 finishes in the last nine races for Kevin Harvick. Only exception: a 39th-place finish at Daytona.

Straight top-20 finishes for Kyle Larson. That run of consistency has put Larson above the cutline for the Chase.

Points accumulated by Tony Stewart in 13 races, leaving him 27th in the season standings.

Points accumulated by Casey Mears in 21 races, leaving him 28th in the season standings.

Tom Bowles is the Editor-in-Chief of Frontstretch.  He can be reached via e-mail at

as told to Aaron Bearden

by Tom Bowles

by Matt Stallknecht and Aaron Bearden

by Amy Henderson

compiled by Aaron Bearden


Q: In 1995, Joe Bessey won the Busch North Series Burnham Boilers 150 at Watkins Glen International.  However, Bessey's win was overshadowed by an incident coming to the finish.  What happened?

Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:

Q:  In 1993, Robert Yates Racing tapped Lake Speed to drive the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford at Watkins Glen after Robby Gordon had a direct conflict (he was racing in CART's New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway at roughly the same time as the Winston Cup race). 

Speed was considered an unusual choice at the time, but he had previous road racing glory, winning the Karting World Championship in 1978.  There was a rather well-known chap that he beat to win the title.  Name him.

A: That man was Ayrton Senna.  Granted, Speed was 30 and Senna (then racing under the name Ayrton Senna da Silva) was 18, but they were on equal ground.  Speed won the first heat, then ended up in a duel with Senna for the second.  The somewhat inexperienced (but very fast) Senna drove into a hairpin too fast while fighting Speed for the lead and went off course.  That off-course excursion cost Senna the chance at winning the second heat and effectively gifted the World Championship to the privateer Speed with one heat to go. 
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at some more broadcasts in the Critic's Annex.

Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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