MWR – we have good lawyers, Martin’s driving for us

Tip of the hat to listener Analese for alerting us that Brian Vickers will be doing some subbing for Hamlin:

@TrackSchmak THE SHERIFF in the #11 for brokeback. #standwithdenny #ouch

JGR stated a few days ago that they didn’t want a rotating cast of drivers filling in during Denny Hamlin’s absence, so they picked Mark Martin to fill in. I’m assuming that Martin had to agree to this, even though he had been scheduled to run some races for MWR during the upcoming six week period.

And so, JGR released a statement naming Mark Martin as the permanent fill in for Denny, with Brian Vickers subbing for Mark Martin while Martin is subbing for Denny.

However, yesterday, JGR backpedalled, saying that they “…were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville” – i.e., MWR’s lawyers said “NOPE!”

So Brian Vickers, also a JGR driver in the Nationwide series, will be filling in for Denny at Texas on April 13th and beyond.

Finally – “Brokeback Hamlin”? A little mean, but pretty funny.

EDIT: Alternate title – “Sponsors: we paid for Mark Martin, we will get Mark Martin.”

Mark Martin to the 11 – screw you MWR?

Mark Martin will be subbing for Denny Hamlin in the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

He was not scheduled to be in the MWR #55 car at Martinsville, but he was supposed to be in the #55 in the following three events at Texas, Kansas, and Richmond.

Does this mean more seat time for Brian Vickers? More for Michael Waltrip? It’s like a semi-silly season already.

UPDATE: This probably explains it a bit better:

MWR, according to sources, would like to keep Vickers in the 55 for as much as possible because he is the likely replacement for Martin next season.

Penske quotes about Logano – a very slight bit of doubt shows up

From yahoo news:

“The fuel in the fire after Bristol created a lot of public noise,” Penske said. “But as I said, that’s the environment we’re in right now. He’s still the same guy we hired six months ago, and I’m 100 percent confident that he’s going to be able to execute when he needs to be at the highest level.”

Standard owner stuff. But this is where I see a hint of doubt, or perhaps leaving a door open:

“At the end of the season, we’ll see where everybody is. But I have high hopes for his success. Obviously, what we can do is provide him with a car and a team that can execute it.”

Hamlin out for six weeks

Denny Hamlin is expected to need at least 6 weeks of recovery time. He is not expected to need surgery.

Many people point to Elliot Sadler as the obvious choice as a fill in, due to his current driving duties for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide series.

Fontana comes alive!

This week on the schmak, we discuss the awesome racing at Fontana, what caused it to be so good, the mid-week predictions on the schmak and what went wrong, the Logano/Hamlin feud, Tony Stewart’s jackassery, and more!

Picks for Martinsville in two weeks:

Coach: Jimmie Johnson

Rob: Brad Keselowski

Fontana Notes – Biffle, Logano, SAFER barriers, Tony Stewart

1) Biffle finished 6th, well ahead of Fontucky Master Jimmie Johnson, who came home 12th.

And it looked like he was having a decent day. I missed the boat on that one, I guess there is a reason the people paid to do pre-race analysis talked about Biffle.

Although he had to cut Matt Kenseth’s tire and pass the Hamlin/Logano wreck to get it.

2) Logano definitely drove it in too hard, and over drove the corner and caused that wreck. However, what sent Denny to the hospital was a LACK OF SAFER BARRIER ON A WALL. Haven’t we learned this lesson before? Vegas w/Jeff Gordon?

As the rule goes, if there is a chance that a car can hit any spot on the race track, it will.

We’ve seen that at Daytona this year, and at Bristol a few times with Michael Waltrip and Mike Harmon.

3) What the heck is Tony Stewart eating? Whatever it is, it’s making him angry and obese.

Also, I guess in his mind, he’s the only one who can throw a block?

EDIT: Just saw this yahoo sports article. Headline says it all:

Tony Stewart, blocking aficionado, is ticked at Joey Logano for blocking.

Forget the Biff, part 2

Bob Pockrass tweet:

Greg Biffle engine change. He will start in the rear Sunday. #nascar http://t.co/sHsp0gzQHh

The Michigan/Fontana Fallacy

Over on the frontstretch.com, they have an interview with Steve Letarte (Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief).

A few interesting tid-bits are contained within, including his evaluation of the added camber to the rear wheels at Bristol, but for me, the salient point is his comparison of Michigan to California:

Letarte: Due to the repave at Michigan they might as well be one on Mars and one on Venus. They are totally different tracks. What we see now is tracks are more consistent due to pavement types more than track styles. I think this will be a perfect example where Fontana will be nothing like a freshly paved Michigan. I think it will be more like an old Kansas or perhaps a Texas. It really comes down to roughness and the actual pavement style that makes the most difference.

The first couple of seasons of NASCAR watching, I didn’t really see the similarity of racing between the two tracks. Fontana was a single groove, no-passing kind of track while Michigan had multiple grooves, and passing was a little bit easier. Yes, they both denigrated into single-file races, but I always felt Michigan was racier.

Lower almost flat-track like banking at Fontana vs. steeper, speedier bankings at Michigan contributed to this comparison.

However, in the last few years, Michigan has become less racy, and Fontana more so (see 2011’s last lap pass for the win, and 2010’s last few laps of excitement). Now with the repave, Michigan has definitely turned into a one-groove non-racy track, while Fontana has had moments of multi-groove raciness.

Either way, I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of thinking that Michigan and Fontana are “similar” tracks and people who do well at one do well at the other, as that is what I’ve heard repeated a thousand times on the radio and TV and internet postings and every NASCAR aficionado I’ve ever met. However, the driver average finishes tend to tell a little bit of a different story.

Top 5 active drivers at Fontana, ranked by average finish:

1) Jimmie Johnson Avg. Fin: 5.39
2) Carl Edwards Avg. Fin: 8.73
3) Matt Kenseth Avg. Fin: 10.25
4) Clint Bowyer Avg. Fin: 10.83
5) Kyle Busch Avg. Fin: 11.33

Top 5 active drivers at Michigan, ranked by average finish:

1) Carl Edwards Avg. Fin: 8.24
2) Matt Kenseth Avg. Fin: 9.56
3) Jeff Gordon Avg. Fin: 11.70
4) Greg Biffle Avg. Fin: 11.80
5) Tony Stewart Avg. Fin: 11.93

I think the fact that the two Roush drivers Kenseth1 and Edwards occupy the top averages at both tracks is the data point that “proves” the similarity between the two tracks.

But Jimmie Johnson, so good at Fontana, is 11th of active drivers at Michigan, with an average finish of 15.23 – not similar at all to his Fontana stats.

Greg Biffle, ranked 4th of all active drivers at Michigan, is 14th of active drivers at Fontana.

These averages were mostly created by races run on the old paving at Michigan, and already you can see success at one does not guarantee success at the other, unless you are Kenseth or Edwards.

Now with the Michigan repave, these tracks are even further apart.

Jimmie Johnson – Fontucky Master

Wish I had drafted these before our last Schmak podcast.

Jimmie Johnson has the distinguished achievement of completing every single lap of every single race he’s run at Fontucky. Nobody else running can say that. Even last year, with a failing engine, he was spared by the rain shortened race.

His numbers at Fontucky are amazing:

From 2007, he has the following finishes:

Spring 2007: 3rd
Fall 2007: 1st
Spring 2008: 2nd
Summer 2008: 1st
Spring 2009: 9th
Fall 2009: 1st
Spring 2010: 1st
Fall 2010: 3rd
Spring 2011: 2nd
Spring 2012: 10th (with an engine that was blowing up).

He also won his first ever race at this track in 2002.

He is running pretty strong this year.

In retrospect, I was crazy not to make him my pick for the race this week.

In the last 11 races, he has finished outside of the top 5 twice, and never out of the top 10, and has won 4 of those races.

Average finish of 5.39, best of all active drivers.

Carl Edwards is next with an average finish of 8.73 here. Maybe Edwards would be a good dark horse. I’d pick him before Biffle.

Forget the Biff

On the last podcast, we talked about drivers on our short list, and we left Greg Biffle off the list, despite his recent good runs at 2 mile tracks (6th at Fontucky, 4th at Michigan, and a win at the second Michigan).

Nascar.com has an article about Biffle being a safe bet for fantasy league players, but I beg to differ.

Looking purely at Biffle’s past history at Fontucky, he has a 6th, an 11th, a 41st, a 10th, and a 20th in his last 5 races there.

So he might be safe if you’re looking for a bottom-bin bargain driver, but his last three finishes ( 11th at Bristol, 17th at Vegas and 17th at Phoenix) indicate that he’s not having a stellar year on the ovals, despite being in the top 5 in points.

I would pick Denny Hamlin over Biffle at Fontucky.

Auto Club 400 Notes

Just to note – the set of tires that Goodyear is bringing to Auto Club Speedway in Fontucky (Fontana, CA) this year is the same as last year’s. I seem to remember last year’s race stunk to high heaven, but it was also rained out after 129 laps.

The year before had a great finish (see here), and was using the same right sides that Goodyear is bringing again this week.

So I have hope that perhaps this race might be better than Phoenix.

Danica in the All-Star race?

I saw a twitter campaign start today for voting Danica into the All-Star race.

Since Dale Jr. won a race last year, he won’t need to be voted in, so Danica won’t have to battle him for the votes.

Does anyone else even stand a chance?

Poor Bill Elliot doesn’t even have a car number.

Light at the end of the Mayfield tunnel

Jeremy Mayfield’s quest to race in NASCAR again has taken a positive turn as 10 felony burglary-related charges were dropped in Iredell County because the primary witness against him died in a motorcycle accident last year.

I guess that’s one way to beat the rap.

The motorcycle accident cited above actually happened during a police chase. Also of note, this witness against Mayfield was also co-defendant in the same case.

So much criminal activity…

Mayfield recently has been more open to going through NASCAR’s recovery program to be reinstated and said he wants to return to racing.

He can always do an interview on the schmak to begin his publicity campaign.

Source aol sporting news.

Twisted Knickers at Bristol

It was a greaaaat day for some greaaaat racing in the hills of Tennessee. But the schmakers still found some stuff to schmak about.

Restarts – is NASCAR just sort of letting them happen now?

Keselowski – only driver to finish in top 5 each race so far.

Dale Jr. – only other driver to finish top 10 in each race so far.

Why I haven’t picked Khane this season so far.

And of course the Denny vs. Joey thing.

Shortlist for next week at Fontucky:
Kyle Busch
Jimmie Johnson
Brad Keselowski
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth

Watch the finish to the 2011 race – pretty darn good.

Picks for Fontucky:

Coach: Kyle Busch

Rob: Dale Jr.

Bristol schmak live 5:00 pacific

We will be love schmaking at 5 pacific today. Catch us at http://70.185.182.78:8000/listen.m3u

Live stream of the race

Looks like ESPN has a racecast and a live blog with video.

Also, the PRN network is streaming live as well.

But it doesn’t look like there’s a race buddy for the Sprint side of things, only Nationwide. And how is ESPN carrying live streams when the race is on FOX?

I’m confused.

Hamlin’s fine vs. Carl Long’s fine

Interesting article titled “Hamlin Fine Puts Spotlight on Carl Long’s Plight”

Carl Long’s crew chief was fined $200,000 for an illegal engine in 2009. Since, he wasn’t able to pay, the fine shifted to other people:

Under NASCAR rules, the fine was reverted to the car owner, which was Long’s wife, DeeDee. Unable to drive until the fine is paid, Long was still able to work in the Sprint Cup Series garage because his wife was technically responsible for settling the debt.

But last year, Long said NASCAR transferred the fine to his name and he’s no longer allowed inside the Cup garage

Vindictive.

Racebuddy!

The nationwide race will have race buddy coverage! This was the thing where you could watch the in-car camera from multiple cars, and get live audio streams and all sorts of things.

Racebuddy

Does anyone know if this is happening on the cup side tomorrow?

Vickers vs. Hendrick Qual

As a follow up to the previous post about practice speeds, here are how they actually qualified today.

Kasey Kahne starts 2nd

Brian Vickers starts 4th

Jeff Gordon starts 11th

Jimmie Johnson starts 13th

Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts 32nd.

If the race were to end with this order, I would lose the pool. Luckily, we still do race, but with passing at a premium, I’m not sure how likely it is that this general grouping will change.

Also, Danica qualled 42nd.

In comparison, Mr. Rocketman Newman qualled in 31st, Tony Stewart qualled in 8th.

Gonna be a long day for Danica fans.

Vickers vs. Hendrick – practice 1

In the latest Track Schmak podcast, we had one of the most lopsided set of picks we’ve had in a long time.

Rob picked Brian Vickers, I picked the lowest 3 Hendrick drivers – i.e., if Jimmie Johnson wins the race and Vickers finishes 2nd, Rob still wins the pool because Vickers was ahead of 3 of the Hendrick drivers. I only win if 2 or more of the Hendrick drivers beat Vickers.

Seemed like a pretty safe bet for me.

But then I saw first practice speeds:

Vickers – 9th quickest.

Kasey Kahne, 8th.
Jeff Gordon, 19th
Dale Earnhardt Jr, 22nd
Jimmie Johnson, 27th

Looks like the Coach curse is back.