The Writer’s Block:
RCR, Kentucky, and “The Great Equalizer”
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A.J. Allemdinger (47) leads a pack of cars down pit road at Kentucky Speedway.
By The Racing Experts Staff
July 4, 2014
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
This week, our writing staff takes a look at three more hot topic issues and weigh in their thoughts.
Q. All three Richard Childress Racing drivers ran well at Kentucky Saturday. Has RCR turned the corner?
In my opinion, no, Richard Childress Racing has not turned the corner. Kentucky was a race based on track position, and pit strategy. Ryan Newman didn’t mess up, and qualified well. It’s going to take a lot more weeks running up front at the intermediates, for me to consider RCR a contender.
I think RCR still has a little ways to go before they fully turn the corner. The performance they had at Kentucky showed, once again, that they can put strength behind one team, but not as a whole organization. After all, Ryan Newman ran top-five much of the night, while his other two teammates ran outside of the top-ten. What they did is a start, but they will need to continue forward, in order to turn the corner and get back to where we would usually see them, that being a week-in-and-week-out contender.
Richard Childress Racing has never had a corner to turn this year, and the consistency that RCR yields each week has been phenomenal. While not flashy nor dominant as other teams have been this year, RCR has always been at the front of the pack contending for respectable finishes.
Ryan Newman this season through 17 races has an average finish of 13.9, which ties his career best in that statistic that dates back to 2003, which also happens to be the year he won eight races.
Photo by Will Schneekloth/Getty Images
Austin Dillon talks with grandfather and team owner Richard Childress at Kentucky Speedway.
Paul Menard has already tied the number of top tens he had last year through 17 races this year, and coincidentally, has also tied his career best average finish at 15.5.
Austin Dillon is running well for only being a rookie in the top tier in NASCAR. He has been running at the finish all 17 races and in addition is the only rookie without a DNF.
RCR has no problems, and instead of turning corners, they’re focusing on a summer run towards the finish line come November.
Not really. Besides Menard, who has been scoring top-ten finishes lately, and Ryan Newman's top-five last week at Kentucky, RCR still needs to come a long way.
I think RCR has definitely turned the corner. Ryan Newman had his best run of the season last weekend at Kentucky and Paul Menard and Austin Dillon were around the top ten most of the race.
Newman finally becomes the next RCR driver to get a top 5. Menard is having his best season in his cup career and even some of the affiliate teams are doing good like Michael Annett with Tommy Baldwin Racing who ran in the top 20 all race
Q. After the racing we saw this weekend, what's your overall thoughts on the racing at Kentucky?
My thoughts on the racing in Kentucky are just those… thoughts. I really didn’t even think there was a race in Kentucky on Saturday. It was boring, and most people slept through it, unless you were at the race track… Wait, I’m joking, no one was at the race track.
Most writers blamed over saturation of the market, because the track only lies within 2 hours of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Where I’m from, our football team shares the same stadium, our two baseball teams play a borough away, and same with the two basketball teams. There are also 3 hockey teams. The good teams draw well, and the bad teams don’t. Los Angeles could have screamed that with the Lakers outdrawing the Clippers all those years. Not now that Clippers are good, attendance is back up for those teams.
Simply put, if the product is good, people will show up. Remember that girl you “loved” in high school? You’d drive to Gary, Indiana to get with her. But what if in 20 years, she put on 200 lbs and looked like Shrek. You wouldn’t walk next door to get with her.
It’s not over saturation of the market, it’s a poor product. Everything will go away with a good product, including the excuses of why people don’t show up.
The racing was not very good, but I think that is more to do with the track than the cars. The track may have two grooves, but it just isn't wide enough for cars to fan out and avoid many dreaded aero effects that drivers experience when side by side with each other. The big argument in NASCAR is, you repave a track, you wipe away all the character, but I think a repave would be best for this track. I'd want to see a repave after the 2015 races, however, as we are beginning to get later and later into the year.
I think the grandstands speak for the racing you see at tracks. While they do not release the attendance numbers for races anymore unless it benefits profits and/or publicity, (which is seldom, unfortunately) anyone with eyes could see that the stands were under 80 percent full.
The racing isn’t exactly side by side, as the current gen NASCAR is very aero sensitive and when there was side by side racing on long green flag runs, passing was difficult because the air would hit the spoiler forcing the car on the lower lane up the track.
Kentucky is a demanding track with signature bumps that make drivers go elbows up for the full length of the race, but until changes are made to the car itself, racing that the fans may want to see can’t be accommodated.
An uneventful race overall. It's Kentucky, you can't expect much.
Q. Daytona is "The Great Equalizer". With that being said, which underdog will finish the highest this Saturday?
Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Landon Cassil's racecar at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I think the underdog to watch out for is Casey Mears. I love the way he runs these plate tracks, and he’s a guy who can get the job done. I think one of the things that are overlooked about plate racing is the fact that pit crews do matter, and qualifying really doesn’t.
Watch the race closely, and see the smaller teams who qualified up front. After the first green flag pit stop they’ll lose a little ground. After the second, they’ll lose more, and so on and so forth. It’s not the driver’s fault; it’s the team not being able to afford as high quality of a pit crew as the bigger teams. And it shows at plate tracks. That’s why I like Mears; out of all of the “underdogs,” they’ve got one of the better pit crews.
I think, if the past two plate races are any indication, Landon Cassill has a good shot at being the underdog that gets a good finish. He ran top-ten in much of the Talladega race, and was running really well in the 500, so I expect him to do the same this Saturday. 3.
While picking an underdog at Daytona is a bit of a tall order since the cars are so equal, I look for Casey Mears to really stand out. In the 500 this year, he finished tenth, and last July at the Coke Zero 400 he finished 9th. Two top-ten finishes in a row at a track that chews and spits out drivers is quite exceptional. I look for Mears to stand out and be at the end to contend for the win.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished sixth in the Daytona 500, and tenth at Talladega in April, so I think he will finish the highest, But watch out for Landon Cassill also.