Chat with Ed Hinton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com NASCAR writer Ed Hinton will stop by to talk about all the latest news and notes from around the track.
Hinton began his career covering NASCAR in the 1970's working for the Orlando Sentinel. He has also worked for Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, where he worked until leaving in January 2008.
Send your questions now and join Hinton Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Ed Hinton (2:00 PM)
Good afternoon, all. Welcome back to a full season of chats.
Ed, what do you expect from the Roush camp this season? Thanks
Ed Hinton (2:01 PM)
A lot. Jack told me the other day he feels better about this season than he has at the start of any of his 22 seasons in NASCAR. Carl feels real good about keeping his momentum from the end of last year.
The Wolf (Florida)
Is it a wise idea for ARCA to be one of the first races on the new Daytona pavement? I have a feeling someone will be seriously injured.
Ed Hinton (2:01 PM)
That's a pretty good point. The good news is that ARCA cars are safer than they were during the bad old days of horrific crashes at Daytona. But you're right. That'll be a scary show.
I heard one of the so-called NASCAR 'experts" say that it has never been harder to win cup races, that NASCAR has never been more competitive, that the box NASCAR has put the teams into has never been more restrictive and yet he wouldn't rate Jimmie as NASCAR greatest ever driver? Isn't 5 straight championships good enough for some of these people?
Ed Hinton (2:03 PM)
I don't think it's time to rate Jimmie as the greatest ever either. Maybe down the road. But there were too many that were too good in relatively good competition to call him THE best yet.
Kyle (Richmond, VA)
Ed, I understand this would NEVER happen, but what would your initial reaction be if NASCAR moved the Daytona 500 to the last race of the season?
Ed Hinton (2:05 PM)
That could be the death knell of NASCAR. They couldn't possibly put their biggest race up against the peak of football season. I do, however, like the idea of moving the summer race at Daytona to the last race of the season, so that it starts at Daytona and ends at Daytona.
so do you think that Steve's attitude could be the closest thing to POPS and maybe thats what Jr needs. He already talks with more confidence and is kinda getting his swagger back before the season has even started and could come out strong like in 08 at HMS
Ed Hinton (2:06 PM)
Steve's a dynamo, Pops is a solid rock. Nobody will ever have the ear of Junior quite like Pops did. To me, Pops would still be the best answer for Junior, but HMS/JR apparently think he's more valuable training young drivers like Almirola.
Mario (Kendall, Florida)
Hi Ed, other than Dale jr. moving to drive the #24, what has changed since Dale said, 12 months ago, that he was gonna run every lap "ruthless"
Ed Hinton (2:07 PM)
Dale's not moving to the 24. Letarte is being sent to the 88.
Jeremy Mayfield in an Indy car?
Ed Hinton (2:08 PM)
Hadn't heard that one. Last I heard he's thinking of running dirt in the South -- and in the South that means fendered cars.
Ronnie (Cold in Houston)
How comes these old guys like Martin, Burton, Labonte, Elliott etc. don't retire with dignity like DJ, Rusty, Rudd, Ward, Sterling and Spencer did?
Ed Hinton (2:09 PM)
Of the group you mention, only DJ and Rusty truly went out clean. The others sort of ran out of rides. The worst case ever of not retiring gracefully was DW. Now he admits I'm the only one old enough to remember how good he was. Younger folks remember him puttering around getting lapped.
To be honest, I think the changes to the points didn't go far enough. I think their should be more points for winning and I think their should be a bonus for the person leading the points at the end of 26 races. However, I was really disappointed that they didn't institute a different point system for the chase. I think the should award the highest chase finisher with 12 points and the lowest finisher with 1 point; if the highest finisher wins the race then award him with another bonus. I don't know about anyone else but I would love it!
Ed Hinton (2:11 PM)
I agree. I'd rather have seen a flat 50 for winning, plus bonus points for leading a lap and leading the most laps. Yes, I think the leader after 26 should get significant seeding points.
KarenL (Santa Barbara, CA.)
I feel Mr. "H" (Hendrick) over rated. Why on earth did he put a non-engineer CC (Letarte) w/Jeff Gordon for 4 seasons? If he felt Letart had CC potential, why not require him to get Engineering degree. And, why keep him in CC rotation after 4 unsuccessful years w/Jeff Gordon. If he couldn't get Jeff (4-time winner) to a Championship (not to mention 1 win in last 2 seasons) why isn't he removed as anyone's CC for this season. Likewise w/Lance. Let's face it, besides Chad, the only other person with potential to be great CC is now with Tony Stewart (Darian Grubb). Hmm. Tony's gain -- Hendrick's loss. Grubb w/Jeff might have produced a different Champion in last two seasons!
Ed Hinton (2:13 PM)
Hendrick usually puts hard-knocks-trained guys into crew chief positions. Engineers report to the crew chief. That's the old school way. Remember, Grubb was a crew chief at Hendrick only while Knaus was doing time for tech violations. Engineers as crew chiefs is a relatively new phenomenon, and Hendrick is old school.
Jeff Gordon is a better driver than Jr and Letart only got 1 win in the last 3 years with him. So how can Jr fans expect any better moving forward?
Ed Hinton (2:14 PM)
Like I said in the column, record wasn't all that went into Hendrick's decision. Letarte is such a booming positive personality that he's going to try to smooth out Earnhardt's emotional roller coaster. That's the key to getting the car adjusted in mid race, rather than just hearing a bunch of railing rather than legit feedback.
Hey Ed. I'm a big Jr fan but, i guess i somewhat different than most of Jr nation in that I feel that the reason that Dale Jr isn't running well is a large part his fault. Having said that, I am extremely optimistic that being paired with LeTarte is going to be a very good thing. I don't think that McGrew was a bad crew chief but he and Jr. never seemed right for each other to me. Your Thoughts on how Dale Jr. will do this year? Great Article by the way.
Ed Hinton (2:16 PM)
Well . . . I know Letarte pretty well, and he'll definitely cool Junior down a bit. I think they'll win a race or two. The pitfall would be if they're in position to win and Steve makes a pit call that costs them a race. Then they'll both be down. But I think you'll at least see Junior in the top 5 and top 10 more.
Do you expect Rowdy to put up 5+ cup wins, 10 NW wins and 5 truck wins in '11?
Ed Hinton (2:17 PM)
Yes on Cup, yes on Trucks, no on the 10 in Nationwide. Got some pretty strong competition this time, what with Almirola driving for Pops at JR, and Sadler full time in a KHI car.
what do you think of Denny Hamlin this year? and looking forward?
Ed Hinton (2:18 PM)
He said the other day he thinks the public expects a letdown year for him, and says it ain't gonna happen. He's sitting on go, and so is Ford, and they're not standing still on the technology that was so good for them last year. They'll be strong again.
If Jr was a pitcher people would call him a head case and he would get sent down to the minors to straighten it out. It's too bad that Hendrick can't do that because of the sponsors.
Ed Hinton (2:19 PM)
You may have a point there.
Ed, does a driver really deserve bonus points for leading a lap when they can just stay out for a lap under caution and be credited for 'leading a lap?' In my opinion, no bonus should be awarded for leading on caution laps.
Ed Hinton (2:20 PM)
Hmmm . . . well, it's still pretty risky to stay out and lead that lap under caution . . . you're giving up an in-sync pit stop.
what do think Jeff G has to do to win another cup title? Being stuck on 4 for so long must be killin him.
Ed Hinton (2:21 PM)
Oh, it is. It is. We'll see what Gustafson can do for him. They might surprise. Something's gotta get him over the hump from almost to winning again. If he can pick up four or five wins he could be champ this year.
Ed, Have you heard the rumor Texans can't drive in ice? Being around the sport the many years you have, what if anyting, has YOU excited about this upcoming season? Also, who ya got on sunday?
Ed Hinton (2:23 PM)
Texans aren't the only ones who can't drive on ice. New Englanders are in the same boat. You should hear the horror tales I hear from our folks who live in CT about slippin' and slidin'. At least Texans admit ice is hopeless. Not happy with either Super Bowl team, but I got the Packers. They've had a ton of mo through the playoffs.
Good story on Dale and I liked how you point out that Dale has bascially been a non-factor since 2004, so instead of the laundry list of crew chiefs, what is the real reason?
Ed Hinton (2:24 PM)
Confidence. Ever since they promoted Pops out of the job, there hasn't been a single crew chief who could control his emotions, because they couldn't keep his confidence -- either in them or in himself. It's a confidence thing, pressing too hard, losing more and more confidence. Downward spiral. Letarte may be able to break the cycle, but only maybe.
Harvick has always fallen out of the top 10 after finishing in the top 10. You think #29 is in for his tradional slump?
Ed Hinton (2:25 PM)
I don't. The whole RCR operation has too much mo right now. Childress is flat-out saying they're going to dethrone the 48. I say Harvick's a threat again.
Who do you think will have the most wins this season, will kyle busch make the chase?
Ed Hinton (2:27 PM)
Kyle Busch will make the Chase because of the new safety net for the last two berths, where the guys get in on number of wins as long as they're top 20 in points. Most wins? Carl Edwards just told me, "Look at Jamie McMurray. He could win 10 races and dominate the thing." Actually I think if anybody wins 10 it's going to be Carl, a la his roll of 2008.
How come Dale, Gordon and other older drivers haven't been able to learn how to race the Car of Today on the limit like Kyle, Jimmie, Carl, Denny, Kurt and those guys can?
Ed Hinton (2:28 PM)
In Jeff's case, it has to do with the way the car sets in the corners. He doesn't like the "loose in" that comes with this car, but tells me it's not the loose so much as the set. Jimmie and Carl, especially, actually seem to enjoy "loose in."
Good day, Mr Hinton. Hope you've had a good offseason. Do you really think NASCAR needed to dumb-down their points system? I don't. I really think it's a stupid ploy to try and garner the fans who already don't view NASCAR as a noncredible idea anyway. If anything, all these constant changes have only lowered the credibility of this venue of motorsports and highlighted the silliness that is Brian France and Co. I guess I'm just venting to a fellow who has been around a good while. Take care, bud.
Ed Hinton (2:30 PM)
I didn't see much point in the "simplification," because the percentages are about the same. I thought they were announcing to be announcing. Much ado about very little. The drivers, on the other hand, claim this system is easier for them to understand right after races are over. But it's the viewers and ticket buyers nascar should worry about.
Did any of you guys or gals tell McReynolds to shove it with his preaching during the media tour?
Ed Hinton (2:32 PM)
I hardly even paid attention to that, in that Larry Mac thinks like a crew chief and doesn't have background as a journalist. I did hear, however, that the ineffable Monte Dutton gave him what-for in a stream of verbiage that only Monte has breath for.
Great article on Ganassi. How do you think JPM is going to do this year? What steps does he and his team need to take to challenge for the title? Do you think EGR has what it takes?
Ed Hinton (2:33 PM)
EGR probably is the strongest two-car team out there. JPM could be right there with Jamie Mac -- at the Brickyard, JPM needs only a break or two to win.
Hi Mr. Hinton, with the Democratic Convention coming to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in '12 do you think NASCAR should invite President Obama to the July 4th Daytona 400 weekend like they did with President Reagan?
Ed Hinton (2:35 PM)
That would be a fine gesture, but NASCAR's hierarchy and most of the (anti-tax) drivers are so Republican that it'll never happen. I'm surprised the Democrats decided to come to such hostile territory as a banking and NASCAR center -- wall to wall GOP.
How much can Carl Edwards ride the momentum from last season into this season, or does it matter?
Ed Hinton (2:36 PM)
He believes a lot. Says he feels better coming off '10 than he did coming off '08. But of course, RFR flopped in '08 when we all picked Carl to dethrone JJ.
Danny (Spring, TX)
Do you see Kurt Busch driving for Penske for the next 10 years or could you see Kurt taking over the #24 or maybe joining Kyle at JGR?
Ed Hinton (2:37 PM)
As for the 24, I don't see Hendrick ever taking on another Busch. JGR is more interested in bringing up youth, so I don't see Kurt there. As long as Kurt wins a few each year, and contends for the title, he'll have a job at Penske.
Bart Busch (Parts unknown)
Over under on articles that there will be a "new Kyle" this year (yet again)
Ed Hinton (2:37 PM)
Democratic convention at NASCAR hof = Yankees Ticker tape parade in Quincy Market
Ed Hinton (2:38 PM)
that's about the size of it.
What do you expect from AJ and Marcos this year? Also what about the new ownership of RPM?
Ed Hinton (2:39 PM)
This Andrew Murstein seems pretty sold, good track record on investments. I expect the Dinger to win a couple . . .Marcos still questionable on most ovals, but could win a road course.
Larry (Marion, Ohio)
with the new qualifying rules couldn't teams "sand bag" and go slow in practice so they can qualify last when the track temps. are cooler?
Ed Hinton (2:40 PM)
I think they're going to have to shake that out in detail. Seems to me they'd want to give the quicker guys the cooler track.
RAYORDONREID ( BRYAN TX 77005)
QUESTION TO ED HINTON AT 2.45 HI ED READY FOR NASCAR 2011
Ed Hinton (2:40 PM)
Ready. But what r you doing in Bryan? Isn't Dallas where the action's at this weekend? Or was Bryan the closest hotel room you could get?
Afternoon Ed, any comments from the drivers or CC's on whether the new nose without splitter braces has changed any of the handling characteristics of the car?
Ed Hinton (2:42 PM)
Junior said not so much at Daytona, but hard to tell because the track is so different -- handling's out the window. I think the fans will be MUCH happier now that the splitter is covered up and the nose looks back to normal.
Hi Ed, do you find it painful to see Bill Elliott and both Labontes out there basically as "start & parkers"?
Ed Hinton (2:42 PM)
I do. But hanging it up is just something NASCAR drivers find it hard to do, especially when they're being paid well.
Actually, Junior will be driving the 24 car. It will just have a different number on the side. Remember, only the drivers changed. Cars, crew, etc stayed the same.
Ed Hinton (2:43 PM)
Gordon started all that stuff by calling it a "driver swap." The environment is going to be very different with Junior having to come around the 48 operation -- if only to get him exposed to the intensity of Knaus.
JPM not only wins at least 3 times this year but stays in contention for the championship until very late in the chase but loses barely to Hamlin. Mark it down! Break out year in Cup for JPM! What do you think?
Ed Hinton (2:44 PM)
I'd say you paint a plausible picture.
I feel politics should not be a part of any sport. You'd be surprised at how many fans are NOT Republican (like me). Especially as Nascar wants to grown more fans outside of the SE.
Ed Hinton (2:45 PM)
I do think they need to pay more attention to their fans of all political attitudes.
Do you think Mr. H had to do some heavy arm twisting to get Knaus to accept a reclaimation project like Dale jr.?
Ed Hinton (2:46 PM)
Maybe not heavy, but some. Continuing to work with Letarte probably reassured Knaus on the consistency of the tech efforts.
Rick (Buffalo, NY)
Who do you have the NW title this year? Smart money would seem to be on Sadler or Amirola with cup supported teams and experiece. I know Nascar wants the focus on young guys (Allgier, Bayne, Stenhouse) but only Allgier has won before in the series.
Ed Hinton (2:47 PM)
Agree with you -- but I give a slight edge to Almirola over Sadler for a couple of reasons. First, Pops is turning out some dynamite new cars at JR. Second, Aric gained a lot of experience at running for a title with his Truck performance last year.
Give us predictions on shootout and 500 winners.
Ed Hinton (2:49 PM)
Shootout, Dale Jr. -- just because he can always be good at Daytona in bursts. 500, McMurray repeats or Harvick wins it -- no reason to believe the ECR plate engines will be any less dominant than last year. . .unless Roush comes up with a big surprise on the plate FR9.
dustin (south boston)
ur thoughts on pastrana's debut and what we can expect from him moving forward.
Ed Hinton (2:50 PM)
At first glance, you'd say Ricky Carmichael's difficult learning curve in NASCAR bodes ill for Pastrana. But you never know. He could pick it right up.
Jordan (South Dakota)
Hey Ed. What are the chances of Iowa ever getting a Cup date in the future?
Ed Hinton (2:51 PM)
Depends on whether NASCAR comes to its senses or not. (Slim chance, huh?) Fact is, NASCAR really needs Iowa on the Cup schedule, because the nature of the track promises really good racing.
hi Ed! Last season we saw a very mature kyle busch. What impressed me the most was the way he helped Danny Hamlin in the chase races by being a good teammate by protecting positions in various stages of the races. If the shoe was on the other foot, do you think Hamlin would have even made an effort to help his teammate?
Ed Hinton (2:52 PM)
Yep. I think the old Coach would have quietly demanded it.
Are people bashing Mikey's Dale 10th aniversary tribute because he's in a Toyota or because people think it is just more Dale exploitation?
Ed Hinton (2:53 PM)
Didn't know they were bashing. But I've talked to Michael at length about this, and I think he's sincere -- he still hasn't gotten over that day, and he's trying to clear his own head about it.
Seeing how the 48,88 are together do you think we could see some heated racing between them like jeff did last year or will jr just race him clean
Ed Hinton (2:54 PM)
Depends on whether the 88 can catch the 48, and if so, run with him for long . . .that all remains to be seen. I do think Junior would be less likely to beat on the 48 than Gordon was.
I'm exhausted with the Dale, Jr. bashing! And, the media contributing to it. Does he not still hold the largest fan base? And, to be honest, Mr. H. is now also collecting $ from Jr. merchandise! I think Jr's going to Hendricks was big mistake. And, does anyone really think Chad has forgotten how to cheat? Perhaps, just gotten much better at not getting caught.
Ed Hinton (2:54 PM)
You're venting on a variety of fronts, Karen. I'll just let you speak for yourself.
Ed, I wish NASCAR would drop about 4 races and end in Oct and not try to compete with NFL, any chance that will happen?
Ed Hinton (2:55 PM)
No chance it will happen, but I agree with you and go you one better. NASCAR should end on Labor Day, and at Darlington, no less. Start in Calif. in January like they used to, run 30 races max, end on Labor Day. They would actually prosper like that, but can't bring themselves to do what's best for them.
Karen is right. If NASCAR is Republican is the NFL Democratic?
Ed Hinton (2:56 PM)
I don't think you see nearly the overt political leanings in the NFL that you do in NASCAR.
Starting next Friday is it true that we have NASCAR every weekend until Thanksgiving?
Ed Hinton (2:56 PM)
there are a few weeks off in Cup . .
Since Scott (Minnesota) is calling for fewer races, I'll go ahead and call for the shorter versions. And fewer cars. 35 sounds like a decent number. Maybe a little high still.
Ed Hinton (2:57 PM)
I'm good with all that you guys are saying, and more.
Hey Ed, with Roush showing signs of being strong again, RCR and EGR having that horsepower, Gibbs continuing its success and Hendrick, well, being Hendrick, do you think this season has the makings of a very competitive, very entertaining one?
Ed Hinton (2:58 PM)
I do. And I'll elaborate on that in columns next week.
great first chat, thank you
Ed Hinton (2:59 PM)
We continue to have very collegial (that is cordial and agreeable) chatters on this one. We seemed to lose the trolls some time last fall, and looks like our momentum carries into '11.
Ed Hinton (3:00 PM)
We're out of time, folks. Thanks to everyone for stopping by.