Chat with Ryan McGee
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Ryan McGee will stop by to chat about the 2011 NASCAR season.
McGee, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, is the author of "ESPN Ultimate NASCAR: 100 Defining Moments in Stock Car Racing History." For the '11 season, he will be putting together the NASCAR Power Rankings for ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join McGee Monday at 2 p.m. ET!
Ryan McGee (2:01 PM)
Hello my friends and welcome to the Monday motorsports block party. Not much partying today, I'm afraid. Coming to you live from the electronic fuel injection test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the mood is somber. Everyone's thinking of Dan Wheldon and his family. Let's head on in to the questions...
First off prayers to the Weldon family. Second, should Dega end their lead laps gimmick after seeing what happened to Dan trying to pursue the Indy gimmick?
Ryan McGee (2:05 PM)
First, indeed prayers to all. Second, I don't expect any change to what NASCAR is doing with the lap leader promotion. I don't think the $5 million bonus is what led to Dan's death. Yes, it's what put him into the race, but his desire to win the money isn't what killed him. For decades NASCAR gave a bonus check to the driver who led at the halfway point of each race. Guys used to raced like crazy for the "halfway money" but it never created a situation that was any more or less dangerous than regular racing.
Dave (New York)
Do you think Indy Car will eventually reduce speeds, like NASCAR does at the super speedways, as a safety messure?
Ryan McGee (2:07 PM)
They have before. I think they will again, certainly on high-banked ovals. But the two areas that need to be looked at are covering the cockpit area and covering the tires. As long as heads are exposed and wheels are exposed, it's going to be dangerous. I know that flies in the face of a century of open cockpit racing, but at some point tradition is outdated. It's either that or do what Jimmie Johnson suggested just a little while ago here at the CMS test, do away with ovals altogether.
Justin M (Boone, NC)
Are there any ongoing efforts to improve catch fences for drivers' safety? I know the tragedy Sunday probably couldn't be prevented by one simple thing but it seems to me like the catch fences are the most dangerous part of our racetracks today for the drivers. The SAFER barriers are amazing for what they do when a car stays on the ground but as soon as they're airborne it's irrelevant. I just wonder whether anybody is researching alternatives (sorta like when SAFER barriers were first being worked on at Nebraska).
Ryan McGee (2:09 PM)
Yes, there have definitely been fence projects, but nothing to the extent of what we've seen with head and neck restraints and soft walls. After the fan deaths here at Charlotte Motor Speedway in '99 I interviewed a scientist who was proposing what he called a "Hockey Wall" of super-strong Plexiglass-type material. But there never went anywhere. Didn't think it would.
Alan (Columbus, Ohio)
Hi Ryan! Couldn't completely tell but were the cheers yesterday when JJ wrecked out due to the fact that he wrecked or due to the fact that he got out of the car unscathed?
Ryan McGee (2:10 PM)
Both. He talke about that a few minutes ago. He said he never heard anything one way or the other because "I was still trying to catch my breath".
As a long time Jeff Gordon/24 fan it is sad to me to see his decline. Do you think Jeff needs to retire while he's still at the top rather than go into a long, slow decline like others have done?
Ryan McGee (2:13 PM)
Do we really think he's started into some long, slow DW/Richard Petty-like decline? Because I don't think that at all. He's won 3 races, the most he's won in a season since 2007 and if you throw out his blown engine at Kansas he's still in title hunt. He's in the Chase for the 6th straight year and a month ago he was the hottest driver in the sport. I don't see decline at all.
Sorry Ryan, but Dan's death was caused by 34 cars on small track, doing 225 MPH going into 20 degree banked turns on a track designed for stock cars.
Ryan McGee (2:14 PM)
I totally agree. Have never said otherwise.
Tony's comeback chances from 24 points down right now.
Ryan McGee (2:15 PM)
Fair. Vegas still has him 7-1. I think that's pretty accurate.
Zach Cross (Church Hill TN)
Is Carl Edwards your pick to win the championship?
Ryan McGee (2:17 PM)
I have Harvick right now. Simply based on the fact that his career numbers at Talladega and Martinsville are much better than Carl's.
big jon (jersey )
picked kenseth 7th in my fantasy league and got a much needed win. now that im back in the hunt for a championship i need another winner. i have the 2nd pick if theyre both available JR or harvick?
Ryan McGee (2:18 PM)
Harvick. BTW, my claim to fame on Saturday was that I picked Kenseth to win that morning. A rare day when the McGee Curse never took hold.
I may get on NASCAR's case about some things, but their record lately on safety is best in the business.
Ryan McGee (2:19 PM)
No doubt. But it took a lot of pain and anquish a decade ago to make it happen. It got so bad across all forms of racing '98-'01 that I damn near quit and found another line of work.
Riley (Hampton Roads)
How ironic is it that Dale Sr is now remembered as the face who started the safety revolution in Nascar, while Dan Wheldon was the go to guy for safety innovations in Indy with the new car rolling out. Dan will most likely be the Dale Sr of Indy in that aspect.
Ryan McGee (2:21 PM)
Yep. The one positive about Dan not having a full-time ride this year was that it allowed him to be the primary test driver for this new 2012 car that is supposed to be so much safer. I talked to him about that a few weeks ago and he was really fired up about it. However, now I think they'll still go back to the drawing board on some things after what happened on Sunday.
Football has one, Basketball has one, Ryan..do you think NASCAR will ever have a modern day drivers union??
Ryan McGee (2:22 PM)
Nope. Too many moving parts. It's been tried before. Back then, NASCAR was vehemently against it. These days I don't think it would bother them so much, but the business model is so much different in racing, especially NASCAR. Every driver is his or her own corporation. So is every team, every sponsor, every parts supplier, etc. Too many agendas to make a union work.
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
Plus, I think the line of communication between the drivers and the sanctioning body is much more open now than it ever has been before.
Mark V (Venice, FL)
Do you think that if Randy's promotion was taken seriously, with drivers from other series coming in (Pastrana, Kahne and Kyle Busch rumored to do it), it could have been worse? Or maybe after it failed, the idea should have been scraped?
Ryan McGee (2:26 PM)
I know this. Chatting with Kasey Kahne about it this morning he was clearly rattled. He really wanted to do it but Rick Hendrick said no. This morning he went out of his way to say there was no way of knowing if would have been in the middle of it because he wouldn't have known where he'd be qualified, etc...but he admitted that he was a little shaken by the whole thing.
Being both a NASCAR and IndyCar fan I am concerned that NASCAR is falling in the same trap as IndyCar. IndyCar's Dallera's became so safe IndyCar pushed the envelop and it cost them. I think "boys have at it" will one day bite NASCAR bad.
Ryan McGee (2:27 PM)
It's a valid point. Drive X, an anonymous NASCAR Cup driver who writes a column for us in ESPN The Magazine, said as much just a couple of issues ago. The older guys worry that the younger guys get to feeling a little too bulletproof.
How does Dan's death impact Danica staying in racing? Do you think she might forget about this NASCAR move?
Ryan McGee (2:29 PM)
No. If anything I think it would have accelerated her move. I hate so much for her that her final non-Indy 500 IndyCar race had to be that kind of experience. She is usually so composed and just broke down on ABC yesterday.
I only watch Indy when it races on ovals. If they get rid of oval racing that series is done. What do you think about the Gamecocks without Lattimore?
Ryan McGee (2:31 PM)
I think there has to be a mix. But perhaps they need to look at what kind of ovals they run. As for the Gamecocks, they keep winning and keep controlling the SEC East despite all the stuff going on around them. They'll still win some games and get to a decent bowl, but I honestly have no idea how they can win out without him.
What is wrong with EGR? Jamie made his way up into the top 10 on strategy, but finished in the 20's. Can they not get their setups right?
Ryan McGee (2:32 PM)
It's pretty bad over there. The Childress engines certainly haven't been what they were last year, at least not the first part of the season. RCR was so much more advanced setup-wise that they could cover that. EGR wasn't.
Rena (Alpharetta, GA)
Don't you just hate it so much that Rowdy can have such a great race and only gain 2 points on Edwards?
Ryan McGee (2:33 PM)
Well, his fans certainly hate it! But I think Kyle fans should also be encouraged. We've all been waiting on the 18 to get it going and they certainly did on Saturday. If he's still in the hunt when we hit Martinsville, look out.
Ryan McGee (2:34 PM)
Yep. Just hit air. My boy Marty is looking sharp. Dude finally got a weekend off!
After watching Sebastian Vettel win his 10th grand prix of the season, is it really a shock that Red Bull is pulling out of NASCAR..
Ryan McGee (2:35 PM)
No. I think it is no coincidence that as Red Bull's F1 program has become a dominant force the bosses in Europe have soured on the NASCAR program.
Rick Huseman, off road racing champ was killed as well. Prayers for everybody in motorsports nation
Ryan McGee (2:39 PM)
Yeah, I hate that. His brother Jeff was on the plane too.
With that being said about Kasey Kahne and others wanting to race the Indy car, why would Indy allow a drivers that has never driven one of their cars into a race of this magnitude?
Ryan McGee (2:40 PM)
That was a huge question when the idea was proposed. And quite frankly, that's why no one signed on. Several NASCAR drivers made some noise about it, but in the end the lack of seat time leading into it just made it a terrible idea. No driver wants to go out and get embarrassed. Or killed.
Jeff in SC, there are plenty of fans that like street and road racing. F1 never races ovals, and its popularity is huge worldwide.
Ryan McGee (2:41 PM)
I hear you both. But I do think that, to survive in America, a series has to include oval racing. As the European motorsports writers always tell me, us Americans are raised in "an oval culture".
Have you ever seen any driver with such a strong team and momentum heading into a Chase have such bad luck? Jeff Gordon ran out of fuel, had a fuel cell issue, blown engine, and wrecked, all in races where he had a very good runs.
Ryan McGee (2:42 PM)
There always seems to be one guy that comes in as a favorite, only to have the forces of nature conspire against him. Sadly for JG fans, it was his turn.
For those people who think Danica is some over hyped princess, she raced and excelled in the kind of racing we saw yesterday for seven years. Major ovaries.
Ryan McGee (2:42 PM)
Brian (Oklahoma City)
I think it was the right call that the IndyCar race was not restarted. However, I wonder... If that were a NASCAR race or Brian France was in charge, would the race have been restarted?
Ryan McGee (2:43 PM)
I don't think so. Certainly not in that setting, the season finale. Ultimately I think it would be up to the drivers. IndyCar made the decision along with the drivers.
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
I have always had mixed feeling about the day that Greg Moore died. He wrecked early and way off the track, so there was little to no cleanup on the actual racing surface. But letting those race all day and then telling them when they got out of the cars...it was rough. And now, more than a decade later, few remember taht Adrian Fernandez won. They just remember that Moore died.
dennis @ idaho [via mobile]
ryan i met a guy abt a month ago that knows why jr. has been doing poorly these past years are you intrested in finding out more he told me i could let the facts be told
Ryan McGee (2:46 PM)
Sure, email me: email@example.com. But keep in mind I get about 30 theories about him per week. I had three people stop me in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield this past weekend alone.
Hey Ryan, JD Gibbs said something a couple weeks that kind of concerns me. When asked about all these developmental drivers coming through the ranks, he stated that these KIDS need to be successful right of the bat or they have no chance of making it in NASCAR. Is this kind of pressure on these youngsters a bad thing for the future of NASCAR??
Ryan McGee (2:47 PM)
Yes, it seems harsh. But it's been that way for a long time. And it comes straight from the sponsors, not the teams.
I am not being insenstive with this question... promise. Do you think they should have raced yesterday, or delayed the race to a later time?
Ryan McGee (2:48 PM)
You're not. It's a legit question. But no, they shouldn't have.
Dan (Charlotte, NC)
What you think about JJ wreck? I was at the race just stunned that happen to him. Can he rebound?
Ryan McGee (2:49 PM)
I was too. He can, but he can literally make no mistakes if wants to get back in the title hunt. He needs some serious help from the wackiness that we'll have at Talladega, Martinsville, and Phoenix. It's not entirely in his hands anymore, which is uncharted territory for those guys.
Ryan McGee (2:50 PM)
One cool moment from Saturday night, as the 48 team was loading the wrecked car into the hauler they broke out into an impromptu chant of "5 more races...5 more races."
Michael (Edinboro University of Pennsylvania)
It seems like whoever has momentum from the week before has some kind of difficulty the following week. Given that, who do you think will be the next Chaser to have problems at 'Dega or will all of them have some type of problem given the nature of the track?
Ryan McGee (2:51 PM)
That's a good observation. And by that law of averages, you would expect it to happen to the 99 or the 29. Of those two, the best candidate for trouble at Talladega is the 99.
Cory (Geneva, IL)
Does yesterday have NASCAR rethinking the larger plate for Talladega? That wasn't all that much different from Carl Edwards' crash a few years back.
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
No. I have expected all along that we'll have a change in plates at some point during the weekend before we get to Sunday. That's just kind of how it's been down there for a while. But Sunday's accident won't have anything to do with a decision at Talladega. We're about to have Robin Pemberton in the media center here at Charlotte and he's also going to be on NASCAR Now just after 3 pm ET. I bet that will come up.
Did the Penske team dial down the engines too much?
Ryan McGee (2:54 PM)
Kurt sure seemed to think so. But was he being factual or just spewing random complaints over the radio simply for the sake of raising hell?
Bill (Crestview, FL)
Ryan, it seems like just 10-15 years ago, we routinely had drivers out for injury. How impressed were you with Jimmie walking away from a wreck that, in the older car, may have left him injured? We have come a long way.
Ryan McGee (2:57 PM)
Huge. I said in the Power Rankings this week, I've said it on TV, radio, and I'll say it here. If Jimmie's crash had happened in 2001 instead of 2011 we might be memorializing two champion racers today. Earlier today he couldn't stop talking about going over the G-force numbers and data with NASCAR and how much worse they would have been without the SAFER barrier.
Ryan McGee (2:58 PM)
Sorry...Charlotte Motor Speedway WiFi is acting up.
What about the fans? Shouldn't LV refund the price of tickets? Why should they profit?
Ryan McGee (2:58 PM)
They didn't. Fans have been offered a full refund.
Dale (Los Angeles)
Ryan..do you see the day when Chad Knaus will become general manager of Hendrick Motorsports a la Robbie Reiser with Roush? Doesnt Mr Hendrick realize he can have Chad benefit all his teams instead of just one..
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
He's had the chance to be promoted and has turned it down. He loves what he's doing.
Mark (Mount Airy,MD)
Hey Ryan, Fans are still underestimating Matt Kenseth to win the Chase. The combo of him and Jimmy Fennig is formidable, and both have won Championships before.
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
I'm not! Biggest issue for him will be surviving Talladega and Martinsville. He does that, look out.
Did the SI cover curse bite JJ?
Ryan McGee (3:01 PM)
I write for ESPN The Magazine, so let's say yes.
Ryan McGee (3:02 PM)
Alright folks, gotta go. The electronic fuel injection test at Charlotte just ended and I gotta go interview some race car drivers. Flip over to NASCAR Now on ESPN2 right now! Robin Pemberton about to join the roundtable to talk EFI. I'll see you on the TV from Talladega this weekend. Until then, keep the Wheldon family in your prayers. Those little boys had an amazing father and we should never let them forget that.