Chat with Ryan McGee
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Ryan McGee will stop by to chat about the 2012 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." McGee puts together the NASCAR Power Rankings for ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join McGee Monday at 2 p.m. ET!
Ryan McGee (2:00 PM)
What's up my Smoky Mountain mist-covered brothers and sisters and welcome back to the Monday Motorsports Block Party chat. It's 80 degrees in the CLT and I'm getting geared up for Springsteen tonight in Greensboro. But before that we've got a lot of talk about...so to the queries!
When, if ever, will NASCAR suspend drivers for repeated violations like the 48?
Ryan McGee (2:03 PM)
Never. Pretty much 100% of the time these days the driver has nothing to do with the construction of the car. Literally nothing. Jimmie is so not a part of this he isn't part of the appeal hearings. There are driver penalties and there are crew penalties. Even still, he still loses the points, so it's not like he's not being punished.
Ryan McGee (2:04 PM)
Now if they saw Jimmie installing a part or he was doing something from inside the car to adjust aero illegally, that might be another story.
What are your expectations for Kasey Kahne? Do you think he is letting the pressure of being a Hendrick driver get to him?
Ryan McGee (2:06 PM)
I don't think that's been the problem thus far, but I think it is totally fair to start wondering if that doesn't start setting in soon with all of these terrible results. He knows they haven't been his fault, but when I've talked to Dale Jr. about his early days with Hendrick he said that absolutely began to weigh on him...and he didn't get off to nearly this bad of a start.
Ryan McGee (2:06 PM)
I think he'll win this year. But if he's going to make the Chase he really needs to get going. He'll need a May hot streak like he had a couple of years back. Only he can't fade like he did then. He'll need to keep it going all summer.
Howard (Bristow VA)
Ryan - Terry Blount wrote his piece about where were the fans yesterday...I went to Bristol for last years Spring Race and the attendance was about the same as it was yesterday. Two weeks after Bristol I went to Martinsville and the stands were mostly full. This year I just passed up Bristol entirely while still going to Martinsville. In fact I extended the stay in Martinsville. The racing at Bristol is basically Dover, which I have been to as well and am not in a hurry to go back to.The difference is for 20 years Bristol was the best short track in the series now it isn't anything special. Martinsville is the best short track in Cup now.
Ryan McGee (2:09 PM)
Howard I am hearing this more and more now. I had a spirited Twitter discussion all weekend about the "Bristol is boring" argument and I still maintain that it's mostly a myth. I've been going to Bristol for a long time (as it sounds like you have) and I've never seen side-by-side racing like that. It was worth being there yesterday just for that one stretch of 20 laps where Kenseth and Keselowski were 2-wide nonstop. But...
Ryan McGee (2:10 PM)
I am also willing to admit that I appear to be in the minority on this. At least among those on Twitter. Do I think Bristol is now horrible and unwatchable? No. Not even close. But, fair or unfair, that seems to be the prevailing notion.
Ryan McGee (2:11 PM)
By the way, I do still think the economy is a huge factor in the small spring crowds. The vast majority of Bristol fans come from out of state and these days they can't make the trip twice. Naturally, they're going to choose the night race.
What is ging on with the 11 the past 2 weeks?
Ryan McGee (2:13 PM)
Good question. They just missed it at Vegas and they knew it as early as Friday. Sometimes a win can mask bigger issues. I think they still have to figure out life with this new TRD engine program, but that will come. And he is 5th in points. Most would like to struggle like that.
Comment on what Biffle said in his chat. "But I enjoy the old car with the old Bristol better. It was a little tougher, a little more challenging. Now it seems all of the cars go the same speed. You can't pass all that well."
Ryan McGee (2:14 PM)
He's out there in the car and I'm not, so I'm always going to defer to the racer. Hopefully the new '13 car will solve some of this.
When will the greedy hotels learn that charging $380 a night is one reason for less attendance.
Ryan McGee (2:14 PM)
Are you surprised at how well Waltrip Racing is performing?
Ryan McGee (2:17 PM)
I am. I don't think you can overestimate what it has meant hiring Scott Miller from RCR has meant. I certainly don't think they land Clint Bowyer without him. The biggest issues at MWR have never been equipment or people. It's been processes. From what people are telling me, Miller has done wonders in that area in a short period time. Now we'll see if they can keep it up all year.
Ted (Conway, MA)
What a drive by Brad...especially the way he slipped thru that Kahne wreck! Don't you think we now have the best drivers ever in Nascar?
Ryan McGee (2:18 PM)
I do. It certainly helps that his confidence is at an all-time high. And it's never been low.
Sue B. (Seattle, WA)
Why do Marty Smith and Ray Evernham keep telling us that our expectations on Danica are "unfair"? SHE chose this path for god's sake. I've been a die hard DP fan since her Atlantic days and she can handle it. I wish they'd stop coddling her! She & Smoke have made no secret of the fact she is going to Cup full time next year. Is it that awful that I should expect her to be in the mix at the end of a race in the NATIONWIDE series? She is doing pretty well, I might add. 12th in points.
Ryan McGee (2:20 PM)
I have said all along that I won't even really start trying to break her down until after May. It's way too early to try and judge her week-to-week. By June 1 we'll know where she is, especially after enduring Darlington (which I think is insane having her run that as her second Cup race) and also after she's gotten through a month of Indy 500 homesickness.
Ryan McGee (2:20 PM)
She's right about where I thought she'd be at this point.
George (Smith Mt. Lake VA)
Chances of Busch Brothers Racing as the flagship of Dodge in 2013?
Ryan McGee (2:21 PM)
A lot of stuff has to fall right for that to happen. Kyle is so tied into Toyota right now, that'd be a hard switch to make. And it's not like KBM is setting the world on fire right now as it is.
As a fan of both Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon I was really disappointed in what Jr did to them and wondered if you expect on track retaliation?
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
I think this is the most overblown story of the weekend. It was incidental contact at best, wasn't even hard by Bristol standards, and if it hadn't happened precisely where Earnhardt's header pipe could cut down Gordon's tire, it would have been just another forgotten lap at Bristol.
Ryan McGee (2:24 PM)
I wrote this in Power Rankings and I mean it. People keep saying he needs to be more like his Dad and trade paint. Then he two weeks of contact, including Sunday's accidental mess, and now he gets ripped for it. He can't win. Figuratively he can't win...all while he literally can't win.
Will Nascar ever consider Road America as a stop or is Nationwide the limit for that track.
Ryan McGee (2:25 PM)
I think Nationwide is as much as they can hope for. That's pretty good.
We've got alot of good tracks for Jr coming up: Martinsville, Texas, Richmond, among others. Which one do you think he has the best chance at snapping his winless streak?
Ryan McGee (2:26 PM)
Richmond. He's so good there.
Some drivers are saying the tire is too hard and they lose grip when the track rubbers up. This prevents passing.
Ryan McGee (2:28 PM)
Absolutely part of it. There's a visible difference in the amount of rubber on the track when the race is over. Dale Jr suggested that too. When the top two cars have 100+ laps on their tires and they are running away from guys with brand new rubber, that kind of doesn't feel right.
According to Letarte it wasn't the exhaust header. It was a piece of sheet metal in front of the exhaust.
Ryan McGee (2:29 PM)
Regardless, it was a freak accident. I know it was heartbreaking for Gordon and his fans, but it was the definition of "just a racing deal".
Is the Racing awful at Bristol now? No I dont think so. I think the racing is better then ever there. And I dont buy it when people say no one is coming now because there are no wrecks. I think the one problem is now Bristol doesnt really race like a short track. With the high groove there is no beating and banging now. You dont see the bump and run. It almost has a feel to it like Cali or something. Where You get up high and keep your momentum up.
Ryan McGee (2:30 PM)
I largely agree with you Tim, but that missing bump and run seems to really be the big issues for folks.
Alan (Columbus, Ohio)
Hi Ryan! Did the drivers do any brackets for the basketball tournament, and if so, who is faring the best right now? Also, how about between the ESPN NASCAR writers?
Ryan McGee (2:31 PM)
There wasn't a driver pool or anything, but chatting with drivers about their brackets I would guess that Denny Hamlin probably has the most solid set of picks.
Ryan McGee (2:32 PM)
As for our ESPN.com NASCAR writers, we don't have our own pool, but I am in the ESPN.com Insider writers group in the Tournament Challenge and I am tied for 2nd.
Gordon's fans also should take note of the fact that Jeff didn't blame Junior for the incident in his post-race interviews. After he calmed down, he knew it was just a racing incident and even though he's mad it happened, he doesn't blame Junior and won't retaliate at Fontana.
Ryan McGee (2:33 PM)
Yep. I think the fans reacted to Jeff's initial reaction on the radio, but he certainly backed away from that later.
It's great to see Biffle on top of the points standing. What Rousch driver to you see ending up highest in the point standings at the end of the season?
Ryan McGee (2:34 PM)
I think Kenseth feels like the guy right now. We've run four races and he's been among the top few fastest cars every week, even if he's missing a couple of finishes to show for it.
Ryan McGee (2:34 PM)
If you are a Biff fan, you have to be encouraged. Easily the best start to any season of his Cup career. He looks energized. So do all the guys with new crew chiefs. Funny how that happens.
8. Over/Under for wins in Formula 1 for Red Bull this year?
Ryan McGee (2:36 PM)
I'd put it at 10, half the races run, and I'll take the over.
Rowdy hasn't won since Mich. last August and I wondered when you think Rowdy will break his long winless streak?
Ryan McGee (2:38 PM)
Man wouldn't a lot of racers love to have that "long winless streak"? If he doesn't do it this weekend, I say Richmond.
It was great seeing Juan Pablo and Jamie finish Top 10 and wondered if Teresa and Chip have finally gotten Earnhardt Racing headed in the right direction?
Ryan McGee (2:39 PM)
It's too early to go that far, but it certainly was encouraging if you are an EGR fan. Both are now in the top 20 in points now. That's a big deal considering how far off they already were one year ago.
Alan (Columbus, Ohio)
Hi Ryan! What is the biggest teammate feud or fight that you can remember? It seems like most of these things get blown way out of proportion because of radio sound bites, so I was curious if a teammate feud has ever gotten serious.
Ryan McGee (2:42 PM)
Worst one ever was DW and Neil Bonnett. Hated each other and their car owner, Junior Johnson, encouraged that to stimulate competition. Geoff Bodine and Tim Richmond didn't get along at Hendrick. Dale Earnhardt barely spoke to Mike Skinner. That's why I laugh when everyone gets all fired up about today's "feuds". There's no doubt that the increased amount of media and fan attention makes them into bigger deals than they really are.
Damon (Dallas, TX)
What happened to Johanna Long in the race? She was fast in qualifying and practice and everyone was chatting up how good she was on short tracks but went a lap down very early.
Ryan McGee (2:43 PM)
Johanna's biggest issue all year is going to be pit stops and resources. Plus her exeprience level is still way behind the curve of the level she's racing on. I like her a lot. She's the real deal. But expect her to continue to be quick in qualifying and then fade in the race.
Nick S (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
Are you suprised the 88 is the top HMS car in points right now? Do you see the 88 team keeping this strong season going?
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
No reason to believe he won't. Everyone kept expecting him to fade last year and it never really happened. They are operating from a base camp much, much higher than in recent years. Instead of barely hanging on, they are standing on ground they can build from.
Ryan McGee (2:46 PM)
You think about the last two weeks and how he is really bummed about where he finished. That's light years ahead of where he was two years ago, clawing to get to that same spot by race's end.
Bill S. (High Point, NC)
What's your take on Jeff Burton so far this year? Is it the RCR effort, or he just want's to better last years terrible year?
Ryan McGee (2:46 PM)
It was cool to see Brian Vickers run so well this year. Do you think he can keep it up in his other races for MWR? Any chance Michael might run him in a 4th car in 2013 if he keeps up the good performances?
Ryan McGee (2:49 PM)
I don't think MWR is ready to go to four teams. But it was very cool to see him do so well. And frankly, a little shocking. I can't remember a non-road course ringer dropping into a Cup car like that and doing that well. It was also cool to see other guys congratulate him, especially Matt Kenseth and his spotter, Mike Calinoff, who had been particularly rough on BV after their bizarre Martinsville feud essentially knocked the 17 out of Cup contention.
Brooke (Jacksonville, FL)
I've heard that Dale Jr. and Brad K. are good friends. And it seems that Regan Smith and Paul Menard must be since they were going on a ski trip together when they got in that car accident. What other drivers are there that are really good friends away from the track?
Ryan McGee (2:51 PM)
Both of those pairs are very good friends. Biffle and Kenseth are tight. Harvick and Stewart are buds. Not so long ago there was kind of a Rat Pack thing happening with Johnson, Vickers, and Gordon, but time and kids have broken that up.
Like me, are you hoping to see more drivers take to the Keselowski trend and start tweeting from the car?
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
I am for Keselowski and anyone else Tweeting - especially photos - from the grid and Victory Lane. And I appreciate NASCAR being pretty liberal with that while other sports leagues are clamping down. But the first time someone Tweets a pic from on the track, you gotta shut it down. Even under caution.
Rob F (Hoboken, NJ)
Ryan, if Gordon or Martin are running second right on Earnhardt's bumper at Martinsville do they move him with little remorse on the last lap?
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
They move him, no doubt. But for the win, not revenge.
Mike (Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
Yesterday was by far the best race of the season IMO. We saw comers and goers and the bottom worked fo a change! There is much hoopla about Bristol now only because fans don't like it compared to what they used to see at Bristol. I hope the fans agree with me that the focus for NASCAR needs to be on improving those 1,5 miles. Track position (aero) is way too important at those track. The racing is much worse there.
Ryan McGee (2:54 PM)
I am with you Mike. But again, we seem to be in the Internet minority.
Assuming the 48 teams fails to have their appeal overturned, how will this affect the team this weekend at Fontana?
Ryan McGee (2:56 PM)
If there was ever a place where the 48 didn't need it's full leadership team in order to do well, it's Fontana. Johnson owns it to the point that he should pay taxes on the place. They do have a restructring plan ready to go. No, they haven't revealed it yet but we'll know pretty quick once Tuesday hearing is over.
Danny McCoy (Las Vegas)
It was difficult reading about Robby Gordon not being able to fire up the car for practice and having to withdraw at Bristol a week after failing to qualify at Vegas the weekend of the Dodge unveiling. Is this rock bottom, and do you see RGM bouncing back in any real way?
Ryan McGee (2:57 PM)
It's pretty bad. That's why I keep telling people that RGM can't possibly be the anchor team for Dodge. But I absolutely think they should be a big part of this "Rebel Alliance" concept that I wrote about last week.
Hey Ryan, which drivers do you like going into California this week and why? Who do you see as a potential dark horse?
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
Give me the 48, 17, 14, 24, 99...and for darkhorses I'll take the 20 and the 42.
Ryan McGee (3:00 PM)
Alright folks, gotta go. NASCAR Now is coming on ESPN2 and WatchESPN right now! See you back here next week. In the meantime, hit me up on Twitter (@RyanMcGeeESPN) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tip your waiter and waitresses and enjoy the music of the Boss...that's where I'm headed tonight.