Chat with Ryan McGee
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, Ryan McGee will stop by to chat about the 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 Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Ryan McGee (2:02 PM)
Hey everybody...and welcome to the Thursday Motorsports Throwdown. I just poured some peanuts into a bottle of Pepsi Max (it's a Southern thing, but oddly delicious) and I'm ready to go. To the queries!
Jack (Brooklyn, NY)
Hey McGee, I'll be a Junior fan til the day I die but did Teresa have a point when she said he needed to decide if he's a racecar driver or a public personality? Seems like the most effective thing Steve Letarte has done over the past 3 years is to get him to focus on driving the racecar.
Ryan McGee (2:05 PM)
I thought she was, in an indirect way, telling him to focus. And I never disagreed with her. But in his defense, I see the same thing in other sports all the time. It's a lot to deal with. Especially when you are also in the process of growing up.
Ryan McGee (2:06 PM)
But I always felt like that more of a problem for him at DEI. I've never questioned his focus since he moved to Hendrick. He just, as you say, needed to have the right person calling the shots to motivate him in the right ways.
Ryan McGee (2:07 PM)
I also think you could draw up a pretty nice little graph showing increased performance as his current personal relationship became more serious.
Cameron (Palo Alto, CA)
First off, HUH! Second, I think the 20-in-1 may have beaten out the dog toy... just sayin'. Now, down to the real question. I know no one knows the full extent of the RTA, but during the #406 yesterday Mr. Brad Daugherty said he doesn't know if JTG can afford to join, or something to that extent. Do we know the sign-on cost of joining RTA? Is it really prohibitive to the JTGs, Germains and TBRs of NASCAR?
Ryan McGee (2:08 PM)
Thanks, bud. And thanks for listening. (You too can download the Marty & McGee podcast on iTunes or at ESPN.com/podcenter!) Man, Brad was bringing it, wasn't he. At one point Marty and I were just looking at each other like, "Are you hearing this?!"
Ryan McGee (2:10 PM)
The answer to your question is that I don't know what the "buy-in" would be and neither does Brad. He's taking a wait-and-see approach and I think that he knows he'll be at the racetrack a lot over the final few months, when he can have some serious conversations and see how it all shakes out.
Ryan McGee (2:11 PM)
The chats I've had with people from big teams is that there is room for the next tier. One of the things that Rob Kaufman said on Day One is that his first task was to recruit the smaller teams. Regardless, I believe they will benefit.
Ryan McGee (2:13 PM)
To me, it's a lot like the big 5 NCAA conferences and this autonomy talk. I'm a real believer in the little guy and I think the big guys should have their backs. But even if the big guys break away to take on the NCAA or NASCAR, then the little guys will benefit in some way.
Steve (Da Big Island)
Ryan if you read this post, I guess you showed up for a change. I really enjoy the chats and Marty & McGee, but it has become so hit and miss lately. I have become discouraged. You are both writers and reporters. Thanks
Ryan McGee (2:14 PM)
Steve, I hear you. But I hope you understand that we are two guys trying to cover a lot of ground over a lot of different platforms. Because of that our schedules are more fluid than a case of Slick 50. It's just how it is. We're doing the best we can.
Betty Coleman (Delaware)
You and Marty will continue with the 406, right? Huh
Ryan McGee (2:15 PM)
That's the plan. And Huh right back at you.
Warren Brewster (Madison, WI)
Should NASCAR bring back the old championship format, but keep the Chase and give it its own trophy instead? Just imagine creating a triple crown of the Daytona 500, Chase Cup, and the Overall championship. The only question is how special is it if Jimmie Johnson has already done it twice ('06 and '13)?
Ryan McGee (2:18 PM)
That's an interesting idea, but it'll never happen. Dual championships would never work. I liked what IndyCar tried to do with the road course and oval championships, but no one even really knows it exists. To me, it would end up being like giving an award to a stick-and-ball team that finished the regular season with the best record but lost in the playoffs. Not sure anyone, even that team, would care much.
Russ (South Carolina)
Two questions: What are to make of this owners' alliance announced on Monday? I know hindsight is 20/20 but is there any discussion about returning the Soft Drink 400 to a midday race with the recent history of rainouts and delayed starts causing races to end well past midnight?
Ryan McGee (2:19 PM)
1. My view on the RTA has changed pretty dramatically over the last four days. When it was announced I kind rolled my eyes. Even the next morning on SiriusXM's Morning Drive I think I downplayed it too much. Because as I started talking to team reps, their borderline panic told me this is bigger than I was willing to admit.
Ryan McGee (2:21 PM)
It might end up being nothing. A warning shot that creates more give-and-take between NASCAR, who has always ruled without question, and those who have had to grin and bear it through those rules. But it could also end up being like what we've seen before, for example the mid-1990's mess that damn near destroyed American open wheel racing.
Ryan McGee (2:22 PM)
The truth is that it will probably end up somewhere in the middle. I think if the owners get more of the TV revenue or if franchising were to happen, then it settle down in a hurry.
Ryan McGee (2:22 PM)
But holy cow, those are big if's.
Ryan McGee (2:23 PM)
I don't see NASCAR ever moving the Firecracker 400 back to a 10 AM start like it used to be. But I wouldn't be opposed if they did it.
Saul (San Diego)
RYANYEAH... 8 or so races before the start of the the Chase, Will the 42 K Larson make the Chase?
Ryan McGee (2:24 PM)
SAULYEAH...I think he will. But I think that tightrope is a helluva lot more frayed than it was four weekends ago! I look at him as perhaps second only to Kenseth as the non-winner that I expect to win a race.
Ryan, is it wrong for me to say that the Kahne Francis duo is overrated? They had one great year and since they've been consistently inconsistent. Sure they win 2 races a year, and go on streaks but this is NOT a championship duo. Is it time for a change for kahne at crew chief?
Ryan McGee (2:27 PM)
Not wrong, but maybe a little premature as far as this year goes. I think they need to find a team engineer. That's where they are behind. Keith Rodden was their guy forever, but he's the crew chief on McMurray's ride now. Those are the jobs that I think people don't realize how huge they actualy are. It's like an NFL losing its defensive coordinator to a head coaching gig somewhere. You don't really realize how valuable those guys are until they are gone.
Matt R (Pittsburgh,PA)
So, LeBron James to JGR? What are you hearing? Spill it McGee!
Ryan McGee (2:27 PM)
Totally. And Chris Bosh to Roush Fenway.
Ryan (Columbia, SC)
Is Andy Petree going to be taking an active role in the RTA since his tv career is done after this season?
Ryan McGee (2:28 PM)
As we learned (in a bombshell) on the Marty & McGee podcast, Petree was instrumental in getting this deal together. But as far as his post-2014 plans, I have no idea.
Jeff Gordon leads Kurt Busch by 239 points. If the chase started today, they would be tied. That's not right. Leader should get bonus for the the regular season "champ". What say you?
Ryan McGee (2:31 PM)
I've always believed that the regular season leader should get some sort of bonus, as if it was another race win. But this is where NASCAR would say, "If you want to be ranked higher then win more races." That's not entirely unfair in this "winning means everything" era.
Craig (San Jose, CA)
Do you think the RTA will have any say on NASCAR wanting to significantly change engines (reduce HP) for next year, or has that ship already sailed? Still seems like a total waste of $ and time.
Ryan McGee (2:33 PM)
I believe that the talk about HP reduction was one of those final straw moments that, along with how the new TV deal money distribution, spurred the conversations of starting the RTA into actually happening.
Ryan McGee (2:34 PM)
Back in the spring at Richmond, right after that horsepower talk had surfaced, that whole weekend was a parade of racers coming into the media center saying that they didn't get it.
How will this new RTA affect the smaller teams since they are not part of the alliance? Also how do you expect the U to do this year in football?
Ryan McGee (2:35 PM)
I addressed that earlier, but I think the real full-time teams, not the start-and-parkers, will eventually be a part of it.
Ryan McGee (2:37 PM)
As for the Canes, how does 8-4 and 2nd in their division sound?
Hunter (Richmond, Va)
Ryan, great #406 with Brad D on the show. Do you think the effects of the RTA in the Sprint Cup Series have any impact on teams in the other two major series and their common interests?
Ryan McGee (2:39 PM)
Thanks! I think the lower division would benefit from any improvement in communication between the two sides. I'm referring again to that frustration over having big and seemingly constant rules changes handed down from Daytona with (in the teams' eyes) not enough regard to costs. And if Cup teams were to go the franchising route, then perhaps that would happen at the lower levels, too.
Matt R (Pittsburgh,PA)
How much more complicated did Smoke's job(s) just get with the formation of the RTA?
Ryan McGee (2:40 PM)
Certainly some, but during the season the structure there allows him to be a racecar driver first. I think this would be more of a Gene Haas issue right now.
Ryan (Columbia, SC)
Is Darlington really going to be after the Daytona 500 next year? Wouldn't switching it with Atlanta to put it on Labor Day again make more sense?
Ryan McGee (2:42 PM)
As a Rockingham native I can tell you that the weekend after Daytona is not exactly a spring fling. If anything, there was usually so much rain that it should be a boat race. A cold boat race. But no, I don't see that happening.
Ryan McGee (2:43 PM)
In a perfect world, Darlington would get Labor Day weekend back. But it's worked pretty well in Atlanta. And for whatever reason, there seems to be a real hangup with admitting that wrong and putting the Southern 500 back to where it should be. What a PR disaster that was and, even years later, still is.
Do you agree with your ESPN colleague Jim Noble that it is a disgrace that NASCAR is allowing 72 year old Sheppard to race the #33 this weekend at Loudon?
Ryan McGee (2:44 PM)
Nah. It's harmless. I think everyone knows what the deal is. He'll be off the track by lap 20. If NASCAR thought he was going to be out there racing for 250 laps and getting in the way, they'd discourage it.
Ryan McGee (2:45 PM)
And as great as the "He's taking a ride away from a young guy" argument sounds, it's doesn't really apply. The only reason this deal came together is because it's Morgan. If a young guy could get the deal together, then it would be him.
Ryan McGee (2:46 PM)
I was there one year ago when Morgan did the same thing, even wrote a story about it, and it was totally harmless.
Matt R (Pittsburgh,PA)
As a follow up comment to the Morgan Sheppard question: Having a participant that's eligible to collect Social Security undermines the "drivers as athletes" debate, no?
Ryan McGee (2:48 PM)
I guess. But I remember when baseball teams would sign Minnie Minoso to one-day deals so he could get in one at-bat and extend his oldest player records. No one's ever used that to argue baseball players aren't athletes because everyone recognized it for the stunt that it was. Just like here.
Disagree about Mr. Haas being the voice in the RTA. Mr. Haas racing priority #1 is his Ferrari powered F1 team.
Ryan McGee (2:49 PM)
He brought Tony in as a partner and just did that Kurt Busch thing, which is also costing him a lot of money in personnel and buildings. To say he'd just suddenly stop showing up for meetings because of a team that hasn't built a car yet seems a bit steep.
Mike P (Greater KC metro)
In Burning questions you stated that "your shoes were still stuck to the asphalt in Daytona during those 11 am races for the firecracker 400" What race do you think would be better served to change its time slot to get more exposure or fans?
Ryan McGee (2:51 PM)
History says prime time TV slots are just better, particularly on a weekend where there isn't much sports competition. And judging by all the complaining Tweets I got from west coast fans when NASCAR decided to run the race on Sunday morning, I think the larger audience is served at night.
Kevin (near Milwaukee)
I'm intrigued - how many peanuts into a 20 oz. bottle of Pepsi Max?
Ryan McGee (2:53 PM)
Start with half a sleeve. Then throw in the other half as needed. It actually tastes better if you have a glass bottle, but those are hard to find.
Why cant NASCAR enforce some sort of spending cap as opposed to cost cutting measures?
Ryan McGee (2:54 PM)
The budgets are too complicated. It's not like a pro sports team where it's simply all about payroll. It would be unenforceable.
Why is France in such denial about double dipping drivers? Obviously the talents of Kevin Conway and Andy Lally winning ROTY shows how great the talent pool is. Until this weekend, we had not seen a first time winner since 2011....
Ryan McGee (2:55 PM)
No idea. I think the solution has always been simple. Speaking of caps, just limit the number of entries a driver who has declared they are running for a championship in Cup can run in a lower series. Call it 15 and be done with it.
Ryan McGee (2:56 PM)
The problem is that sponsors don't want to hear that. They want names. And currently, teams are a slave to sponsor money. This is another reason that franchising makes sense. Your value is in the team, not the stickers on the car.
Have the hackers figured out a way for Josh Wise to steal the most popular driver vote yet...the all star race is one thing, but this would be a mockery.
Ryan McGee (2:58 PM)
I would assume they are working on it. The most relentless army in the world is one made up of motivated nerds.
Mike (Boston) [via mobile]
First of all, "Huh." Secondly, isn't it a little odd Brad Daugherity is doing the most talking about the RTA and he and his team aren't even in it? Like him and respect h as an owner and analyst, just seems odd. I'd be much more curious with what RC or Rick Hendrick had to say about it.
Ryan McGee (2:59 PM)
That's coming. This weekend at New Hampshire any owner who dares to walk through the garage is going to be descended upon by media like Kim Kardashian leaving a Beverly Hills nail salon.
Ryan D. (Winston-Salem, NC)
Ryan, who are your top 5 drivers for this weekend? Who is the best longshot?
Ryan McGee (3:02 PM)
Give me the 24, 48, 11, 15, and 18. Darkhorses: 14 (hey, as bad as his year's been he's a darkhorse) and 78.
Ryan McGee (3:05 PM)
Thanks so much for the great questions. Sorry I couldn't get to them all. Hit me up on Twitter (@ESPNMcGee) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Be sure to download the Marty & McGee podcast and until next time, tip the wait staff and enjoy the music of The Flying Saucers.