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Ragan, Logano Making Silly Season Progress?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 4 2011

Joe Gibbs Racing's Joey Logano had an important holiday weekend at Daytona International Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief™:

Top Ten from Daytona:

1. Two drivers with big question marks over their heads came into the Sprint Cup race at Daytona and one came out with a victory – David Ragan – because he made all the right moves and had help from his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.  The other, Joey Logano, had a shot at victory and came home third after winning the Nationwide Series race on Friday.

This leaves the distinct impression that motivation is the biggest key to success in the business of motor racing. Ragan, of course, had plenty of motivation to atone for his gaffe in the Daytona 500 in addition to silly season issues.

Each driver’s fate is likely in other hands under any circumstances. Ragan could be replaced by Trevor Bayne if sponsor UPS would prefer to have the defending Daytona 500 winner next year when the teams return to north Florida and not the Coke Zero 400 winner. UPS could leave Roush Fenway Racing along with Carl Edwards, or stay with the Roush team and move to Edwards. Logano is hanging on whether Edwards makes a rumored move to Joe Gibbs Racing, Home Depot and Toyota.

2. If fans at home complain about tandem-type racing, I can hardly blame them. It’s much better at the track than on TV. The current and ever-evolving paint schemes make it difficult to keep up, no matter how big the screen is. The screen is definintely smaller on TNT, too, due to squeezing in so much

Richard Childress Racing's pit strategy at Daytona was a success. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

promotional gunk at the bottom.

I can’t wait for the day when there’s an Internet option with no ads, which can be loaded on the big screen at home from the laptop.

3. NASCAR’s new Chase format is working out nicely – if you discount the fact many at Daytona used team tactics to try to get the teammates without victory to the checkers first. The new format of victories determining places 11 and 12 in the Chase is keeping the tension tight and has put a premium on winning from the start of the season as well as on points, since you have to be in the Top 20 in points to make the Chase. It’s probably not by chance there have been 12 winners in 17 races this year.

4. Note to Larry the Cable Guy: A quick check with the Richard Childress Racing team would have revealed the engine problems suffered in the Daytona 500 resulted from drivers cooling the engines too quickly – and some issues with the piston sleeves. Yes, the RCR cars eventually overheated, but the failure wasn’t from overheating as much as rapid changes in temperature affecting the piston sleeves, a different dynamic that required a unique resolution.

It’s a rare case for Larry to suffer from what is best described as the “Kyle Petty-too-much-talking-and-not-enough-reporting-syndrome.” It can be a common ailment among ex-racers with a microphone.

5.  Jeff Gordon made a fabulous save when he got turned sideways after charging up to the lead pack late

Jeff Gordon gets sideways during the Coke Zero. He would, however, collect his car and finish the race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by (Alan Marler)

in the race. The incident took a long time to develop and everybody dodged him, which helped, in addition to the driver’s talent and experience. What usually gets left out is the credit for the Car of Tomorrow chassis. The COT’s center of aerodynamic pressure is significantly closer to the rear of the car than previous Sprint Cup cars. That’s by design and means aerodynamics help push the rear back to straight (with the nose to follow) when the car is in yaw, or sideways.

(The ever-aggressive Kyle Busch was among the first to discover this and has used this built-in advantage far more than any other driver.)

6.  Mark Martin on the incident with Joey Logano: “I thought Logano and I were going to hook up. I must have been four inches from not getting clear.”

You make the call. Was Mark being kind to the younger driver? Or did the veteran, who won his 50th career pole, goof?

Here’s what Logano had to say: “So, I was just going to shoot through there and see if we could find

In a switch, both Joey Logano and Mark Martin accepted blame for this Daytona wreck. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

something. That’s just the racing deal. That could have gone either way. I probably could have done something to stay out of it and he could have stayed up. So it’s just one of those deals. It’s no one’s fault, really. Just either one of us could have done something to avoid it.”

7. The policy of holding the checkered flag until the race ends when an accident occurs on the last lap of a green-white-checkered at Daytona once again had drivers racing back to the flagstand through accidents. “There was a hole down low and luckily (drafting partner Jeff Gordon) made it through and we made it through,” said Kyle Busch, among those who stayed on the gas and passed wrecked cars at 180 mph.

8. The media and now, it seems, drivers have latched on to a numbers game that will likely never pan out. The younger demographic is regularly cited as to why NASCAR is in trouble with everyone from TV executives to sponsors and advertisers, a refrain recently mentioned by Kyle Busch. Well, the demographic that carries more weight is disposable income. It’s doing just fine and may even be headed up. Which would you rather have more of? College kids with no money watching races or dentists, lawyers and business managers?

9. The team with a question mark over its head, Red Bull Racing, also fared well at Daytona until

Red Bull drivers Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers looked fast at Daytona on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

untimely difficulty between drafting partners Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne, another confirmation of how much motivation means in the business of motor racing.

Red Bull says it’s looking for other investors to come on board if it is to continue in the Sprint Cup with its team. That could signal a change in business structure to avoid paying former driver Scott Speed in the current contract dispute. Or, perhaps, it may mean Red Bull would prefer to cut back its participation and just be a sponsor for, say, Carl Edwards!

10. Not only has the Audi team been paying attention to the benefits of shorter fueling times, critical to maintaining track position versus Peugeot in the German team’s victory at the Le Mans 24-hour. Richard Childress Racing pitted later at Daytona on Saturday night, took less fuel and no tires to get Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard into the front pack at the finish.

Quote of the Week: “If we would have won at Martinsville this year, I would have said, ‘Man, we’ve moved on past that Daytona race.’ But coming back here and to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted, kind of to show the Daytona race track – ‘Here’s what we’ve got.’ So that makes it a little bit more special. I think a win anywhere on the circuit would have been great and we would have moved on and talked about it probably, but coming back here to Daytona, being able to run the same type of race we ran in February and learning from our mistake, not making a mistake. We had a couple of opportunities to do it on those last few restarts and I didn’t do it, so that’s gratifying that we were able to come back to Daytona and kind of prove to the race track that we’re better than that – that we can take you and we beat ’em and it feels good.” – Coke Zero 400 winner David Regan of Roush Fenway Racing

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, July 4 2011
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