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Minter: Pithy Bits From Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 21 2009
Kasey Kahne has not been consistent, except at riling fellow drivers.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kasey Kahne has not been consistent, except at riling fellow drivers. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Bristol, Tenn. – There’s nothing quite like a morning spent in the pit area at Bristol Motor Speedway  to get some lively debate going about all things NASCAR.

Early on a somewhat gray day, Mike Brown, the general manager of TRG Motorsports’ Sprint Cup effort, leaned against a stack of tires in the pit area at Bristol Motor Speedway and made an interesting point about the points standings.

He pointed out that despite what some might assume about the Chase contenders, they’re not necessarily the ones putting on the show every week.

He said that more often than not, they finish outside the top 10 in races.

Indeed, only four drivers in the Chase hunt – Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch – have finished in the top 10 more times than they haven’t so far this year.

Two, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman, are in the elite 12, but have finished in the top 10 in just nine of the 23 races run so far. Matt Kenseth has just eight top 10s.

Winning races hasn’t been a big help to Mark Martin (a league-leading four victories) or Kyle Busch (three). Martin is barely clinging to the 12th position; Busch is 15th, 70 points out of the elite group.

The 12th through 16th place drivers have accounted for nine wins this season, while fourth place through 11th has just five, which raises once again the old question of whether race winner should be awarded more points.

What else do the numbers say about how to succeed in the points contest? Most agree that they tell you that the key is not necessarily what you do on your good days but how much you can salvage from the bad ones.

Brian Vickers explained it best: “Everybody is going to have a bad day and an off car,” he said. “But it’s how you make the most of that day, more so than the day you have a winning car.”

* The budding rivalry/feud between Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch dominated most of the talk at Bristol on Friday morning, but they aren’t the only two that aren’t seeing eye-to-eye these days.

Juan Pablo Montoya indicated he was still unhappy with Kasey Kahne after an incident at Michigan last week. Montoya reminded reporters that, in his opinion, Kahne also wrecked Sam Hornish Jr. at Watkins Glen.

“I don’t know what he’s trying to do,” Montoya said. “I think the position we’re in we’ve got to be smart about not wrecking each other and get into the Chase.

“I’m OK. It’s just frustrating because you just want to have nice, quiet days.”

* Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others have called on NASCAR to make changes to the Car of Tomorrow in an effort to produce a vehicle that puts on better races. Greg Biffle was more specific, saying teams should be allowed, among other things, to run more left-side weight. Currently, teams are limited to a little over 50 percent of the total weight on the left side.

“We all race in a circle – it doesn’t take a lot to figure that out – and… we know the left-side distribution is important in these cars, very important,” Biffle said. “Anything you build, from a go-kart to a quarter midget to a Late Model, anything, left-side weight is very important. It balances the car out.

“When you go around the corner, centrifugal force or g-force is to the outside. So the more you can stack over here [on the left side], the better the car handles, typically.”

He also suggested a relaxing of the rules that require the left side suspension components to be basically identical to the right. That could be done with off-set pieces like those used on the previous car.

Travis Geisler, crew chief of the No. 77 Dodge that Sam Hornish Jr. has driven to two top-five finishes in the past three races, said he agrees with Biffle about the results of moving weight to the left and also lower on the car, but he sees no reason to change anything.

“This is a pretty safe race car and everybody is getting their hands around it a little bit,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of different people running up front, which is a little different than in years past….

“The racing is OK.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 21 2009