Happy Hour: Science proves there are more debris cautions now!

18 Jul

Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.

NASCAR is off this week. I'm not. I'm over at Devil Ball Golf, covering the British Open, and also Fourth Place Medal, covering the Olympics. Come on by and hang out. If you look closely, I may throw a Kurt Busch reference in here and there. Then we'll be back at it with Indy next week. And if you're doing something cool during this off weekend, throw it our way in the comments. For now, your letters. And we start with a big 'un:

I've found myself frustrated at the many debris cautions this year, especially when TV cameras don't even show the debris, and begin to wonder if NASCAR is throwing fake cautions to ensure bunching the field back together. I looked up how many debris cautions had occurred in each season going back to 1990 and the average amount of debris cautions per race. I only counted cautions that said "debris" as a reason and not such things as "oil on track," "fluid on track," competition cautions, and even one caution for "animal turn one" (Pocono 1991). Here is what I found:

1990 14 debris cautions .48 per race
1991 17 .59 per race
1992 13 .45 per race
1993 19 .63 per race
1994 19 .61 per race
1995 16 .52 per race
1996 23 .74 per race
1997 14 .44 per race
1998 17 .52 per race
1999 11 .32 per race
2000 16 .47 per race
2001 27 .75 per race
2002 40 1.11 per race
2003 41 1.14 per race
2004 60 1.67 per race
2005 88(!) 2.44 per race
2006 81 2.25 per race
2007 71 1.97 per race
2008 77 2.14 per race
2009 70 1.94 per race
2010 50 1.39 per race
2011 58 1.61 per race
2012 29 1.53 per race

I think it is interesting that throughout the 90s, the amount of debris cautions did not vary much. Once NASCAR got its new TV deal in 2001, there was a pretty significant jump, and then another jump once the Chase began in 2004. I would love to know how NASCAR would explain such a rise in debris cautions, when I would think with better designed cars and tires there should be fewer debris cautions today than in the 1990s.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Outstanding work here, sir. It's like "Moneyball" for NASCAR! And yes, the most significant jumps do coincide with increased television attention. Even the drivers have conceded that there is something up with the "suspicious" "debris" cautions, but hey ... we all know the deal going in. Question now is, what do we do with this invormation? You'll note there's been a slight decline since the mid-2000s; keep NASCAR's feet to the fire! Take to the streets! Hashtag #nomorecheapcautions! Let's keep it going, people!


I am tired of the "nobody has to lose" attitude in America that seems to be invading even NASCAR. Holy cow! That little Wallace kid from the commercials ("I'll put him in the wall") has more spit than most of the drivers out there. Growing tired of the "turn left and don't pass" theology. If I wanted to watch items follow each other in a slow counter-clockwise parade awaiting an eventual big finish, I'd flush the toilet!

The Nikster

I love these kinds of letters. Makes me want to go spin out a minivan-driving mom out on the road. (Note: don't do this.) Also, "Skittles in a toilet" is my favorite description of Bristol, by the way.


This weekend marked the 19th anniversary of Davey Allison's death. This got me thinking. Do Alan Kulwicki and/or Davey Allison get a nod into the Hall of Fame with the accomplishments from their tragically short careers?

Darrell "Furiousd" Watts
A devastated 10 year Davey Allison fan

Let's look at the numbers. Davey Allison: 19 wins over nine years, two third-place season finishes. Alan Kulwicki: five wins over nine years, one championship. Boy, I don't know ... I honestly don't see either guy making the Hall in anything other than an honorary capacity. I see no problem honoring drivers who left us too soon, however, with a permanent exhibit.


Carl Edwards. Boy, he is not doing well this season. I was wondering if they were to put Carl back into the Nationwide Series maybe he would do better in Cup. I thought sometimes his awesome runs in the Nationwide helped him with his Cup car.

Patti from Texas

More numbers (it's a numeric week here), sizing up years in which Edwards ran a full season of Cup and a near-full Nationwide season:

2005: Cup 3rd, Nationwide 3rd
2006: Cup 12th, Nationwide 2nd
2007: Cup 9th, Nationwide 1st
2008: Cup 2nd, Nationwide 2nd
2009: Cup 11th, Nationwide 2nd
2010: Cup 4th, Nationwide 2nd
2011: Cup 2nd, Nationwide N/A (8 wins, 23 top 5s, 27 top 10s in 33 races)
2012: Cup 11th (at present), Nationwide N/A

Huh. That's pretty compelling evidence that running in Nationwide didn't exactly hurt Edwards, though did it hurt him enough to cost him a championship or two? We can't determine that. Generally, though, drivers like Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski don't hold much with the idea that you can tire yourself out by running in both series. On the contrary, you can (in theory) learn a lot about a track by running it twice in a weekend. You can bet that if Edwards doesn't make the Chase this season, every option will be on the table for 2013.


Do drivers like Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch racing for the wild card spots receive the bonus points in the Chase for their pre-Chase wins?

Chas K.

Nope. Bonus points only apply for wins achieved by the top-10 finishers. Which is why it's so important for guys like Keselowski to stay in the top 10; he doesn't want to lose the bonus points this year the way he did last year. Of course, even nine bonus points can get eliminated in the qualifying for the very first race, so perhaps it's not as big a deal as NASCAR wants us to believe. But that's a topic for another day.


From Kevin Harvick's NNS post-race interview: ''It's somebody who shouldn't be on the racetrack, who has no clue what they're doing in the race car,'' Harvick said, directing his anger at Amber Cope. ''She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can't hold her helmet.'' Would that be some respect for DP thrown in there amongst the sarcasm?

Dallas , Texas

Wait a second ... there IS! That's a backdoor compliment if ever there was one! Danica Patrick: her helmet is too heavy for Amber Cope! Take that to the bank, Danica haters!

And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at . You can find Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Facebook right here, and you can follow me on Twitter at @jaybusbee and on Facebook here. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!

Tags: carl edwards, Davey, Davey Allison, debris, Happy, , , ,
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Battle underway to save historic Nazareth Speedway

17 Jul

All over the United States, you can find historic but shuttered tracks, locales which once hosted all-out assaults of speed and sound but now sit abandoned, often gone to seed. Each of these tracks has its own hardy band of defenders and advocates who hope they can entice racing to return.

Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania never hosted a Sprint Cup-level race, but did host lower series races (and IndyCar races) until 2004. Familiar names like Matt Kenseth, Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves and Greg Biffle ran there; Martin Truex Jr. won the last Nationwide race there in May 2004. The track is owned by ISC, but its role in the Northeast has been usurped by fellow ISC track Watkins Glen. Shoot, even the grandstands were ripped up from Nazareth and shipped over to Watkins Glen. The indignity!

You can see the track in full flower above ... and in full overgrown shrub below. For more about the speedway preservation effort, visit their Facebook page.

Tags: Dan Wheldon, Greg Biffle, Helio, Helio Castroneves, , martin truex jr, Matt Kenseth, , Nazareth Speedway, , , ,
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Chad Norris to take over as crew chief for Carl Edwards

17 Jul

Carl Edwards will have a new crew chief for the rest of 2012.

Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief for all but 27 races of his Sprint Cup Series career, is stepping down from his post atop the No. 99 pit box for medical reasons. Chad Norris will become Edwards' crew chief.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Carl Edwards for the past nine years and, during that time, my focus has been building a championship-caliber program," Osborne said in a release. "I'm proud of the 18 wins we've had together in Sprint Cup Series competition and our two second-place points finishes.

"At this time in my life, however, concerns with my health have necessitated that I change my role within the organization," Osborne added. "This transition is not an easy one, but I'm thankful to have the full support of Jack [Roush], Carl and the entire organization. I also have every confidence in Chad Norris, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to pursue a championship in 2012. I also appreciate the privacy and respect that the community will give me and my family during this difficult time."

[Power Rankings: When in doubt go with Jimmie Johnson]

Osborne will remain with Roush as a senior member of the company's management team and steering committee. Norris has been with Roush Fenway since 2005 and was in charge of Roush's R&D team and was the crew chief for Ricky Stenhouse in the Daytona 500.

Edwards, who finished second to Tony Stewart in last year's Chase, is currently in 11th place in the Sprint Cup points standings — 46 points behind 10th place Brad Keselowski. However, Edwards is currently sitting outside the Chase at the moment with zero wins. His last win was at Las Vegas back in March of 2011. Stewart and Edwards were tied in the points column at the end of last season, but Stewart had five wins to Edwards' one.

[Related: Kevin Harvick creates Twitter handle for his newborn baby]

Following a 20th-place finish at Kentucky in which Edwards had to stop late for fuel, Edwards backed Osborne, calling him the best crew chief in the business and  urged his team to stick together.

"I cannot say enough good things about Bob Osborne," Edwards said in a statement. "I'm so thankful for what he's done for me as a driver, and he is without a doubt one of the smartest guys in the sport. I'm also appreciative of the fact that he'll continue to be a resource for me and our team as we focus on these final races. We're very fortunate to have Chad Norris as part of our organization to take over for the No. 99. I've known Chad for a long time and he is a fierce competitor. We've got our work cut out for us over the next seven races, and I've got every confidence Chad can lead our team to where we need to be."

Will Norris be the spark that Edwards needs over the final seven races to snag a wild card or move into the top 10?

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Tags: Bob Osborne, , carl edwards, Chad Norris, , , crew chief, , , , , Tony Stewart
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Join us for the latest Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Chat, Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET

17 Jul

Time again for the latest Yahoo! Sports NASCAR chat, and as long as we don't go in for four tires instead of two, we should all be just fine. Join us here at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday!

Tags: , the latest Yahoo! Sports NASCAR, the latest Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Chat, Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Chat
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RCR minority partner exploring sale of equity in team

16 Jul

Richard Childress Racing announced Monday that Chartwell Enterprises, which became a minority partner in the team in 2003, is exploring the sale of its interest in the team.

"Since 2003, I have had a minority partner at RCR in Chartwell Investments," Richard Childress said in a release. "Like any private equity business, Chartwell has a duty to its investors to return capital and maximize profits in a reasonable timeframe. With my support, they have determined that now is an appropriate time to exit their investment in RCR. Chartwell has been a great partner and I will always be appreciative of our partnership. We will remain good friends."

"We have informed the key people and sponsors of RCR about Chartwell's decision and assured them this will have no impact on the current affairs at RCR or our continued vision for strong performance on and off the track. We have advised them that if a new investor comes on board as RCR's new partner they will be strategically chosen to help RCR continue to grow. Our family of corporate partners has all been very appreciative of our letting them know and remain committed to moving forward. I love what I do and plan to be involved in NASCAR and in running RCR for many years to come."

Richard Childress Racing fields teams for Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard in the Sprint Cup Series, Austin Dillon and Elliott Sadler and a third car in the Nationwide Series and for Joey Coulter and Ty Dillon in the Camping World Truck Series. While Harvick is currently in the top 10 in the Cup points standings through the first 19 races of the season, RCR hasn't been to victory lane. After buying the assets of Kevin Harvick Inc. at the end of last season, RCR has flourished in the Nationwide Series this year, where Dillon and Sadler have combined for three wins and are 1-2 in the points standings.

Many major Sprint Cup teams have partnered with investment firms in recent years. Robb Kauffman became a partner in Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007, Roush Racing joined with Fenway Sports Group that same year and after the partnership with George Gillett went sour at what's now Richard Petty Motorsports, Petty joined with DGB Investments and Medallion Financial to buy out Gillett in 2010.

Now that Chartwell is exploring a sale, it's a good time to ask: is there anyone out there with a lot of cash that wants to make the From The Marbles car dream come true?

Tags: Austin Dillon, , Chartwell, Chartwell Enterprises, equity, Investments, kevin harvick, minority, , RCR, Richard Childress, richard childress racing,
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Power Rankings: Does anybody want to be No. 1?

16 Jul

The race is done, and that means it's time for Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. It is not scientific, nor is it meant to be. And remember, whoever your favorite driver is, we're biased against him and like someone else better. We continue with a guy who's back in the front yet again...

1. Jimmie Johnson: Help me out here. Who goes here? Matt Kenseth is leading the points, but he had a weak Loudon. Tony Stewart? Hottest driver in NASCAR was a nonfactor. Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin are too buried in the standings to make the leap. So we're going with Jimmie Johnson because he had a halfway decent race, and you can't do anything about it. Last week: 4.

2. Matt Kenseth: This was one of the first races of the year where Kenseth wasn't ever a factor. He'll likely be back in form at Indy, but this was an uncharacteristically dull race for a guy who ... nah, you know what, that's too easy. Last week: 1.

3. Kasey Kahne: There are four or five drivers out there who can just come from out of nowhere and thoroughly dominate a race. Denny Hamlin is one of those. Unfortunately for him, so is Kasey Kahne. It's too early to consider Kahne a title contender, but he's looking a whole lot more like a legit Chase candidate than several of the guys still in the top 10. Last week: 6.

4. Denny Hamlin: I love how Hamlin just lets every single emotion spill right out of him like a middle-school drama queen. Despite how that sounds, that's not a slam. Well, not much of one. We love emotion in NASCAR, and we'll even take the kind that makes Hamlin sound like he's listening to Adele on the plane ride home. "Maybe someday I'll ask for two tires just like youuuuuu..." Last week: 10.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Hey, Dale. 'Sup. Good little run on Sunday. Pretty sweet moment there when all four Hendrick guys were in the top 5. Not leading the race, but still...you can't have everything. Anyway, that's all I've got to say about Mr. Notched-Another-Top-Five-Sorry-For-Party-Rockin'-You-Haters.  Last week: 5.

6. Greg Biffle: What the heck happened to the Roush guys on Sunday? Are we entirely certain they made the trip back north from Daytona? As dominant as they were last Saturday, they were utterly forgettable this Sunday. Not what we expected to see. Last week: 3.

7. Brad Keselowski: I usually have a lot to say about Kes, but not this week. So I will say that Kes is the driver whose standups have probably seen more crime than any other. Seriously. They're all over dingy, creepy gas stations in the middle of nowhere. Heaven only knows what horrors those things have seen. Last week: 7.

8. Tony Stewart: All right, I give: don't bet Tony Stewart after a win. Seriously, the guy wins and then goes into the tank. He'll be just fine in Indy, but wow, was he awful at Loudon. All right, all right: his car was awful. He was the same ol' precious cuss we all love. Last week: 2.

9. Jeff Gordon: As you read these words, Gordon is headed to the Congo as part of his charitable efforts. Worthy, worthy cause. But I do have to wonder if he'll be greeted by a horde of kids wearing "Carl Edwards 2011 Sprint Cup champion" shirts. (Yes, I will keep re-using that joke every year until you laugh, dammit!) Last week: 9.

10. Clint Bowyer: TNT was beyond problematic this season, what with all the commercials (more on that in a moment), but one of the better moments of the race on Sunday was the clip of Bowyer's crew chief Brian Pattie yelling something indecipherable at his crew. As stressful as it surely is being a crew chief, you have plenty of opportunity to work off that stress. Last week: NR.

Ryan Newman11. Ryan Newman: Decent day by the Rocket Man at one of his better tracks. Now, the commercials: we can't escape 'em. But TNT made the unfortunate choice to go with shorter commercial breaks staggered more frequently, which means that we were seeing commercials literally every five minutes. That didn't go over so well. Last week: NR.

12. Joey Logano: Not a great run by Logano, but he's running better than Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and others we left off the list. If Logano is able to get into the Chase, he'll be able to tap-dance on the heads of his detractors. Last week: 9.

Dropping out of the rankings: Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr.

Lucky Dog: Brian Vickers, who put in another strong effort in the rotating No. 55 seat. Dude is making a strong case for a ride next  year ... if there is a ride to get.

DNF: Carl Edwards, who began his stretch run to the playoffs with an uninspiring, virtually anonymous 18th-place finish. He needs that win, pronto.

All right, your turn. Fire away, friends.

Tags: , Jimmie Johnson, kasey kahne, Matt Kenseth, , Tony Stewart
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Mini-racing: Get the entire Loudon I experience in ten minutes

16 Jul

You know, it really does seem like NASCAR fans aren't happy unless they're griping about something. And unfortunately for NASCAR, Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 gave us plenty to gripe about, from spread-out flat-track racing to endless commercial breaks. Still, Kasey Kahne is very happy with how everything worked out, and Denny Hamlin won't ever be unclear on the radio ever again. Enjoy this quick recap as we head into the off week.

Tags: , Enjoy, , , kasey kahne, Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Loudon, Mini-racing, ,
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Kasey Kahne completes major turnaround with win at Loudon

15 Jul

Six races into the 2012 season, Kasey Kahne was ranked 31st in the Sprint Cup standings, and his much-anticipated Hendrick Motorsports debut appeared to be on the verge of a Year One bust.

Funny what two wins and a bit of talent will do for a guy.

Three months after that Martinsville race that left Kahne's 2012 chances almost for dead, he's now in 12th place, holding the first wild card and an extremely good chance to make the Chase.

Sunday afternoon at Loudon in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Kahne won a largely uneventful race to cement his status as one of NASCAR's elite drivers, even if his early-season stats didn't show that.

Now, it must be noted that Kahne's victory was, at least in part, due to a pit road miscommunication between Denny Hamlin and his crew chief. Hamlin's car dominated the day, but a late call to take four tires when everyone else took two buried him deep in the field.

[Video: Kyle Busch suffers double whammy on pit road]

"We sure had some [races] we had stolen from us, so it feels good to steal one from somebody else," laughed Kenny Francis, Kahne's crew chief. "Hopefully in the end it evens out."

Still, take nothing away from Kahne, who was able to hold off Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a charging Hamlin in the race's closing laps. Could Kahne have won a late restart against Hamlin? Doubtful, but since no caution flew, it's a moot point.

"When we got two tires there at the end, put us first, I was feeling really good about where we were at," Kahne said. "I slid around for the first 10 laps, then I knew I needed to get as big of a lead as I could because I knew Denny would be coming at some point.  I tried to get away.  We ended up winning. It was great. I was really happy.  This is a tough track." (Kahne's press conferences tend to read like Hemingway novels.)

There's much yet to play out, of course; if Kahne falters in any of these last seven races and one of the one-win drivers behind him catches fire, this could all be a pleasant memory come Chase time. But Kahne has put himself in position to challenge for the Cup, and that's a place almost no one believed he'd be earlier this year.

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Tags: , , , Hendrick, hendrick motorsports, , kasey kahne, major turnaround, , , road, ,
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Assessing drivers’ wild card chances with seven races before the Chase

15 Jul

If you thought the wild card field was muddled with four drivers between 11th and 20th sitting on a win apiece, what do you think about it now?

With seven races to go before the Chase field is set, Kasey Kahne now has two wins. That leaves Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano (for now) in line for the final wild card spot, just 12 points apart.

Because of the gap between 10th place Brad Keselowski and 11th place Carl Edwards (46 points), the wild-card drivers are likely to come from the drivers currently 11th-20th in the points standings. (In other words, it's unlikely anyone currently inside the top 10 will fall out.) Will it be two of the four drivers with at least a win? Or will it include someone else like Edwards or Jeff Gordon?

Kasey Kahne (2 wins, 12th place, -66 points from 10th): If you take away Kahne's crashes at Michigan and Pocono, his lowest finish since blowing an engine at Martinsville 13 races ago is 14th. And that 14th-place finish is his only finish outside the top 10 during that span when he's been running at the end. Kahne's only real weakness on the tracks remaining before the Chase begins is at Watkins Glen, where he doesn't have any top 10s. However, with the way he's rolling, another win or two isn't farfetched. Chase chances: 75%

[Related: Kasey Kahne completes remarkable turnaround in win at Loudon]

Kyle Busch (1 win, 13th place, -68): We all know he's capable of reeling off consecutive victories at any track over the next seven races. But here's the thing: With the way that his season's gone, he's also proved that it's prone to have engine failure in three consecutive races. Pit-road troubles befell Busch at Loudon when a bad pit stop coupled with a speeding penalty on the first round of pit stops ruined his day. But he started on the pole and had one of the fastest cars on the track. Based on his record at Bristol (5 wins) and Richmond (4 wins), he's still strongly in the mix. But over the last seven races, he hasn't finished higher than 10th. Chase chances: 40%

Ryan Newman (1 win, 14th place, -77): Does anyone really know what to make of Newman? He's stayed around the top 10 by consistently finishing in the top half of the field, but hasn't really challenged for a win. And let's be honest, his win at Martinsville was just a tad fluky. Without it, Newman is likely an afterthought in the Chase discussion. He does have wins at Michigan and Richmond, but they were in 2004 and 2003. His best bet may be to outpoint Busch and hope he doesn't win again. Chase chances: 20%

Joey Logano (1 win, 16th place, -80): Newman's arch-enemy is legitimately in the Chase discussion for the first time in his career. But like Newman, where would you say that Logano has a very good chance of winning before the Chase? He's led 51 laps all year: 2 in the Daytona 500 and 49 in his win at Pocono. But there is still a race remaining at Pocono. If he doesn't repeat there, he's probably going to have to go on the Newman plan. Hope they'll be OK with each other on the same strategy. Chase chances: 20%

Carl Edwards (0 wins, 11th place, -46): If it hasn't been said enough, we'll say it one more time: The time is now for Carl Edwards. He's been on the precipice of being able to sneak into the top 10 without the virtue of a win, but with the way he's been running and the gap between he and Keselowski, his Chase chances rest on his ability to get to victory lane. Given his domination until a restart penalty at Richmond earlier in the year, Edwards going for a win and a Chase berth with a great car could give us some high drama there in September. Chase chances: 10%

[Related: Tire snafu dooms Denny Hamlin at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301]

Jeff Gordon (0 wins, 17th place, -89): Much like Edwards, the time has been now for Gordon for a while now. Is he capable of two wins in seven races? Yes. Will it happen? Probably not. But we've seen what Kahne's done shaking off the bad luck bug and Gordon's due for some good karma. That, coupled with fast race cars? Well, his chances aren't dead... yet. Chase chances: 10%

Paul Menard (0 wins, 15th place, -79): Menard is the highest ranking driver outside the top 10 without a top five. That speaks to his ability to avoid devastating finishes but not to his ability to win a race or two to get a wild-card berth. But hey, we're heading to Indy, where he won last year on fuel mileage. Never say never, but we're not optimistic. Chase chances: 4%

Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola (0 wins, 18th-22nd): If all the drivers ahead were sitting on one win, Watkins Glen could play a pivotal role for Ambrose and Montoya. However, given their points position, a win doesn't do them much good. Burton's two top fives have come at restrictor plate tracks. McMurray and Almirola don't have any top fives. Collective Chase chances: 1%

Who you got? Let us know below.

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Tags: Busch, carl edwards, engine, , kasey kahne, , , , Ryan Newman, ,
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Tire miscommunication costs Denny Hamlin near-certain Loudon win

15 Jul

When things aren't going Denny Hamlin's way, he doesn't hide his feelings. He doesn't turn the air blue like Kurt Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he doesn't chill the temperature in the cockpit with I'm-going-to-fire-you-all sarcasm like Tony Stewart. But when the day turns south for Hamlin, you can hear the shoulder-wilting depression in his voice.

On Sunday at the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in New Hampshire, Hamlin clearly had the best car in the field, leading 150 of the 301 laps. There was no one among Hamlin's competitors who had enough juice to get within three seconds of him; indeed, it appeared that the only way he could lose would be to beat himself.

And on the last pit call of the race, that's exactly what happened. Hamlin asked for tires, crew chief Darian Grubb ordered a four-tire stop when everyone else took two, and Hamlin went from leading the race to buried in the field.

"Oh, God. Oh, no," Hamlin said when he realized the mistake, and the sadness evident in his voice surely made all his female fans want to give him a hug.

Even so, Hamlin ripped upward through the field and very nearly made a race of it, closing to inside a second behind eventual race winner Kasey Kahne. But clean air ruled the day, and Kahne had enough room (and a caution-free final run) to keep Hamlin well behind him.

How could this happen? Hamlin walked through the process after the race.

"When the caution flies, when pit road opens, that time is so small, your time to communicate, figure out what you're going to do, you really have about 45 seconds to get it," he said. "Between all that, what happened was is Darian asked me, he said how much of the tires he felt like I used up.  I said I felt like I used them up a substantial amount.  I'd been on the lefts for quite a few laps. So my information to him was, yeah, I've used up the tires.  He said, I think two is the call.  I said, Okay, just give me tires and no adjustments. He took that as I meant four tires.  So it's just that small miscommunication just messed us up a little bit."

In the long run, this won't matter. Hamlin was already a dead-bang lock to make the Chase, and this is the kind of race that's forgotten once September rolls around. Unless Hamlin finishes the year three points or fewer out of first place, the total of bonus points this cost him by not getting a win, this will be little more than an object lesson for both Hamlin and his team.

"Darian was set on taking 2 tires but I told him that I needed tires and he took it as 4," Hamlin said after the race on Twitter. "Still had a hell of a run."

Hamlin and former crew chief Mike Ford famously crossed signals on a pit call at the end of the 2010 season that may well have cost them the Cup, and their relationship never recovered. Hamlin and Grubb have plenty of time to get past this one ... but we'd bet everybody knows exactly how many tires are going on the car every time down pit road from here on out.

Tags: , , , , Darian Grubb, , Hamlin, , Tire, voice,
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