NASCAR Mailbag: Danica and Junior struggle, more hot topics
NASCAR's second weekend was difficult for two of its most popular stars:
A poor run by Patrick last Saturday left people openly criticizing her stock car future and invited four months of public hits to her racing psyche when she goes back to her full-time gig in the IndyCar Series. But another 35th place finish by Dale Jr. on Sunday would be even worse, bringing back nightmares of last year's career-worst slump. Junior will be 25th in points and already proven unable to handle the intermediate tracks that compose about half the 36 races on the circuit
Can both drivers turn it around this weekend? We'll discuss that,
Alright, let's start with Danica ...
I agree. Time is what Danica needs, but it's not necessarily on her side. We're an instant gratification society, and what people are looking for is some kind of marquee moment that proves she's ready to run with the Big Boys. Finishes of 35th and 31st aren't what they're looking for, even though she's improved dramatically over the course of both her starts.
Part of the hysteria is that people have waited so long for a woman to succeed in NASCAR that the moment one appears, she is saddled with the weight of unrealistic expectations. That's a shame, because Sunday's Cup race was the perfect example of how patience can pay off for open-wheelers. F-1 convert
What do I expect from Danica in Vegas? At this point, a 20th would have to be a huge confidence-builder considering that she won't be back in the car for months. Most people think that's a pipe dream, but I think a lead-lap finish is possible considering how much she improved on Saturday -- in part due to how
"You progressed a lot in this race, girl," he said two-thirds of the way through Saturday's race, when she was three laps off the pace and well out of contention for a solid finish. "I'm proud of you, what you've learned."
That kept her head on straight despite the obvious frustration of running at the back, and she eventually started passing cars in the closing laps en route to 31st. So as long as Danica keeps her temper in check and doesn't end up wrecked on Saturday, I think we'll see her best race in a stock car yet -- it just won't be good enough for her critics.
Mike, your theory carries a lot of weight. The CoT typically loosens up in corners, which makes it difficult for Junior to run his typical rim-riding groove against the outside wall. How many times have you seen him smack the wall at some point during a race the past few years? As we saw with
Despite his lack of focus, I still think a different crew chief would make a difference for Earnhardt. Despite his second-place finish at Daytona, there's nothing to suggest that anything in his on-track relationship with
If there's any consolation for his fans, Vegas offers hope of a turnaround for Earnhardt as he's been 11th, 2nd, and 10th in his last three starts there. Anything less than a repeat performance of his 500 finish, though, will squander what little Daytona momentum he has left.
I beg to differ. My main point
"I'm a big football fan, so watching
Now, if there's one thing even the casual fan knows about Matt's old head wrench, it's that he's not exactly Mr. Outgoing.
I do agree with you about the timing of the change. Kenseth also took responsibility for it on Friday:
"[It was] 100 percent my fault," he said. "
Even though the timing is off, I still think the Parrott-Kenseth duo will do just fine, as evidenced by the 7th in their first outing together last Sunday. But don't expect Blick to stay down for long. I see him popping up very soon somewhere else. For some reason,
"So I haven't totally forgot how to drive! Great for my confidence, last year was harder than anyone will really know."