NASCAR Panel: Watkins Glen

Published 1:38 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are you surprised NASCAR fined Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman for being critical of the sport?

Ken Mays: I am not surprised that Denny could be critical. He is a hardcore racer. He has been critical of different things that could make his day better on the track or even a team member such as Kyle Busch blocking him on the track. It’s in the name of being a competitor. But Ryan Newman? I would bet that his boss, Tony Stewart, has coached him on speaking his feelings toward the tracks or other things so he would not have to be the bad guy all the time.

Jason Cannon: Not so much about Denny Hamlin. He’s been pretty vocal about late race debris cautions. I figured he got hit at least once. Ryan Newman’s been pretty anti-green-white-checkered finish. I guess that got him one.

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Jeremy D. Smith: Not really. NASCAR is doing its best NBA impersonation when it comes to fining its competitors for negative comments. The thing that is disturbing about it is that NASCAR did not take a public stand. They released no statement that Hamlin or Newman had been fined and the amount was never revealed. That information had to leak out through the press and drivers’ Twitter feeds.

Do you think the recent lack of green-white-checkered finishes is a by-product of driver criticism or just a coincidence?

Ken Mays: I think it’s just coincidence. You just can’t control how a race finishes. It just has to work out the way it works out.

Jason Cannon: If there’s a big wreck, I don’t think you can avoid it but I think some of the criticism has helped encourage NASCAR to keep that yellow flag in their pocket on a questionable debris caution.

Jeremy D. Smith: The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. If the track isn’t safe, you have to slow the race down. But the criticism from fans and drivers alike has to register with NASCAR. While good in theory, at some point the GWC finish damages your on-track product and is just bad for business.

Do you think Steve Latarte’s call to bring Jeff Gordon to pit road and take four tires last weekend cost him a win?

Ken Mays: I don’t really think so. Greg Biffle was so far ahead I really don’t think anyone had a chance to win that race other than him.

Jason Cannon: Yes. He had no way of knowing everybody else would only take two and he’d lose 10 spots on the stop, but he saw how much better the car out front ran versus who was stuck in traffic. I think you take the chance to keep the position.

Jeremy D. Smith: You have to think so. If Gordon takes two tires, he is on equal footing with everybody else and has a chance to avoid some of the traffic that ultimately cost him. But Latarte had no way of knowing that going into the pit. He gambled and lost.

Are you surprised that we’re this far into the season and that Kasey Kahne, possibly, could be without a ride next year?

Ken Mays: Kasey will  not be without a car next year. You can take that to the bank. As to which team he will be with, it is anyone’s guess. But if Tony Stewart told him that he had a ride next year you can bet your sweet behind he will be in one of his cars.

Jason Cannon: I thought a deal with Stewart-Haas was a sure thing but there’s been no talk about it at all. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kahne sign a one-year deal to drive Sadler’s car for RPM next year. He’ll get a sponsor, easily.

Jeremy D. Smith: Not really. There just don’t seem to be a lot of rides opening up right now. And there are a few teams whose financial situations are shaky. But Kahne is a good enough driver with a marketable enough name that he’ll land somewhere next year, whether on a long-term deal or not.

Who’s your pick to win this weekend?

Ken Mays: I am going with Robby Gordon this week. He is the road king at this track.

Jason Cannon: Give me Robby Gordon. He put together a good run at Sonoma and he’s a road course ace.

Jeremy D. Smith: I’ll take Tony Stewart this week. He has five career wins at the Glen to go along with seven Top 5 finishes and nine Top 10s. His average finish at the Glen over the last four years is 1.4, seven spots higher than the next closest driver.