NASCAR Panel: Richmond week

Published 7:22 pm Friday, April 29, 2011

What do you think about plate and two-car tango racing?

Ken Mays: I like the two car tango racing. Keeps you on your feet during the race.

Jason Cannon: I don’t know if you can change it. The cars are set up now so their nearly identical. It’s hard for one to break away from another. The only way you can stop that is to de-regulate some of the limitations NASCAR places on the teams and i think we all know that won’t happen.

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Mark Trest: I’m not sure it’s the best racing, but it is what it is, and these drivers have adapted to what gets them around the track the fastest way. One has to think that the up and comers probably get left out, because all of the superstar drivers hook up, and run with each other, because they’ve raced together for years, and a trust factor is huge in high speed racing. Therefore, the new guys get left even further behind.

Is laying back in the pack or “riding” a smart strategy or poor racing?

Ken Mays: I think it might be smart on some tracks but at a track like last weeks when the big wreck happens the ones in the back are the one that get the worse end of the deal. It takes a lot of them out of the race.

Jason Cannon: If it’s working it’s smart. I can make for a boring race if you key in one one driver who does it a lot, but if it puts the car in victory lane, go for it.

Mark Trest: Probably a bit of both. Laying back is aimed at avoiding the huge packs that are characteristic of restrictor plate racing, and ultimately avoiding trouble, such as the “big one” that usually occurs. However, some have argued that this strategy is cheesy, and actually not racing at all. Truth is, you do have to be there at the end to have a shot at the checkered flag, so…do what you have to do I suppose.

Which team is a better plate team, Richard Childress Racing or Hendrick Motorsports?

Ken Mays: They both are tit for tat. It just who can push in the best situation.

Jason Cannon: I would give the slight edge to Hendrick, but just barely. Harvick and Johnson are two of the best, so they cancel each other out. It really comes down to Burton/Menard/Bowyer versus Martin/Gordon/Earnhardt.

Mark Trest: As a complete team, RCR appears to be on top of their game when it comes to restrictor plate racing. Sure, Hendrick has won its share of plate races, but the whole team usually isnt running up front as does RCR teams do. Remember, this is the team that employed the best restrictor plate racer of all time, Dale Earnhardt.

What seems to be the problem with Denny Hamlin?

Ken Mays: I think he is just in a slump right now. I look for him to break out soon.

Jason Cannon: An average finish of 20th is killing him. This year, if there’s a mechanical problem or a wreck, it looks like he’s going to find it.

Mark Trest: Reliability, plain and simple. Seems to be something every week. The last couple of years, we’ve seen Hamlin run strong, and run up front. He is virtually off the map this season. When things arent going well, you see not only mechanical woes, you also see fingers pointed, and confidence waning. Chemistry disappears. Life isnt so rosy for last seasons runner up these days.

What has been the biggest surprise of the season so far?

Ken Mays: Tony Stewart not winning yet. He has something going on with his team that I haven’t figured out yet.

Jason Cannon: Look at the guy who’s 17th in points: Denny Hamlin. He was my preseason pick to knock Jimmie Johnson off the throne but Hamlin doesn’t even look close to the form he was in last season. No way I would have called that.

Mark Trest: Dale Junior running so strong, and Hamlin running so poorly have definitely taken the NASCAR world by surprise. There are others who have stepped it up or fallen back this season, but these two drivers are running completely opposite of their last 2 seasons in particular.