Tag:Poll Position
Posted on: March 6, 2012 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 6:25 pm

Poll Position: Stewart regretting firing Grubb?

It didn't take long for Darian Grubb (right) to taste success with Denny Hamlin, winning Sunday at Phoenix. (AP)

Did Tony Stewart make a mistake dropping Darian Grubb as crew chief after winning 2011 title?

Pete Pistone

We'll probably never know the whole story of why Stewart decided to make a crew chief change. While Darian Grubb is one of the most talented in the sport, Stewart didn't downgrade by bringing Steve Addington into the fold.

Let's face it, the driver-crew chief role is as much about chemistry and building relationships as it is anything. While Grubb is as adept at setting up a car and calling a race as they come, maybe there was something not clicking exactly the right way between the duo. Addington is equally talented at the nuts and bolts of the job and his personality seems to mirror Stewart's. They've both said many times they are "cut from the same cloth," guys who grew up short track racing and worked their way to the top level of the sport. They share an old school racer's mentality and Stewart appears quite comfortable working with and hanging out with Addington.

Grubb may have already made it into the victory column first and I have no doubt he'll be successful with Hamlin at JGR. But Stewart won't suffer with Addington at the helm and whatever the behind the scenes reasoning might be of his parting ways with Grubb, the bottom line is all about comfort and chemistry. Stewart and Addington have that together and then some.

Brian De Los Santos

In a word -- yes.

Now as the story goes, the decision to part ways with Grubb came prior to the amazing streak they went on en route to the Sprint Cup championship. At the time the call was made in early October, it was probably the right move. For whatever reason, the 2011 regular season was a struggle for the 14 team with Stewart making the Chase by the skin of his teeth. Entering the Chase, I for one, didn't expect Stewart to be much of a factor.

Stewart surprised just about everybody winning the first two races of the Chase. But then a couple subpar races followed that strong start and Stewart decided it just wasn't working out. Thus, entering the second half of the Chase, Grubb was basically a lame duck crew chief. But he soldiered on, and despite the distraction, helped Stewart to victory in three of the final four races and the title. The finale at Homestead was especially a thing of beauty.

Not even five wins in 10 races was enough for Stewart to reconsider. Which seems strange to me. Clearly Grubb proved he could get the job done in the crunch. Can Stewart win with Steve Addington as his crew chief? Probably. But there's something to be said for continuity. After a finishing run that few outside of Chad Knaus-Jimmie Johnson have been able to muster, Stewart may find that cutting Grubb loose may not have been such a good idea, especially if Grubb and his new driver Denny Hamlin continue to knock out wins.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:37 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 6:57 pm

Poll Position: Will Jimmie Johnson make Chase?

Jimmie Johnson ran just 1 lap in the Daytona 500 before a wreck took him out of contention (US Presswire)


Will Jimmie Johnson recover from 25-point penalty to make the Chase?

Pete Pistone

Jimmie Johnson's challenge to get back to the top of the Sprint Cup mountain as a six-time champion became a bit more difficult with the pending six race suspension of Chad Knaus and the 25 point penalty for the team's Daytona infractions. But JJ and the 48 team can absolutely overcome the obstacle.

In an odd way, the hole Johnson finds himself in, may actually provide even more motivation for the team.

Johnson has dealt with running without Knaus before, winning the 2006 Daytona 500 with interim crew chief Darian Grubb guiding the way as Knaus sat out a suspension. As it was then, the Hendrick organization has a wealth of talent at its disposal and perhaps more resources than any other team in the Sprint Cup Series.

If the six race Knaus suspension sticks after the team's appeal, I have no doubt someone will come from the ranks to crew chief the 48 and Johnson won't skip a beat.

Knaus won't be able to be at the track during the forced vacation, but he'll still be very much a part in the planning and preparation process back at the shop, ensuring Johnson has a potent piece for the six races. Johnson has talked a great deal about learning lessons after his run of five straight titles ended last year and how the experience provided motivation for 2012. This misstep by Knaus will simply add to the determination level.

I picked Johnson to be my 2012 champ and this doesn't change my mind.

Brian De Los Santos

In light of his disastrous finish (start?) in the Daytona 500 where he collected just 2 points after wrecking on Lap 2, a 25-point penalty would seem a mighty big  hole to have to dig out of. But I'm going to say he still makes the Chase.

Subtract 25 points from his regular-season total last year and he still would have made the Chase comfortably. Of course, he had only four finishes outside the top 20 and none worse than 31st in the 26 races.

He's already been dinged with one bad finish -- which you can almost count as two bad finishes after you tack on the penalty -- so there's no a lot of room for error. But a similar campaign to what he had last season should still put him in the mix for a Chase berth.

There's a little less room for error, but if anybody can do it, it's the five-time champion 48 team, even without the services of Chad Knaus for six races.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 12:59 pm

Poll Position: Are Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?

Thursday's Gatorade Duels will set the field for Sunday's Daytona 500.(US Presswire)

Has the top 35 owner rule rendered the Gatorade Duels anticlimactic?


The Top 35 rule has impacted qualifying across the entire Sprint Cup Series schedule and basically turned time trials into a placement exercise of simply where drivers start in the field.

By guaranteeing drivers a spot in the lineup, the "do or die" mentality of qualifying for most teams that show up has disappeared. That drama was a major element of the Daytona Gatorade Duel races until a few years ago when the Top 35 ruined the doubleheader.

Before guaranteed owner points came into the picture, the Thursday races before the Daytona 500 were one of the highlights of not only Speedweeks but for some the entire season. Drivers needed to finish inside the first 15 to punch their ticket to the 500 or pack up and head home, a format that set up tremendous excitement and was a fan favorite -- responsible for 100,000 or more packing the Daytona grandstands for the weekday matinee.

Today's 150-milers are pale comparisons to what was one of Daytona's best traditions.


To be completely anticlimactic would mean the Duels carry no significance, which isn't the case at all, but the top 35 owner rule has certainly ruined the simplicity of things.

Oh how I long for the days when the top 14 or 15 drivers from each qualifier made the Daytona 500. Nowadays you almost need a Masters in Calculus to figure out how driver outside the top 35 can make it to Sunday's main event.

Consider that there are in actuality 39 positions locked up -- the top 35 in owner points from a year ago, the three fastest non-top 35 drivers from qualifying and a champions provisional -- heading into Thursday's Duels leaving 10 drivers -- none of whom you'd put much stock in actually winning the Daytona 500 -- vying for the four remaining spots in the field.

And what of the drivers that are locked in? For them, the Duels are a test session as much as anything. The funny thing about the Daytona 500 is that so much effort goes into setting the field for a race where starting position means very little.

That's not so say the races aren't exciting for fans, it is a race at Daytona after all. But the importance and gravity is lacking.

How about awarding points to the winners of each event? Not a huge amount, maybe a 5-point bonus to the winners.

And while I understand what NASCAR is trying to do with the top 35 rule, I'm wondering if it make sense to just start fresh each season. In other words, when it comes to the Daytona 500, nobody is locked in.

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