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SPEED Quotes: Byrnes, McReynolds​, Petty, Waltrip Talk 2013 NASCAR Season



As NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams put the finishing touches on their cars and prepare to hit the road for Daytona next week, SPEED analysts Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds, Kyle Petty and Darrell Waltrip take a minute to discuss the sport’s biggest storylines as the 2013 season officially kicks off next Thursday with Media Day.

All four men are part of SPEED’s 11 days of consecutive at-track programming from Daytona, beginning Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. ET with a special two-hour edition of NASCAR Race Hub from Media Day. Following are their thoughts on the hottest topics surrounding the new season:

Q: How will you gauge success with this new car in the opening races?

“This is a very complex question because so much attention has been focused on the Daytona 500 because it’s our first and biggest race of the year. However, teams have been working on their intermediate-track cars for months, yet we won’t know how well they race until about five or six weeks into the season when we’re competing at a variety of tracks. Declaring the success of this new ‘Gen-6’ car will be a moving target for a while, but the fact NASCAR has taken weight out of the cars with the goal of giving drivers more maneuverability, and hopefully more ease of passing, bodes well. They’re definitely on the right track.”

--Steve Byrnes, host of NASCAR Race Hub

“Fostering better racing is the ultimate goal of this car at the end of the day. If the cars look completely different from the year before, say a minivan versus a two-door coupe, but the racing doesn’t improve, we’ve done nothing. We can’t say definitively this new car is a success until about five or six races into the year. If we hear drivers talk about catching another car, moving around him and passing him without smacking the wall, that’s a good sign. Removing 100 pounds of weight from the cars also is a huge plus because it gives Goodyear more flexibility to build a tire with more give-up. Hopefully, we won’t see pit crews packing up their pit boxes in the final 75 laps at Phoenix because they know they won’t need to pit for tires again.”

--Larry McReynolds, NASCAR on SPEED & FOX analyst

“I think we’re halfway there because it actually looks like a car. It looks like a Ford, Chevrolet or Toyota in a lot of ways. That was a huge step forward for NASCAR fans, but what will define success is when people sit down after 10 or 15 races, evaluate the on-track product and declare it better than last year’s. Then and only then has the car been a success. If they say the racing is the same as last year, then all we’ve done is slap another coat of paint on an old house, leaving it as the same old house. All we have as a sport is what we put on the track. If the product isn’t good, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick or Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- you can’t carry the sport and make it more popular without a good show on the track. That will be the ultimate deciding factor.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

Q: What are you most watching for as NASCAR rolls into Daytona next week?

“If I’m a viewer, I’m paying especially close attention to the practice sessions – especially The Sprint Unlimited. At the Daytona test, we saw a lot of different things, ranging from torn-up race cars to good speed. But a lot has happened since that test session, and the only way to ascertain exactly what has occurred and developed since then is in those practice sessions that first week. Teams and NASCAR still are looking for a wealth of information about these new cars, and there is a huge amount to be learned in those opening practices and in The Sprint Unlimited.”

--Steve Byrnes, host of NASCAR Race Hub

Q: Is Brad Keselowski a good face for the sport right now and what kind of role model do you think he’ll be as the reigning champion?

“At his age, Brad is more relative to our younger demographic, especially with his activity level on social media. The kid will give you the answer that’s on his mind and I admire that. I also admire the work ethic that got him where he is today. He and Clint Bowyer are more ‘blue-collar drivers’ than most anybody else. They live, eat, sleep and breathe racing. If they’re not with their Cup teams, they’re working at their own race shops working with their personal teams, and I think fans gravitate to that. I am not trying to compare Brad to Dale Earnhardt Sr., but I think Dale’s work ethic on his farm was one of the things that attracted fans to him.”

--Larry McReynolds, NASCAR on SPEED & FOX analyst

“Yes, he is a good face for the sport at this point because of where he came from. He worked for his dad, and his dad and uncle busted into Cup racing back in the early ‘70s. Brad was running Truck races and got a call from Dale Jr. to go race for him. That’s the dream of every kid racing a local short track throughout the United States. From that perspective, he’s that blue-collar, working man who all of a sudden accomplished his dreams through hard work and dedication and passion. That’s a great role model for younger kids, but at the same time, he’s so engaged with the media and social media that he’s a good spokesperson for the sport.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

“Our sport is in a changing of the guard right now. It happens every 10 or 15 years, and Brad is the leader of that change at the moment. Sometimes his words and outspokenness offend some folks, but he doesn’t back down from his comments. He doesn’t back down in his driving either, and when competitors see him coming in the rearview mirror, they have to be wondering what he’ll do and what he’s thinking. I think fans love that and gravitate to drivers like Brad.”

--Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on SPEED & FOX analyst

Q: How can Matt Kenseth help his new, younger Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch?

“Every team needs a leader among its drivers and I think Joe Gibbs Racing has been missing that. Despite the fact they’d been winning races and contending for championships, they were missing the driver leadership since Tony Stewart left. With Matt’s experience and age, he’s the perfect guy to wrap his arms around Denny and Kyle if they start to get sideways, and give them a little advice.”

--Larry McReynolds, NASCAR on SPEED & FOX analyst

“Matt balances out Joe Gibbs Racing. We know Denny and Kyle are very emotional drivers, and during the entire course of Matt’s career, we’ve probably seen him be emotional only twice. He completely balances out the other two drivers from that perspective. Matt is incredibly logical, quiet and gets the job done in a workman-like way. He brings calmness to the team. Joey (Logano) had that calmness but not the experience Matt brings. He will round out his two teammates.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

Q: How could the switch to Ford impact Penske Racing’s performance in 2013?

“If Penske Racing drops off in performance this year, we can attribute it to the switch in manufacturers because we know the team can perform; we know the driver can perform; we know they can win races and championships – they’ve done it for the last 18 or 24 months. So, if there is a drop-off, we’d have to point the finger at the switch no matter how much they’d want to spin it and say it wasn’t the cause. However, with a team like Penske and a driver like Brad, I don’t think a switch is as big a deal as it would be for a lesser team, so I don’t see it as being an impediment to what they want to do this year.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

Q: What is your perspective of NASCAR eliminating the top-35 rule this year?

“It needed to be done. There have been times in the sport when NASCAR has had to change a rule based on the current status of the sport, such as when Richard Petty was having trouble qualifying for every race at the end of his career. NASCAR has to do what is right at the time, but keeping a rule just because that’s the way it has always been is ridiculous, and I’m happy to see them acknowledge that the top-35 rule no longer is necessary.”

--Steve Byrnes, host of NASCAR Race Hub

“I’m thrilled that NASCAR eliminated the top-35 rule because it was hideous. Nobody did anything wrong, but when NASCAR first implemented the rule, it made sense because 50-plus teams were showing up every week, but a few that weren’t could take advantage of a good qualifying lap and send home a team that went to the track weekly. But as the fields got shorter, some owners saw the benefit of partnering with someone who was in the top 35 the previous season to guarantee themselves a starting spot. Now we’re reversing this rule back to where we were a few years ago, and that’s the right move.”

--Larry McReynolds, NASCAR on SPEED & FOX analyst

Q: Do you expect Richard Childress Racing to rebound this year?

“Yes. Richard Childress Racing has been known to lose its way at different times throughout its history, but they always find their way back, and the year after a bad year has always been a good year for them. Dale Earnhardt had a terrible season one year and bounced back to win the championship the following year. It’s crazy how RCR has always ebbed and flowed. Somehow they always manage to pull it together and claw their way back to the top. I really do think that whole organization will be on an upswing this season.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

“RCR has no choice but to rebound and rebound in a big way this year. This season will be crucial to that organization with Kevin Harvick leaving for another team next year and with him several sponsors likely leaving the team. The future of Austin and Ty Dillon’s young driving careers also hinge on an RCR upswing. The importance of 2013 to that group cannot be exaggerated or overstated.”

--Steve Byrnes, host of NASCAR Race Hub

Q: What would you classify as a “good season” for Danica Patrick this year?

“I think a top-25 finish in the points would be good for Danica. If she runs races like she did at Bristol and at Darlington in the Cup car last year, then she does two things – she gains incredible experience, but more importantly, she gains the respect of the competitors. I give her huge props for those two races because they’re two of the toughest, if not the toughest, on the circuit. Are we going to see her going door-to-door with Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart? Only when they lap her. But that’s the way it is with any other new driver. If she has a season like Joey Logano did his first Cup season, it would be a tremendous success for her, but I think a top-25 finish this year would be good for Danica.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

Q: Can Kurt Busch win a race this year?

“Yes. I thought he could last year, too. Will he be a championship contender? No. Will he make the Chase? Maybe. Those guys have done a tremendous job of adding people to that organization, but their name is not Hendrick, Gibbs, Childress or Roush, so Kurt and his team won’t win a championship.”

--Kyle Petty, SPEED analyst

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