SPEED Q&A: FROM VEGAS TO THUNDER VALLEY
Q: Late Thursday afternoon, Denny Hamlin tweeted he would not appeal the $25,000 penalty NASCAR had assessed him for his remarks about the Gen-6 car following the Phoenix race, which was followed by a NASCAR statement that his fine will be settled per Section 12-3 of the rulebook. The implication is the fine will come out of his purse winnings. Was this the best resolution for the sport as a whole?
“You could argue there shouldn’t have been a fine to begin with, but since there was, Hamlin declining to appeal but simultaneously refusing to pay the fine probably is the best outcome. NASCAR still gets to inflict its will, as it always does, and Hamlin gets to mildly protest. So, this is a good alternative for all parties involved.”
--Tom Jensen, SPEED.com Editor-in-Chief
Q: With regard to drivers speaking their mind, do they know where the line is with NASCAR?
“I don’t think what Hamlin said was all that awful, but I also think drivers should have the opportunity to speak their minds. It might have been a poor choice of words, but I don’t think his intent was all that bad. Hamlin was just saying it will take time to figure the new car out. This fine, though, was a distraction to his team and needed to be resolved. There needed to be closure.”
--Steve Byrnes, host of NASCAR Race Hub & NASCAR on FOX pit reporter
“They certainly know there’s a line around the Gen-6 car but in terms of other topics, not necessarily because Brad Keselowski was very outspoken earlier this year about substantive issues he thought were wrong with NASCAR, and he was not fined. So, I’d say there still is some murkiness.”
Q: Last August’s race at Bristol was the first since Bruton Smith reconfigured the track with progressive banking. Should we expect to see a different race there with the new car?
“There are enough characteristics about Bristol that even though he changed the upper groove last year, we’ll still see a typical ‘Bristol race.’ I think the track always will retain its characteristics no matter what car, tire, pavement or banking you put on it. It will maintain its individuality.”
“I think we’ll see the best race so far this year because Bristol always is conducive to good racing. With the cars 150 pounds lighter, they’ll be a little faster, and the new car will get better as time goes on and drivers get used to it. Bristol, like Martinsville and Richmond, usually make for pretty good competition.”
--Jimmy Spencer, SPEED analyst and former driver
Q: Toyota Racing Development escaped Las Vegas without any engine issues in the Joe Gibbs Racing camp. Vegas is tough on engines, so was that a sign TRD is past what plagued them the first two races?
“TRD took responsibility for hindering Kyle Busch’s chances of getting in the Chase last year. He lost engines three weeks in a row during the summer. TRD thinks they’ve isolated the problem to the valve springs. Vegas is hard on engines and they got through that race unscathed, which tells me TRD solved the problem -- at least for the time being.”
“We knew Las Vegas would be a huge measuring stick for the Gen-6 car but it also was for TRD. They ran a lot of miles on Thursday (practice) at Vegas with no issues and a hard 400 miles in the race. A lot of their problems have been in the valve spring area, and I know those guys at TRD aren’t thinking they have it fixed, but they have to be feeling pretty good after Vegas.”
--Larry McReynolds, SPEED analyst
“When I spoke to David Wilson of TRD in Vegas, he said they’d spent all week between Phoenix and Vegas going over the Daytona and Phoenix issues in an attempt to remedy them. We didn’t see an issue in Vegas, so going forward, I hope they have it figured out. I guess that’s the million-dollar question for TRD.”
“I think it’s a very good sign. More importantly for Toyota, it was their 50th Sprint Cup Series victory and one they’d wanted for quite some time. So, it was a very important weekend.”
Q: Assess Penske Racing’s transition from Dodge to Ford thus far. Has it been as seamless as it appears?
“It sure looks seamless. In the Nationwide program, Sam Hornish Jr. told me it’s not a huge difference between the Dodge and Ford engine programs, but it’s significant enough that he notices it going down the straightaway. The horsepower Yates puts out is amazing, and that might be part of the transition people might not be as aware of. Yes, it’s a new body design and they’ve had to do an entire manufacturer swap at Penske, but they’ve got Yates horsepower now and that has really helped that transition.”
“It seems they haven’t skipped a beat. As an outsider, you wouldn’t even know they‘d switched manufacturers. I’m sure there was a lot of work in the off-season we didn’t see, and the fact all manufacturers made a body change to the Gen-6 car probably helped Penske. But they’ve certainly made it look like a piece of cake.”
“I’m sure there was a lot of very intense work behind the scenes. Penske is one of the top organizations in NASCAR. They had one leg up because they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel in the engine program and could just add the proven Roush Yates engines. I think that made the transition much easier. Additionally, because every team had to switch to the new Gen-6 cars, it wasn’t any different switching to a new Ford than it would have been switching to a new Gen-6 Dodge, so that probably helped them out.”