Logano went to Victory Lane last week at Pocono
Raceway, but put the bumper to former mentor Mark
Martin to get there. Should fans applaud that move, or
be uncomfortable with it?
Joe Menzer: Applaud it. Demand more of it. I think too many
of the drivers these days are too nice, plus we all know
how difficult it is to pass. Logano didn't wreck him,
he just gently moved him out of the way. It was beautiful
and we need to see more of that kind of stuff, not less.
David Caraviello: OK, first of all, I wouldn't go as
far as to say he "put the bumper to him." That
might be a little strong. Martin made the smallest of
mistakes, Logano saw an opening, and nudged him a little to
loosen his car so he could get by. That does not exactly
rise to the level of rattling someone's cage. If you
have a problem with that, it might be time to go watch some
bocce ball or something.
Bill Kimm: Oh man, they better applaud ... that was
fantastic. Logano was the dominant car all weekend and it
was only right for him to be in Victory Lane. He did
exactly what he was supposed to do, and anyone who says
otherwise needs to stop watching races and find a less
adrenaline-filled sport ... maybe synchronized swimming.
David and I thinking alike -- this could be an interesting
Joe Menzer: Uh, here we go again ... did you not read what
I said, too? Who am I? The Invisible Typist? And bocce ball
actually can be exciting ... depending on how much beer
you've had to drink and whether or not you're doing
extreme bocce on a beach. More on that later.
David Caraviello: I will say this, Joey clearly had the
faster car. In that situation, it's tough to criticize
anything the guy does to get by whomever is in front of
him. I'm not advocating taking people out, and
that's not to say the car in front doesn't have a
right to that position. But if you can do it as relatively
smoothly and cleanly as Joey did, I can't imagine
anyone having an issue with it. Unless they're a Mark
Martin fan, of course. Or Mark Martin himself.
Bill Kimm: It is disappointing Mark Martin came out and
somewhat criticized Logano. I get being upset with losing,
but what Logano did was perfectly executed, and Mark knows
David Caraviello: I mean, after all we heard in the
aftermath of this season's first Bristol race, when
people pined for the bump-and-run days to such an extent
that they didn't show up, I can't imagine anybody
being upset with this. Allegedly, it's the kind of
stuff people want to see more of. And when the guy has the
fastest car all weekend -- well, it's hard to argue
with the tactic, especially given that he waited for Martin
to make the smallest mistake first. If you're going to
nudge someone out of the way to win, that's the right
way to do it.
Bill Kimm: Hey, the three of us enjoyed it and really,
isn't that all that matters?
Joe Menzer: There's no "allegedly" about it,
pal! It's what people want to see a whole lot more of,
trust me. Here's the thing with Mark Martin. You've
got to love his volume of work throughout his career. But
the fact is if he had just a touch of a mean streak in him
as a driver -- as much as even a guy like Jeff
Gordon, I mean -- he'd probably have about 10 to 15
more race wins and a couple of championships. You've
got to respect that that's his style, to race
ultra-clean. But it costs him sometimes, no question.
David Caraviello: Now Joe, that might be a touch unfair.
The guy has how many Cup wins, and you're questioning
his killer instinct? Wanting to know where his "mean
streak" is? I'm not sure Jimmie
Johnson has a mean streak, and things have worked out
fine for him. You can be ruthless on the race track and
still compete against people a certain way. Not everybody
is going to be an Intimidator.
Joe Menzer: I think you're wrong there. I think Jimmie
and Jeff and most others are willing to bang a little --
heck, they've done it to each other at Martinsville in
the final laps before -- more than Mark is willing to do. I
understand not everybody is going to be an Intimidator. In
fact, that proves my point. It's not Mark's style
-- and there is no question in my mind that through the
years it probably has cost him some wins, maybe even a
championship or two.
David Caraviello: Listen, a man's got to have a code.
Martin doesn't do that kind of stuff, and he's not
alone. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I don't
know if you could take this to the level of, oh, he might
have a couple of championships if he were more willing to
knock someone out of the way every now and then. The guy
has 40 Cup Series wins doing it his way. Very difficult to
argue with the results.
Joe Menzer: But he made the choice to race the way he does,
and I respect it. He's consistent, and I like
consistent. He says he'll race people clean, and he
does. I'm just saying there have been times through the
years where that has undoubtedly cost him on the bottom
line. He'd rather do it his way than knock somebody out
of the way for a win. There are some guys -- take Kevin
Harvick, for instance -- who unabashedly admit they
will do whatever it takes to win if they're in position
to do so. The fact that Mark Martin has 40 Cup wins racing
his way only illustrates how talented a driver he is.
Bill Kimm: Everyone has a different style and there is no
real correct answer as to how to be a successful Cup
champion. That being said, the fact Logano was in position
to do what he did bodes well for him ... and he needs to
show a little more aggressiveness out there; he's not a
rookie anymore looking to earn respect.
David Caraviello: Well, there may be some generational
differences there. But listen, if Martin were doing it his
way and never winning, that would be one thing. But
he's won a lot more than he gets credit for. His way
works for him. And that's cost him -- what?
Championships? There were a few penalties that impacted
that quest along the way, to be certain. But I don't
know if being meaner here or there would have changed the
course of his career.
Bill Kimm: Joe, would this be the time we talk about that
"extreme" bocce-ball tournament? You put people
in the wall when you throw that green ball?
Joe Menzer: I do what I have to do to win. Know what I
2. On to Michigan International Speedway, where it's
been four years since Dale
Earnhardt Jr. recorded his last Cup victory -- on
Father's Day, at the same track. Odds of a repeat
Joe Menzer: Hmmmm. I'm going to say he'll have
another strong run but he won't win. And here's
why: right now you can't blame him for points racing.
The way this deal is set up -- even as badly as he wants to
win -- they need to protect their points position and keep
piling up the top-10s, top-fives, to make sure they get in
the Chase by being top-10 in points overall by the Richmond
cutoff in the fall.
David Caraviello: And the Earnhardt Watch begins again. We
thought, maybe at Daytona. Then we thought, maybe at
Talladega. Then we thought, maybe at Charlotte. Now
we're thinking, maybe at Michigan, given this is where
he last won four years ago. Hey, Michigan seems as good as
anywhere. Dale is good almost every week, and the
drought-buster could come at almost anytime. At Michigan?
Certainly, given how strong he traditionally is on big
tracks. But I don't know if Michigan necessarily stands
out as a better candidate than any other facility right
Joe Menzer: The Earnhardt Watch begins again? I didn't
know it ended.
Bill Kimm: It never ends. No matter how much some of us
want it to. It. Never. Ends. If I were a bettin' man,
which I'm not, I think he has to be a solid 3-1, maybe
a 4-1 bet -- which is pretty good. This is a great season
for the No. 88 and I think a win will come sooner rather
than later. No reason the "new" Michigan
David Caraviello: To Joe's point about protecting their
position, they were sitting ducks at Pocono in that regard.
They were trying to stretch fuel all they could, but the Kasey
Kahne crash and the long ensuing caution period made
their bed for them. And over the radio, Junior was adamant
-- don't let me run out of gas. That would have been
devastating at such a big race track. If anything, they
were relieved to come in, put the fuel question behind
them, and race for a top-10 finish. That's not points
racing -- that's being realistic and taking the best
option presented to you.
Joe Menzer: I was there in June 2008 when he won his last
Cup race, and I do have to say it was pretty cool. The
crowd went nuts. Victory Lane was more raucous than usual,
and it's usually pretty raucous. As far as Pocono, like
I said, the way this deal is set up now ... you can't
blame them. For better or worse, it's all about getting
in the Chase. The thing is, though, once you're in the
Chase, I do believe you have to win a race or two at the
least to win a championship.
Bill Kimm: This weekend is all about coincidences for the
No. 88. He last won on Father's Day ... this race is on
Father's Day. It was at Michigan, where this
weekend's race is, and Joe Menzer was there, as he will
be this time around ... I think those odds just went to a
solid 2-1! If I'm Junior, I'm taking that snazzy
photo of Menz from his bio page and taping it to the
Joe Menzer: Wow. Bill Kimm's karma is pretty
convincing! I think between now and the Richmond Chase
cutoff, Junior is going to have to have a really dominant
car and an almost perfect day regarding luck and everything
else to win. As much as I hate to say it, they'd be
stupid to take gambles that could risk them starting a
tumble out of the top 10 at this point. That's probably
the downside of this system, but there are plenty of
upsides. There are plenty of other teams willing to risk
everything to get wins now, and Junior is in a different
David Caraviello: Dale Jr. at Michigan: one win, four
top-fives, eight top-10s. His average finish there, though,
is 15.8, which is not as good as I thought it would be.
And, he hasn't cracked the top 10 in two years. So
maybe this isn't necessarily the best place for him. Of
course, the resurfacing is going to change everything. And
he never was particularly any good at Pocono, and he had
perhaps the second-best car there. So who knows?
Joe Menzer: Well, we do! We're the experts, right? And
I say for Junior at Michigan ... strong car, top-10 finish,
Bill Kimm: More important numbers, David -- four top-fives
and nine top-10s in his past 10 starts this year. I
don't care what he has done at Michigan recently, this
is a different No. 88 team and he is proving it each and
David Caraviello: Joe, clearly they have a lot to lose
given their position, and it's probably natural to want
to get more conservative. But in reality, they're going
to need wins to avoid falling into a hole to start the
Chase. I think they know that. Earnhardt is having a great
season, and he is unquestionably a championship contender,
but if he goes 0-fer in the regular season he's looking
at starting the Chase in something like eighth place.
Joe Menzer: Well, we'll see what happens. I'm not
saying they won't go for a win if they're in
position. But I think they're mostly points racing
right now, and I'm saying you can't blame them. It
is indeed a dangerous game to play -- because you can't
just flip a switch and start winning races once you're
in the Chase just because you've had a good points
season up until then. Not when you haven't won since
David Caraviello: Exactly right. I was talking to a highly
placed motorsports source the other day, and he just threw
out the possibility of Junior's breakthrough coming at
the least expected place, somewhere like Sonoma. Some guys
wreck, some guys run out of fuel, and there goes the No.
88, pulling into Victory Lane to break the skid on a road
course. Wouldn't that be fun. I'd love to see it.
Joe Menzer: Wow. You talked to "a highly placed
motorsports source?" That's even more impressive
than a Junior victory would be!
David Caraviello: Hey, somebody has to do reporting while
you're in the carpool line.
Bill Kimm: I thought David was our "highly placed
motorsports source." Now I'm all confused.
Joe Menzer: New nickname: HPMS. Thankfully, the carpool
line has concluded for the summer. And don't worry,
Bill, you are frequently confused during these Smack
sessions, aren't you?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless skid: Facts and figures
• It's been 143 races since Dale Earnhardt
Jr.'s last win.
• The 143 races were won by 26 different drivers.
• Hendrick Motorsports drivers won 33 of the 143
• Earnhardt has finished second seven times since his
last Cup win, including twice in 2012.
• Earnhardt has 17 top-five finishes, 41 top-10s and
led 861 laps in that span.
• During the 143 races, three drivers broke winless
streaks of more than 100 races.
• The longest winless streak ever broken by a driver
at Michigan is 170 races by Sterling Marlin in August
• The longest winless streak broken in the June race
at Michigan is 76 races by Earnhardt in June 2008.
Kenseth has usurped Roush Fenway teammate Greg
Biffle as points leader in the Sprint Cup Series. How
much does that mean right now? And how long does he keep
Joe Menzer: Truthfully, it doesn't mean squat right
now. But it does illustrate how strong Kenseth has been all
year. Remember, his season began with winning the Daytona
Bill Kimm: It's a moral victory, but that's all. As
for how long he keeps the points lead -- I see more Roush
domination in the Irish Hills, so he will probably head to
Sonoma with the lead ... but lose it there.
David Caraviello: Well, it brings to the forefront
something that's been overlooked all season -- how
sneaky good that No. 17 team is. They're always there,
they're always steady, like a golfer who never puts up
a big number. Yes, it was an engine failure that set Biffle
back, and you can't blame him for that. But I have a
sneaking suspicion that Kenseth's team might be the
stronger of the bunch, and might occupy that top spot a
little longer than we think they will.
Joe Menzer: In the first 14 races, Kenseth has seven
top-five and 10 top-10 finishes to go along with that
Daytona 500 win. That's really consistent and shows
that they've got the staying power -- but Bill's
right about him possibly losing the lead at Sonoma, a place
he doesn't really like.
Bill Kimm: Yes! I finally get to disagree with HPMS! Biffle
has shown week in and week out he is the top dog at Roush,
not Kenseth. There is no way you can convince me the No. 17
is stronger than the No. 16!
David Caraviello: Um, they're ahead of them in the
standings, if you haven't noticed. And I'd take
Kenseth over either of his closest pursuers on a road
course. Maybe Denny
Hamlin, your defending champ in this Michigan race and
decent enough on road layouts, has two good weeks and takes
it from him. I know it's only a 10-point advantage, but
the way the tracks fall, I could see Kenseth holding on to
the top spot through the summer Daytona race, at least.
Joe Menzer: In 12 career starts at Sonoma, Kenseth has
exactly one top-10 finish. That could be a significant
speed bump for him.
Bill Kimm: Kenseth is ahead because of one engine failure.
Biffle held the points lead for 11 weeks I believe. Spare
me the "Kenseth is ahead of him" argument. The
No. 16 has been the top dog all season.
Joe Menzer: Bill, I was talking to a highly placed source
at the local Dairy Queen the other day, and he said all the
Roush Fenway Racing cars will be good at Michigan. But he,
too, indicated that the facts -- yes, the facts -- point to
problems for the No. 17 team, however temporary, on the
road course at Sonoma. All of which only illustrates that
it doesn't really matter who's leading the points
right now, except for the fact that those near the top --
Kenseth, Junior, Biffle -- are going to race in whatever
manner best protects their current guaranteed positions in
the Chase. Further illustrating the point I made earlier
about Junior and "points racing."
David Caraviello: Please. Greg Biffle is hardly Boris Said.
That's a wash. Listen, people have been underselling
Kenseth his whole career, because he can be kind of a
lurker on the track, and isn't showy off it. But
goodness, the guy can drive. And he has that killer
instinct Joe was talking about earlier. And he just
doesn't make big mistakes. He and his team are
tailor-made to hold the points lead for a long time. Not to
mention he's the funniest driver in the garage.
Somebody asked last week if he was worried about his crew
being in Pocono for six days. His answer: "What are
they going to do -- hike themselves to death?"
Bill Kimm: My "highly placed source" in the
parking deck at Turner said Kenseth and Biffle are
basically a wash this season. Both have been strong and
steady this season. So, let's agree that both guys are
on top of their games right now.
Joe Menzer: Everything HPMS said about Kenseth is right --
although there is something creepy about you calling him
Bill Kimm: Did HPMS just bring up Kenseth's sense of
humor as proof Kenseth is a stronger driver than Biffle?
David Caraviello: No, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
Bill Kimm: I think HPMS is ready for a game of bocce!
Joe Menzer: Extreme bocce! There is nothing like it.
David Caraviello: Just don't try to bump me out of the
way, Menzer. Then you'll see my mean streak.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the