NASCAR's new points system looks a bad deal to me. Everyone will baby the cars in the closing laps because it's not worth risking a pass on someone. What's your opinion? What's the opinion within the sport (when there's no one on TV recording…)? NASCAR's not on at a good time of day for me anyway (I'm based in Germany) so please give me a reason to stay up to the end of a long race on the West Coast…
Ryan, this is an easy one to answer. If at any point you think the points system affects how a driver's driving, I completely disagree. We are all competitors, through and through and from start to finish. If we are second, we want to be first; if we're 22nd we want to be 21st. Points or no points, it makes no difference. If you think it does, then you'd assume everyone bar the leaders would coast the last lap of the Bud Shootout because there aren't points involved. Well, that doesn't happen. The 10th-place guy going down the backstretch doesn't lift just because he thinks he can't win. He's going to go for the pass on the ninth-placed car.
I don't think the points will make or break how you race. I applaud NASCAR for making the math simpler, but also retaining that pressure to improve your placing in the closing laps. Nothing will change for the drivers: racing instinct takes over.
How much of a relationship did you have with Dale before this year? Did you talk much? What's his feedback like compared with Jeff? Any thoughts about his strengths and weaknesses? I know, you've only done tests and a couple races with him so far, but you probably have an idea by now. Lance probably told you.
Well, let's start from the last of your comments, Jemma. I can promise you that my relationship with Dale Jr. is on a first-hand basis. While I appreciate everyone's opinions, I've learned not to judge people from second or third opinions, or from print media or from TV. Only from first-hand dealings with people. That's how Dale and I will work: if I have a question for him, I'll ask him. I don't ask his old crew chief or his business manager. I've always found more success with that.
Regarding his feedback, it's different because he's not Jeff. It's very good feedback, but it's different, and I'll have to develop the right questions to ask. Strengths and weaknesses? While I have opinions on both, I try not to talk about them in the media. I have strengths and weaknesses as well, and I'd appreciate it if Dale lets me know where he feels my weaknesses are because that's part of his job, and vice versa. He's a remarkable racecar driver with a tremendous amount of talent and drive. We're excited this year to try to give him a consistent foundation which he can operate on and show those strengths. That's going to be fundamental and also fun.
Have the calendar re-arrangements made any big differences to how well Hendrick might run in 2011? I'm real cut up about Atlanta losing a date (I was born in Doraville) but Kentucky may be good. Anyhow, what do you think? Good luck, Steve.
Thanks for your best wishes, Mike. I'm of the opinion – and this is purely my opinion – that the races in the Chase should be rotated every year. I feel the final 10 races are hugely important, and I'd love to have different tracks being a part of that from year to year. I'm a huge fan of going everywhere in the country so something else I'd do in my perfect world is go to 36 venues this year, instead of 36 races at 20-something venues. I love to go to different tracks, see different parts of the country and face different challenges. We have fans all across the country and around the world, and I think it's our responsibility as a sport to bring our show to them.
As for the other changes, I'm excited that we're going to Phoenix straight after Daytona. After a 2.5-miler, it'll be great to go to a short track and beat and bang a little bit. I understand your disappointment over Atlanta – I love going there – but I think Kentucky deserved a date, because it's a fabulous venue. I think there'll be just as many disappointed people in Atlanta as there are excited people at Kentucky. There have been rumors that maybe we'll hit Kentucky a day early to get a test day there, but that hasn't been confirmed. Anyway, a lot of the Cup teams have been testing there for years, so it's not a completely new venue for us. Don't expect a major mix-up in order. You can take the cars that ran good at Chicago and Kansas and expect they'll do a good job at Kentucky.
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