The more I hear about Monday’s test at Charlotte (weather permitting), the more I’m looking forward to it.
More than 20 cars are expected. Word is that NASCAR is looking to have the cars run multiple 40-lap “races’’ to get a better sense of how they’ll react with the various changes series officials are considering for next season.
Among the things NASCAR will consider are a tall spoiler, changes to the splitter and some other aero changes. I’ve also heard that NASCAR will take another look at a wicker bill atop the roof. Series officials tried it in October and it didn’t seem to have the desired impact. Another thing NASCAR will look at is slowing the cars slightly. They’ve looked at tapered spacers. They also could get similar results by adjustments to the throttle body.
Many drivers say they’re trying to keep an open mind to the changes. The biggest issue, though, could be weather. The forecast for Monday calls for a 70 percent chance of rain. If that happens, teams will test Tuesday, but the forecast for that day calls for 50 percent chance of rain.
# Kevin Harvick said that the smoke damage from the fire in his home before Thanksgiving was greater than first thought. Harvick said he and his family likely won’t be able to return to their home for four to six months because of the damage.
As for the fire, Harvick said: “The floor joists underneath the fireplace caught on fire, in between the downstairs ceiling and the upstairs floor. We couldn’t really find the fire. It was basically just sitting between the two floors getting bigger and bigger. When we walked downstairs there was probably 3 feet of smoke from top to bottom from one end of the house to another. If you haven’t checked you’re fire alarm lately, go check because it saved our house and all our stuff.’’
# Kevin Harvick had a nice line in his speech toward Richard Childress, saying: “Even though we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, I honestly appreciate you allowing me to be the person I am.’’
# If you missed it, host Jay Mohr was sharp during Friday’s banquet. His monologue took aim at several drivers. A number of those lampooned later told the media they had fun with Mohr’s comments and even a few poked back in their speeches to him.
Kyle Busch came out relatively unscathed and mentioned that to Mohr at one point. Mohr told Busch he had a joke about the Las Vegas native that was axed from the show. Busch tried to get Morh to tell the joke during the show but it didn’t happen.
Here are some of Mohr’s jokes during his monologue:
“It’s great to be back hosting the show again. The last time I was here was seven years ago and Jimmie Johnson, by coincidence was celebrating his first championship and we also were celebrating the birth of Joey Logano.’’
“You cannot have a Sprint Cup chase without Jeff Gordon … apparently,’’
“When the Chase first started, there were 10 drivers and then they expended it to 12 and now 13. There are more people in the Chase than there are Kardashians.’’
“Sadly one driver will no longer be a part of the Chase and that, of course, will be Mark Martin. Mark Martin retired again. Good God, man, make up your mind Mark. Are you in or you out? This guy retires and unretires more times than Brett Favre and Cher combined.
To Matt Kenseth, Mohr said: “Personally, I think you would have won the whole thing if you hadn’t spent so much time in the pits. I don’t know how long that pit stop at Phoenix was exactly, but I’m pretty sure it takes less time to sign up for Obamacare.
“Danica, I hope you are not too uncomfortable tonight — I know you’re not used to being this close to the front.’’
“That’s a wacky relationship when you wreck your boyfriend in a race. Ricky, let me give you a little advice guy to guy, the next time your girlfriend asks you, “Does this firesuit make me look fat,’ just say no.’’
“Ricky (Stenhouse) knows what we all know — sometimes the guy just has to step aside and let the woman lead … just ask Kevin Harvick.’’
“Kevin (Harvick) is moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 and he’s getting right to work. He’s already asking Gene Haas if he has a grandson he can fire.’’
“Speaking of Clint Bowyer, how’s that poison oak treating you my brother? I guess I’m not the only bad actor here. Seriously, Clint congratulations on your engagement. You’re going to be great at marriage since you’re already really good at apologizing for things you may or may not have done.’’
“Brad Keselowski is here tonight. Brad Keselowski had just a great, great season. I’m sorry. That one was left over from last year’s show.’’
“Jimmie (Johnson), I think I speak for every driver in the room when I say take a year off. Or do what Jeff Gordon did, win four and then quit.’’
# Even though he’s done it many times, Dale Earnhardt Jr., says it’s never easy to give a speech at the banquet.
“You never get used to going up there,’’ he said. “The most nervous I get during the season is when we go to qualify. For some reason, it’s worse than the races. I think it’s healthy to be nervous. Getting on stage is definitely worse than qualifying. We just don’t do it enough to get comfortable with it.
“Every time you come to the banquet … it’s even bigger and better. You can’t get used to the way things are because they’re always growing and getting better. They’ve got some great entertainers. Dierks (Bentley) is great. I was happy to see John Mellencamp, I never thought I’d see him play so that was a real treat. I was a fan of his growing up.’’
# Rick Hendrick took a moment during his speech to send a message to Tony Stewart, saying: “We miss you buddy. We’re looking for you back at Daytona.’’
# With Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer recently getting engaged, Kurt Busch was asked if he might be next. Busch said: “Engagement is a possibility. Everything in life has its moments when it tells you it is right. Patricia is a very lovely lady and has turned my life in a better direction.’’
# It was a busy week in Vegas, having arrived Tuesday morning to attend a motorsports marketing forum for a couple of days and then getting into the activities of Champion’s Week. Here’s a few things that stood out:
- Marty Smith of ESPN needs to keep hosting the After The Lap program. He did a great job getting drivers to open up and share stories from memorable times in the NASCAR hauler to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eBay addiction and more. That’s certainly developed into quite a fan event.
- NBC has done quite well so far with naming Rick Allen as its lead announcer and Jeff Burton as the driver analyst in the booth. Word is NBC will have a three-man booth and that other person likely will be a crew chief. One guy that I think would be great for it would be Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief. Of course, Letarte is a little busy with his other job, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Letarte move to TV some day when he’s through with serving as a crew chief.
- I like that Brian France says he’s going to be at Monday’s test at Charlotte. I hate that the weather doesn’t look promising. Look, Brian doesn’t need to be at every test or every race – that’s the jobs of Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton – but sometimes it’s just presents a good image to see the sport’s leader more visible. This is a good step.
- I’ve said it before but I hope NASCAR is able to bring Jay Mohr back to the banquet to host. No, not every joke was a winner, but he had people laughing (and groaning). Without Mohr, we wouldn’t have seen that shot of Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sitting stone-faced as Mohr told jokes about them. Hey, a lot of drivers said they enjoyed Mohr and took his ribbing for what it was.
- There’s no doubt the sport misses Tony Stewart. It’s good to hear him say that his recovery is slightly ahead of schedule. With the way this sport has so many feel-good stories, couldn’t you just see Stewart winning his first Daytona 500 in February in his first points race since suffering his broken leg in August? Could see that happening.
- I’m good with much of the changes for the Hall of Fame process. I’m a voter. I like reducing the number of nominees from 25 to 20, although it will make my job more difficult I suspect. I really like how they adjusted the driver eligibility standards, which allows Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte, among others, to become eligible now even if they continue to drive.
- Do you realize that Daytona testing is only about a month away? Really. Cup cars test Jan. 9-10. Nationwide tests Jan. 11-12 and Trucks are there Jan. 13-14.