100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Bruckheimer's Bump

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:
Nascar's best-ever promotion?

25. What if Days of Thunder was never made?

Background: The first modern big-budget action movie based around Nascar, the Tom Cruise vehicle (pun intended) premiered in 1990 after significant production support from Nascar.

What Actually Happened: Although derided by critics and hardcore racing fans alike, the movie sparked an interest in stock car racing from the general public—arguably the first wave of publicity that would peak with Jeff Gordon’s first championship.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson realized that they’d already made Top Gun and didn’t need to make it with race cars?
I own this on DVD--sorry

What COULD Have Happened: If you said you were a Nascar fan in the early-90’s, you would occasionally get a response of “Oh, like Days of Thunder”.  The film was a touchstone for the general public to identify stock car racing, and arguably having the star being a racer who was NOT a “good old boy” helped the sport shake its southern stereotype.

And if THAT Happened…: Would Nascar have become a national force in the late-90’s and 00’s without Days of Thunder?  Probably.  But while the movie itself isn’t the best, it was nice to have a slick Hollywood production as a promotional tool for the sport, rather than something like “Stroker Ace” or “Six Pack”.

What Else Could Have Happened: It could be argued that had this movie never been made, it would have been easier for Nascar to sweep the history of Tim Richmond (the inspiration for Cole Trickle’s character) under the rug.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Nascar needed an introduction to non-race fans, and this assault on the senses was, for better or worse, just what the sport needed.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Kyle's Chance

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

74. What if Kyle Busch had signed with Roush Racing?

Roush Racing Truck Series drivers
Jon Wood and Kyle Busch
Background: Shortly after Kurt Busch began his Cup Series career, his younger brother Kyle emerged as a serious prospect for future success.  With Kurt racing at the time for Roush Racing (later renamed Roush Fenway Racing), a spot for Kyle with Roush’s driver development program made sense.

What Actually Happened: The younger Busch only ran a handful of Truck Series events for Roush Racing before a new age minimum of 18 forced him out of Nascar and into the American Speed Association.  When he returned to Nascar, Kyle decided to instead take an offer with Hendrick Motorsports, seeking what he felt was a better contract offer and the chance to succeed out of his brother’s shadow.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Roush Racing had signed Kyle earlier on to a longterm contract, keeping him with the team?
The Busch Brothers have pretty much
blazed their own paths in Cup

What COULD Have Happened: Despite Nascar’s reputation as a family-centric sport, very few brothers have raced together on the same team on a regular basis.  Whether its the tendency of drivers to want to take out their own identities, or owners’ desire to avoid putting all their eggs in one (family) basket, the Busch Brothers racing together in Cup for Roush would have been a rare event.

And if THAT Happened…: While the opportunity of two young, talented brothers racing together could have been enticing to sponsors, the brash personalties of Kurt and Kyle might have been more of a turnoff than an inducement to fork money over to Roush.  Furthermore, Kurt’s eventual departure from Roush Racing would have been made all the more awkward with his brother possibly caught in the middle.

What Else Could Have Happened: While Kyle had a successful run at Hendrick Motorsports, it wasn’t until his arrival at Joe Gibbs Racing that he really came into his own as “Rowdy”, one of the most-successful and polarizing drivers of his age.  Such a move may never have happened if Kyle had signed with Roush at first, although oddly enough that would have meant that three future JGR drivers would have been in Roush equipment—Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: In the long run, signing with Hendrick Motorsports put Kyle Busch on the path to Nascar superstardom.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": DEI's Decision

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

53. What if Dale Earnhardt Jr. got partial ownership of DEI?

Inside DEI (the "Garage Mahal")
Background: Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his start in Nascar racing for his father’s team, Dale Earnhardt Inc.  After his father’s death, Dale Jr. became the public face not only of the team, but of the sport itself, driving the familiar number 8 Budweiser car for the team now operated by his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt.

What Actually Happened: A downturn in DEI’s performance coincided with a contract year for Dale Jr.  He asked for controlling interest in the team in order to re-sign, something that Teresa Earnhardt refused almost out of hand.  Spurned, Dale Jr. moved to Hendrick Motorsports, while DEI would continue a slide into irrelevance.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Teresa Earnhardt was so concerned about losing Dale Jr., her most-talented driver at the time, that she simply gave into his demands?

What COULD Have Happened: Dale Jr. is a sponsorship magnet, as even in the sport’s challenging marketing atmosphere of the 2010’s, he rarely went without solid backing in Cup.  His presence likely would have been enough to maintain sponsorship both for his own car and his teammates.
Who could've imagined Dale Jr. a HMS?

And if THAT Happened…: While the immediate financial future of DEI would have been secured, the competitive picture may have continued to head downward.  DEI had fallen behind Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing in the Chevrolet pecking order, and while GM would likely have done whatever they could have to keep their most-popular driver in winning equipment, the company’s financial troubles were coming to the forefront as well.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would DEI have stayed in Nascar?  That remains to be seen.  The relationship between Dale Jr. and Teresa was frosty, albeit usually professional, and one may have still left the organization in the years that followed.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Dale Jr. was given the opportunity of a lifetime to race for Rick Hendrick AND run his own race team in JR Motorsports.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Dirt Debates

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

81. What if Nascar Cup never stopped running on dirt?

Nascar's history runs through many dirt
track races
Background: In Nascar’s early days, racing on dirt was a major part of the national touring series (what would eventually become the Nascar Cup Series of today).  Since a majority of drivers had grown up on local dirt-track racing, the mixture of dirt surfaces with asphalt was a natural one at first.

What Actually Happened: In 1972 Nascar moved into its “Modern Era”, eliminating what they saw as downscale aspects of the sport.  Gone were any races that were too short, scheduled on weeknights, or held on dirt tracks.  With the exception of the Truck Series event held at Eldora, Nascar’s national touring series haven’t run on dirt since.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Nascar kept dirt racing as a link to its past?

What COULD Have Happened: Dirt track racing likely would’ve declined in prominence on the Cup circuit anyways, with tracks beginning to crop up outside of Nascar’s traditional Southern stronghold.
Nascar has returned to dirt track racing...
in the Truck Series

And if THAT Happened…: Assuming that some dirt track races WOULD manage to hold onto their spots on the Cup Series calendar, we could have seen those races become highly-specialized, much like how road course events have now.  We could have seen top-flight teams sending their drivers for outside lessons from dirt track experts, while mid-to-lower-level teams could have hired the equivalency of road course ringers (Dirt Track Desperados?).

What Else Could Have Happened: Keeping dirt tracks on the Cup Series schedule could also have solidified the sprints-to-Nascar feeder system earlier than it did.  While the 90’s saw teams populating their developmental teams with former sprint car aces, dirt trackers would likely have had an easier road to a Cup ride had they known there was at least a few races where they’d be the favorites.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Nascar viewed dirt track racing as not befitting the image of a national sport, and instead left it to a number of smaller but thriving regional and national series.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Wallace's Wreck

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

Rusty's Talladega wreck
84. What if Rusty Wallace won his second championship in 1993?

Background: When Rusty Wallace won the Winston Cup Championship in 1989, he was heralded as a new breed of driver—successful on the track and polished and media-savvy off it.  And when he joined Roger Penske to start a stock car team in 1991, it looked like a second championship was right around the corner for one of Nascar’s brightest stars.

What Actually Happened: After two years of adjusting to his new team, Wallace finished second in points in 1993 and third in 1994.  The 1993 season was an especially cutting year, as Rusty won 10 points-paying races, but was still beaten out for the championship by rival Dale Earnhardt Sr.—the same driver who wrecked Wallace at the finish of the spring Talladega race.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Earnhardt hadn’t tapped Wallace in 1993, allowing him to avoid his subsequent four-race swoon due to racing with injuries?

What COULD Have Happened: Had Wallace won his second championship in 1993, the most-obvious effect would have been costing Dale Earnhardt one of his seven Cup championships.  Perhaps Wallace would have wound up one of Richard Petty’s favorite modern drivers.
Dale Earnhardt's 1993 championship-
winning car

And if THAT Happened…: After the 1993 season Penske switched from Pontiac to Ford.  Would Penske still have made the move after a championship year?  Well, they did so after winning a championship in a Dodge, so probably yes.  However, Rusty winning a championship in a Pontiac would have improved race fans’ opinion of the “third brand” in Nascar in the 90’s.

What Else Could Have Happened: Despite a stellar career, Wallace is not often thought of as one of Nascar’s truly great, “top-tier” drivers like Petty, Earnhardt, Yarborough, Waltrip, and the like.  Perhaps a second championship would have vaulted him into that conversation, although his lack of results at Daytona (zero wins in any points-paying races in his career there) would have likely still stuck out like a sore thumb.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Dale Earnhardt knew how to get his car to the front, be it through sheer driving skill or brute force of his fender.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Mikey's Mishegoss

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

55. What if Michael Waltrip Racing never got caught or punished for what they did at Richmond?

Guess it seemed like a good idea at the time
Background: The 2013 Chase Cutoff Race, the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond, was one of the most-confusing in Nascar history.  While Nascar had wanted to create drama with its Chase “playoff” format, they instead created controversy that would throw the legitimacy of the sport into question.

What Actually Happened: In attempts to lock certain drivers into the Chase, Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers were given team orders—to spin and to pit, respectively—in order to lock teammate Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase.  After damning radio chatter was revealed, Truex was effectively penalized out of the Chase.  Truex’s sponsor Napa would leave the team, and MWR would eventually go out of business. 

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if MWR had been “slick” enough in their communication and strategy to not get caught?
Things did NOT end well for Michael
Waltrip's race team

What COULD Have Happened: Jeff Gordon would never have been the 13th driver in a 12 driver Chase, of course.  Furthermore, there may have been less focus placed on Team Penske’s alleged inducements to Front Row Motorsports to have driver David Gililand slow on the track to allow Penske’s Joey Logano to lock himself into the Chase as well.

And if THAT Happened…: MWR might still be around today.  Napa was a founding partner of the team, and up until these events seemed to be as intertwined with Michael Waltrip as Lowe’s had been with Jimmie Johnson.  Additionally, who knows what direction Chase Elliott’s career would have taken without Napa’s considerable sponsorship support.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would Martin Truex Jr. ever have become a Cup Series champion?  Ironically it took his career nearly ending (due to his release from MWR) to have him wind up with a then-midlevel Furniture Row Racing in 2014.  Three years later FRR was a championship team, something MWR may have never become.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Nascar didn’t like a team stinking up their show, and while they punished MWR for what was essentially cheating, it could be argued that they were punished even harsher for getting caught.

Spade Racing’s 2018-19 Silly Season Preview—Q&A

Next year Ford switches to the Mustang body style in Cup
Last year’s “Silly Season”—the period when drivers change teams, sponsors, and careers—was arguably the most-impactful in the sport’s recent history with Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring, Matt Kenseth (eventually) going to a partial schedule, and super-teams such as Hendrick Motorsports making wholesale changes.  This offseason isn’t much different—we’re only a dozen or so days out from Homestead and there’s already some major changes in the pipeline, and that doesn’t include Cole Whitt’s retirement.  Here’s where we stand so far:

What happened to Furniture Row Racing?  The little team that could shut down merely a year after winning the drivers’ championship with Martin Truex Jr.  In short, the impending loss of sponsor 5-Hour Energy, combined with Joe Gibbs Racing reportedly looking to increase the cost of its alliance, saw driver Truex leave FRR, leading to owner Barney Visser simply shutting the team down.

Wait, so where is Martin Truex Jr. going?  The pride of New Jersey will be driving the #19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, with sponsor Bass Pro Shops and crew chief Cole Pearn in tow.  The move keeps him in the Toyota/TRD fold and in top-flight equipment.

Carlos Slim Domit--who'd have pegged
him as a major Silly Season factor?
So what about Daniel Suarez?  And Arris?  Daniel Suarez, former driver of the #19 JGR Toyota, is now a free-agent.  While originally rumored to go to the #95 Leavine Family Racing team (more on them later), he’s now heavily rumored to wind up at Stewart-Haas Racing in the 41 car.  As for Arris, Carlos Slim Domit—billionaire telecommunications magnate and the broker of the sponsorship between Arris and Suarez—has said they plan to continue supporting Suarez for the near future.  It remains to be seen if Arris will split sponsorship between JGR and Suarez’s new team, if one of Slim’s companies will sponsor Suarez while Arris will split off to sponsor Truex, if Arris/Slim will negotiate a buyout, or if this will somehow become even MORE confusing.  Arris is widely rumored to be signed to JGR through 2019.

Wait—Suarez is going to the #41?  Yep, that looks like the plan.

So what about Kurt Busch?  In a near repeat of last year’s Silly Season drama, Kurt Busch is again a free-agent.  Kurt’s valuable not only for his winning ways but for his Monster Energy sponsorship, which is specifically attached to him.

So where is Kurt driving in 2019?  All signs point to Kurt Busch driving the #1 car for Ganassi Racing next year.  What remains to be seen is how Monster will be worked into the team’s sponsorship plan—if they’re replacing someone or if they’ll simply bump a sponsor like McDonalds or Cessna to the 42 car.

Hmm…but if Kurt winds up in the 1 car, what happens to Jamie McMurray?  Jamie Mac seems likely to have driven his last season as a full-time driver.  It has been widely reported that Chip Ganassi has offered Jamie a “farewell” ride in a third car for the Daytona 500, then a management role with the company.
Will Jamie Mac wave goodbye to racing
at the 2019 Daytona 500?

But why?  Jamie McMurray was, and is, a good driver with sponsorship appeal.  Problem is that it seems like his major sponsors (Cessna, McDonalds, Gear Wrench, etc.) were all through Ganassi, making a driver will outside sponsorship very appealing.  Also, having to be compared to teammate Kyle Larson doesn’t help matters.

OK, ok—so what’s this about the 95 car?  The only manufacturer change announced so far has the 95 Leavine Family Racing team switching from an RCR/Chevy alliance to a JGR/Toyota alliance, hiring Matt DiBenedetto as their driver.

So Kasey Kahne is done?  Yep.  Health issues forced him out of the 95 car and he has announced the end of his stock car racing career, although he plans to continue racing sprint cars.

But wasn’t Christopher Bell supposed to take over the 95?  We all thought that, didn’t we?  With the 95-to-Toyota story heating up people immediately put Daniel Suarez there for the last year of the Arris/JGR deal.  Then, once it became apparent that Suarez was likely done at JGR, people tabbed Xfinity wunderkind Christopher Bell for the ride, similar to how Erik Jones ran a year for FRR before coming to JGR.  However, Toyota—who has backed Bell’s efforts for years—has reportedly made it known that they want him to get another year of Xfinity experience under his belt (although some races in a 2nd LVR car in Cup aren’t out of the question).
While Jimmie Johnson's new look hasn't
been unveiled yet, there's a good chance
that the color plum will be involved

Alright, alright—I know Jimmie Johnson had a bad year in 2018—what changes are Hendrick Motorsports making for 2019?  Longtime crew chief Chad Knaus will move over to the 24 team and crew chief for William Byron.  Kevin Meendering will take over crew chiefing for the 48 Ally car.

Hold on—“Ally”?  What’s that?  Oh, you didn’t hear?  Ally Financial (an online bank) is taking over for Lowe’s as the 48 car’s sponsor.

LOWE’S IS GONE?  WHY?  HOW?!?  First of all, calm down!  Lowe’s announced earlier this year that they wouldn’t be returning to Nascar in 2019.  As for why, it seems like a combination of having accomplished their marketing goals and having a recent rough go of it from a financial standpoint.  And from the “How” standpoint, Ally is the successor company to the old GMAC/ditech brand that sponsoring HMS cars in the past.  Ally will be sponsoring all 36 races on the 48 for the next two years.

Any OTHER changes with Hendrick Motorsports I should know about?  Not with the team itself, although they’ll be supplying engines to JTG-D (aka The Kroger Cars) next year.

JTG-D—any changes there?  AJ Allmendinger is out of the 47 car.  Ryan Preece is in.  And no, The Dinger doesn’t have anything set up for 2019.

Hmm, any changes at RCR?  Yep—Daniel Hemric is moving up to Cup in the #31 RCR car.
"Who's Your Driver?" is a Virginia marketing
campaign to promote designating a driver, but
it worked out pretty well for this pic

So what happens to Ryan Newman?  Newman will take over the 6 car at Roush Fenway Racing (full-time, by the way).

So what happens to Trevor Bayne?  Bayne may or may not have the Advocare sponsorship with him.  If he does, he could wind up in Xfinity next year (with JR Motorsports a frequently rumored landing place).  If not, he could be the dreaded “Odd Man Out”.

So what happens to Matt Kenseth?  It sounds like, barring the need for a substitute driver or a massive deal incumbent upon Kenseth driving, he’s driven his last race and will settle into a management role at RFR.

Boy, that’s a lot to digest—anything ELSE I should be made aware of?  Not much, other than Ford switching its Cup car body to the Mustang.

But Chevy’s switch to the Camaro was disastrous last year.  If Ford falls flat on its face, would it be a simple case of not having the aero package right, or would it be karmic retribution for essentially giving up on the American passenger car market?  Yes.
The most-recent announcement in this piece

OK then—what about the teams you HAVEN’T mentioned?  No changes are expected with the Penske/Wood Bros. alliance cars.  The unmentioned cars of SHR (4, 10 & 14), JGR (11*, 18 & 20), HMS (9 & 88) and RCR/Germain/RPM (3, 13 & 43) aren’t expected to have any major changes.  Front Row Motorsports is adding Matt Tifft to the fold, taking over the old BK Racing charter in the renumbered 36 Ford, joining Michael McDowell and David Ragan.  And the other small teams aren’t likely to firm up their plans until January. (*—Denny Hamlin will have a new crew chief).

So what’s the next “domino” to fall?  It looks like Daniel Suarez and Kurt Busch announcing their plans will likely firm up the remaining two available top-flight rides (the 41 & 1, respectively).  Then again, you never know what will happen in Silly Season.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Joe's Judgement

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

65. What if Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t go to Toyota?

Building Toyotas into winners
Background: Joe Gibbs has long sought to be one of the “top teams” in Nascar, using manufacturer changes in order to do so.  After leaving Pontiac (where they were the top team) in order to run the more-competitive Chevrolet body, JGR soon found itself behind Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing in the Chevy pecking order.

What Actually Happened: In 2008 Joe Gibbs Racing officially switched to Toyota, with whom they have run ever since.  While Toyota Racing Development offered Gibbs both the chance to be their top team and lucrative R&D resources, the switch of a championship team to a manufacturer coming off a single dismal year was still a shock to most race fans.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Joe Gibbs decided that switching to Toyota was too much of a risk to take?

What COULD Have Happened: The most-notable change would have likely been Tony Stewart staying with JGR for the near-future.  While Stewart was given a “Godfather offer” by Gene Haas of 50% ownership for joining his team, this was made possible by Stewart’s unhappiness with running non-GM equipment.
Tony's final race in a Camry

And if THAT Happened…: Joey Logano’s progress in Nascar would likely have been stunted—perhaps for the better—had Stewart never left JGR after the 2007 season.  Logano’s move to Cup was questioned as too much too soon, and while he won a rain-shortened race in his first full-time season, he wouldn’t visit a Cup victory lane again for nearly three years.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would JGR have returned to championship contention without having switched to Toyota?  That remains to be seen, but they are unquestionably the top Toyota team, having outlasted Michael Waltrip Racing and Red Bull Racing, and providing support to Furniture Row Racing.  By staying with Chevy, they could have regressed to become just another race-winning team that was a longshot to win a championship.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Joe Gibbs wanted to be a lead team, and Toyota was where he had to go to get that.

100 Stock Car Racing What Ifs: Carl's Conundrum

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

41. What if Carl Edwards didn’t retire early?

Obligatory back flip shot
Background: One of the most-successful of the so-called “Young Guns”, Carl Edwards won 28 points-paying Cup Series wins in a little over twelve seasons of Cup Series racing.

What Actually Happened: After another near-miss for the championship at Homestead, Edwards stunned the Nascar world by announcing on January 9, 2017 that he was stepping away from Nascar.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Carl had been convinced to give a championship run another try?

What COULD Have Happened: The most-obvious change would have been a log-jam at Joe Gibbs Racing, with both Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez looking to move up to Cup competition.  A likely compromise would have seen Suarez spend another year in Xfinity competition defending his title, followed by him moving into the 77 Furniture Row car upon it being vacated by Jones for the 2018 season.  Unless…
What role did Arris play?

And if THAT Happened…: What if Arris was so intent upon sponsoring Suarez in Cup that he was moved up anyways, either to the 77 car or to the 20 car of Matt Kenseth?  Would Kenseth have retired then and there, or have given it a go with another team?  And if so, would he still have retired after the 2017 season?

What Else Could Have Happened: Carl Edwards’ presence on the track wouldn’t have likely made much of a difference to stop Nascar’s ratings decline, but having another marketable, likable driver in a major ride would still have been a better look for Nascar, especially from a marketing perspective.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Carl Edwards made his decision for himself and his family, and by all accounts wasn’t looking to be talked out of it by anyone.

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": The Harvick Hullabaloo

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

3. What if Kevin Harvick hadn’t taken Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s ride after the 2001 Daytona 500?
Nascar's biggest all-time feel-good win?

Background: Dale Earnhardt Sr. was tragically killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500.  Team owner Richard Childress, fulfilling a promise made to Dale years prior, decided to keep the team going.  But who would be the new driver?

What Actually Happened: Childress called developmental driver Kevin Harvick into his office, offering him the ride made famous by The Intimidator.  Harvick agrees, and goes on to win in his third race in the renumbered 29 car.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if he had turned down stepping into the second-brightest spotlight in the sport this side of Dale Jr, choosing instead to stay in RCR’s developmental program?

What COULD Have Happened: As the legend goes, Childress offered Harvick an out, saying that Rick Mast (the only active “name” driver without a full-time ride in 2001) would get the ride if he turned it down.
THIS could've been Harvick's ride

And if THAT Happened…: Harvick would’ve likely moved up in 2002 to the 30 AOL car that Jeff Green would up getting.  Mast would’ve likely been a short-term solution in the 3/29, and perhaps there would’ve been an earlier attempt to break Jeff Burton—Dale Sr’s hand-picked successor—from his Roush contract.

What Else Could Have Happened: One would have to wonder if Kevin Harvick would’ve gained nearly the popularity (and sponsorability) he did if people knew he’d turned down a Cup ride.  Would he have gone on to win a Cup championship, or would he have faded into a career of mid-range equipment?

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Cup rides don’t open up all that often, and prime rides like RCR’s primary car in 2001 open up less-so.  Harvick had to take the ride when he did, and his career is all the better for it.

Get the book NOW at 100whatifs.com!

Nascar Pick Challenge Winner & Postseason Preview

Well, the off-season is upon us here at Spade Racing, but do not fret!  I'll be posting previews from my book (available via 100whatifs.com!) and some long-form pieces, as well as updates on news and "news" as the situation warrants.  Be sure to check back as I try to keep up my thrice weekly schedule for the rest of the year!

Congratulations to Uncle Max on his season championship over Mystery Picker, claiming the title with five wins to Mystery’s four.  I’ll be giving Uncle Max the trophy at our annual Thanksgiving dinner—he brines a turkey, I bring a can of cranberry sauce.  Uncle Max WILL BE BACK in 2019, while Mystery Picker’s status remains up in the air.

Truck Series—4 wins

Xfinity Series—5 wins

Cup Series: MYSTERY PICKER—4 wins; UNCLE MAX—Favorite 5 wins, Next Favorite 6 wins; Dark Horse 0 wins.

Jimmie Johnson Makes First-Ever Trip to Home Depot

Just one day after his last-ever race with longtime primary sponsor Lowe’s, seven-time Nascar Cup champion made his first-ever trip to competitor The Home Depot earlier Monday morning.
“Oh, this isn’t any sort of dig at Lowe’s”, Johnson said from the Home Depot lighting aisle, “Lowe’s was a great sponsor of mine for many, many years.  Its just that the closest Home Depot to my place is less than a few miles away, while the Lowe’s is about a 20 minute drive.
“Its just easier all-around, and with my old quasi-employee discount being gone, its just way more convenient to go to Home Depot.”
Johnson appeared slightly confused upon walking into the Home Depot this morning, asking a greeter for help locating the items he needed.  Johnson then wandered the aisles for the next few minutes, seemingly trying to get his bearings.
“Wow, this place is NOT laid out like Lowe’s is”, Johnson said to no one in particular.  “I mean, they’re all different sizes but I can usually find what I’m looking for after a few minutes.  This place is a whole new ballgame.”
Johnson appeared to be buying an outdoor light bulb, a can of wood stain, and a new circular saw.  He also perused some other items as he walked around the store.
“There’s some things I’ll keep in mind for the old Christmas List”, Johnson said while eyeballing the selection of snow throwers.  “And I wouldn’t mind getting a new tool chest—the one I got from Lowe’s is nice but I unofficially promised that to my brother.”
Johnson appeared nervous as several customers pointed out his presence in the store.  Although he posed for a few pictures and signed at least two autographs, he obviously was uneasy with being in what was once “enemy territory”.
“I hope people realize that this is really just a matter of convenience”, Johnson said upon checking out.  “I’m not going to make this a regular thing—its just that when I need an item or two, its just so much easier.  And I’ll still choose Lowe’s over anyone else when everything is equal.”

Johnson said he has no plans to visit a Menards, saying that he plans to spend the bulk of his offseason transferring his bank accounts to Ally.

Your 2018 Nascar Cup Champion

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Nascar at Homestead: A Race of Goodbyes

Today’s season finale at Homestead isn’t just a strange, oddly-arbitrary way to name a season’s long champion—its also a way to say goodbye to some of the sport’s longest-running pairings and drivers.  Here’s a look at how most of these occasions are being marked.
(Note—this does not include Cole Whitt’s retirement from the sport, as that was important enough to be celebrated earlier on its own)

Jimmie Johnson’s split from Chad Knaus—both the Michael Jackson and Alien Ant Farm versions of “Smooth Criminal” will be playing in the 48 hauler.

Lowe’s leaving the 48 team—Jimmie Johnson will be making his first-ever trip to a Home Depot on Monday (no, not to find sponsorship—he just really needs a new circular saw).

Denny Hamlin’s split from Mike Wheeler—well, according to Denny he was going to retire with Wheels, so maybe its time to get the 11 car ready for Christopher Bell?

Ryan Newman departing RCR—Newman’s likely going to have a subdued affair before leaving for Roush Racing—the best move he could make……in 1998.

Jamie McMurray (most-likely) leaving Ganassi—just like one of his sponsors, he’ll ask for no onions on his triple cheeseburger—he’ll likely get what he expects, but you never know.

Daniel Suarez leaving JGR—joining the “Kicked out of Gibbs” club with JJ Yeley and Matt Kenseth—meetings are held at a local Dallas Cowboys bar.

Furniture Row Racing shutting down—final, last-ditch effort to see if team chemists can figure out how to formulate, bottle and market “37-Hour Energy”.

Last race for the Ford Fusion—collecting four-leaf clovers, rabbits’ feet, and lucky pennies that things go better with the Mustang than things went with the Chevy Camaro.

AJ Allmendinger’s last race for JTG-D—uh, I dunno, maybe they’ll give him some Clorox or something.

Kurt Busch possibly leaving the 41 car for Gannasi—celebrate another race in which he was able to run instead of getting shot by his vengeful ex-girlfriend.

Nascar Pick Challenge: Uncle Max vs. Mystery Picker—Homestead

Just one more week left, and this is it.  I hold a nice one race lead over Mystery Picker, and unless his favorite driver Ryan Blaney manages to crash the championship party, I got this one in the bag.
With that being said, I want to congratulate Mystery Picker on a heck of a year.  The two of us have had a great run against each other and I’d like to think that he’s even helped me raise my game a little.  Maybe its the fact that I’ve worked two straight double shifts or maybe its that I’m just happy to be dating someone again, but Mystery, if you’re out there, I’d like to buy ya a drink.

Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 (4 wins)—Johnny Sauter: The old-timer wins again.

Xfinity Series Ford EcoBoost 300 (5 wins)—Christopher Bell: AND he’ll be back to defend it in 2019.

Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400—MYSTERY PICKER (4 wins) PICKS Ryan Blaney.  Favorite (5 wins): Kyle Busch—Rowdy and I both sew up our championships.  Next Favorite (5 wins): Joey Logano—A Toast to Sliced Bread.  Dark Horse: Denny Hamlin—maybe he won’t even wreck the contenders this time.

The 2018 Xfinity Series Grand Finale at Miami—Non-Fatal 4-Way

This Saturday four men will enter, but only one man will leave victorious.  Four trained combatants will do battle in the 1.5 mile squared-circle with thirty-plus lumberjacks prepared to throw them into the wall if they get out of line.  Here’s a look at the championship contenders in this non-fatal 4-way:

Christopher “Ring My” Bell—from Norman, Oklahoma (so you just KNOW JR is gonna push him to the moon).  Member of the TRD (Tyrannical Racing Dudes) Faction.  Finishing move is the Bell-Ringer (flying headbutt).  Catchphrase is “And after that we want the gold—Denny Hamlin, we comin’ for YOU, FedEx!”

“Young King” Cole Custer—from Ladera Ranch, California (and its a planned community, so don’t put a cowboy hat on him).  Youngest member of the SHO (Stewart Haas Order).  Finishing move is Custer’s Last Stand (bearhug).  Catchphrase is “Don’t cross the boss…because he’s my dad!”

Daniel “The Kannon” Hemric—from Kannapolis, North Carolina (nickname runner up was HemRic Flair).  Valet to the track/ring is Kenzie Ruston.  Just inducted into The Dillon Family stable.  Finishing move is the No-Win Situation (sharpshooter).  Catchphrase is “Who’s Next?  I hope its me…”

Tyler “Big” Reddick—from Corning, California (do ya think that’s next to a town named Owens?).  Recently defected to The Dillon Family stable from The J.R.M. Squad.  Finishing move is the Tyler Defiler (camel clutch with theatrics).  Catchphrase is “Red…In…Peace.”

Nascar Truck Series Championship 4: A Closer Look

Friday night will see the best of the Nascar Camping World Truck Series compete for the final NCWTS championship, as the series transitions to the cool-looking NGOTS championship in 2019.  Before we move on, let’s take a Gander Outdoors at the four drivers who can win it all this week (sorry for that pun):

Next year's logo.  The rectangle is
likely to convey squareness.
Brett Moffitt—#16 Toyota for Hattori Racing Enterprises (5 wins).  Brett’s made his mark this year by scraping together enough sponsorship to take this small team all the way to the final race, simultaneously making himself look good and Ryan Truex look bad.  Moffitt enters on a high note after winning last weekend at ISM Speedway, formerly Phoenix International Speedway, formerly Stan Barrett’s Demolition Derby.  Another win for Moffitt could finally sew up that elusive Curds & Whey sponsorship.

Noah Gragson—#18 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports (1 win).  Noah has put together a consistent season for KBM, which has become the preeminent developmental team for Hendrick Motorsports.  Gragson, who will be leaving for the Xfinity Series in 2019, would be able to leave on a high note, joining such luminaries as Austin Dillon and James Buescher.  If it rains and he’s in the lead, prepare for 40 days and 40 nights of Noah’s ark puns.

Johnny Sauter—#21 Chevy for GMS Racing (6 wins).  Johnny’s the only former champion in this quartet, having won it all in 2016 in his first year for GMS—no joke here, that’s just really impressive.  A seasoned veteran, Sauter is a good reminder of the series’ roots as a place for longtime short-track aces to ply their trade, as well as a good reminder that AOL used to be a thing.  Fun fact: 1 out of every 12 Wisconsinites is related to a Sauter.

Justin Haley—#24 Chevy for GMS Racing (3 wins).  The nephew of NBS 24/7 legend Todd Braun, Haley has proved to be a friend in the draft and a FOE on the hood (again, sorry for THAT pun, too).  He is not to be confuses with J.J. Yeley, Cameron Hayley, H.B. Bailey, or Hailey’s Comet.  The youngest of the four at just 19 years old, he is not, despite popular belief, just there to make you feel old.

Wanted: Race and Alive

Good afternoon citizens. As members of NASCAR Nation it is our civic duty to be on the lookout for crime. This Sunday a quartet of quarrelsome criminals will attempt to pull off the heist of the year—apprehending the NASCAR Cup trophy!
These men have been dubbed “The Miami Four”. Also known as “The Big Three Plus One”, “The Homestead Hoard”, and “Brian’s Kids”, they’re easily spotted by the distinctive “Winner” decals on their getaway vehicles. Here’s their dossiers:

Kevin “The Spoiler” Harvick, aka “The Bakersfield Basher”— sought in conjunction with 8 counts of illegal modifications to race cars against their will. 

Kyle “Rowdy” Busch, aka “Chocolate Thunder”—charged with 8 counts of bowing without a license. 

Martin “Jersey Boy” Truex Jr. aka “The Colorado Connection”, wanted in connection with 4 counts of operating a notorious “Clam Scam” without the proper kickbacks. 

Joey “Sliced Bread” Logano, aka “Double Deuce”, jumped bail on 2 counts of stealing steering wheels in a cloud of tire smoke. 

If you spot any of these men at Homestead Miami Speedway notify the authorities immediately. No reward is being offered for their capture other than being criticized endlessly online for ruining their season, Denny. 

Do your part—and we’ll see YOU on Sunday!