MRD Battle Round-JGR, Edwards And Suarez, Qualifying Procedures And Speed

© 2014, Nigel Kinrade NKP
© 2014, Nigel Kinrade
August 20th, 2014
Question:1 With the addition of Carl Edwards and new major sponsor, will this help the performance of JGR, or is it a band-aid on a stab wound?
David Morgan: Have to think it can only help. Look at Edwards 2014 season, he has just as many wins as the entire JGR organization does this season and with the equipment that he’ll have at JGR, he will do just fine over there. Roush-Fenway is a sinking ship and it seems Edwards only option was to head over to JGR to see what he could do there. Especially after seeing the success that Kenseth has had at JGR since joining.
Brian Eberly: While JGR hasn’t equaled the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports this season, they do have two victories and are set to place all three of their cars in the Chase.  So by no means do I think they are struggling at this point.  And given the new Chase format this season, there is no telling what is going to happen over the final races to decide the champion.  I think the addition of Edwards is a great grab for the team.  While he and Kenseth have had issues in the past, I believe both drivers are enough of veterans to put their differences behind them.  More importantly for JGR, the addition of new sponsor ARRIS is huge for the team, and while their deal is for 17 races, all indications today were that the team is close to filling out the entire season of sponsorship for Edwards and the No. 19 team.  This means more money and more resources, something JGR needs at this point to compete with the likes of the Hendrick contingent.
Brandon Whitton: JGR is not as dominant as last season, but saying they’re dealing with a stab wound is way over stating the matter. Toyota is down on power this season, and if you tune in on the race scanner you will hear several of drivers angrily say so. JGR as a whole is doing just fine. Toyota has only 2 wins, both of them coming from the Gibbs camp. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are in the Chase, and Matt Kenseth will likely be a Chaser as well. Couple this with Edwards coming on board for 2015 and I say JGR is just fine. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, but Coach Gibbs has been prepping for this 4th team for several years and I believe he has a winning game plan
Stephen Conley: Carl Edwards addition to JGR won’t show direct impact, in fact I’d be surprised if they are top 20 car thru out the early part of 2015. Right now it’s a band-aid for that team in the hopes of fixing a “bleeder” JGR’s three drivers Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have struggled mightly this year, yes they have two wins between Busch and Hamlin, but Hamlin missed that race early in the season with the eye issue, Kyle has had a roller coaster of a season that would make Six Flags jealous and Kenseth has just been…Kenseth. On average the three drivers have only increased their finishing position over where they started by 1.6 positions. None of the three have an average finish better than 14.4 and that belons to Hamlin, and as I mentioned, he missed a race. The sponsorship money that is coming in shold help development. The team has also said they went in a wrong direction on the new rule package at the beginning of the season and hopes are they have it turned back in a right direcetion heading in to the chase. Can Edwards and Kenseth get past their history and can he accept being the low man on the totum pole? Only time will tell, but I don’t think the addition of Edwards is the be all to end all fixes for JGR.
Question:2 Daniel Suarez joings JGR as a full time Nationwide driver. The team has said in the past that they will planned on having a full time ride for Darrell Wallace Jr., is this another set back for Wallace Jr. Sam Hornish Jr. in their hopes of finding a full time Nationwide Series ride and with the 4th team in Cup is Elliott Sadler once again on the outside looking in for a chance to return to the Cup Series?
©2014, Matthew T. Thacker NKP
©2014, Matthew T. Thacker
DM: Reports surfaced on Tuesday after the Edwards/Suarez press conference that Darrell Wallace, Jr. would be going full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2015 as well, although nothing is confirmed yet. So, this makes me believe that Sadler may be on the outside looking in once everything shakes out at JGR. Have to believe that Hornish will wind up with a full-time ride somewhere as well, whether with JGR or KBM, or some other team.
BE: The JGR Nationwide program is still up in the air, even after today’s announcement.  While Suarez will have a full-time ride with JGR, no other plans have been made official by the team.  I would expect Kyle Busch to run several races in the No. 54 with Monster Energy sponsorship.  At this point, there are more questions than answers.  Will Elliott Sadler pilot the No. 11 Toyota full-time?  At this point there’s no place for him within the JGR Cup program, will he look to move elsewhere?  Will Hornish run just another partial Nationwide schedule with JGR?  In seven Nationwide Series starts this season, Hornish has a win and four top-five results.  And if it weren’t for engine issues at Chicagoland and Mid-Ohio, he very well could have been in contention at those tracks.  I find it hard to believe that some team out there, if not JGR, wouldn’t want to put Hornish in a full-time Nationwide ride.  Matt Kenseth has run 13 Nationwide races thus far in the No. 20 Toyota, and I would assume he would run a similar schedule next season.  Will we see Edwards compete in Nationwide Series event for the first time since 2012?  And with two wins in the Camping World Truck Series already this season, Wallace appears to be worthy of more than just the two Nationwide Series chances he’s had this season.  Bottom line, a lot of these decisions will come down to one ugly word: sponsorship. 
BW: I don’t know what this means for Darrell. JGR has fielded 4 teams for the Nationwide Series in the past, and I don’t see why they can’t again with the addition of funds provided by new sponsor Arris. It’s way too early for me to speculate on Nationwide and Camping World Truck rides though. Those deals usually get settled after the season is finished.
SC: The JGR Nationwide field has always been like a big bounce house..Jumping around having fun and the next thing you know, you’re “bumped” right out the door. For Wallace Jr. he should be the leading candidate for a spot in that series. He has continued to prove himself over and over in the truck series, but in that same token, Sam Hornish Jr. has done nothing but go out and run top five, win races and and contend. If anyone is getting the short straw, it’s Sam. He said at Mid-Ohio when asked about this press confrence “There’s an annoucement? Really?!? Guess I’m not important enough to know about it.” Seems like a guy that knows his career is in trouble…again.  
Question:3 The qualifying procedures NASCAR has set in place for this season, in the hopes of getting more of a “race” style qualifying session in has seemed to backfire, especially on the larger tracks where the draft plays a big role. The truck series this weekend, backfired completely when every team tried to play games in not being that lead truck and had many still sitting on pit road without a lap in when time expired. Does this system need an overhaul or is just part of the “game”?
©2014, Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA
©2014, Michael L. Levitt
DM: No, the system does not need an overhaul. While the format could be tweaked a little, what we have now is much better than watching one car at a time during qualifying for two hours, especially at the restrictor plate tracks. Teams have learned the nuances of this qualifying format and if they want to play “games” with each other, let them.
BE: Overall, the knockout qualifying that has been put in place this season has been a great move by NASCAR.  Face it, who hasn’t been more excited than ever to tune into a qualifying session. Now if we could just get Fox Sports 1 to show the sessions live, but that’s a discussion for another day.  Yes, Truck qualifying was a bit of a disaster this past weekend, but I think we will see teams adjust to ensure they don’t cut it that close in the future.  One change I would make is to reduce the time of the first session by at least five or ten minutes.  Round No. 1 always seems to drag a bit, and there have been several instances this season where there won’t be an attempt in the first several minutes.  Other than shortening up that first round, I love the knockout qualifying.
BW:  I won’t lie, I laughed at every one of those 11 teams who got stuck without logging a lap. Did they forget there was a clock ticking? But the teams are simply playing within the rules NASCAR has set. I don’t care if it’s not super exciting, qualifying isn’t supposed to be. Hopefully there won’t be any tweaks to the rules, we’ve had enough of that the last 10 years.
SC: When I heard about this, my first thought was…Who screwed up? Well, obviously that answer was everyone. We’ve seen this more than once this season where teams don’t want to give an advantage to guys behind on these high speed race tracks. The draft works, it’s been proven and they don’t want to help a competitior, nor should they, but this watching guys sitting on pit road waiting and playing that game is less entertaining that single car runs at Talladega. If NASCAR wants a race style qualifying, then line them up, roll them out in pace format. Throw the green and they have to run it all out, or even better, qualifying races at every track. The concept is good, but these guys are gamers and they want to play the game, and for the most part, know how to do it well…except at Michigan.
Question:4 Jeff Gordon qualified this past weekend at over 206 mph, that gives him the 7th fastest qualifying time of all time. Bill Elliott holds those other six and they are all at Daytona and Talladega where the restrictor plate has been in place since those qualifying times. NASCAR is working diligently on slowing the cars down for next season, if we see another qualifying speed like that at Michigan, and race speeds topping 211 entering the corner, will MIS end up seeing some time of restrictions, such as plates or the tapered spacer that the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series use?
©2014, Matthew T. Thacker NKP
©2014, Matthew T. Thacker
DM: Seriously doubt we see restrictor plates at Michigan. After Monday’s test, I’m sure NASCAR will have some changes for the 2015 package, whether it be the lower horsepower engines or the low downforce package, or some other option. We’ll just have to see how the 2015 package evolves over the coming months.
BE: While everybody loves to talk about speed, faster speeds don’t always equal great racing.  I definitely don’t want to see plates at a track like Michigan.  I think NASCAR is taking the appropriate steps with the 2015 rules package, and it sounds as if things are headed in a positive direction after Monday’s test session at Michigan.  Obviously safety is at the forefront of these decisions, and this will be something to watch as we draw closer to 2015.
BW: I hope not. I don’t like that NASCAR is trying to slow the cars down. I’ll sacrifice a little speed if they can get the aero package fixed. The speed is part of the thrill and why I have paid to go see 38 races in person. It’s exhilarating, it’s dangerous, it pushes the boundaries of man and machine. Let the boys and girls go. They’re professional drivers for a reason.
SC: There isn’t any question in my mind that if we see qualifying speeds at the first Michigan race in 2015 like we saw this past weekend, NASCAR will have the plates ready for the second race. I love the sense of speed, but we all know how NASCAR feels about that “magic” 200 mph number and right now they are way way past it. That lap for Jeff Gordon put him 7th all-time fastest qualifying lap. The other six are all at Daytona or Talladega and held by Bill Elliott. No way in today’s age should we be setting those kinds of Qualifying speeds…Especially outside of the superspeedway’s.