Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let's Trade Some Paint -- Bonkowski style!

By Jerry Bonkowski

Hey, everyone. Sorry I've been away for several days: I had a promising job interview, and then the flu went through the entire household and finally got me the worst (doesn't it always seem to happen that way?).

Let's get to what everyone has been waiting so patiently for: let's trade some paint!

Hello Jerry, I always enjoyed your work on Yahoo. I was just reading some comments under an article and read where you were gone from Yahoo and I was shocked. One thing nobody can say about you is that you were a homer! You gave opinions and they were yours and you also just gave facts. I also know when you were wrong you sucked it up and admitted it (Like Jeff Gordon was done in '07. Ring a bell?) I am way too busy most of the time to blog and make comments, although I have sent you a comment or two over the years. I also felt compelled to drop you a note of support and wish you the best in wherever life takes you. It takes more nads to get up off the mat then it does to knock someone down on it! I am writing that quote from experience I can attest to! Anyway, remember the sun always comes up tomorrow and the next day after, and that time never stands still and you can never get any of it back. Best regards. (P.S.: The video clips every week on pre-race and locks will not be as good with you gone. I always enjoyed you on them.)

Steve Luft

Thanks ever so much for your kind words and thoughts, Steve. And thank you for finding me here. I take pride in being fair, objective and impartial.

Jerry: our small NASCAR group (four of us, go figure, we live in Dallas Cowboy country), were so excited to find you again! You’re the best! We've got our tickets and we'll see you at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5th!

Paula, Jennifer, Laurie, and Shelly
Amarillo, Texas

All I can say, ladies, is I love your enthusiasm and excitement. Make sure you bring an extra beer or two in case we run into each other. It's going to be a great race and weekend, as it typically is at TMS.

Hey Jerry, I love the site. Can't wait for more Trading Paint! Might as well fire off a question for a future issue as long as I'm at it: if there are fewer than 43 entrants for a particular race (which seems more and more likely for 2009), do all cars automatically qualify for the race regardless of qualifying speed? And if there are fewer than 43, how does that affect prize money and points?

Gary Hunn
Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Yes, Gary, if there's less than 43 entrants, they essentially all have a free pass to make the race. The only way they would not make it is if they had mechanical failure or were involved in a wreck in practice subsequent to qualifying, or if NASCAR finds they either have illegal equipment or cannot maintain a competitive speed on-track.

Good Morning Jerry, I would so love it if you could change your comments section so that people HAD to use a name other than Anonymous. It looks like the same person is posting over and over. Hope your job interview went well.

Karen Shinn
Afton, Okla.

You raise a very good point, Karen, and an issue I've been agonizing about the last few weeks. I want to keep the feedback forum open to all readers, but you are right: those that write in as "anonymous" do others that give their names – such as yourself – a huge disservice. It's kind of a Catch-22 situation: if I require everyone to sign their names, I'm sure I'll see an appreciable drop in responses. Another possibility would be to eliminate all responses and simply have readers e-mail me with their comments and their full names, and then use some of those in Trading Paint. I hope to make a decision on the fate of "Anonymous" responses in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, I can't please everyone – and that's what I hate.

Hi Jerry, I just wanted to thank you for your kinds words last week in the Trading Paint column. It was sweet and much appreciated; you warmed my cockles and made my day. Keep up the great work. I wouldn't enjoy NASCAR nearly as much without your perspicacious prose! Blessings to you and yours.

Julie Roorda
Phoenix, Ariz.

Thank you for your kind words, Julie. My blessings back to you and yours, as well.

Dale Jr. didn't want a piece of DEI, he wanted 51 percent controlling interest. Teresa has helped Big E build DEI from the ground up. If you are honest, you have to admit most of Jr.'s popularity comes from his last name rather than on-track accomplishments. Little E tried to leverage that inherited popularity and take the company away from Teresa. Short and simple she called his bluff. True, she is paying the price now as the company struggles. But I remember more than one occasion when Dale Sr. was willing to ball a car up going for the win rather than being intimidated into settling for second place. Once Junior drew the battle lines there was no way Teresa could win the PR battle. Junior Nation thinks he is the greatest, no matter how mediocre his on-track performance or immature his off-track antics. Say what you want about Teresa, but you have to remember that Dale Sr. loved Teresa and I think a lot of the treatment she has received from the fans has been unfair.

Calvin Arrington
Garner, N.C.

Very astute observation, Calvin. Thanks for writing in. And in fair play, here's a differing opinion:

Hi Jerry great to see you are getting Trading Paint back up and going. By far it is the best weekly reader/fan forum going and I look forward to my weekly fix of Trading Paint. … It is hard to understand what is going on with Teresa Earnhardt. She has totally ruined a company that had great potential up until the end of the 2004 season when there were a lot of changes made to the things Dale Sr. had set in place at DEI. I am a huge Dale Sr. fan and have been since 1980 when I first started watching racing, but it is very hard for me to pull for a DEI car on the track now, and that is in a big part thanks to Teresa Earnhardt. I for one think Dale Sr. would have had the company on the same level as RCR at this point and well on the way to being the next HMS.

Gary Owens
Martinsville, Va.

Equally astute viewpoint, Gary. Thanks for giving us your take.

Jerry: I had an interesting thought this morning. Seeing our new president Obama in his first few weeks in the Oval Office got me to thinking, what would be your top-3 "Executive Orders" you would sign into NASCAR law if you became head of NASCAR for a day?

My choices, you ask?
1. No more "Top 35" rule.
2. More bonus points awarded for winning a race. Granted they are doing this to seed the Chase, but it still isn't enough.
3. The Chase needs to go back to 10 drivers; 12 is too many.
4. Honorable mention: Digger has got to go.

Dusty Duncan
Claremore, Okla.

We certainly agree on some ideas, Dusty. My "Executive Orders" would be this:

1. Bring in an independent "commissioner" to oversee NASCAR. The nepotistic operation of the sport by the France family needs to be turned over to someone who is not beholden to things such as TV networks, sponsors and so-called "partners." We need someone who will look out for the best interests of the fans, the drivers and the teams, first and foremost.

2. I agree about the Chase: Cut it back from 12 to 10 contenders.

3. Cut the number of races from 36 to between 24 and 28, and add some new tracks to the mix like Kentucky and Gateway. Sure, that means some tracks that currently host two races per season might be cut back to one, but do we REALLY need 36 races each season? I think NASCAR racing has become watered down with expansion. We need to get back to quality over quantity.

4. And as for Digger, he's actually starting to grow on me this year. He's like a cross between Alvin from the Chipmunks and Gizmo from the Goonies.

Hey Jerry, am I the only one who is fed up with Digger? I like the camera angle but there is no reason that it has to be associated with a cartoon character. Fox couldn’t stop at just showing this "camera mascot" whenever that camera angle was used. Now we have a weekly cartoon, merchandise, and a human-sized Digger mascot. Enough is enough. Fox needs to concentrate on providing better race coverage and put a stop to this hokey rodent.

Rick Newton
Atwater, Calif.

It's all about the money, Rick. Fox has developed a following for Digger, particularly among young kids. If Digger keeps cash registers ringing and kids keep telling Mom and Dad they want the latest Digger toy or accessories, he'll remain with us.

Hey Jerry, if Junior gets on a train, heading to Station B at 55 MPH, and Kyle gets on a train, heading to Station A at 60 MPH, how long will it be before Mark Martin has a problem, not of his doing, that will take him out of a top-5 finish? (P.S.: Yes, it really is 3:17 a.m. God, I need a life!)

Brian Battaglia
Omaha, Neb.

That's an easy one, Brian. It doesn't matter what direction he's heading, Mark has a problem, not of his own doing, before he even boards the train. Choo-choo!

Jerry, do you have any information on how Goodyear goes about selecting the tire that it will bring to each race? There was a lot of talk after the first practice in Atlanta, about the tire. After last year's less than stellar tire at Atlanta, I just though you may have better info from Goodyear.

Brian Battaglia
Omaha, Neb.

I typically don't let a reader double-dip in the same week, Brian, but you raise such a good question that I couldn't help but include another query from you. Essentially, Goodyear tries its best to match the rubber compound with the track. And if there's venues that need more testing, particularly if there have been problems in the past with tire selection, Goodyear than holds tire tests at those tracks, typically with one driver representing each of the four major manufacturers in the sport. I don't know about you, but to me, the test at Atlanta earlier this year helped cut down on the number of tire issues we saw in last Sunday's race – as opposed to the debacle we had in the spring race last year at AMS. The biggest test everyone is looking for is how Goodyear's rubber holds up in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in light of last year's fiasco there.

JB: I really appreciate your NASCAR insight. Thanks for your Web site; your daughter did a great job (in setting it up). By the way what happened to Steve Post (The Postman)?

David Kane

Thanks for the kind words, David. There are still so many more things we want to do with the site, and hopefully you'll start seeing some of those new innovations in the coming weeks. As for Steve, he's as busy as he ever has been, working with Motor Racing Network, Sirius NASCAR Radio and a number of other freelance projects. From a personal side, let me say this: Steve is not only the consummate professional, he's one of the nicest guys in the business. He always has a smile and a kind word every time I see him. I'm proud to call him my friend.

Welcome back. I am glad I get to continue reading my favorite NASCAR writer. To the business at hand, making NASCAR more exciting: short track racing, I know everyone goes to the races for fun and some wrecks, but 43 cars on a half-mile track does get expensive when you are wrecking cars. Also, it's hard to keep up with who is where on the track. So lets make it real exciting, like the old days on the local flat racks. Qualifying: have two races at 50 laps each, much like Daytona qualifying. Pole sitter in the first race, outside pole in the second race. However the qualifying speeds are reversed, meaning the fast guys start last. The top 15 from each race go to the main event of 75 laps. Same rules apply, the field is reversed for the start. That cuts down on the amount of cars on the track for each race. It also makes for a fun Saturday evening with the family. And it does not take all night to run. Just a thought.

Thomas Reeves
Long Lane, Mo.

Interesting idea, Thomas, but do you really want to see only a 75-lap main event? That's what makes NASCAR so different from local short track racing. While I like your idea of qualifying races or heats, I still want to see a 500-lap main event at a place like Bristol or Martinsville.

Jerry, I’ve been involved in motorsports for 39 years – raced off and on for probably 20 years, and have spent the past 15 years working with various NASCAR teams in sponsor relations (primarily show car promotions). A couple of years ago I was caught up in the Ginn/MB2 layoff/merger like many others. Although they were the primary source of my income I felt certain something else would come along. Well, here we are almost two years later and it hasn’t yet. I guess I could have jumped on the Bobby Ginn 'hate' bandwagon, but I chose not to. The way I looked at it, I was thankful to have had work for the two years I was associated with their teams and sponsors. I know I’m not the only one out here sitting on the sidelines looking in these days, and I know I’m certainly not the worst on off. Here’s my rub: I’ve got almost 16 years in sponsor relations, 39 years in motorsports, and I read where various teams and agencies are advertising for show car operators, managers etc., "with or without experience!" How can these people be of good conscience and do this? Show car personnel along with the other sponsor relations people are "the direct link" between the team, the sponsor and the consumer. How does ‘no experience’ work for these positions? Can you imagine reading job postings for some of the superteams:

Wanted Crew chief for championship Sprint Cup team…experience desirable but not a must.

Wanted: Shock specialist…no experience necessary.

Wanted: Driver for top tier NASCAR team……no experience necessary.

These sponsors don’t post job openings for their own public relations and or marketing people with "no experience necessary."

How can a team extract tens of millions of dollars from a sponsor and treat them like this? Or, for that matter, why would a corporate CEO not can their own marketing people for letting a team get by with this kind of treatment? I interviewed with a high profile team the other day. I had provided their "show car manager" with my work history for the past 15 years, along with some very strong letters of recommendation from various sponsors I’ve worked with.

Three questions I was asked:

What type of driver’s license do you hold?

In the past, did you stop at weigh stations?

In the past, did you keep a log book?

I’m sure these questions are of the utmost importance to this team’s multi-million dollar sponsors. Unlike so many in our sport these days racing is still a passion with me. It's not about the money or the notoriety. Like I said before, I’m not the only one – there's plenty of us out here. Thanks for the ear.

Glenn Taylor

I can certainly empathize with you and so many others out there in the current economic crisis, Glenn. There are way too many well-qualified people out of work simply because they earned good salaries or that teams/companies feel they can bring in less-experienced (or those with no experience) personnel at a fraction of the cost. Is it right? No. But at the same time, I've been around for a long time. And I truly believe in kismet: what goes around, comes around. Those that do the laying-off or hire less-qualified personnel that come at a cheaper price will one day be on the receiving end. Trust me. Their day will come, too. Hang in there, my friend.

And now, clearing out the last of the Daytona e-mails we've received the last few weeks:

Hey Jerry, Junior pays the price for being NASCAR's most popular driver every day of the week. When he wins, he gets all the praise. But when he wrecks, he takes all the blame whether it is deserved or not. One thing he has never been is a coward about owning up to a mistake. He will admit when he is in the wrong and try to make amends without being prompted by anybody. This also makes him a marked man on the track. The not so talented will exploit this and irritate the situation. Brian Vickers is known to be a dirty driver who would wreck his own mother to gain a spot he has not earned. (At Daytona) he should not have been blocking a car that had the run and position to make the pass on him, whether or not he was the first car one lap down, though within the rules. His block was dirty at best. What could Junior do different in that spot? Nothing! All the other crybabies who cried foul should all go home to mama and stay off the racetrack! Wrecking is a part of racing! (P.S.: Welcome back, Jerry!)

William Vesper
Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

I understand your point, William, but let's face it: blocking IS a part of the sport. Even though Dale Jr. had a run on Vickers in the Daytona 500, Vickers was well within the rules to block. With both drivers being one lap down, were either of their moves smart? No. But two wrongs don't make a right, either – Vickers' block or Junior's retaliation. Hopefully, they both learned a lesson from that unfortunate situation.

Dear Jerry, I have been a diehard Junior fan since his Nationwide Series days, and his father before him. However, I believe he should have been penalized five laps for rough driving. He could see the other driver's position and knew he was not clear to blend in. Frustration over some really dumb mistakes does not excuse the fact. He is a far better driver than that. I also never thought I would agree with Kyle Busch, but his comment that the drivers were a lap down and did not need to be racing that hard at that point in time is correct.

Thomas Reeves
Long lane, Mo.

Because I didn't want to exclude your point about Daytona, Thomas, I'm also allowing you to double-dip in today's column by posting a second e-mail from you. Thanks for your insight.


  1. Jerry,
    Couldn't ya have "anonymous" as a default, with the option to use a name? Don't worry about the credibility of an 'annamoose' post, WE'll take care of that. I certainly won't put much weight on comment from a moose, and I'll be glad to say so.

  2. Jerry; You made a comment to the person about 43 starters, that if Na$car found illegal parts, they wouldn't start. Weren't Gordon & Johnson's cars found "illegal" a while back,yet allowed to "repair" & start in the back & others went home? Also Jr & Vickers, if they would restart side by side by position, that wouldn't happen, or at least not take out the leaders by lapped cars.


What do you think? Leave Your Comment Here:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.