Roger Penske on whether NASCAR team is behind the Toyotas

If you somehow missed it, Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski sounded the alarm bells Friday about what he perceives to be Toyota’s massive advantage in the Cup Series right now. His tweet was met with a hostile response from the Toyota camp.

So how does Roger Penske feel about Keselowski’s tweet and his team going up against Toyota? Fortunately, he was at Sonoma on Saturday to answer that question.

“Look, I’m not on Twitter,” he told a couple reporters when asked about the situation. “I don’t regard that the way I run my business, and Brad has his own thoughts that are probably not the feeling of the team at this point.

“Toyota has done a great job in preparation for the last part of the series. I think we had good cars early on. I think we’re a little bit behind right now. But it doesn’t mean we’re giving up, for sure.”

Penske cited Joey Logano’s seventh-place qualifying effort on Friday and Ryan Blaney’s playoff potential as evidence the team is making gains. But he stopped himself after starting to go down that road.

“I’m not one that decides to talk about my pluses and minuses in the media, to be honest with you,” he said.

OK, but what about politicking to NASCAR for help when one manufacturer starts to get ahead, as was commonplace in the old days? Does he see a purpose in that?

“NASCAR has the responsibility to have a level playing field, and if they determine that it isn’t, they can look at engines, they can look at aero and those things, and I’m sure they’re doing that right now,” he said. “But at this point, we all started with the same set of rules. Toyota has gotten hot here at the end and we’ve got to acknowledge that professionally.

“On the other hand, we’re not going to give up.”

NASCAR Playoff Rules, explained

NASCAR changed its Chase — er, playoffs — format again this year, so don’t feel bad if you’re not an expert on the all the rules yet.

Some of you might be embarrassed to ask questions on Twitter or admit you don’t understand what can be a confusing system. If so, that’s OK! Hopefully this will help.

Here’s a quick primer on the playoff format this year:

Overall, the format hasn’t changed much. Just like the previous two seasons, there are three rounds and a championship race. Four drivers are eliminated after each round, so the playoff field will be whittled from 16 to 12 to eight to four over the course of the first nine weeks.

— In another carryover from the previous format, a race win by a playoff driver will advance that driver into the next round. Even though “playoff points” have been a big talking point this year, it’s still win-and-in for each round. Then the remaining spots will be filled by non-winners based on points.

— Speaking of playoff points, those represent the biggest and most important change from the previous system. Drivers collected playoff points all season (one point for a stage win and five points for a race win, plus bonus points based on finishing in the top 10 of the regular season standings). Now that the playoffs have begun, drivers will start each round with that amount of points as long as they’re still in the competition.

Let’s pause to take a quick look at how many points each driver has heading into Chicago:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. — 53
  2. Kyle Larson — 33
  3. Kyle Busch — 29
  4. Brad Keselowski — 19
  5. Jimmie Johnson — 17
  6. Kevin Harvick — 15
  7. Denny Hamlin — 13
  8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — 10
  9. Ryan Blaney — 8
  10. Chase Elliott — 6
  11. Ryan Newman — 5
  12. Kurt Busch — 5
  13. Kasey Kahne — 5
  14. Austin Dillon — 5
  15. Matt Kenseth — 5
  16. Jamie McMurray — 3

— It’s important to remember drivers can continue to add to their playoff points in each round. So if Truex wins two stages at Chicagoland, he will start Round 2 with 55 points instead of 53. It doesn’t matter whether he “uses them up” or not; they will be there to start the round if he’s still in the playoffs.

— Of course, the rules for the championship race at Homestead are different. That race is still a winner-take-all, no-points event for the final four drivers. Yeah, there will still be stages at Homestead, but they don’t matter for the final four drivers (they’re just for drivers still battling for fifth in the point standings). So even though Truex has a ton of playoff points, that won’t matter in the final race. It might help him get there, but it won’t help him win the title.

— A question I’ve seen a lot on Twitter this week is what happens if a race winner — or the champion — has an encumbered finish in an elimination race? Technically, NASCAR would have to change the outcome of the round (somewhat likely) or the championship (very unlikely). NASCAR would disagree with this, but if the championship car was found to be illegal several days later, I don’t think we’d ever hear about it. Officials do not want to strip the title and award it to someone else days after the race has already concluded.

NASCAR drivers turning to Twitch to stream video games

By Cindy The Intern

If you follow Brad Keselowski on Twitter, you might know he likes to play video games. And if you tend to stay up late at night, you might also know that he also streams himself playing games on Twitch.

But Keselowski isn’t the only driver who streams on Twitch, the live video platform that shows video games and allows the gamer to comment while playing. Xfinity Series driver Garrett Smithley also streams.

“I actually started streaming last year on iRacing,” Smithley said via email. “I wanted to start to give my fans some more opportunities for interaction, and I thought streaming was a good platform. I noticed Brad Keselowski playing PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds), and then he started streaming. Fans started to ask if I would stream, so I tried it out and liked it.”

PUBG, released earlier this year, is a battle royale style game in which 100 players use a variety of weapons to kill other players and be the last one standing.

PUBG is by far my favorite game right now. My photographer, Danny Hanson, got me into H1Z1 (Just Survive), which is the same concept as PUBG. We had played DayZ in the past, because we loved survival-type games, but it was always slow-paced. PUBG has gotten really big really fast, and I love the direction they are taking it.”

Smithley said he plans to stream himself on iRacing again at some point, as well as Counter-Strike: Source. And on his streaming bucket list: A throwback GameCube game of some kind.

Like many gamers, Smithley has been playing as long as he can remember — dating back to messing with Tetris, golf and Super R.C. Pro-Am on his dad’s old Game Boy.

After that, he moved to PC games like G-Nome and MechWarrior 3 and stuck with PC and GameCube over Xbox and PlayStation.

Smithley doesn’t spend all his time during streams just playing games, though. The 25-year-old sees streaming as another way that he can connect with NASCAR fans, so during his streams, Smithley likes reading the chat and interacting with fan questions.

“I can’t speak for others, but for me, (streaming is) an incredible opportunity to reach out to the younger NASCAR fans,” he said. “I love video games, and streaming has become very popular with my generation. It’s a way I can spend time with fans, bring new fans in and hopefully help build a new younger fan base for NASCAR.

“I’m incredibly new to streaming, and I’m working on making the content the best and most entertaining I can make it. I have a lot of ideas for it in the future, and I hope I’m able to grow it into something really cool to go alongside my racing.”

Social Spotlight with Amy Earnhardt

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Amy Earnhardt, the wife of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who maintains an active presence on Twitter and Instagram.

You’re active on social media, and that has opened you up to a world of different types of people I’m sure you never would have thought you would hear from. What’s the overall experience like for you? Do you find it more positive or negative?

For the most part, I find it positive. Social media was scary for me at first. I just felt like it was this giant world and it was super intimidating, so I waited awhile to even join Twitter. I don’t still have a Facebook account. But I’ve had a lot of fun with Instagram and Twitter so far, and you’re right — there’s a lot of people you get to meet, or just chitchat with that you’d never otherwise have any contact with. Dale had (country singer) Cole Swindell stop by today (at Richmond) and they met on social media. That’s just one of the things that social media would allow that nothing else before has. So it’s been a lot of fun.

You say it’s more positive for you. How do you have that experience? Because from my view, I look at it sometimes like, “Oh my gosh, she must get so much crap,” as I search through all those responses. But you don’t feel like it’s terrible or overwhelming?

It can be overwhelming. I kind of choose when to and when not to get on there. At first, there were quite a few people that I had to block — everybody has those few people who like to just ruin their day. But you have to remind yourself that those people don’t even know who you are, and they’re probably not just doing that to you, they’re doing it to plenty of other people. It’s just their M.O. in life. So I don’t let that get to me at all.

Like I said, I kind of tend to stay away from Twitter on a bad day. If Dale doesn’t do well on the track, I try to encourage him to do the same thing, because he’ll have 90 great comments and then those few that are bad just really bring him down. So I just do the same for myself.

It’s interesting how Twitter hasn’t really done a good job of being able to cut trolls. Because like you said, most people on Twitter are good people and they’re positive and they’re encouraging, but then you get those people who can be so bad that it really can ruin somebody’s day if you don’t have super thick skin. Is there anything you’d like to see Twitter do, or do you think that just comes with the territory?

I kind of feel like that’s the nature of the beast. It’s the freedom of speech. We’re in America, so people get to say what they want and they have that ability. You have that ability to block them, mute them, whatever you so choose. So if you choose not to, then you have to take what they give you. I feel like (Twitter has) done what they can with it.

The biggest blowup that I can think of, when you got the most heat, was when you posted about not letting Dale run the Clash. How did you handle the aftermath of all that?

So that’s a great question. Dale actually threw me under the bus with that because he had been asked over and over again — because he had qualified to do so — was he going to run the race? And he had even told Mr. H (Rick Hendrick) that it was up to me. So after a lot of heckling on social media, especially that week — he must of had an interview where it came up again because that day in particular, I had a lot of responses in my feed — I just got tired of listening to it, so I’d figure I’d put a squash to it.

And I definitely had some negative feedback, but I spoke the truth and I stand by it. I would say it again. He put me in the position to even have an opinion about it publicly, because he was talking about it publicly.

Honestly, I still get responses about that, even on random tweets that have nothing to do with it. People still get hung on those things. But to be honest, when it comes down to it, he’s gonna do what he wants to do. It’s his decision. I just was trying to clean my Twitter feed up. I didn’t want to hear it anymore.

So people were like, “Come on Amy, come on Amy, come on Amy.” And so you give a response and they’re like, “Amy, you suck!”

“Boo Amy! You said the wrong thing!” (Laughs)

You obviously use Instagram as well. Do you prefer Instagram to Twitter?

I do, just because I’m a visual person. I like the pictures. I’m a girl, so I like to follow bloggers, I like to follow foodies and just different famous people. I like to see what people are doing. I’m just like everybody else — the people I enjoy following, I just want to see what they’re doing.

It’s like legalized snooping in a way, because people post these things and they have no idea really how many people are seeing it. And it just seems like a fun little insight into other people’s lives, where you don’t get that as well with Twitter. People can post photos, but it’s more of just a quick blurb, if you will.

How many people are you regularly going through their feed on Instagram? Do you just go through your timeline? Because Instagram timelines are out of order, which isn’t very convenient, so sometimes you have to go back and see certain people.

I don’t try to go back to pages, because I’m gonna be the person who accidentally starts hearting things two months old, and then you’re alerted that I’m a stalker on your page. So I’ve just tried not to do that. But I follow so many people on Instagram, my feed’s pretty current. I can go through the last five and refresh it and have a whole new 10 to look at. So I don’t get bored with it.

Where do you come down on looking at other people’s Instagram Stories? Because for me, I’m on Snapchat a lot, so I feel like people put their same stuff sometimes on Snapchat as they do on Instagram Stories and I get super annoyed. I’m like, “Oh crap, now I have to go through their Instagram story, too,” because I don’t want the circle to pop up and just sit there and look at it. Do you go through most of the little circles?

I do. I love the Stories. It’s a fun way to see what people are doing all day long. I like that they added that, because you don’t have to worry about posting something that you might regret. It comes right off.

I’m with you on the Snapchat and Instagram story thing. I don’t have a public Snapchat for that reason. Like you can’t keep up with both; that’s a lot to do. But it’s annoying, as a follower, if you see the same person posting the same things everywhere. That’s not what the purpose of all these different apps is, right?

I guess I’m going to admit to this, but there are times when I’ll go through and heart several pictures — and then for some reason I don’t feel like hearting a picture. I see it, but I just don’t. So do you ever withhold the heart?

I do the same thing. I don’t even know what that is. Maybe you can help explain even what I’m doing, because I don’t even know what that is either. It’s like, “I’ll heart four or five of your photos, maybe I shouldn’t heart all six of these.” I don’t know what that is.

Is it some sort of thing like “This wasn’t quite good enough to get my half second of time it takes to tap?” Like “I didn’t want to take my energy to show my approval of this.”

I think that it is true. I also think it depends on what comes right before. Like if you have three or four great photos that other people posted and this is just not up to par with those, then you just don’t heart it. Sometimes I scroll back up like, “Oh, I actually really liked it, it’s one of my really good friends, I’ll just heart it anyway.” It’s a picture of their kid, he’s so cute, I’ll heart.

You’re like, “I wasn’t going to (heart) another kid picture, but you know what, I do like them.” So you do heart them after all.

Yeah, you get a conscience.

Going back to Twitter for a second, where do you fall on blocking, muting or just ignoring? I think Dale has said in the past that he doesn’t block anymore, he just mutes. You mentioned you have blocked people in the past. Do you still use the block button a lot?

I haven’t used the block button in quite awhile, actually. When we first started Twitter, they didn’t even have the mute button, so that would have been helpful. But I’ve blocked people back then who were pretty vicious, or who were imitating me on Twitter, and I just didn’t want to see their stuff either. Mute, I haven’t really used that much. I just feel like at this point if it’s going to be there and I know it’s gonna be there, I know that I don’t need to take it seriously, so it doesn’t really matter that much. But I’ve used both a couple of times.

That’s a good point. I should probably take that into consideration a little bit more, because I’ll mute people a lot. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they got me upset enough to block, but it does bother me. It gets to me, so I don’t want to see it. You know what I mean?

I can understand that. Muting is great, because you’re right, they don’t know that you did that.

Did you know that you can block people in your phone, by the way, and they don’t know that you blocked them? Like an actual phone number?

Yes! I’ve been doing that for a lot of spam numbers recently because people call me — I don’t know if this happens to you — with the area code and it looks like it must be someone you know.

Right. I don’t know how they figured out how to do that, but you get spam numbers from your own area code. It’s ridiculous.

They disguise their number, and it’ll be like the first three digits of my phone number, too! So I’m like, “It must be somebody I know,” and it’s somebody offering me a vacation to Florida on a recording.

I don’t answer, and I don’t even listen to the voicemail if it’s not a number I don’t have programmed into my phone. I don’t even bother listening to the voicemail.

You screen the calls.

I screen. I’m a hard screener.

We stayed in our pjs all day waiting for this eclipse. Didn’t want to out dress our glasses. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Amy Earnhardt (@mrsamyearnhardt) on

What do you think the future is on social media? There’s all this live stuff now. You can pretty much see into anybody’s life as much as you want to show them. Is there a limit, or is it going to just keep going in that direction?

That’s a really good question. I wouldn’t have said I could have seen social media coming, so I have no idea where it will be going. I can only imagine that it’s going to be…easier and easier for people to use, maybe. But honestly, my brain does not work like that. I have no idea where it would go. What do you think it’s going to do?

I think at some point, there has to be a tipping point both with trolls and with the amount that’s shared because 

Too much skin, is that what you mean? 

Just that I could start an account right now, tweet to Dale Jr. and say “You are the most awful human being!” or whatever, and he might read it. And I don’t think celebrities are going to be on social media forever if that’s the case, because people will just be like, “Why am I doing this?”

I’m more worried about how unsafe it is for kids. I don’t have kids yet, but we’re trying, and who knows what that’s going to look like by the time our kids are old enough to use Snapchat or anything else. There’s so many other apps that kids use that I don’t even know how to use. So that’s the scariest part for me.

As an adult, especially Dale or any other celebrity, I feel like they should just take it as it comes. It’s just part of the gig.

I’ve thought about this myself. Someday when I have kids, how much do I share pictures of my kids publicly? Because it would be nice to have a private account, but then people think you’re keeping stuff guarded. You have a public Instagram and public Twitter. Is there going to be any place where you can just share stuff with your family and friends, where you don’t have to show everybody?

So we do that now. We both have iPhones. Most of the people in my family and Dale’s family have iPhones, so we have photo streams where we share photos. Both of my sisters have kids, Dale’s sister has kids, and so we kind of do that there, and you can comment on there if you really want to, and like it.

You can comment on the iPhoto stream?

Whatever you want. And aunts, uncles, whatever, and they can see the photos you post. They get a little button that pops up.

So you can bypass social media. That’s interesting. Maybe that’s the answer of what will happen ultimately is like mini social media networks — just with your friends and family, where you don’t even have to have a profile.

That’s right, it’s just all in the cloud. You have to remember that.

You say that you’ve given advice to Dale. Has he ever given you any advice about your social media use?

Yes. So this is a great question. I have many a times gotten on Twitter, and I am an opinionated girl. I can be a little cut and dry, and that doesn’t come across so well, especially just in text on Twitter with a lot of people that follow who don’t actually know who you are.

So he’ll see me start typing something, he’ll look over my shoulder and be like, “I don’t think you should send that.” And now I am really nervous about what I send out, because not only do I have Dale watching if I’m gonna send it out, but his entire brand team. There’s a wrath that comes from it, not just from Dale but with his entire team.

Have you ever gotten in trouble with a tweet that you’ve sent? Are people like, “Amy, no. You shouldn’t have said this?”

Yeah, there was a couple. I won’t reference them, but I’m sure everybody probably knows what they are. But I don’t regret it at all.

One last thing I want to ask you about, which shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but you’ve had a couple of messages of tolerance lately. These are really hard times in the world and society, but you’ve kind of had that message of love or different colored hearts for people of different races. What’s been behind that?

I just feel like people use social media, especially Twitter…you find that generally people that have something negative to say. Instead of it being positive, you hear more negative things, especially about politics or about any big thing. Even athletic games, football games, whatever — if somebody does something stupid, you hear all of the trolls versus the people that are excited about it.

So I just feel like if it’s something I really believe in, I’m going to voice my opinion and try to be as positive about it as possible. I tend to stay away from politics and those things — I just don’t want to get involved with it and I have the wrath of whoever wants to fight with me about it on social media. I don’t want to use my social media that way.

It’s supposed to be fun, right? So that’s why I keep it that way.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

12 Questions with Chris Buescher

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Chris Buescher, who is currently 26th in the standings for JTG Daugherty Racing. Despite missing the playoffs after making it in 2016, Buescher’s average finish has improved by five positions over last year.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I’d to think that it’s been 50-50. I feel like I’ve been able to hang tough. Early on, I kind of had some idea I could do this, and from then on it’s just been working at it to to fine-tune it through the years.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

That’s all the guys that I grew up watching before I was even racing, before I was racing hardly anything. So for me, I feel like I can relate to a lot of the drivers from a lot longer ago. I feel like I’m a pretty normal person. I’ve worked on race cars all my life. I’ve been able to be a big part (of the team), being in the shop and working through the last handful of years to understand what goes into them. So I feel like I’m a bit more hands-on, I’d say.

That actually reminds me: When they announced that you had re-signed with JTG, they said you’re in the shop more than any other driver they’ve worked with. Why do you go in the shop so much?

Because I have friends there. (Laughs) I like going in and just seeing what’s going on. I don’t really get my hands dirty anymore; I think everyone’s scared that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I probably don’t at this level. This is the best of the best that work on our race cars every week and that are on the track every week.

So it’s a way for me to go in and hang out in a much less stressful environment. Race weekends are very much down to business and get things done, and you can goof off and have a good time, but everybody’s stress levels are a lot higher. I feel like when you’re at the shop, you get a little more personality out of everybody and can hang out, go to lunch, talk about something other than racing sometimes. I think everyone likes to take a break every now and then with the length of the season and how often we are traveling. So for me, it’s just a good way to go catch up.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

A lot of that, for me, is trying to dress up. I don’t get too fancy most of the time, so a lot of our functions we go to, a lot of events, I have to really focus on that.

JTG Daugherty has a thing with golf around here that everybody likes to go have meetings and hang out with sponsors and discuss business on the golf course, and I’ve played two games in my life — both this year as a matter of fact — and I’m horrible. So I’d say that’s got to be the hardest part of my non-driving part of this thing, is trying to figure out how to play golf at this point.

That’s gonna be a work in progress. Golf takes a long time to learn, so that’s pretty frustrating.

Yeah. AJ (Allmendinger) is very good, Ernie (Cope) is very good, Trent (Owens) is very good — and I’m not. We were at the shop hitting a couple the other day and I actually hit the building on my first shot. So, not good.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

I’ve had that a couple of times. It’s actually kind of fun because I feel like I’m still under the radar enough to where no one’s ever sure of themselves. It’s always like, “Well, maybe…”

They’re like, “Is that Chris Buescher…?”

We get a lot of that, and that’s actually kind of fun. I like to mess around with people for a little bit and then yeah, we’ll sign stuff. It depends on how nice of a restaurant, I guess.

So wait — do you try to tell them at first that you’re not Chris Buescher and see the look on their faces or something?

I’ll usually tell them I work in racing or I’m a mechanic or something and then kind of ease into it and see if they catch on or see if they believe it. I like to play games for a little bit.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

Something that I think a lot of fans don’t realize is how much time and effort our teams put in. (Richmond) being a Saturday night race is actually very nice for teams, especially the crew members. They get back from a Sunday night race and they’re back at work mid-morning Monday and roll right up until that plane takes off. It’s a very long season, and it’s a commitment by everybody in the garage area that’s very time-consuming. It’s very difficult to live any kind of normal life in this business, and I think everybody deserves a lot more credit than what they get on the amount of dedication they have to this sport to make it what it is today.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

Probably AJ. And before that it was probably (Matt) DiBenedetto, I would say. That might have been social media though. He wanted to go four-wheeling with us next time.

He felt left out?

Yeah, we had a little fun in West Virginia last off-weekend, and I guess I forgot to invite him. I didn’t know he wanted to go.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Certain ones. (Laughs)

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

My policy is trying to keep it down to three times a year or less. I used up one (at Darlington), and I think I had one earlier this season as well. White gloves are bad for that policy. I try to do it discreetly.

What did the person do last week (at Darlington) to deserve that?

I kind of just got run over. We all but wrecked. It was Turn 1 all the way to the exit of Turn 2 sideways, and it was bad. I felt it was very deserving.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

I don’t think it’s a case-by-case deal. I think you get to know who you race around a lot of times. I think you just kind of build up a resume, so to speak, with other drivers. So when you’re around certain ones, you kind of know what you have from a good side. And I’d say on the bad side of things, I think more or less, more times than not it’s unexpected, and so that’s why you feel like you deserve retaliation. And then there’s those where you fully expect it going into it and you know that’s how you get raced.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

I just happened to run into Miss Brazil at a steakhouse like eight or nine years ago. That was kind of neat. That was in Vegas.

How did you know it was Miss Brazil?

She was wearing her sash. She wasn’t trying to hide it by any means.

She was in the restaurant with the Miss Brazil thing right on there?

Yeah, so we got to sit down and talk to her and the people she was with for a while. That was kind of neat. At the time, I was nobody, so that was pretty cool.

Did you just go up and say, “Hey Miss Brazil, mind if I sit down?”

I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I don’t think that’s how it went; I’m not that slick. But between the people I was with and the people that she was with and had there, I think something about racing came up and then we got to talking.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

A lot of things. (Laughs) Just a lot of things come back on the track, trying to go faster in these things, trying to understand these cars, trying to understand the bump stops, the splitters on these things. It’s all very different from everything I grew up racing, and I think that’s been the hardest thing for me to adapt to. I feel like the cars feel more like a go-kart now than a stock car in a lot of ways, and that was not my upbringing. So it’s been a challenge for me.

12. The last interview I did was with Aric Almirola.  His question was: Why did you agree to do this interview?

Why the heck I agreed to do this interview? Because Kelly (Boyd, his public relations rep) told me I was going to do this interview.

It’s that simple, huh?

Yeah, pretty much. It’s always fun to do something that’s a little bit outside of just the racing questions that you get every week, and I think you’ve hit on something here that makes it a little more enjoyable than the normal one.

You’re making me blush. Anyway, I’m going to the IndyCar championship next week, so I’m probably going to do the next 12 Questions with an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask one of them?

What made them crazy enough to strap into one of those things? And that’s not insulting in any way — they’re braver than I, I will give them that.

Those dudes, I watch them and go, “What are they doing?”

(Laughs) It looks awesome and I bet it is so much fun to drive, but I could never convince myself to do it. No way.

This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).

What Smithfield should have said

In a Tuesday afternoon statement, Richard Petty Motorsports said longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods left the team hanging for 2018 by backing out of a handshake deal to stay.

The statement painted Smithfield in a bad light and sparked fan outrage, which obviously upset executives at the company. So within a few hours, Smithfield retaliated with a strongly worded response that was, quite frankly, unbecoming of a major, multinational corporation.

I totally get that Smithfield felt attacked and wanted to respond. The company has made a major investment in NASCAR and it felt like it was treated unfairly. Understandable.

But I don’t agree with how Smithfield reacted publicly to the situation. Going to war with one of NASCAR’s most beloved figures is a bad idea — even if executives felt it was justified — and it just makes Smithfield look amateurish.

I have ZERO experience in public relations except what I see from a media standpoint, so take this for what it’s worth. But here’s a statement Smithfield should have released instead of the one it did. (NOTE: THESE ARE MY PROPOSED WORDS, NOT THOSE OF SMITHFIELD.)

It has been an honor and privilege to be associated with Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR, who is a true American legend. As we said earlier today, Smithfield Foods made an extremely difficult decision to go in a different direction with its sponsorship for next season, and we recognize not everyone will agree with our choice.

However, we would like to clarify that Smithfield never had a handshake deal to return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2018. We regret this obvious misunderstanding, but Richard Petty was mistaken when he said we backed out on our word. While it is true we wanted a reason to remain at RPM and held out hope for any sign of the team’s performance turning around, we ultimately did not see that at this time.

We share the goal of every NASCAR sponsor: To reach victory lane in the most prestigious series in American motorsports and contend for the championship. We truly wished that would happen at RPM, but we did not see a path to winning. That is why we decided to join Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

That said, we again want to thank Richard Petty and RPM for being such a great partner over the years. We are rooting for the team to succeed well into the future and hope another sponsor decides to support this iconic car and team owner in the great sport of NASCAR.

In the meantime, we will continue to invest in NASCAR. We love all race fans and are so appreciative of the support they have shown us while we have poured tens of millions of dollars into this great sport. We hope to see you all at the track soon and are looking forward to the future at Stewart-Haas Racing.

News Analysis: Danica Patrick will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing

What happened: Danica Patrick will lose her ride at Stewart-Haas Racing following this season after SHR secured sponsorship for the No. 10 car with a different driver, she said in a Tuesday afternoon Facebook post. This comes after Smithfield said earlier Tuesday it would leave Richard Petty Motorsports for SHR next season.

What it means: Barring the unexpected emergence of a sponsor with a different team, Patrick’s time in NASCAR may be coming to an end. Her return to SHR was dependent on sponsorship, and that necessary funding proved to be elusive — something that could be blamed both on the economic climate in NASCAR and Patrick’s lack of results. From the time she arrived in NASCAR from IndyCar, Patrick had been billed as a driver whose massive marketability could boost the sport — but the results never followed. Her average career finish is currently 24th over 180 Cup starts — this despite being in top-tier equipment throughout — and she has yet to score a top-five finish in a race. Despite the lack of success, Patrick is perhaps the most well-known NASCAR driver outside the sport — yes, even more than Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and one of the most recognizable athletes in the country. Losing a driver of her popularity and star power is yet another blow to NASCAR after it has seen Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Earnhardt all say goodbye.

News value (scale of 1-10): Six. This move seemed to be in the making for months, but it’s above average on the interest scale — like everything with Patrick — due to the driver. Still, the bigger news would be when and if she decides her driving days are over.

Three questions: Does Patrick still want to race, or is she ready to move on and do something else? Has Patrick’s time in NASCAR been a positive or negative for future female drivers trying to break into the sport? If this is the end, what will Patrick’s legacy be?