The Frontstretch: Three Shots Heard 'Round the World: NASCAR's Defining Week by Amy Henderson -- Friday May 23, 2008

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Three Shots Heard 'Round the World: NASCAR's Defining Week

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday May 23, 2008

 

It’s the unofficial start of Summer, but things heated up weeks ago in the NASCAR world. Much of the swirl of discussion has been predictable-what driver will go where, who is living up to expectations, when will Junior win-the same things that go around every summer. But there are a couple of stories that came to light just this week that have me scratching my head. While the other happenings and musings are interesting, what happened this week will have repercussions for the remainder of 2008 and, in two related cases, far beyond.

First off, there is the decision by NASCAR to limit teams’ rear toe adjustment to one degree off center. That’s a cut to less than half of what some teams were running, making their cars appear nearly sideways on the straightaways. The change does not affect the cars this week for the Coca-Cola 600, but will be in effect in time for Dover next week. Here’s the war in my head: on one hand, where the heck are these teams supposed to work on these new cars? But on the other, NASCAR has taken away teams’ innovations for years if they outsmart the sanctioning body and/or find a significant advantage, if not outright crucified them-so why should teams get away with something now?

The cynic in me wonders if a team that has been labeled a habitual “cheater” like the No. 29 or the No. 48 would have brought about a change much sooner had they been the first to try the funky setup. There are certainly similarities between the situation and one last year that had the Nos. 24 and 48 scrambling after they played with the front fender in an area that didn’t affect the template fit. In both situations, the cars fit the template, NASCAR, and their competition, just didn’t like what they saw. This time, the offset of the rear end was so great that the cars could barely get on the scales in technical inspection. With the car that grotesquely skewed, there had to be an end, I suppose. And that helps the teams that were not messing with the COT bodies, the ones that were following the spirit of the rules (including both the No.29 and 48, ironically). But I still wonder…where CAN these teams find the speed that separates a champion from a winner and a winner from an also-ran?

Bruton Smith has something in the works; but what, exactly?

Another story that had me doing a double take was the news that came out just today that Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc has purchased Kentucky Speedway. Smith says he plans to have a Sprint Cup race at the track by 2009. Which begs a couple of questions. First off, the obvious: Where is a Cup date coming from? It’s speculated that Smith will move a date from Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track with attendance woes, to Las Vegas, where a sellout is far more likely and the fan amenities are far better. That leaves a couple of options. One is to swipe a date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but that makes little sense. NHMS holds 30,000 more fans, and that’s before the multi-million upgrade that SMI has planned which includes more seats, lights if a noise ordinance with a neighboring town can be resolved, and the possibility of a complete reconfiguration (think a change from big Martinsville to big Richmond). The other possibility is that the track will win a date away from an ISC track via the ongoing lawsuit between Kentucky Speedway and NASCAR.

I’ve heard rumblings that SMI may acquire Pocono Raceway, but that’s assuming the Mattioli family, who owns the track currently, are willing to sell. So far they have remained steadfast. Should that be the case, look for a date there. But for now, you have to wonder what Bruton knows that we don’t.

Speaking of Bruton, anyone else wonder why Humpy Wheeler’s retirement announcement came so hurriedly and sounded so…unlike Humpy? Reports have Humpy’s announcement coming this week only because the story was leaked before a planned release, but that the move has been in place for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks seems like an awfully short time to decide about one’s retirement, in any case. Wheeler’s comments about Smith and SMI were terse, at best. For one thing, Smith’s son appears to be the choice to take over. Is there more to the story? The timing, coupled with the Kentucky acquisition, seems a little too much for coincidence. Surely the fall race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway won’t be moved to Kentucky. Yet…something seems off here.

In many ways and on many levels, these two events may have a huge impact on NASCAR racing this year, and in the future. Right or wrong, it’s now unlikely that a sideways car will determine the champion as it appeared might happen. Kentucky Speedway finally has hope of seeing a Cup race (again, whether that’s right or wrong is open for interpretation). And LMS has an awfully big pair of shoes to fill. The explosives budget might save a few pennies, but the post-Humpy era is likely going to be a little less bright. Will this be the week that alters NASCAR’s future? My money’s on yes.

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Douglas
05/23/2008 07:27 AM
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Continued NA$CAR lying!

RE: CoT “offset” bodies!

1st. NA$CAR designs a very sick handling car!

2nd. NA$CAR says “there will be no changes by NA$CAR to the exisiting specifications to the car! PERIOD! “TEAMS: These are the rules you have to work with”!

3rd. The teams, trying to figure out a way to enable the drivers to drive the stupid thing, come up with “innovations”, ALL WITHIN THE CURRENT RULES!

4th. Now NA$CAR “changes” the rules of the CoT!!

wilson
05/23/2008 08:43 AM
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Well we can add Old Humpy Wheeler to the List of Winners of the: “Curtis Turner I’ve got the Drive Shaft by Bruton Smith” Award.

Such other notable Winners of the prestigious award are:
Newhampshire Speedway,

Tim Flock,

Curtis Turner(Gettting the shaft and lossing ownership of Charlotte Motor Speedway via shady buisness dealings)

The entire town of North Wilksboro.

So we will say a fond fairwell to old’ Hummpy.

Gone, will be the best Priced Tickets in Nascar.

Gone, will be the fan friendly atmospher at Lowes.

Gone, will be the best Prerace entertainment ever.

What we will get in it’s place??….
More of the same crappy service and value you get at the other SMI Trackes. Fans be prepaired to have to pay for all 3 races next year if you want to go to Lowes.
Just ask the Fans at Kansas…..

Stay tuned to see who gets screwed next….

My bet is on the Fans.

We Will Miss You Humpy!!!!
Thanks for a Great Ride!

Joe
05/23/2008 01:26 PM
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you know, if you look at the picture on the main page quickly and disregard numbers, it almost looks like Dale Earnhardt racing Rusty Wallace in the MGD days. Then you see the stupid wing.

Robert Eastman
05/23/2008 01:37 PM
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I’m probably asking a stupid question, but with the hope of not getting stupid answers.
Would NASCAR have the courage to hire Humpy to bring “His Genius” into play? I’m sure his wisdom, insight and experience could be “just what the sport needs!” If the 2 dead Bills could speak from the grave to their progeny Brian, they would beg him to save the family business by hiring someone who actually knows “what the heck he’s doing!”
Probably only in “fairytale-land” do wonderful things like this happen!

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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