The Frontstretch: Before My Brain Melts... Thoughts For These Summer Nights by Amy Henderson -- Friday July 31, 2009

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Before My Brain Melts... Thoughts For These Summer Nights

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday July 31, 2009

 

It seems as though most of the country is running hot this week, with the summer swelter of the Dog Days of August closing in on almost everyone. I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone; the season is more than half over, and, well, there certainly has been plenty going on lately. There are a few things that have been on my mind this week (besides dreading my electric bill) that bear a little more discussion, so I’m going to write about a couple of them.

Pocono’s still a challenging track, but not the same as it used to be after NASCAR took both shifting and strategy out of the equation.

First off, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Pocono this weekend. I like Pocono. I know many fans don’t, but I appreciate the challenge that the track presents. I have to say, though, that it was a better race at the triangle before NASCAR butted in and took away the ability to use a gear ratio that required periodic shifting… and the strategy involved. Sure, it saves a few fried engines, but it takes away from the overall competition on the track. Between the wildlife and the tunnel turn, though, Pocono still deserves the place it has on the schedule. And the new resort being built across the street is a fantastic idea. $100 a night, and you don’t have to contend with race traffic? Brilliant.

I was talking with some fans online earlier, and while I understand the inner workings of the mass media very well, it was interesting to hear their perspective. The complaint was that Juan Pablo Montoya’s penalty and Jeremy Mayfield’s ongoing soap opera overshadowed Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Indianapolis, the first repeat win in NASCAR at that track. I get why the other two are, from a media perspective, bigger stories. The Montoya bit is controversial because many fans believe the penalty was contrived by NASCAR, and the Mayfield saga is continually dynamic in its own way. In contrast, winning a race doesn’t change, and there’s no controversy if the car is legal in post-race tech. From the perspective of my education in mass media communication, I understand; but is it just me, or is it sad that a race win isn’t news anymore — that the ultimate goal of the competition is overshadowed by controversy and hype? That’s the part I just don’t get, why winning isn’t really that exciting to many fans. Isn’t that sort of the point of racing?

Speaking of Johnson, I need to admit I’ve been at least sort of wrong on one point for the last few years. Largely in part because of prior accomplishments, I have had Tony Stewart pegged as the best driver on the Cup Circuit over the past decade. And, well, I took a second look after Indy; and at this point, Johnson is now clearly the best, despite the fact that he didn’t even join the Cup tour until 2002. Statistics don’t lie, and Johnson’s are better than Stewart’s over the course of the decade. The equipment is equal, the two drivers had the best crew chiefs on pit road — and Johnson’s numbers are simply better. I stand corrected.

Another complaint this year is about the races being boring. Some of them certainly have been, mainly through scheduling. If you are going to have Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway on the schedule four times between them, for example, you’re going to have four boring races. Indianapolis produces another yawner, and the 1.5-milers are iffy. But you also have to realize that every race isn’t going to end like one at Martinsville or Bristol, either. Fuel mileage racing isn’t what anyone wants to see, but it’s part of the strategy game. So is winning in the rain, and so is winning because you got off pit road first. There are many ways to win a race, and sometimes fans need to realize that it’s not always a drag race to the finish. With that said, it wouldn’t hurt for NASCAR to consider scheduling races at better tracks…

Speaking of tracks, if you’re into the history of stock car racing and in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and visit Hickory Motor Speedway this summer. The list of track champions and alumni reads much like the history of NASCAR, and for good reason. Picture the Cup cars on that track — and realize that they once ran there. And though they never will again, just imagine what it must have been like with legends like Petty, Allison, and others battling on its hallowed grounds …

OK, there you have it… some ideas to chew on this week. It’s too hot to tax my brain too much these days with anything more — to be honest, I’m a little concerned that something will melt. But I think these tidbits will leave you with a lot to think about.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Ghost of Curtis Turner
07/31/2009 08:12 AM
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“I like Pocono. I know many fans don’t, but I appreciate the challenge that the track presents.”

Would that be the challenge to stay awake during this twice a year snooze fest?

Kevin from PA
07/31/2009 09:58 AM
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This what I love about NASCAR.

Amy correctly names 4 races that are rarely exciting. Throw in the Pocono races and the number is 6. And that doesn’t include the other 1.5’ers which have a terrible habit of becoming follow the leader races.

My point: Every year it is a given that half of the races are going to be boring. Yet nothing is done to change the situation (yeah, I know NASCAR owns a lot of the tracks).

Where else can a company have a 50% chance of producing a terrible product but still think they are the greatest thing.

Michael in SoCal
07/31/2009 12:02 PM
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I’m with you Kevin from PA. I don’t mind the boring tracks (Michigan, California, Indy, Pocono, the mile and a half tracks) having one race a season. The local fans deserve having a race nearby if they’d like to attend. But there’s no reason for most of these tracks to have two races. There are other tracks out there, so let’s spread the races around more. Take a race away from California – I’m completely okay with that, and I live an hour away from Fontana and go to both of the races. If there was only one, the wife and I would venture out and find another track to go to.
We’ve been to Sonoma, Vegas, Phoenix and Bristol, with Talladega coming up in the fall.

midasmicah
07/31/2009 12:22 PM
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I read where Jeff Hammond thinks letting BMW into nas$car. Why bother? It isn’t going to look like a BMW. It’s doesn’t matter which make of car you put in there. They all look the same. And yes, there are more yawners on the circuit than there used to be. We need more tracks like “The Rock”. In the “modern nas$car era” it ain’t going to happen. I’ve re-discovered baseball lately. Better then watching the sport I love turn to stone.

MïK
07/31/2009 03:00 PM
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I keep hearing the whining about how boring NASCAR Cup racing is. And about how little they do to correct it.

Well, folks…all these silly rules you’ve also been moaning on is because of NASCAR’s attempt to cure the racing. but the racing goes on in spite of the corrections.

The ‘follow the leader’ racing has been the norm since NASCAR was created. You forgot when Richard Petty won the race by 5 laps over second place in the 70s? Or most of the the 80s where half a lap leads were the average. Go to the stats and see when the close races were and you’ll see it was in the last decade!

If you need quick, close racing, check out NHRA. NASCAR has strategy. That takes time, and patience, and the ability to observe.

Don’t sacrifice my racing for your immature needs. The racing is fine, once the noise from the peanut gallery stops.

Dans Mom
07/31/2009 03:15 PM
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Way to be late to the party Amy! Jimmie Johnson has been statistically better that Tony Stewart for almost two years now. In 2007 he surpassed Tony in career wins, championships, and oh yeah, won back to back championships before tony ever did (will).

Jimmie is one of two drivers (Matt Kenseth) to make every chase, has the highest win percentage of any active driver (+15%), won the most races in a season twice as many times as smoke, has won 3 races in a row twice to Tony’s zero (2004 + 2007 – 4 in a row… in the Chase). Jimmie has taken 3 out of the last 4 Brickyards, conquered the Great American Race, and won the Coke 600 all in 2 less years. Tony has just 1 win the at three “biggest” races combined (Brickyard ’07).

I’m pretty sure you already subscribe to the Frontstretch newsletter, but how about you cancel your subscription to “day-old news!?!”

Douglas
07/31/2009 03:51 PM
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GOOD NEWS TODAY!

Just read where GOODYEAR has lost $221 million in the 2nd quarter!

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Maybe they will now bailout of NA$CRAP and a really good tire can get in!

Gee, wonder how King Brian Farce will make his money now?

Lets all shout!!!!!

GOODBYE GOODYEAR!

(one can only hope, right?)

hmmmm
07/31/2009 07:31 PM
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remember “So you think you have what it takes to write for the frontstretch?”

Apparently it doesn’t need facts. Where are stats and/or facts to back ANY argument in this column?

DM has it right… Amy NOT WRITE… if i wanted blank opinions I’d skip the column and head to the reader comments…. good idea from now on.

Kevin in SoCal
07/31/2009 11:51 PM
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Wow, Amy’s getting burned today. Must have been some writer’s block.
I’m all in favor of every track in the country worth racing at getting one race a year. And I still dont see how 43 cars with 850 horsepower screaming down the frontstretch at 200 MPH came be boring.

Douglas
08/01/2009 07:59 AM
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So funny Kevin, your “43 cars with 850 horsepower screaming down the frontstretch at 200 MPH came be boring.” is just so very funny!

43 cars with 850hp at 200MPH, and low and behold, the drivers can’t turn them! And we await the inevitable 12 car pile up because they can’t get out of each others way!

Yep! That’s exciting allright! Only if your sitting in the stands and have a death wish!

Douglas
08/01/2009 01:17 PM
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Oh, and I forgot to also mention, as regards just how “exciting 43 cars with 850HP at 200MPH” are!

You spend the race wondering if when they have the “BIG ONE”, whether they will land in the first 5 rows of the stands, or go even higher into rows 5 thru 10!

Yep, real exciting! Wonder how the young gal at Talladega is doing these days after parts of a car landed on her and broke her arm?

I’ll bet she was REAL EXCITED!

Frank
08/01/2009 11:29 PM
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Sheesh, the natives are restless today. Douglas, it’s a good thing when a major company loses that much money? Just who do you propose supplies tires, Hoosier? Yeah, we’ve seen that show before. 43 cars at 200mph isn’t exciting? That’s not a new speed, they’ve run that fast for many, many years, even before the COT that you love to hate and love to tell us about.

Douglas
08/02/2009 08:08 AM
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Hey Frank, actually if HOOSIER was smart, and any other tire compnay for that matter (including GOODYEAR), none would agree to supply a tire for this tank called the CoT!

Lets make NA$CRAP put a REAL RACE CAR on the track!

MMMMM, could this be the “Achilles Tire”, err, I mean the “Achilles heel” that finally forces the CoT issue?

Me hopes!

As do MANY, MANY, other fans!

Oh, and don’t forget, the drivers themselves say that you don’t “DRIVE” the CoT, you just “POINT” it and hope!

AND!!! Have you forgotten ALL THE EMPTY SEATS at INDY????

MMMMM, wonder why? Could it have been influenced by the CoT on GOODYEARS?

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.