The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 by Amy Henderson -- Monday June 20, 2011

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The Big Six: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400

The Big Six · Amy Henderson · Monday June 20, 2011


Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

Perhaps a 12th-place finish doesn’t sound as impressive as a top 5, but for Landon Cassill it was pretty darn impressive. Driving the newly renumbered No. 51 for Phoenix Racing, which a year ago was rumored to be about to fold, Cassill was a fixture in the top 15 for much of the day before ending the day 12th. When you consider that Cassill, the 2008 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, has never raced a full season in Nationwide or Cup, well, it’s an eye-opener to say the least.

An honorable-mention shoutout also needs to go to Kyle Busch this week for gutting it out all day despite an upset stomach, which, no matter how you slice it, makes for an absolutely miserably experience even when you’re not strapped into a 120-degree racecar for three hours. Scott Riggs was on standby for Busch, but Busch never seriously voiced a desire to get out. Of course, that might have been part of crew chief Dave Rogers’ master plan; there were certainly more capable drivers available at that point. Perhaps having Riggs on standby was all the motivation Busch needed to stay in the driver’s seat.

What… was THAT?

Asking NASCAR to show consistency with rules infractions is probably about as productive as trying to herd cats. However, at some point, the sanctioning body needs to find a hard and fast rule concerning what to do about rules infractions in opening inspection. There have been too many different messages on too many different occasions, ranging from parking cars during practice and qualifying to after-the-fact penalties, to no penalties at all.

For a sport with rules as specific as those governing today’s stock cars, NASCAR has time and time again proven itself able to make its governance completely unpredictable.

The way I see it, there need to be two categories of infractions: those that give a performance advantage and those that do not. Forget whether it’s a template violation, a mechanical violation, or something else. Does it give an advantage or not? That’s all fans need to know. Once that’s been determined, penalties could be handed out accordingly. If there’s no advantage, forcing the team to go back and fix it is sufficient. They will miss practice time making the correction and that’s punishment enough. If there is an advantage, confiscate the part in question and tell the team to go fix it and come back after first practice for re-inspection. Pair that with a hefty monetary fine (and I do mean hefty, as in six figures hefty) and call it good. If the car comes back and fails inspection again, then it’s time to consider other measures.

The problem is, NASCAR doesn’t do this. The sanctioning body is arbitrary in assessing penalties, and this raises the question-again-of some kind of favoritism. Again, the answer to that question is irrelevant-fans should never, ever have to ask it in the first place. NASCAR did the right thing not assessing a points penalty to the Nos. 11, 18, and 20 after all three cars had unapproved oil pans in opening tech. However, there needs to be an explanation form NASCAR as to why there was no further penalty in light of past penalties. If reports are correct and the oil pans in question weighed 4-5 times as much as a standard oil pan, when does this become an illegal weighting issue instead of a simple unapproved part? If that was the case, and there was an advantage (and 20 or so pounds of unapproved weight could or could not be), NASCAR dropped the ball by allowing the teams to continue the weekend as though nothing had happened. Once again, NASCAR has raised questions when there should be none at all.

Where…did the polesitter wind up?

After winning his second pole in as many weeks, Kurt Busch showed how far his Penske Racing team has come in the last month. His eleventh-place finish also showed how far the team still needs to go to find consistency. Teammate Brad Keselowski has the team’s lone 2011 win, and while both teams have shown strength, it hasn’t yet proven to be lasting. If that turns around, Busch could make a late season title bid. If it doesn’t, both Penske drivers will be on the outside looking in at the championship-again.

When…will I be loved?

Michigan is almost always a fuel mileage game, so it’s no surprise that mileage was an issue during the race. What was a bit surprising was the number of crews who let their drivers’ tanks run dry on track this week. It’s not uncommon for a few cars to run short at the end or even for a couple to try to stretch a fuel run too far, but this week it seemed like several teams tried to run too far late in the race and it bit them: Juan Pablo Montoya caused a two-car incident trying to get to pit road as his car sputtered, and Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, and Jamie McMurray also fell victim to the fuel game. Perhaps it’s time to find a calculator company to sponsor these guys?

Why…would Carl Edwards like to see significant changes when the new 2013 racecars debut?

Edwards’ comments after the race were interesting, and probably to many fans’ thinking, dead on as Edwards called for changes that would make cars less dependent on downforce to be fast. Basically, if cars were not so dependent on downforce and the clean air at the front of the pack, the races would be more in the hands of the drivers than they are now. “It would be nice to race cars, not downforce,” Edwards said. We’ve heard this all before; the current car was supposed to be less aerodynamically dependent than its predecessor, but that hasn’t proven to be the case, as the cars are nearly as finicky as the former model with side draft being an issue as well as the need for clean air. A change would certainly be welcomed by a lot of people.

How…much more profitable is it to start and park two cars instead of having just one car go the distance?

Believe me, I understand why some teams are forced to start and park in today’s NASCAR, and I have nothing but respect for the drivers who take a hit to their pride every time they hear “bring it in” over the radio. There’s no arguing that being there makes a team more relevant than one sitting at home, but are multi-car start and park outfits really making money? Just to show up with a car is insanely expensive by the time a racecar, engine, and tires are accounted for. While last-place money clearly covers expenses (otherwise why do it at all?) wouldn’t it make more sense to have one car run a full race for a bit more prize money?

Surely tires and crewmen for one car aren’t nearly as expensive as preparing and hauling an entire second car which also requires a crew and a few sets of tires? It has to be frustrating for drivers like JJ Yeley and Casey Mears to be pulled in week after week when they could probably run a whole race, improve their chances of staying in the top 35 in owner points, and save a little dignity. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like if these teams want a real future in racing, they need to race, even if it’s just a single car.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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Stephen HOOD
06/20/2011 07:50 AM

As for start and parks, the teams don’t transport a full team. They usually show up with a car, driver, and a couple of crew guys, but they aren’t fielding a “team” in any sense of what you see on the cars going the distance. My guess is the dual start and park teams are using the same team to prep the car and get it through practice and qualifying. There may be one or two extra guys for the second car, but I’m sure there is an economy of scale where this makes some sense.

Also, I’ve noticed that some local sponsors are appearing on the start and park cars. The car doesn’t have to run the whole race, but the sponsor appears in the program, appears in driver introductions and other pre-race propaganda and may even get an occasional shout out on the television broadcast. This isn’t the expectation of Shell or Go Daddy, but Lester’s Tire and Lube is probably happy with this kind of exposure.

06/20/2011 01:09 PM

If start and parkers are making money in the NNS series at $10,000 they are damn sure making it in Cup at $80,000 a race.

What do you think of Mark Martin bumping the point leader out of his car, into a “back-up car and crew” on Saturday?

06/20/2011 02:59 PM

@wcfan: I think it was a lousy thing to do, though it’s not the first time that team has done it (they also bump Leffler when Kasey Kahne wants to play). IMO, the part-time guy should get the spare car and back-up crew.

sylvia richardson
06/20/2011 07:11 PM

i do not like any cup drivers down in the nw races. and mark is my one and only… but you must ask the dollar store about this.


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
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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.