The Frontstretch: 10 Points to Ponder ... After Infineon by Becca Gladden -- Sunday June 24, 2007

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10 Points to Ponder ... After Infineon

Becca Gladden · Sunday June 24, 2007

 

1. Road Course Reflections – Don’t know about you, but I have never been a fan of road course racing for NASCAR. Sonoma is a lovely place and Infineon is a lovely track that draws a lovely crowd, but I just don’t care for stock cars racing there. I don’t like the use of “ringers” (such as they are) and I don’t like follow-the-leader racing. I don’t like the number of contenders who run out of gas and the fact that today’s finish wasn’t even close, with Juan Montoya crossing the finish line four seconds ahead of the field. The average speed at last week’s Michigan race? 148 miles per hour. Average speed at Infineon Sunday? 74.5 mph. Yawn.

2. Dashboard Confessionals – It’s interesting to note the notes that some teams tape to the dashboard to keep drivers focused and motivated. Last week, Tony Stewart’s dashboard note said “one at at time,” reminding Stewart to be patient as he picked his way through the field from 41st to 3rd. This week, Jamie McMurray’s guys taped a photo of Robby Gordon to his steering wheel to remind the pole sitter who he’d be battling in the early going. Gordon himself added devil horns to the photo to emphasize his self-described “devilish tactics.” If you’ve never read the story of Darrell Waltrip’s wife Stevie’s dashboard notes for Dale Earnhardt, and the one she posted on his dash the day he died, it is worth a read: http://msn.foxsports.com/story/3263700. Clearly, these things can serve an important purpose.

3. Sprint to the Cup – I was surprised that anyone was surprised about the rumor of the Nextel Cup Series being renamed the Sprint Cup Series starting in 2008. That rumor has been around for a year or more, but NASCAR’s current lawsuit with AT&T might be playing into the decision. It’s going to get really complicated for drivers who’ve been in the series since the Winston Cup became the Nextel Cup, soon to be the Sprint Cup, to try and remember which “Cup” they’ve won when.

4. “Gray Area” My Aunt Fanny! – If you’ve seen the way the “claw” template comes down and measures points on the hood of the Car of Tomorrow, and if you’ve been paying attention at all this year to NASCAR’s dire warnings about fooling around with the car’s fundamental configuration, you would have to know that the No. 24 and No. 48 teams’ fender tomfoolery would not get a warm reception – and it didn’t.

5. But the Bigger Issue – Now that they’ve been busted, the real question is what penalties the two Hendrick Motorsports teams will face. As many have pointed out, neither points, nor money, nor crew chief suspensions are really going to make a big difference at HMS. Both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are all but guaranteed starting spots in the Chase, and with the new 10-point per race bonus system, both will be seeded on top of the standings after Richmond. What do you think would be an approriate and effective penalty? What do you think the penalty will actually be?

6. Stewart Hitting His Stride? – Although Tony Stewart has not won a race yet this season, he has a reputation for getting hot about the same time as the summer temperatures. Well, the cautions didn’t fall right for Stewart on Sunday, but he finished sixth and climbed another spot in the points to, ironically, sixth. Stewart now has six Top 10 finishes in the last seven races.

7. The Ram Finally Rules – Not only was Juan Pablo Montoya’s win the first for a Dodge driver in the Cup series this season, it was the first ever for a Dodge in the Cup series at Sonoma. By the way, the F-1 veteran Montoya was very impressed by the skill of his fellow Cup competitors on the road course: “I’ll tell you the truth, I was very surprised by the level of the drivers here. In Mexico, I had a very good car and the drivers were very strong, but here, man the Top 20 were — you had to work for your money.”

8. Buschwhacking Bedlam – It’s been a nice three weeks for fans of the Busch Series. While the Cup boys have been at Pocono, Michigan and Infineon, the Busch drivers were at Nashville, Kentucky and Milwaukee. This has greatly limited the number of Buschwhackers, which is a good thing – but it has also increased the “drama” of watching those few who did pull double duty try to get to the track on time. Carl Edwards complained that he had “the slowest golf cart in Wisconsin” taking him from the helipad to driver’s sign-in, and Denny Hamlin circled helplessly above the track in a chopper during driver intros, unable to obtain landing clearance. The whole thing might have made a great Keystone Cops sketch, but it was hardly worth the manic TV coverage it received.

9. Speaking of the Milwaukee Mile – Did you know that the first race held on this track took place in 1903, eight years before the first Indianapolis 500? That makes the venerable track “the oldest continually operating motor speedway in the world.” Cool.
10. Almirola Abuse – It really was unfair to pull Aric Almirola from the car during the Busch race, even though the late-arriving Denny Hamlin put on a masterful show and won the event. Almirola not only qualified the car on the pole, he led most of the early going before being replaced by Hamlin in a move which Denny himself did not approve of, but which was aimed at pleasing the car’s sponsors. There is something very special about a young driver’s first win at the Busch level, and Almirola was robbed of that joyful experience through this mismanaged series of events.

10a. Open Mic NightTNT was very excited about their experiment with Kyle Petty “broadcasting” the race from the cockpit, but it went awry pretty quickly when Petty, Matt Kenseth and Marc Goossens got together on the first lap. They opened Kyle’s mic just in time to hear his uncensored query, “What the f—- was that?!” Note to TNT: Having a driver call a race that he’s in? Not a good plan.

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jc
06/25/2007 07:10 AM
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When teams/drivers get point penalties, it should follow them to the end of the year. So, you got fined 100 points? When they reset the points for the Chase, the 100 point penalty should be reassessed. I’m not just saying this because it was the 24 and 48 who got penalized. My favorite driver has been penalized this year as well. It is the fair thing to do, IMO. NASCAR won’t give laps back after they take them from you. Why should they give points back?!

Travis Rassat
06/25/2007 07:49 AM
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I agree with jc – assess the penalty at the beginning of the chase. I would also go so far as to start the crew chief suspension then as well.

Not that I necessarily agree with the punishment – I wish the teams could delve into the gray area more. But NASCAR has set a precedent. If NASCAR is to be consistent and not give anybody any more fuel for their perceived favoritism, they’ll have to come down really hard and the “standard” punishment won’t make any difference to either team now and especially once the chase begins.

I also hope that they don’t end up calling it the “Sprint Cup.” I would think that would be confusing for newer fans or fans of other types of racing as they could think the Sprint Cup is related to sprint car racing. It’s just an unfortunate coincidence.

Douglas
06/25/2007 08:06 AM
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I deem the “road course ringers” the same as the “buschwackers”!

Example: Ryan Newman is a “buschwacker”! Now, in turn about fashion, he lost three (3) positions in cup points @ Sonoma as three (3) “ringers” finished ahead of him!

So he makes no gain on the 12th spot for the “chase”!

What goes around comes around Ryan, and all “buschwakers”!

Amy
06/25/2007 09:22 AM
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The 24 and 48 were already unfairly penalized by NASCAR for this. The violations were found in opening tech, before the cars were even on track. NASCAR’s policy in this situation has always been to tell the teams to fix the problem and go back through inspection, no harm, no foul, just fix it. In fact, this happened with other teams at Infineon. And yet, two teams were made an unfair example of. Greg Biffle had a fender violation in a COT race this year. The penalty-go back and fix it before you drive it. If this is the new policy, every team with an opening tech issue should be pulled from practice and qualifying, not just the team NASCAR wants to prove they don’t favor.

L.L
06/25/2007 10:30 AM
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Consistancy is the word. The people who are saying the 24 and 48 should be punished MORE because they are higher in points is ridicules. By that logic, that would mean when Michael Waltrip’s team got caught with the “illegal additive” they should have been penalized LESS because they weren’t locked in to race and were a new team. The penalty is the penalty, period. NASCAR should not arbritrarily be handing out different penalties depending on where a driver is in points. It’s a slippery slope.

kyle
06/25/2007 11:13 AM
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regardless of what the penalty is, i am highly suspicious as to how “consistancy” is going play its hand. since it was deemed “intentional” before practice started, and as Amy stated they were penalized by starting at the rear and missing Friday’s pracice, what else are they going to do? if you’ve even watched one race this year, ya already know that hell and high water won’t stop their momentum!

Brandon James
06/25/2007 11:45 AM
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the penalty on the HMS boys has to be painful enough to surpass the good theyve achieved so far,,,,,take a 100 points from them at the beginning of the chase and suspend the CC’s for the rest of the year….message will ring loudly then and this crap will stop!

Race Fan
06/25/2007 01:06 PM
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Re: Almirola..it’s a tough call..Rockwell Automation specifically wanted Denny Hamlin in the car for that race. The sponsor pays the bills. I feel bad that Almirola got pulled when he was running in the top five, but this situation might have helped him in the long run (as opposed to Denny making it to the track on time and starting the race). It seems like JGR is trying to butter up to Rockwell to get them to sponsor Almirola full time in that car. JGR definitely scored some brownie points by doing what they did, and a temporary frustration for Aric Almirola may lead to a longer term racing opportunity down the road. I hope Rockwell Automation makes it up to Aric by maybe sponsoring an additional race for him this year.

Floyd Morgan
06/25/2007 03:46 PM
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NASCAR has to take into account that people make the bodies and mistakes will be made,but whose to say it was a mistake or meant to be that way. Now they will have to send every car that is off at the very first inspection
to the side and not let the driver qualify. Is everyone looking at what this will do to racing. The only answer is for NASCAR to make the bodies for all cars. The Daytonia race had a lot of cars that were off and all they did was make them fix them. Why is it so important now. If it had been the inspection before qualifiling it would be different. NASCAR make the bodies.

Wyatt
06/25/2007 04:11 PM
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Floyd nailed it.

It’s easy to say “Don’t mess with the CoT body”. Well…the teams make those bodies….so they are already “messing with them”. What happens when a team makes a mistake? Who will decide it’s a mistake?

Are we really saying that everyone who fails pre-qualifying inspection is going to start at the rear, lose points, and have the CC suspended? They will have to…that’s “consistency”, right?

We’re going to end up having NASCAR make the cars and hand them out before races. Think about that one.

P Stearns
06/25/2007 06:06 PM
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Well first off #24 & 48 deserve the penalties they will be hand. If Dale Jr’s penalty didnt get through anyones head then I guess it needs to be handed down more or better yet up the penalty. It’s NOT gonna hurt either one of them in the long run though.
I grew up at Infineon well to me it is still Sears Point. Point is I love that track. Just hated that Jamie and Robby got the bad end of the deal. They both had awesome cars the whole race.
Denny Hamlin should have not been able to take over for Aric. If you cant make it on time tough turkeys. As I heard it he over slept. Oh well!! Too bad your late no run.
I don’t think any driver should be able to broadcast from thier cars. That is what your gonna hear from them. LOL!!

Connie
06/25/2007 08:16 PM
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Nascar should ban Knaus from Nascar for good. He has been caught to many times cheating. Nascar doesn’t seem to be able to get him to stop. Makes you wonder what he has done that they haven’t caught all the other weeks.

 

Becca Gladden is no longer a contributor to the Frontstretch, but you can see all her past articles on herbiography and archive page.