The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Enough with the Whining and Debris Already by Bryan Davis Keith -- Monday May 28, 2012

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ONE: The Debris Cautions Have to Stop

The fastest Coca-Cola 600 in the history of the race would have and should have been even faster if it wasn’t for the figments of the imagination of Robin Pemberton and his buddies in the race control booth, throwing the yellow multiple times for debris so miniscule, the TV cameras couldn’t find it. These were figments of imagination that either resulted in obstacles that weren’t there… or, even worse, thought that viewers and fans couldn’t put two and two together that the race was being stopped for no reason other than to bunch up the field and provide a TV timeout.

On occasion, it’s obvious why we’re under caution. But that wasn’t the case Sunday — once again.

It’s hardly the first time this column has touched on this issue, even this season. But again, caution flags ended up having an impact on this event, even if the final 75 circuits under green allowed the faster No. 5 car to clear the No. 11 and score the win. Between the Richard Petty Motorsports cars fading from their front row starts, Kyle Busch’s long green prowess, the continual instances where pit stops were botched, the difference between a caution flag and no caution flag could be huge. The adjustments available to a crew lessen in terms of options and scope that can be accomplished. A mistake under green is 10 times more costly that one under yellow.

Stock car racing is not entertainment. Stock car racing can be entertaining. Though, to be honest, there’s nothing stock about what is now referred to as stock car racing, so maybe it is entertainment now. Either way, the racing needs to be improved or the races need to play out. This manipulation of an event from the box has to stop. There isn’t another sport anywhere in the country where this level of interventionism by officials would be tolerated.

TWO: Logano Has Reason to Worry

The tagline used by FOX to tout NASCAR’s longest race this weekend was that big names win big races, especially at Charlotte. For Joe Gibbs Racing, that translated into Denny Hamlin being the only car able to mount even some kind of challenge to Kasey Kahne late, while Kyle Busch finished third with one of the stronger long run machines in the field. And as for Sliced Bread? That translated into a 23rd-place finish, three laps off the pace. Two JGR drivers have won races, Logano hasn’t. Two JGR drivers are in the top 10 in points, Logano isn’t. Hamlin and Busch each have more top-5 finishes than Logano does top 10s.

Sure, Logano is the youngest of the Gibbs drivers and has the least amount of time of the three in a Cup car. But this is year four with a championship-winning race team and a big-dollar sponsor. And to top it all off, there is talent on the market. Newman, as discussed last week, may well be losing his Army sponsorship by the time this government fiscal year is over. Kurt Busch is available, and his brother has wasted no chance to sell the merits of said older sibling both as a driver and positive influence in the garage. Even from a longshot perspective, Brian Vickers is out there after a strong showing earlier this year in MWR’s No. 55 car… and he’s driven Toyotas for a while.

The big stage was out there for the taking this Sunday, JGR had the track pegged… and the young one came up short. Again. Can’t help but wonder when that’s going to start adding up.

THREE: The Top 35 Goes Stagnant Again

Dave Blaney’s last month has been a considerable departure from his season-opening effort at Daytona. Instead of nearly winning the 500, Blaney has suffered five DNFs in his last seven race starts, including a 40th-place effort at Charlotte Sunday that saw the No. 36 car last only 54 laps before blowing a motor. Yet, despite tumbling to 35th in the owner points and being on a cold stretch rife with mechanical failures and a start-and-park effort at Kansas, Blaney and Co. are in absolutely no danger of falling out of the Cup field.

Sitting 36th is the part-time Wood Brothers Racing team. 37th is Stephen Leicht and the No. 33, the closest thing to Max Q Motorsports racing in Cup these days (complete with Little Joe’s Autos being on the cars). 38th is David Stremme’s Inception Motorsports squad, which DNF’d five consecutive events after failing to qualify at Texas.

The point? There’s a significant lack of depth in the Sprint Cup field in 2012, significant enough that no one is challenging for that final locked-in position. There’s multiple issues that come into play from this standpoint. For one, it begs the question how does one sell the sport to new ownership if there’s not even a line to get in amongst the current players? The larger issue, though, is with 35 cars now completely set in the field, there’s less incentive at the back to push the issue. Sure, every driver and team wants to run well, run better, race hard. But here’s the sobering reality: if money’s tight, and there’s no challenger, the time for changing over from innovation to survival arrives. That means start-and-parking when its convenient, preserving equipment at all costs… anyone remember Front Row Motorsports and their team orders work a few seasons back to keep all three cars in top 35 contention?

That’s good business, not good racing. And there’s a reason NASCAR isn’t broadcast on CNBC.

FOUR: Entitlement Runs Wild On The Race Track

As anyone that read Tom Bowles’ work from Saturday’s Nationwide Series race or Sunday’s Pace Laps column knows, both Richard Childress and Austin Dillon had some harsh words for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and his aggression behind the wheel despite being more than 20 laps off the pace. Then, there’s an interesting piece done by Sporting News on Ryan Newman, who despite having been a Cup regular for a decade is now attempting to learn “give and take” after discussion and run-ins with numerous competitors. Competitors that largely have taken objection with how hard the Rocket is to pass on the track.

A kinder, gentler Ryan Newman is the goal for this driver in 2012. But should he even be trying to tone down aggression on the racetrack?

And to think so many in today’s NASCAR wonder why so many fans just don’t care anymore? From the stars of the Cup Series to the few future stars being groomed at the Nationwide level, the mentality seems to be… yield. Give way. Make room. Save the racing for the run to the checkers.

There’s no argument to be made that Newman and Stenhouse are the minority in today’s garage in going out of their way to race hard and play obstructionist on the track. And rather than tackling this from a right/wrong issue or a “it has always been this way” perspective, let’s try another one.

Who the hell wants to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of time watching give and take, building up to an unpredictable 15 minutes? There are advantages to racing like Mark Martin (preserving equipment, having favors returned on track) and there’s disadvantages (the chrome horn is not available to win races). Drivers need to do some risk/reward analysis instead of crying to owner, spotter, officials and mommy when they have a hard time on track, and do something themselves.

For all NASCAR does wrong, listening to millionaire race car drivers whine makes my blood boil.

FIVE: Sato Reminds Race Fans Everywhere Just How Hard It Is

For the second season in a row, a lesser known IndyCar driver had the Indianapolis 500 in the bag… and blew it on the final lap only to hand the race win to a veteran and former 500 winner. Takuma Sato had perfectly split the Ganassi teammates of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon only seconds prior, and coming down the frontstretch to the white flag was right on the bumper of Franchitti. One turn and an ill-advised divebomb later, Sato was wrecked along the turn 1 wall, handing Franchitti his third 500 trophy.

For every Trevor Bayne at Daytona moment, there’s five Sato crashes at Indianapolis moments. Which, interestingly enough, goes back to the first point here that racing is more entertaining than entertainment, at least at its purest form. Those last second moments, those upset wins, are special because they are unpredictable and a departure from the norm.

Funny how that’s the lesson that apparently needs to be re-learned at NASCAR following the world’s biggest day in motorsports. It could have been worse, though… imagine deciding the 600 with a debris yellow.

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Jazz
05/29/2012 06:56 AM
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Reading an article by a whining writer about a sport they wouldn’t have the guts to participate in makes my blood boil.

Bill B
05/29/2012 07:43 AM
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Yep, the fake debris cautions have become so common that NASCAR is no longer trying to legitimize them. They are left with a “no comment” approach.

Hotdogger
05/29/2012 08:36 AM
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Well said. There isn’t another sport in the WORLD let alone the country that butts in and manipulates to this level. I am beginning to put my money where my mouth is and watching Indycar, sportscars and F1 more and more because atleast they let the races play out for better or worse and not try to manufacture WWE on wheels (and fail miserably anyway).

Ken
05/29/2012 08:48 AM
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Fake caution kinda makes it fake racing. Fake racing is sorta like fake wrestling. Fake wrestling is not a sport. That kinda makes NASCAR racing not a real sport.

BobbyC
05/29/2012 08:55 AM
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Having attended the race and having spent only $10 on a scalped ticket that allowed me to sit in a $100+ seat just right of the start finish line was AWESOME!

Leaving the race with a hundred laps to go (because I was bored with the “lack” of racing) which allowed us to hit the interstate with out much traffic was PRICELESS!

Watching every car the 16 passed waving a “white” flag made me sick… It was like these drivers were out there for a Sunday drive my folks use to take around the neighborhood… as soon as the Biff got on their rear they simply raised the flag and let him pass… but this just didn’t happen with the Biff…

I’m tired of hearing racing called a SHOW! You want to go to a show go to NY!… this is the problem (well one of many) NASCAR has taken racing out of “Racin’”

mrclause
05/29/2012 09:10 AM
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Stroking ain’t racin and strokin ain’t entertainment!

At least the WWE gives its fans what they want and the seats are full night after night.

Spec cars and the highly touted chase have diminished the sport to a mere shadow of it’s former self and Jr and Danica are not the saviors NASCAR hopes they are. France say’s he isn’t concerned with fan and driver complaints, Pemberton says the fans are needy. The media imply’s that fans only want to see wrecks. Think maybe if they all took off the rose colored glasses they’d see that there are a lot less needy fans, complaining fans, just a lot less fans in general. It sure appears that attacking your fan base is a great business plan huh NASCAR?

midasmicah
05/29/2012 09:21 AM
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I actually fell asleep during the 600 and didn’t watch the ending when I did wake up. Just when I think the racing can’t get worse, it does. And to add to my displeasure, the sheer amount of commercials just makes it more tedious. “Wake up nascar” has turned into “wake me up” nascar.

Phony*Cup
05/29/2012 11:54 AM
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Having a rich daddy or maybe grandfather with access to all the toys as you grow up might give you enough “guts” to race in nASCAR. However all the money and training in the world won’t give you the talent to be a starter in the NFL,NBA,or MLB.

GinaV24
05/29/2012 11:55 AM
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I don’t want NASCAR manipulating the races and then calling the fans who want to see the debris “needy”.

I’m also tired of the multi-millionaire drivers complaining that the fans “don’t understand”. No, THE DRIVERS don’t understand. As a fan, I do go to a race to be entertained – I sure as heck don’t spend money and time to go and be bored!

So instead of racing, like we saw at Indy on Sunday, there are hrs and hrs of what is a high speed parade, TV cheering for drivers who they have $ and vested interest either through ownership or personal services contracts! So watching TV coverage is barely worth it either.

We have tickets to Dover this coming weekend – based on past experience, I expect the race to be another parade.

DoninAjax
05/29/2012 12:09 PM
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Knaus took a car so illegal he didn’t bother to win the race. Wait for the October race when he blows the doors off everyone else. And somehow passes inspection.

Joe
05/29/2012 12:34 PM
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I agree with what everybody just posted (except the nutbag hater Jazz). Spec machines created under the guise of “safety” has ruined this sport. NASCAR is now almost a complete show and I’ll take my money elsewhere.

Tim
05/29/2012 01:56 PM
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Nascar is now all about entertainment and not racing. And it’s not working on either counts.

Nascar treats it’s fans like politicians treat voters. “You stupid sheep.” While laughing all the way to the bank.

Look, the ONLY way to send a message to nascar is to NOT watch and DON’T go.

Today I’ve listened to several nationally syndicated radio shows and NONE of them mentioned the nascar race but DID mention the Indy race.

Country
05/29/2012 02:07 PM
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I actually enjoyed the race on Sunday, but it may be because I was still on a high from the finish at Indy. I will say this. I refuse to watch NASCAR races live anymore. Too many commercials. I’ve picked up the Sunday shifts at work and watch on my DVR. Same with night races, I’ll go out and watch when I get back. And if it gets boring I have that ever wonderful fast forward button. I don’t have a problem watching advertisements. But when there’s a 50/50 ad to racing ratio, I REFUSE. Especially considering this sport is 43 rolling advertisements anyway. And they use Sunoco Race Fuel, and Goodyear Eagles and the PreRace show is Built by Home Depot.

Greg
05/29/2012 02:09 PM
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As much as I love Ford, if I were Joe Gibbs I’d fire Logano and hire Trevor Bayne.

Mikeyfan
05/29/2012 02:15 PM
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NASCAR had 2 chances in the late stages of the race Sunday to throw a yellow and they didn’t, both on blown engines. So for those hollaring about the debris cautions, think about that. It’s funny, a lot of fans will call you stupid if you say you watch for the wrecks but these are the same fans screaming it’s boring because there are no wrecks. So what do you want?

john
05/29/2012 05:04 PM
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Reading an article by a whining writer about a sport they wouldn’t have the guts to participate in makes my blood boil.

Well, I’ve raced everything from 4 Cylinder Pure Stock to Outlaw Late Model (same power/weight ratio as a Cup car), so is my opinion valid enough that the racing is boring and pointless and too long? The drivers putt around for 3 of the 4 hours, and then some might bother to try by the end of the race. It’s awful.

Takuma Sato may have made a bonehead move, but it was for the win in the greatest race in the world on the very last lap. Kudos to him for being a real racer. You know Jimmie Johnson would never do the same thing if he was having a “good points day” in 2nd spot.

john
05/29/2012 05:08 PM
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Mikeyfan: It’s funny, a lot of fans will call you stupid if you say you watch for the wrecks but these are the same fans screaming it’s boring because there are no wrecks. So what do you want?

A Championship format that rewards winning over everything else, that doesn’t encourage drivers to play it safe and never attempt a difficult pass because they’re worried about making The Chase, and are satisfied with a 9th place finish? Good side-by-side racing, a little door banging, drivers able to keep the nose of their car down and not get aero-push, so they can execute passes if they’re a faster car? You can have exciting racing without wrecks, just watch Aussie v8 Supercar, World of Outlaws, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Continental GT, Grand-Am, World Challenge… Hell even most of your Saturday night short tracks.

Bill B
05/29/2012 06:18 PM
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You know, I like football and hockey a lot because there is a lot of contact. I don’t want to see guys get hurt even though the probability goes up with the level of contact. Likewise, I liked NASCAR because it WAS a contact sport at one time. That doesn’t mean I want the cars to wreck but I do want contact (i.e., extremely close racing).

Lately NASCAR has resembled baseball more than football and that’s where they lose me. No disrespect to baseball fans or the sport but it’s boring TO ME personally.

That’s about the best way I can sum up my feelings on the subject.

Andy90
05/29/2012 08:08 PM
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Having a rich daddy or maybe grandfather with access to all the toys as you grow up might give you enough guts to race in NASCAR. However all the money and training in the world won’t give you the talent to be a starter in the NFL,NBA,or MLB

As one who has competed in motorsports for 38 years, I’m qualified to say that you’re wrong.

Money will get you a ride. It will get you a ride at the highest level. But not a ride for the best teams. Danica has a ton of money behind her and a nice ride, but she’s not a “starter”. She isn’t competitive in NASCAR or Indycars and never will be. I think she’s embarrassing herself and should retire. But her talent is still better than 99.9% of racers in the the world.

Money will get the ride but only talent gets you a championship. The rest are benchwarmers, they’re just sitting on the best benches.

And Jazz…don’t pull that crap on F1 correspondent Andy Hollis. If he’s who I think he is, he knows all about participation and whining wanna-bes.

Phony*Cup
05/29/2012 10:12 PM
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Andy90- I have been bass fishing for 50 years but that don’t make me Rick Clunn. As for racing your comments confirmed what I said in my previous comment. Money and connections can get you a ride at nASCARS highest level.Money can’t give you the ability to play like Joe Montana. Its the athletic thing you are missing.

Andyde90
05/30/2012 04:35 PM
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_italicize_I have been bass fishing for 50 years but that don’t make me Rick Clunn

And if I throw six million at ya, you’ll get in the Bassmasters tournament but ya still won’t be Rick Clunn

Phony*Cup
05/30/2012 06:21 PM
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I have accomplished a couple of things in the fishing world without the six million” your two cents” that Rick Clunn never will. Maybe they did not use periods at your school either.

Mikeyfan
06/01/2012 11:08 AM
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John, nothing changed with the chase except it made the championship a lot closer. Look back over history and see how many times the championship was locked up before the last race was ran and then look at the chase and make the same comparison. You don’t get side by side door banging racing because if your not a HMS driver and you do it you will be suspended and have points taken away. There’s your problem not the chase.