Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday October 23, 2012
ONE: Shutdown for Repaves
Yes, it would pose an extreme economic hardship. Yes, it would require NASCAR to have a rotating schedule (shudder). But after watching the Midwest’s best impression of “Levigation 2005” render the Chase’s sixth race a never-ending train of blown tires, unassisted spin-outs and another fuel mileage race, I’d rather watch ISC’s facilities leave their racing surfaces alone until they crumble to powder than have them repave another oval. Goodyear’s tires were hard as rocks, yet they kept blowing out. Side-by-side racing caused spin-outs, the cars spun out by themselves, the yellow flags would not stop flying.
There’s two resolutions to the situation. One is what happened this weekend; Goodyear brought the hardest tire they could find, and the race was a 400-mile wreckfest. The other is to bring a standard race tire that’s actually capable of both wearing out and providing grip, as well as counting on the drivers throughout the field to conserve their tires over the course of a Cup event. The first choice produced a race that wasn’t worth the four hours it took to watch; the other has a snowball’s chance in hell of actually happening.
If the quality of the on-track product actually means something, Kansas Speedway never should have been on the schedule this fall. If Charlotte and Las Vegas have taught race fans and promoters anything, it’s that repaved intermediate ovals produce nothing but crash-filled events deprived of any side-by-side action. But, alas, ISC’s already bleeding red ink and someone’s got to make sure that new Kansas casino gets the support it needs from a 70,000 person crowd. Who cares if that means an unpopular playoff system plays host to another race that resembles the Demolition Derby at the state fairgrounds?
Brian France obviously doesn’t.
TWO: Danica Needs To Learn To Drive First
It’d be easy enough to post a YouTube clip of Danica Patrick destroying her race car trying to wreck Landon Cassill and insert a laugh track. Thank Mr. Cassill for providing such a valuable nugget of racing wisdom, provided below for your convenience in case you missed it.
”Rule number one of stock car racing: learn how to wreck someone without wrecking yourself.”
I’m not sure if that’s the number one rule of stock car racing, but there is something to be said about Danica’s driver development and her seeming cart before the horse mentality. And honestly, it’s not entirely her fault. Patrick has long been known for being temperamental on the track with a number of widely publicized spats in IndyCar before making the jump to NASCAR. And with her support network such as Tony Eury, Jr. busy running their mouth about her unbridled talent, allegedly being taken advantage of because she’s a woman, now every single interview with Patrick stems around her needing to stand up for herself, to establish herself as a presence in stock car racing.
Here’s the problem… she’s not a competitive stock car racer! Yes, stand up for yourself… when you’re racing for something other than a top 30! Even today’s brashest stock car drivers weren’t idiotic enough to play chrome horn during their development days. Anyone remember Kyle Busch bowling over folks when he made his first Cup starts running Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 84 car in the back of the field, or Brad Keselowski shoving competitors around driving in Keith Coleman Racing’s underfunded Nationwide car?
Patrick’s long been treated as an exceptional case, and it is really catching up. Instead of showing progress on-track and learning give-and-take that will get her through 400 and 500-mile races a year from now, instead she’s focused on getting a one-up on BK Racing.
For all her star power, the reality is that Patrick is slated to become a Cup driver next season. And in terms of racing knowledge and results, she’s about as ready for that jump as a Dario Franchitti or a Brent Sherman.
What do they have in common? They didn’t last long at this level.
THREE: It’s All About The Race Car
Let’s not for one second minimize Regan Smith’s effort as Dale Jr.’s relief driver and the seventh-place finish that he delivered for the No. 88 team. And it’s impossible to knock the job Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team did in recovering from their mid-race spin Sunday to rebuild the rear end of their car and deliver a top-10 finish, all the while maintaining a seven-point deficit with leader Brad Keselowski.
But there’s a sad side to their stories of success. Namely, they both also demonstrated just how much the race car matters in today’s stock car racing. One of the first things that drew me to stock car racing over other forms of motorsports was the ability of the driver to make a difference in NASCAR competition, whereas in Formula One a top-tier car isn’t going to finish worse than fourth unless something mechanically goes wrong. But look at what Hendrick Motorsports proved this weekend: a car with a demolished rear end finished top 10 and ran down Brad Keselowski. A relief driver in only his second race with the No. 88 team was a top-10 fixture, despite having next to no experience in a top-tier ride.
The point? Despite being stock car racing, it’s all about the race cars these days. Considering those cars don’t even resemble the commercial vehicle models they’re supposed to, NASCAR is all about spec competition.
If that’s not sad, I don’t know what is.
FOUR: Why Newman/Borland Could Work in 2013
Truth be told, it was time to dissolve the Tony Gibson/Ryan Newman partnership. It has produced several Chase berths and race wins for the No. 39 team, but the second car at Stewart-Haas Racing has never shaken that label with Gibson at the helm.
Finally, 2013 may be the year that Newman becomes the formidable presence many expected him to be when he announced his move to Stewart-Haas Racing in the summer of 2008, choosing to get behind the wheel of Hendrick-backed equipment. Ironically, it may well happen thanks to a reunion with his former crew chief at Penske Racing; one Matt Borland. That’s the same Borland who led the No. 12 team to the 2002 Rookie of the Year crown over Jimmie Johnson, then the 2003 Driver of the Year crown on the back of 11 poles and eight wins.
Rewind back to that 2003 season, then look at how Newman and Borland won all of the races they did. With the exception of the spring June race at Dover, the victories all came courtesy of two things; gambling on two-tire changes and stellar fuel mileage.
Is it really a stretch to see this duo being successful in today’s Cup racing?
FIVE: Chase vs. Regular Points… Dead Even
With four races to go in the 2012 season and a Chase reset in the books, Brad Keselowski leads second place Jimmie Johnson by seven points in the standings.
With three races to go in the 2012 season and no Chase reset in the books, Elliott Sadler leads second place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. by six points in the standings.
With three races to go in the 2012 season and no Chase reset in the books, Ty Dillon leads second place James Buescher by one point in the standings.
What’s the Chase needed for again?
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