Huston Ladner · Wednesday July 3, 2013
Rain played havoc with the Cup race this past weekend. Rather than watching racing, fans were given the opportunity to watch the Jet Dryer 400 brought to you by KFC and TNT. Or something like that. What Saturday evening highlighted, however, was the weird stalemate that is happening between NASCAR and the Bruton Smith tracks and the new Air Titan track drying system. Geoffrey Miller goes into more depth on the issue, but as long as NASCAR charges tracks to use the Titan it is a failed endeavor. It is understandable that NASCAR would look to recoup some of the cost it put into the Titan’s development, but sometimes things have to be done for the good of the sport (though NASCAR has erred in that idea a number of times). The development of the Titan is supposed to be boon for the sport, not yet another arguing point for the well compensated millionaires to gripe over. Unleash the Titan, it should be at all tracks. This kind of silly infighting is just another example of the reason that fans are feeling indifferent towards the sport. So enough squabbling, time to look at the sunny side…
Happiness Is…Green Flag Pit Stops
Did anyone else notice the rather comical aspect that occurred on Sunday? Every time that cars were scheduled to come to pit road, a caution flag flew. Yes, a few times, cars had already begun making their stops, with Jeff Gordon being the unfortunate victim of pitting just prior to two caution flags that made his day a whole different hassle. But for the majority of the field, the caution flags came just as their window for pitting had opened. How convenient.
There’s nothing NASCAR can do about cars wrecking at certain times. But there is a strange little thing that does seem like it should be policed. If there is going to be a competition caution at a prescribed lap, then one of two things should happen. Option A: All cars must take on four tires. If the whole point of the caution is to check tire wear on a green track, then make it a conforming concept. Option B: If it is a mandated caution, something for which drivers and crew chiefs have no responsibility for, then the way they run when the yellow shows should be the way they line up. There’s something screwy about competition cautions and it’s time that someone gave them a little more thought.
Happiness Is…No Arrests
Former New England Patriot’s tight end Aaron Hernandez has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for the past few weeks. He’s been the trendy topic throughout the internet and anyone who has his eyes or ears open will undoubtedly come across some kind of update, development, or commentary about the alleged murderer. At this point, it can probably be assumed that most people are just tired of hearing about the guy and what he may or may not have done. None of what was just written is earth-shaking. So why bring it up?
What the Hernandez case has illuminated is how everyone involved in NASCAR seems to be staying out of relative trouble. Yes, there was a scuffle between Nelson Piquet, Jr. and two crew members out of the Richard Childress camp back at Dover. And there’s the occasional DUI or substance violation, but let’s face it, not everyone is an angel. But for the most part the sport keeps itself off of the police blotters. Jeremy Mayfield may be the exception, with his strange case, but otherwise, it’s kind of ironic to think that a sport that boasts a history of one coming from running moonshine is one of the cleanest out there.
The Formula One race at Silverstone (England) featured what amounts to a total rarity in the sport: five tyre failures. The first occurred during practice. The other four tyres all blew out during the race in spectacular fashion. In the NASCAR world, when a tire blows it rips apart the body and destroys all it can find in close proximity. On an open wheel car, though, it sprays shrapnel everywhere as there’s no body to contain it. Oddly enough, three of the cars that had failures sustained little damage. The show of watching the tyre blow and shower the track was wild.
The fortunate thing is that no one was injured – or even wrecked due to the failures. Fernando Alonso was riding meters behind one that blew and was able to safely evade trouble. For open wheel racers, hitting speeds of up to 200 mph at Silverstone, flying tyre debris is a relative nightmare and could easily shoot towards a driver’s helmet. That no one sustained any injuries is great. That F1 made the right decision to deploy a safety car to clean up the track is just as good. Of course, Lewis Hamilton, who lost a tyre while leading, probably isn’t all that thrilled – but he still finished fourth.
Happiness Is…The Upcoming Weekend
Though Americans enjoy far less vacation time than the rest of the first-world countries, many are still able to enjoy Independence Day, or make it a long weekend. Ideologies and country attitudes aside, this is a great weekend for motorsports fans, and one that makes for good use of the DVR, Tivo, the web, or however you may want to pirate your racing signal.
The races at Daytona start the weekend, with Nationwide on Friday, and Cup on Saturday. The Cup race brings a couple of elements of intrigue with it as it will be the third race on a restrictor-plate track with the Gen-6 car. Whether or not NASCAR has hit a sweet spot with the car and the tracks has yet to be determined. The second aspect is the jostling for Chase positions, and with 10th through 17th separated by 22 points, the competition is tight. Of course, the usual big wreck will mess things up for at least one driver.
Sunday is open wheel day. Formula One will be at Nurburgring, with Pirelli confirming they will have a different tyre for the cars. Perhaps the most interesting race of the weekend closes out the schedule as IndyCar tackles the track with triumvirate of turns. It’s been a long time since they’ve been there, and the cars were lapping at more than 15 seconds faster than a Cup car, which likely means that things will look more racy. Let’s hope IndyCar’s foray to Pennsylvania is a showcase of speed, challenge, and compelling racing. Seems weird to think that Pocono might be a place for that.
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