Frontstretch Staff · Thursday September 12, 2013
Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Thursday, for the rest of 2013 your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors, and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!
This Week’s Participants:
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Amy Henderson (Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Managing Editor)
“Spintervention.” “Spingate.” “The spin heard round the world.” Call it what you want, but the infamous spin by Clint Bowyer and the intention behind it is repeatedly being called into question. Did NASCAR get the penalties right, given the circumstances?
Amy: No. How is Bowyer still in the Chase, still seeded the same, when he was the one who spun on the track? What he did was not only unethical, it was dangerous.
Summer: I thought that Clint Bowyer would get hit the hardest — and should have. I was surprised when he essentially got nothing. What he did, intentionally causing the caution was against the rules while nothing that Brian Vickers or Martin Truex, Jr. did was wrong.
Amy: Meanwhile Truex, who probably didn’t even know about it and was running his race, is out. Seems backwards…
Phil: Honestly, I thought they were going to take more away. I know Dave Despain is unhappy. He apparently advocated for a 450-point penalty for Bowyer.
Summer: He did. I was watching. I don’t remember if that was the exact number, but basically he said they needed to make it to where Bowyer could win every race in the Chase and still not win.
Amy: I also don’t have an issue with Vickers pitting to give him a spot. Or, I have less of an issue with it. It’s still kind of stinky, but no different than letting a driver pass you on track…
Summer: I don’t either, Amy. If NASCAR had a problem with that, then they shouldn’t allow teammates to let each other by to lead laps. What Vickers did really didn’t hurt anything. And it’s not against the rules. If a driver wants to pit for absolutely no reason, NASCAR doesn’t have a rule against that.
Amy: I remember a Chase race a few years back where one Hendrick driver was told point blank to let another, who was in the Chase, pass him in the closing laps for points.
Summer: Roush Racing used to do that a few years ago. Teammates do it all the time. Drivers let each other by all the time because they don’t want to use up their stuff to race. If that’s what NASCAR had an issue with, then they are missing the point.
Phil: NASCAR sent a message to teams Monday, but I’m not sure if it was strong enough. We can’t have this bush league team order stuff in Sprint Cup. It’s got to go. NASCAR needs to find ways to ban it immediately.
Summer: So what we’re saying is, NASCAR was right to issue penalties, but it was done to the wrong people. Really, in that whole thing, the only move that I had an issue with was Bowyer apparently spinning intentionally. I know NASCAR couldn’t “prove it,” but if that’s the case, they really had no right going after the other teams. I just don’t understand why NASCAR seemed to fixate on the Vickers team radio when that impacted the outcome of the race a hell of a lot less than Bowyer.
Amy: I think because it was the only thing they could prove, Summer. It could have been worse. A team could do like one of the Truck teams did, a few years back and put in a bunch of start and parks and slow guys. One of them took out the competition, possibly on purpose.
Phil: If you’re referring to Ultra Motorsports in 2003 at Homestead, I don’t think they were S&P trucks. They were racing. They all had sponsors. I have no clue what the deuce Marty Houston was doing, though. I’d like to talk to Marty about that someday.
Summer: The bottom line is Bowyer’s spin was meant to manipulate the outcome of the race. Vickers’ pit stop really only helped their teammates.
Amy: Not only was Bowyer’s spin a deliberate manipulation, he could have collected another driver.
Summer: It just kind of sucks that the team that did the most damage suffered from it the least, if at all. For once, I sympathize with NASCAR on this one though. There was very little they could do that would actually make it right, make sense, or be fair. And there was even less they could prove in the event of an appeal.
Amy: I really think Bowyer should be the one not in the Chase, or both of them. Jeff Gordon didn’t spin to let his teammate in…
Phil: Sounds like NASCAR was scared of an appeal. They’ve done badly in those this year.
Summer: That’s the only thing that makes sense, Phil. I hate this whole thing. I hope NASCAR got the message across, but I really don’t think they did. Especially since MWR is really only saying they regret it because they got caught.
Amy: I also have a problem with NASCAR missing the call on two restarts this weekend.
Summer: Nice segue…
The other big controversy of the entire weekend was restarts. The final restarts in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series both appeared to have the second-place driver jump the start, though NASCAR decided not to make a call in either case. Does the sport need to look at revising their restart rules or is this one just an issue of consistency?
Summer: NASCAR should have looked at revising how to judge restarts as soon as they moved to double-file, lead-lap ones. I think that the current rules rely too much on “judgment calls.” It’s kind of difficult to tell the difference between spinning the tires or a crappy restart, let alone if the other guy jumped it intentionally. How about when the green flag (or green light, or whatever they have to do) flies, they just freaking go. If the leader gets a crappy restart, then so be it.
Amy: They don’t need to revise the rules, they need to enforce them. They flagged Jimmie Johnson at Dover, as they should. Then this week, they blew it twice. There’s no judgment call – especially Saturday. Edwards beat Menard to the line. He was supposed to give the spot back and didn’t. Yes, Menard spun the tires a little, but he got going.
Summer: I know, but that’s stupid. If Menard spun the tires, Edwards shouldn’t have had to wait for him to fix it. I’m not disagreeing that Edwards jumped the start and that NASCAR didn’t enforce the rules. They blew that one. But the rule itself is ridiculous.
Phil: Well, how should they have revised the restart rules? Seems like they clarified things a little, but people are being stupid.
Amy: I don’t have an issue with the rule if it’s enforced consistently. I understand why it’s in place.
Summer: I do, too, but clearly NASCAR isn’t equipped to make those calls.
Amy: NASCAR isn’t equipped to decide paper or plastic. The rule is crystal clear.
Summer: It is, but it doesn’t make much sense.
Phil: At this point, I think NASCAR should just adopt the rules the Izod IndyCar Series has. Once the green comes out, it’s a free-for-all.
Summer: Right. Why not just let the race play out on its own? Why put a rule in place that doesn’t need to be there (if the right revisions are made, of course)? Because fans saying, “He beat the leader to the line!” drives me nuts. Well, yeah, you’re supposed to try to beat the leader.
Amy: Why not eliminate the box and wave the flag at the line? Problem solved. But that aside, they need to enforce the rules as written, especially if they’ve penalized others for it in the same year.
Summer: Amy, I agree with you on both points. They need to enforce the rules they have, but if they can’t … and obviously, they can’t… they need to make it simpler. I like your idea! Or a system where there is a green light to tell the drivers to go, like in drag racing. I don’t care how they do it, but this one doesn’t work nor does it make sense.
Amy: If they want to make a change, fine. But until that happens, there is a rule, and it should be enforced equally to all who violate it.
Phil: NASCAR has written a lot of judgment calls into their rulebook, and restarts are just another one. It’s not even spinning tire scenarios like Saturday night, but stuff like the leader intentionally holding back. How do you police that stupidity?
Summer: Exactly. There are so many mind games with these restarts and NASCAR really shouldn’t be involved in that. The race needs to be finished on track. For a single-file restart, yeah, OK, I get why you can’t beat a leader to the line. But double-file restarts make that a really complicated issue.
Amy: I don’t have a problem with judgment calls in general if they are made in a fair and consistent manner. Baseball gets along just fine with most calls being made that way.
Summer: Yeah, but consistency has never been NASCAR’s forte. And it’s more fun to watch the drivers race than following a bunch of mindless rules.
Amy: Bottom line, Keselowski jumped the start in the NNS race. Edwards beat the leader to the line. NASCAR had no problem making that call a couple of months ago.
Summer: Even if NASCAR starts to be consistent, I’d still like some sort of change to the rulebook. It makes it less complicated and, hey, if a driver plays mind games and wins, then more power to him.
Phil: They’re gunshy to make those adjustments. However, I feel that people can’t question race control in NASCAR like they can in IndyCar. They’re untouchable in NASCAR…
A K&N race at Rockingham Speedway was cancelled after NASCAR claimed that the racetrack “failed to meet its obligations.” Rumors have the track closing its doors or open for testing only going forward. Are we again seeing the “end” of Rockingham?
Phil: Sadly, it appears so. Outside of the Truck race, attendance for events there has been pretty poor.
Summer: It wouldn’t be if even half the fans who say they supported the Speedway actually showed up. I don’t understand what it is about that track. It puts on great racing and is really popular (apparently) amongst fans. But it still can’t hold its own.
Amy: It looks that way. But I agree with you two: the races there could have been better attended. Fans didn’t put their money where their mouths were. With all the outcry to bring it back, the stands should have been full to overflowing for the CWTS races.
Summer: It really should have been. I swear most of the people saying that were just using it in their usual NASCAR conspiracy flipouts.
Phil: It’s been like this for ten years. Back then, Cup action at Rockingham was pretty good, but they could only get 45,000 people to go.
Amy: Fans give it lip service but don’t actually show up. That’s the problem. Lip service doesn’t pay bills, especially NASCAR’s sky-high sanctioning fees. Those are, in my opinion a large part of the problem but that’s a whole other subject.
Summer: I just hate it, because Andy Hillenburg and several others worked so hard to get it back to where they thought it could be. But as media, it’s not our job to save the tracks. We just cover it. I don’t care if they are putting on a tricycle race there. If people really want NASCAR to pay attention to that track, they need to fill it up every time there is any kind of race there. Not just NASCAR.
Phil: The track is all but right next to a soon-to-be Interstate. It’s pretty easy to get to. It’s not 50 miles off the beaten path in the middle of nowhere. April is a nice time in the Sand Hills, right? Sounds like Andy Hillenburg just doesn’t have much money to promote the place.
Amy: Yeah, but in reality, 73 isn’t that soon to be. It’s been talked about for years with no action. Location is kind of an issue. It’s a long drive from everywhere.
Summer: But Iowa is in the middle of a freaking cornfield. Bristol isn’t even in the boondocks. I’m sure we could name several successful tracks that are incredibly remote. If fans really like the racing, they will find a way to get there.
Phil: Everything’s a long drive from everywhere in NASCAR. The only tracks that aren’t out in the boonies are places like Daytona and Kansas.
Amy: And the bigger picture? NASCAR now has no reason to listen to fans on scheduling and tracks, because they all cried and hollered for Rockingham and didn’t go when the sport gave them the race they said they wanted.
Summer: Meanwhile, Amy, several tracks that admittedly suck on the schedule still draw a fairly large crowd. They may not sell out anymore, but they are still bigger crowds than you’d see at most other sporting events.
Amy: That’s true. Some of the cookie cutters sell a ton of seats despite everyone saying they hate them. Well then, save your money and go to Martinsville instead… that’s what will get NASCAR’s attention.
Summer: Agree 100%. All of you fans out there who screamed for Rockingham really needed to go. I understand not everyone can, but if you want NASCAR to listen to you, you have to finish what you promised.
Amy: Agreed, Summer. This one is on the race fans who cried for the Rock but didn’t go. The recession hit that area hard.
Phil: I really wanted Rockingham to succeed. It needs to, not just for NASCAR, but for the Sand Hills region in general.
As the series heads to Chicago, it appears there is still a black eye on the sport. What has to happen for NASCAR to put this entire week behind them?
Summer: Well, first of all, no controversy. NASCAR needs to get all their cars right and everyone needs to be careful. Secondly, we have to have a really good race. One more thing… NASCAR had better hope to God that Clint Bowyer doesn’t win.
Amy: Yes, no controversy and a good, competitive race.
Summer: In fact, MWR as a whole needs to be completely silent.
Phil: There’s nothing really stopping Clint Bowyer from winning. However, we do need a good race. Competitive. Nice battles. No bush league stuff. Oh yes, and no one needs to try to blatantly cheat their car up.
Amy: Honestly, the best thing that could happen all around is an unexpected, non-Chase winner.
Summer: Absolutely. Someone like a Jamie McMurray or Jeff Burton winning the race would be the best thing right now.
Amy: If Bowyer wins the race honestly, without manipulation, I don’t have an issue with it. But NASCAR needs a new storyline desperately.
Summer: I don’t have an issue with it, either, but all that will do is continue the conversation about what he did. That’s not good for anyone. I’ll be curious to see how fans react to Bowyer at driver intros.
Amy: The problem with him winning is it puts him in good position in the points. I have a hard time with Bowyer being in the Chase with basically no penalty due to the points reset.
Phil: I think Bowyer will get quite a few boos. So will Truex and Vickers.
Summer: Which isn’t fair since neither of them really did anything wrong.
Amy: Truex doesn’t deserve them…
Summer: And, Amy, that’s the biggest issue is how it looks. Bowyer will win and he’ll benefit greatly from it. He has nothing to recover from.
Phil: They’ve created a penalty in name only.
Amy: They should have excluded Bowyer completely.
Summer: And if Bowyer wins the race this weekend, we are having this conversation all over again. That’s not a good thing.
Amy: NASCAR needs a feel-good story. A win by someone like JTG-Daugherty or Germain or someone like, even on fuel mileage, would be the best thing that could happen to them. It would also royally screw with ESPN’s “all Chase, all the time” plan, which I’m all for.
Phil: Apparently, no one explained NASCAR’s reasoning on the penalty to ESPN, because they screwed it up on SportsCenter multiple times this week.
Summer: Yes, they did. That Stephen A. Smith guy also called Newman “Newton,” while the gal who interviewed Bowyer didn’t know what was going on, either, though she certainly tried.
Phil: Yeah, I noticed that. I have no clue why they put Stephen A. Smith on there. He knows nothing about NASCAR.
Summer: Anyway, Amy, I agree, even a fuel mileage win would be great… just by someone who is as far removed from this situation as possible. Someone needs to win who won’t tick off the fans.
Predictions for Chicago?
Summer: I’ll go with Jimmie Johnson breaking this funk that he’s in.
Phil: I don’t know. That funk is funky as heck. I’m going with Matt Kenseth. He’s going to be a tough out.
Amy: I was going to go with Jimmie, so I think I’ll take Kurt Busch. If a Chaser has to win, at least he’s a different storyline.
Connect with Amy!
Contact Amy Henderson
Connect with Phil!
Contact Phil Allaway
Connect with Summer!
Contact Summer Bedgood
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