The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: NASCAR Starting Fresh With Safety, Qualifying, And Victory Lane by Frontstretch Staff -- Thursday October 31, 2013

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Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Thursday, 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 Co-Managing Editor)
Mike Neff (Mondays / Thinkin’ Out Loud & Tuesdays / Tech Talk & Frontstretch Short track Coordinator)

Martinsville Speedway was the epicenter of conflict for Richard Childress, Kevin Harvick, the Dillon Brothers and the impending divorce between them. Now that the dust has settled, should Harvick and the Dillon teams be fined for their comments/actions after that Truck race?

Phil: I believe that, at bare minimum, there needs to be a fine for [No. 3 Truck Series crew chief] and/or probation. You can’t have your crew members throwing sledgehammers. That’s just not going to work.
Amy: The No. 3 team should absolutely be penalized. At the very least, the crew chief should be heavily fined for the sledgehammer that was thrown at a driver with his window net down.

The Dillon boys sure seem to be pulling into Victory Lane a lot for being spoiled rich kids…

Summer: I think they should be penalized, too because of their actions on pit road. I don’t care if they go after each other in the garage, but on pit road? Really? NASCAR has said, time and again that they don’t support those kinds of actions and they need to maintain that philosophy.
Phil: I don’t believe Dillon or Harvick should be penalized by NASCAR for their actions. However, the penalties that are levied to Dillon’s team as a result of them going after Harvick could lead to point penalties.
Amy: Childress should be fined and suspended for telling his driver to take out another one.
Mike N.: I agree Childress deserves a fine for trying to get Ty to wreck Harvick.
Amy: As a team owner, you do not tell a driver to take out a driver from another team. End of story. That should absolutely not be tolerated.
Phil: If they can figure out who threw the sledgehammer, that crewmember should be suspended.
Amy: Agreed, Phil, but NASCAR usually penalizes the crew chief as he’s in charge of his crew.
Mike N.: If they can’t figure out it was a crewmember, then they can’t fine the crew chief because they can’t prove it wasn’t a random fan.
Summer: I understand what you are saying, Mike. But if they can figure out who it was, they absolutely need to be penalized.
Mike N.: Oh, I completely agree. But you can’t fine them if they don’t know it was a person affiliated with the organization who did it.
Amy: There’s a NASCAR official in the pits, Mike. He can probably tell who threw it.
Mike N.: I think the official was a little busy trying to get the crew members off of the truck.
Phil: As for the crew chief, I am currently operating under the opinion that [No. 3 crew chief] will be fined and placed on probation, at the bare minimum. Can’t tolerate that stupidity.
Summer: If NASCAR is serious about this “100%” rule, and they still keep wrecking another competitor as part of that rule, then they need to react. Or guest of the team. Or any random person who was there.
Amy: Dillon was at fault for the entire thing. Harvick didn’t do anything to draw a penalty.
Mike N.: I disagree with that. Harvick waited on the back straight and intentionally ran into Dillon.
Summer: Harvick pulled into the team’s pit box while they were about to pit for Ty Dillon to fix his damage. He shouldn’t have done that.
Amy: Summer, it shouldn’t draw a penalty. He wasn’t penalized for the same thing at Bristol, so how does NASCAR justify doing it now without having made a rule out of it?
Summer: Just because it wasn’t enforced before doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at some point. They can’t allow that behavior to be a precedent forever. It’s not like NASCAR hasn’t pulled rules out of their ass before. Endangering crew members is a pretty good reason to do that.
Phil: If anything, Harvick’s actions actually endangered himself.
Summer: He was pretty safe inside that cockpit.
Mike N.: Yeah, especially dropping the window net…
Summer: I’d rather be Harvick inside the truck than a crew member in front of it.
Phil: I guess, Summer, but when you’ve got angry grown men going after you, that’s just not a good situation.
Amy: If NASCAR was going to penalize for that after Bristol, they should have clarified that there.
Summer: They should have. But that doesn’t mean they should let it go forevermore.
Mike N.: I don’t know what the rule is for pulling into the pit of a competitor when crewmembers are coming over the wall.
Summer: How is that not dangerous? They were coming over the wall to fix Ty’s truck.
Amy: Driving into a pit at speed, or burning out through one is dangerous. Crawling to a stop in one was stupid… but not dangerous.
Summer: I don’t think they expected Harvick to pull in.

Mike N.: Driving into a pit when members are not expecting it would seem dangerous to me.
Phil: I understand what Harvick was trying to get across by doing that, but man, he chose his actions poorly.
Summer: I think that the No. 3 team needs to be penalized for their part, and Harvick for his. Both parties were at fault.
Phil: We’ll see some penalties to the No. 3 team from this, but nothing to Harvick or NTS Motorsports.
Mike N.: In the grand scheme of “Boys, Have At It,” since they didn’t contact each other on pit road, I think they are good to go with no penalties. I do think RC should get a fine for instigating on the radio.
Amy: I don’t see Harvick at fault for anything. Dillon flat dumped him on the track and then tried to wreck him under caution.
Mike N.: Harvick pulled away from the scene, waited on the back straight for Dillon and then bodyslammed him. He most certainly was culpable.
Amy: Dillon’s penalty should be his miserable failure to turn Harvick, multiple times broadcast on the Jumbotron every week so fans can point and laugh.

Last week, the Associated Press and Sporting News reported that NASCAR is considering revamping their qualifying procedures to have more than one car on the track at a time. The procedure would have a similar format to that of European/road course qualifying, where the cars would qualify in groups. Should NASCAR go ahead and implement this procedure, or is it not a good fit for the sport?

Phil: Would it allow for quicker qualifying sessions? Sure. Problem is, I just don’t know if it will work well.
Amy: I think it’s a good idea, personally. Qualifying is about as much fun as watching cement dry. I do like the idea they have for the plate tracks.
Mike N.: I think it will add some excitement and strategy to the sport. It will be fun to see someone rip off a good lap and then drive like a rolling chicane to try and prevent the other drivers from doing it.
Phil: Mike, they’ve had that problem in the World Touring Car Championship this year. It’s nothing short of a travesty and I don’t want that in NASCAR. The process might be good for road courses, but there’s only so many people you can qualify at once.

“More than one car on the track for qualifying?? Maybe I’ll start winning eight poles a year again!”

Summer: I think it sounds good in concept. I just wonder if, say, a driver spins in qualifying, the other car(s?) on track can’t be far behind. That seems to be a bit of a hazard. Not that there aren’t 42 others on track, in race conditions, but just for the sake of discussing the pros and cons.
Amy: What it does do is eliminate the need for separate qualifying setups. I’d like to see it implemented as an impound, after all practices are complete. And for the smaller teams who don’t have seven-post rigs and unlimited wind tunnel time, etc. that could save them money and help them be more competitive.
Mike N.: I’m thinking they’re talking six cars on the track at one time. It is very doable. They do that for the Late Model race at Martinsville now. I think the superspeedway deal will be double-digit cars. Other tracks, I believe it will be six or seven.
Summer: That would be fun to watch. I bet the crewmembers don’t like the idea of crashing more cars, but it makes qualifying watchable. It might improve ticket sales on that day.
Mike N.: I doubt there will be many wrecks at all. In the two years they’ve done it at Martinsville for the Late Models, I think there have only been three spins. No wrecks.
Phil: That’s good to hear.
Summer: More excitement without wrecks? Count me in.
Amy: I think at the tracks where the draft isn’t a huge factor, drivers will stay far enough apart for a couple reasons: avoiding wrecks and avoiding dirty air.
Mike N.: I think it will encourage fans to show up. Especially if they start doing heat races, too. In the modern, ADD world in which we live, the heat race idea to shorten actual races and give more entertainment on the day before the race is gaining momentum.
Summer: Well, that might be one advantage of an ADD world, then, because the current qualifying system sucks. This road course style is a great improvement, but I’d love to see heat races. And there’s nothing wrong with that either. If you want NASCAR to get back to its roots, I don’t know how it gets more basic than that.
Phil: In all honesty, the only reason they’re looking to do this stuff is to make the sessions shorter. Most of the sessions aren’t even that long, anyway.

Summer: Yeah, but they’re long enough that one car at a time is mind-numbing.
Amy: It’s worked well in NNS and CWTS on the road courses. No reason it couldn’t work on ovals.
Mike N.: Outside of plate tracks, I really don’t think qualifying is a big problem. I watch it whenever I am home and it is on TV.
Summer: I watch it, too, but it’s hard to maintain focus when very rarely does anything exciting happen. I hope NASCAR does this change, though I’m still on board for heat races.
Amy: I agree, I’m all for it.
Mike N.: By the way, if they choose to do heats, they’ll still qualify for starting positions in the heats.
Phil: Oh, and here’s a clip of the stupidity in Austria that I mentioned, along with an explanation of slip-streaming.

Darrell Wallace, Jr. won the Truck Series race on Saturday, becoming the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR race in 50 years. How big is this achievement for the sport?

Summer: Well, I know I saw a newsflash on CNN about 30 minutes after the race was over. I haven’t seen anything about it on TV after, but I have seen it on several websites.
Mike N.: I’m really kind of bothered by how the attention on this whole thing has been handled. I thought the whole purpose of D4D was to encourage acceptance and involve everyone equally. I don’t get why NASCAR immediately jumped all over the black angle. Wallace was on Good Morning America Sunday morning. And did a hit on ESPN.
Phil: Darrell was on Arsenio Hall this week.
Summer: I agree with you, Mike, and it bothers me that it’s such a big deal.

Can Darrell Wallace, Jr.‘s success lead to a full-time Nationwide Series promotion … and increase the level of interest in the sport?

Amy: I think it is big. Wallace was the first to be allowed to celebrate in Victory Lane… a first-time winner is always good for the sport. Wallace is a nice kid and a good driver.
Phil: I know it’s the Camping World Truck Series, but yes, this win is a pretty big deal. It shows that: 1) NASCAR’s Drive For Diversity, which just had their combine last week, is actually working to a certain degree; 2) Wallace is a legitimately talented racer that should have a great future in NASCAR; 3) Wallace didn’t fall into this win. He legitimately earned it, and beat the best.
Mike N.: Oh heck yes, I think it is great. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a great guy and a good driver too.
Summer: Don’t get us wrong. I’m happy for Darrell as a person. Great representative of the sport. Great driver. But I don’t like that NASCAR is only promoting him because of his race.
Mike N.: Exactly. I promise you, if Jeb Burton had won that race he would not have been on GMA.
Amy: On one level, it bothers me too. But on the other, it doesn’t bother me that one of the things Jackie Robinson is best known for is breaking the color barrier in his sport. It’s not the only thing, and it won’t be for Bubba, either.
Mike N.: But Bubba didn’t break it. That’s my point. He’s the second black person and the second graduate from D4D.
Summer: Darrell Wallace isn’t breaking any barriers. Blacks aren’t intentionally excluded from the sport, nor are they discouraged from joining. So it’s not the same thing.
Phil: True, African-Americans are not barred from NASCAR. The financial barrier keeps NASCAR from potentially being more diverse than it currently is.
Amy: He’s the second one, and it took 50 years! That is a big deal.
Summer: Well, yeah, but that’s not an intentional push to keep minorities out. And there are whites who can’t make it in NASCAR because of financial reasons, too, so that’s crap. You have to be pretty wealthy to be able to race your way in competitively.
Amy: No, but there was never any push for owners to let them in, either. It was a Southern sport ‘til recently…
Summer: They shouldn’t be pushed to let them in because they’re black! That’s insanity! If they are good drivers, that’s one thing, but no sanctioning body should ever encourage team owners to hire a driver solely on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Amy: Of course, but it shouldn’t be tolerated that some people kept them out because of that either. And if you think they didn’t, you’re naive.
Phil: Wallace definitely hopes that his success will help lead to a more diverse fan base. I hope so.
Summer: I don’t think there are a lot of team owners, if any, that still do that. It’s a different culture now. I bet Wallace wouldn’t tell you that he experiences a whole lot of racism.
Amy: But why do you think it took 50 years?
Summer: Maybe blacks aren’t as interested in racing.
Mike N.: Right. I think it took 50 years because there were very few black people who were interested in driving race cars.
Phil: I don’t think NASCAR told Joe Gibbs to hire Darrell Wallace, Jr. solely because he’s black. He saw something that he liked in Wallace. And, speaking as a minority myself I do believe that there is a lack of interest. Not a complete lack, but much less than something like drag racing.
Mike N.: Again, I am glad the sport is dropping barriers and letting anyone in based on their ability. I just think their big publicity push on this one is misguided.
Summer: It shouldn’t be about race at all.
Amy: But I don’t think it’s no big deal, either. It’s taken so much longer to diversify here than other sports, and it’s a good thing NASCAR is, even though the way they’ve gone about it is wrong.
Summer: Well it’s kind of how NASCAR is struggling with getting young people interested. They aren’t intentionally keeping them away. It just doesn’t appeal.
Phil: As an African-American, I basically do not know any other African-Americans that are race fans. NASCAR has to start from almost square one here.
Summer: Which is fine, but I think it is going to take more than just Darrell Wallace, Jr. to increase their interest. There is a cultural difference, too.

Phil: Often times, people become race fans because someone close to them is a race fan. Most minority fans don’t have that. They become fans by either taking a leap of faith, or getting in some other way.
Mike N.: But this win should be a big deal because Darrell is a good young driver. Not because he’s a good, young black driver.
Summer: Agree 100%, Mike. Wallace is a great driver, deserved that win, and has a great future. But I wish that’s what he was promoted for and that other drivers got the same treatment.
Amy: It is a big deal because he’s a good young driver. Wallace wouldn’t have won on Saturday if he wasn’t.
Mike N.: I am very glad that Darrell won. I look forward to talking to him about his efforts to not only advance in the sport but to make it more accessible to others. That should be the story. But NASCAR is making his race a bigger part of the story.
Amy: I do agree that NASCAR needs to promote all its young talent equally… but, if Bubba is remembered 50 years from now because he helped the sport become more diverse, that’s not a bad thing either.
Phil: Wallace’s win was historic. I’m sure it won’t be the last one. Eventually (hopefully), it isn’t as big of a story, like when Antron Brown wins in the NHRA. He kicks butt there, but everyone knows he’s good.

NASCAR will have baseline concussion testing next season in order to prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel with concussions that they otherwise wouldn’t report. Is this good timing, a long time coming or not necessary?

Summer: I think NASCAR was forced into this decision because of Dale Jr. last season. With that said, it shouldn’t have had to happen like that for NASCAR to try this testing.
Amy: This change should have happened years ago. NASCAR is so far behind other motorsports on concussions, it’s sad.
Phil: I’m not opposed to baseline testing. These concussions are serious. They can mess you up.
Mike N.: I’m in the Brad Keselowski camp on this one. I think doctors telling drivers how well they can perform their job is setting a bad precedent.
Summer: Then get doctors who are familiar with the sport.
Amy: I do understand where Brad is coming from, but a concussion is a little like being drunk: you can be very altered and not realize it yourself.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is just one driver who’s hid concussions from NASCAR doctors in recent years. Baseline concussion testing is out to eliminate that.

Summer: Mike, that’s a terrible excuse to not have this sort of testing being done.
Mike N.: There are drivers who have 80% of their mental capacity that are better drivers than others at 100%. Just like there are people who can’t drive a lick at .04 and others who are just fine at .1.
Amy: I wouldn’t like being told I can’t compete, either, but I’d like to think my doctor isn’t going to ground me without a good reason.
Summer: Right. Do we really think a Dale Jr. fan of a doctor is going to sit Jeff Gordon out for the hell of it? They are professionals. They know a concussion when they see one.
Amy: Exactly, Summer. Knowing the sport has nothing to do with it. Knowing the human brain and neurological system does. Concussions are also cumulative.
Summer: No one said it, but implying that they don’t know anything about the sport is essentially accusing them of making uneducated decisions. What difference does it make? If you aren’t fit to drive a real car, you sure as hell aren’t fit to drive a NASCAR stock car.
Mike N.: I’m saying that a doctor’s opinion is just that and they don’t know how well a driver can perform their job based on their mental state.
Amy: I do hope that NASCAR will work with medical professionals, clarifying to drivers and teams exactly what will be the line for being cleared to race. And because you feel just fine, that should not be 100% your call. You might feel great, but if your reaction time, depth perception, or something else isn’t quite right, you’re putting yourself and 42 other people in danger.
Phil: I’ve seen enough ridiculousness with the NFL over the past few years that I’m completely unwilling to mess with concussions.
Mike N.: But who is setting the threshold? Who knows where you should be on some scale to drive or not drive? I’ve had enough exposure to doctors to know that 85% of what they do is guesswork, anyway.
Summer: I’d rather they have some educated guesswork than drivers deciding for themselves whether or not they are fit to drive.
Phil: 10 years ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. successfully hid a concussion and raced like nothing happened. However, it did have an effect on his season (he went into a swoon for a couple of months).
Amy: If I have a big event coming up, I’m not going to sit myself down unless it’s really bad. But that doesn’t mean, as an equestrian competitor I should be riding a 1,000-pound animal over a course of jumps.
Summer: Right. I wouldn’t say anything either. Sometimes competitors have to be saved from themselves.
Mike N.: I’m not sure what the procedure will be, but I’ve watched NASCAR screw up a bunch of other stuff.

Summer: I’m not saying it will be a perfect system and they need to be damned careful about how they do it. But distrust in doctors is not a good enough reason to leave it in the driver’s hands.
Amy: I’d rather see them err on the side of caution rather than have a driver die or kill someone else because he wasn’t fit to race and wouldn’t admit it.
Summer: I think NASCAR has a good idea in having baseline testing. Though I agree with those concerned that they also need to make sure they know what they are doing.
Phil: I’m in favor of the iMPACT system being used. The baseline is set using objective methods. It is not “guesswork.” However, there will be a lot of detractors to this system. I hope NASCAR sits everyone down and explains this method instead of just forcing it upon them.
Mike N.: I would just say about this whole thing, I don’t trust medical doctors and I don’t trust NASCAR to administer anything like this test well. Look at their drug program. I think this system will be a big mess.
Amy: I think they need to clarify what the line is as to clearing a driver for competition, but overall, it’s been a long time coming. NASCAR is behind in this area and has been for years.
Phil: The only problem I see right now that independent doctors need to oversee this system. NASCAR thinks they can use doctors that are already on their panel. I’m nervous about that.
Amy: I agree with that, but only to an extent, Phil. Dr. Jerry Petty is one of the top in his field and works with NASCAR. It’s not like all their doctors are bad.

Predictions for Texas?

Summer: I’m going with Matt Kenseth.
Mike N.: Jimmie Johnson.
Amy: Jeff Gordon.
Phil: I’m going with Greg Biffle. He’s strong at Texas and he’s got a bit of an angry streak right now. Just needs to channel it.

Connect with Amy!

Contact Amy Henderson

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

Connect with Phil!

Contact Phil Allaway

Connect with Mike!

Contact Mike Neff

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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10/31/2013 09:02 PM

Under the very large umbrella of “actions detrimental to stock car racing there is a part that says that you cannot throw ANYTHING at a competitors car. So Tony Stewart should be suspended as well. The rule clearly states it. Some are saying “well, its just a helmet and well that was blah, blah, blah. Black and white people whether you like it or not, the rule states NOTHING THROWN. Again good old Nascar double standard. And lets not overlook how Choir Boy Kevin always seems to find his way to the wrong pitbox and has been known to use his car as a stalking device as he can’t be a man and walk up to someone. This is just to stupid for words. Nascar has a credability problem, and the poor souls seem not to notice or care.

10/31/2013 10:33 PM

People need to find out the whole story of Scott’s win, like who was the first declared winner of the race, when Scott got credit for the win and when he got the trophy.

Carl D.
11/01/2013 05:48 AM

Let’s see if I can pick the winning driver two weeks in a row… Dale Earnhardt breaks out of his slump with a win at the track where he got his first victory.

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