The Frontstretch: NASCAR's Pocono Sunday Sham Was Just Like Kissing Your Sister by Mike Neff -- Monday June 11, 2007

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NASCAR's Pocono Sunday Sham Was Just Like Kissing Your Sister

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Monday June 11, 2007

 

Mother Nature has really had it out for the Nextel Cup series this year. Three of the last six races have been postponed due to rain, and this weekend's event should have been the fourth. While it seemed there was no way the track could get dried in time, during the four and a half hours of rain fill NASCAR doesn't start a race unless they are confident that they can get the entire event in for the fans’ enjoyment and to do their best to run the advertised distance. Well apparently, that was not taken into consideration this weekend. It was evident, to me at least, that the entire focus was to get to the halfway point of this race and call it a day…and I don’t think it’s entirely fair.

There was no way, looking at the history of the race, that any of these cars under the gun were going to complete 500 miles without so much as a shred of daylight available. Simply put, the race was not going to take the green flag until 5:00 or later Eastern time. Looking at the race over the last seven years, it never ran faster than three hours and 29 minutes. The average time for the event is actually three hours and 47 minutes, which would put the finish time for this race, with a 5:00 start time at roughly ten minutes until 9:00. Well, there is no way they would run a race that late into the evening; once they decided that they were going to start on Sunday after 5:00 that they were going for the half way mark and then see what else they could get.

Knowing that NASCAR was shooting for the halfway point of this week’s event, it was ridiculous that they did not throw a caution flag for a flat tire on Jimmie Johnson's car. In case you were living in a cave this Sunday, Johnson’s left front tire blew coming out of the Tunnel Turn – throwing debris everywhere at a point in the race where they should have had 275 miles left if they weren’t also racing Mother Nature. After that, It was blatantly apparent to all involved that NASCAR knew the rain was coming, and that they were going to get the race to the 101st lap, whether it meant compromising the safety of the competitors or not. NASCAR has been bashed quite often in recent history for throwing unnecessary caution flags, and yet, in this instance, they had a situation where the No. 48 was spewing debris all over the track, and they refused. On lap 50, Robby Gordon had the exact same situation, a left front tire down and not spinning, sparks and debris showering all over the race track…. and the caution flag flew immediately. With the kind of debris that was being thrown on the track by Johnson's car, it is certainly a great possibility that there were metal fragments that could easily cut down a tire, and heading into turn one at Pocono is not the place to have said tire go down, to say the least. Yet, the debris was ignored and the track stayed green.

Well, there was no question that the rain was coming on lap 96 when some of the competitors began reporting that they were noticing raindrops beginning to hit his windshield. It is not the first time that NASCAR has let a race go on for a little while with a light sprinkle hitting the track, because A) the Darrell Waltrip vortex might very well take over, and B) because the motivation and desire to move on was overwhelming. However, in this instance it did not, and the rain began to intensify. There was noticeable precipitation falling before the race got to lap 101, and yet NASCAR left the competitors on the track, barreling into turn one at nearly 200 miles per hour with moisture on the surface. Ryan Newman was quoted after the race that he tried to dive in on the tunnel turn on the next to last green flag lap because that was the only location on the track that was still dry.

Now, it is certainly an inconvenience for NASCAR to have to delay or postpone a race; it is also a hassle for fans that have to get back to work on Monday, or who don't have hotel reservations for Sunday night. But forcing a race to get to halfway for the sole intent of making it official and getting out of town is not what the fans pay for or tune into the television for. Sunday's race was like kissing your sister. You are kissing a girl, but you can't enjoy it, because she's your sister, and something is missing. The end of the race left us all feeling that way on Sunday, especially because there was plenty of potential there for some great stories. Denny Hamlin had a dominant car and Martin Truex was certainly strong. Could Hamlin win for the third straight Pocono race, or could Truex go back to back? We'll never know.

Was it a good event in the end? Certainly it was, and from Pocono standards, probably one of the better ones in recent years… but it could have been so much more exciting. If they'd have thrown the caution for Johnson and then red flagged it before lap 101, we could have seen an entire race finished up the following day.

Instead, thousands of fans at both the track and watching TV get to see everything jam-packed into one afternoon. Another race in the books. Meanwhile, everyone on the crews appeared to breathe a sigh of relief… drowning out a deafening crescendo of boos in depreciation for a race that seemed to be over as soon as it finally got started.

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CCR
06/12/2007 12:28 AM
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There is an entire pattern of how NASCAR is playing games with the yellows to achieve a result at the risk of driver safety.

I just did a posting on my blog on the lack of satisfaction Sunday here from the games NASCAR is playing with yellow flags here

-CCR

Doug
06/12/2007 05:43 AM
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Gee! Sounds like you take NASCAR racing seriously! Better get over it!

NASCAR is a JOKE!

Why be surprised or disappointed over ANYTHING they do!

They speak with forked tongue! You can NEVER believe anything NASCAR says, particularly about driver safety and such!

Ed
06/12/2007 05:57 AM
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The name of the game is “take the money and run.” NASCAR and Brian Fran$e had what they came for. The race was secondary. Dad France is gone now, so it is completely open season on the fans.

mindcrime
06/12/2007 06:40 AM
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Since you are generalizing and speaking for all we fans I would just like to state that I personally would prefer that the races run and finish on Sunday (or their scheduled date) no matter what it takes. I take exception to you speaking for all of us. I hate it when it rains out. That means I either am going to miss it or need to take off/call in sick on Monday. I went to the Dover race and I always take off the day after but maybe you should ask the 60% of the fans that could not come back on Monday what they would have preferred. NASCAR needs to start scheduling more Saturday night races which gives them the fall back day of Sunday if it rains. When ther race is run on Monday everyone loses – the track, television, the fans, the drivers, everyone. So, why don’t you put up an on-line poll and ask people what they would prefer before you speak for all of us.

Scott
06/12/2007 06:51 AM
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It is sad that NASCAR did not take the fans into consideration when making a decision on this race. This just continues to show how Brian France does not care what the fans think. These fans paid to see a 500 mile race, not a 250 mile race. NASCAR never had any plans to make it the entire 500 miles. Their only thought was to at least make it halfway so that the race would be official. They should have refunded all of the fans half of their money for the half of the race that they never saw.

They also took this into consideration when Jimmy Johnson’s tire started disintegrating. They should have waved the yellow flag like they did when Robby Gordon’s tire went, but they did not because they wanted to get to halfway before the rain came.

The safety of the drivers were never taken into consideration. What if a driver had either hit some of the debris from Jimmy Johnson’s tire or slid in the rain and the car hit the wall and the driver got hurt. Would NASCAR have taken any responsibility for that? I seriously doubt it. They would have just called it a “racing accident.”

Cathy
06/12/2007 06:53 AM
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Just so it is clear. The caution was NOT throw immediately after Robby blew his tire. Go back and watch the coverage. They had the camera on him for quite awhile and even Kyle was commenting on that they should throw the caution for Robby. Finally when a LARGE piece flew off they finally did.

mindcrime
06/12/2007 08:09 AM
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Cathy,
I was going to point that out too but I let it go. You are absolutely right, Robby was out there for half a lap on a flat tire before they threw the caution.
Scott,
Knowing that NASCAR is not going to refund any money under any circumstance, what should they do when the race is postponed until Monday and you have to work and can’t attend. Should you also get your money back for that.

Dan
06/12/2007 09:58 AM
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It was better for the fans at the race to at least see half a race. Many fans at the track could not return on Monday in person or watch it on television. Proof is that the last race run on a Monday a majority of the seats were empty.

William T.
06/12/2007 10:52 AM
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What Really Happened…. It was Hendrick Motorsports that paid big bucks to the Joker, The Penguin and Catwoman to bring their Rain & Storm Making Machine to Pennsylvania on Sunday so that the race could be fixed…..Can’t you guys see this. I mean, you know that Jimmie Johnson blew out his tire on purpose, while Casey Mears had the walkie-talkie to radio the Villains to start the rain…...Meanwhile, the Riddler had Batman tied up so that he couldn’t get to the track to force Brian France to do the “right” thing. I’m surprised none of you new this!!

R.KENDALL
06/12/2007 03:31 PM
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Nascar is playing with the fans they could have ran the race monday all the tickets were paid so the did not have to worry about selling tickets they just short changed the fans & give Wonderboy another yellow win. you are going to see a lot of fans dropping this sport just for the fact of the predicable winners and dominance of the house brand[chevrolet]

Brandi
06/12/2007 04:31 PM
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I just want to say as a fan who has to watch most races on TV (I live on the west coast) I much prefer some racing on Sunday that I CAN watch, than a lot of racing on Monday that I can’t watch. I am sure that the advertisers buying up the commercial time would agree.

Jay
06/12/2007 08:12 PM
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I find a conflict in NA$CAR’s feeling that the fans are entitled to see a green flag finish, thus the GWC, and its bend-over-backwards approach to getting a race to half-way. The Daytona Bunch thinks nothing of starting a race under caution (cars are helping dry the track)but then will go out of its way to “produce” a dramatic finish – often contrived with late-race cautions to bunch up the field until Tony Stewart “outed” them. “For the fans” my hind leg! Can you say TV ratings?

Sunday’s obvious attempt to get to half-way and call it a day reminds me of “Spahn & Sain and pray for rain” years ago.

I contend NA$CAR is no longer a “sport” but a high priced form of entertainment with fast cars (but not too fast – driver safety you know)driven by well schooled pitchmen selling sponsored advertising as its props.

Those antics sure have freed up a lot of Sunday afternoons for me the last 3-4 years.

John Wyckoff
06/16/2007 08:35 PM
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The fans in this sport slay me sometimes. It’s outdoor event!!! The weather is not going cooperate all the time. So get over it.

 

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