Fanning the Flames · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday July 4, 2007
Kudos to Tony Eury, Jr., who this week fired a salvo over NASCAR's bow. Opining on the rash and severity of penalties doled out of late concerning the Car of Tomorrow and the nuances of the car's templates, Eury had this to say:
“The (rule) book’s there for a reason. The template’s there for a reason; to say, ‘Hey, here’s the line.’ If you’re walking down the street and don’t know where the line is, sooner or later you’re going to step across it."
Eury continued with that "gray area" theme, saying, "There’s too much of an advantage you can get in between (the hard templates). You can’t just wait for them to say, ‘Well, we don’t like the way that looks. Take your six weeks off and, oh, by the way, here’s your $100,000 fine and 100 points.’ That’s not right.”
To which Brian France, in his midseason “state of the sport” press conference, defended NASCAR's rulings and addressed the creative aspects of a sport built on ingenuity. Or, maybe he sidestepped the real question; you can judge for yourself:
"There’s always going to be plenty of creativity to be had. We love the fact, and you’re hearing it from the drivers, (the Car of Tomorrow) is putting it back into the hands of the drivers. We are not in a technology contest…although there’s a lot of technology that flows around our industry.
"We’re happy about that. But we want it in the drivers’ hands. We want it in strategy. Look at just this last weekend, the strategy of taking two tires for Denny Hamlin versus four ended up paying off for them. That’s what we want, the strategy of the crew chiefs and the driving ability of the drivers to be the focus, not who has the latest gizmo that NASCAR didn’t want to say no to that’s in their car that nobody else has. We’re not about that. So we’re happy with going in a direction we’re going in."
Plenty of creativity, huh? Sure, a team can get creative if they are willing to sacrifice the crew chief for a few weeks and 100-point penalties to the driver and owner and possibly a "death sentence" of being barred from a race, as France hinted may be a possibility at some point.
With teams walking on pins and needles, as Eury so succinctly stated, the ingenuity this sport was built on is being stifled to the point that no one dares attempt to gain that edge that has set this stock car racing aside from its stick-and-ball distant cousin in-law. I seriously wonder at what point the teams show up to the track with identically prepared race cars waiting for them in an effort to "put it back in the drivers' hands."
OK, on to some questions. The holiday week must be pulling everyone's attention away, because the mailbag was a little light this week. Well, don’t be afraid to give me a shout, as I suddenly have the urge to get creative with my answers. The address is email@example.com._
Q: Is the party over for Budweiser and Dale Junior? After signing an endorsement deal with SONY, it looks like Earnhardt is changing teams and primary sponsors in 2008. Could we be seeing the emergence of a new, high-definition “Man in Black” named Earnhardt, with SONY – not Bud or Goodwrench – splashed across the hood of a Hendrick Chevy? â€” Nathan R.
A: Sony or Adidas or Monster Energy Drink or Pepsi or Mountain Dew; the list goes on and on. It's not a stretch to think certain entities that he has signed a personal services agreement with would not want to be paired with an adult beverage company. I believe the Sony and Adidas deals could greatly impact whether or not Budweiser is on the car in 2008.
Of course, DEI is continuing its effort to retain Budweiser as well. If the right guy is slotted to fill Junior's seat, I've heard Bud would not have a problem staying with DEI.
Q: Hey Matt. The gap between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Ryan Newman is 127 points. The way the drivers in the Top 12 are running right now, I don't see anyone breaking in. Do you think the Top 12 (drivers qualified for the Chase) right now is going to change between now and Richmond? â€” James P.
A: Let's not put too much stock in this James, because there are still nine races left until the Chase and a lot can happen. Since you asked though, I'd say the Top 9 are pretty secure. Truex (10th), Bowyer (11th) and Earnhardt (12th) need to stay sharp in case Newman or Jamie McMurray get rolling. And judging by how well the DEI duo is running, it's difficult for me to see those two sliding out.
Q: We're trying to plan a race weekend for next year. A few of my friends have been to a few racetracks, but we are trying to decide on just one. If you had to choose one track to make a trip to as a fan, which would it be? â€” Scott G.
A: Kentucky Motor Speedway. She's a 3/8th-mile asphalt oval just outside of my hometown of Owensboro, KY that unfortunately has become a victim of financial hardships. The nights I spent as a kid hanging at that track… I'd give anything for one more Saturday out there.
But that's not what you're looking for, so I'll spare you.
As someone who considers himself an old schooler, Darlington would have to rank high on the list for tradition's sake alone; if you're looking for a party, the Talladega infield can't be beat. Problem there is you don't see much of the actual race! Bristol, of course, treats you to unequalled on-track action; Atlanta is equipped with a hoppin' infield and grandstand seating that presents a view of the entire track with plenty of action.
With all that said, however, I'm suggesting Richmond. The facility is state-of-the-art, yet steeped in tradition; the on-track product is always exciting (of course, I'm a short track guy) and the seating is such that you can see all of the action from most anywhere.
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