The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Talking IROC, Driver Cash And The Perp Who Got Away With One by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday November 13, 2008

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Fanning the Flames: Talking IROC, Driver Cash And The Perp Who Got Away With One

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday November 13, 2008


What, no questions about the ABC / ESPN2 fiasco this past week? I’m fairly shocked, but not entirely disappointed, as I believe we’ve run that topic out of Dodge. Maybe the grind has gotten to everyone so much that what would have been a huge uproar in March is taken with a shrug-of-the-shoulders and shake-of-the-head in November.

In any case, I promise that this column will not abruptly stop mid-sentence two-thirds of the way through, only to be found on our sister site … not that we have one. Although,,,, and (Turn 1 and dogleg were taken) would make for a cool “family” of Frontstretch websites.

Meanwhile, the “first time, long time” idea worked like a charm last week, so therefore, we’ll give it another go. If you’ve never asked a question or given an opinion in Fanning the Flames, just type in “First time, long time” in the subject line and I’ll get you in next week’s final column of the season. This is your last chance, Flames. Here’s the navigation link embedded in a text object, aka, your hyperlink.

Q: According to the Frontstretch Newsletter, Jimmie Johnson took home $261,711 for his [Phoenix] win. My question is, does he get that money, or does it all go to Hendrick & Gordon (so they can pay the crew and expenses)? Instead, is Johnson paid a weekly salary like in other pro sports?

And another quick observation: Each year, the NFL & MLB have owner meetings where all the owners get together and discuss hot topics and whether any rules should be changed or not. Why doesn’t NASCAR do this? They could easily get all the race team owners and fly to Daytona for a couple of nights. I know we don’t have 32 owners, but I think this would be a step in the right direction. Thanks again.
— Ben

Jimmie Johnson gets to keep about half of the $261,711 earned for his win last weekend at Phoenix.

A: OK Ben, let’s talk money. Card, hold, stinking cabbage. Or how it’s divvied up, anyway. A number of contract disputes over the last couple of years between drivers and owners have laid open some driver contracts in a court of law. Just like that, these contracts are public domain (thanks, Bobby Ginn … er, well … maybe not).

The prize money awarded at the conclusion of a race is actually paid to the car owner, but much of that goes back to the driver. A typical driver’s contract spells out a base salary (which varies widely), a percentage of individual race winnings given to the driver (usually a 40 – 50 percent take), a cut of souvenir sales (roughly one-third goes to the driver), as well as bonuses awarded to the driver for any number of things, including championships, race wins, Top 5s, etc. Throw in travel allowances and a company car (no, not that car, an actual street car) and it makes for a decent living.

As for an owner’s meeting, when the owners have no say, what’s the point? I mean, it’s the France’s show, right? Actually, don’t tell anyone, but there is a somewhat mysterious club called the NASCAR Yacht Club, whose very existence was subject to speculation until just a couple of years ago. A small group of the sport’s power brokers (series leadership, car owners, drivers) gather every so often when the sport visits an East Coast venue with ocean access, where they kick it on their yachts for a few days.

While the gatherings are mainly organized to blow off steam, rumors abound that serious business is discussed. Legend even has it that NASCAR’s annual trip to The Brickyard was hatched one year when Tony George was a guest of one of the “members.”

And here I thought my boys and I, with our Fish-N-Ski’s, float noodles and longnecks, had it made.

Q: This may be a longshot, but is there any talk of bringing the IROC Series back? I loved watching the drivers from different series race against each other. I guess the Cup Series is IROC now, huh?
— Gene

A: Yeah, it’s about as close to IROC as we’ve seen since 2006, when the International Race of Champions held its final event, Gene. I loved that old series too, especially the Z-28s they ran back in the ’80s. Classic stuff.

Unfortunately, the tough economic times prevent the resurrection of a once-great series with an eternally-great ideal: Take 12 of the world’s greatest drivers and put them in identically prepared cars in order to determine the world’s greatest driver. Was the ultimate goal actually met? Well, that’s open to debate … but it was fun watching ‘em go!

With the premier stock car series on the planet in tough shape from a sponsor and manufacturer standpoint, though, you can only imagine how difficult it would be to piece together a start-up series that was liquidated two years ago. Sorry, Gene.

By the way, all you IROC honks can relive some not-too-distant memories by clicking on this link.

Q: Matt, let me preface my question by saying this: I know we are dealing with NASCAR, so there is no such thing as consistency. But how is it that [David] Gilliland gets parked for wrecking [Juan Pablo] Montoya one week and [Matt] Kenseth gets off after wrecking a whole pack of cars the next?

No points? No fine? No nothing??? Whatever.
— David Patrick

A: Well, judging by the opinions I’ve read on this very site all week, mine may not be a popular take, but here goes:

Gilliland turned Montoya head-on into the backstretch wall at nearly 180 mph at Texas. Bad move. Dangerous, boneheaded … insert your own adjective here. And even in that extreme case, Gilliland was only parked after NASCAR realized Montoya could not continue. Until then, it was only a five-lap penalty (he was down a couple laps, anyway). No fines, no points docked.

Kenseth turned down on A.J. Allmendinger at Phoenix (after an admitted boneheaded move of his own) and popped him in the right front as the field came to the checkers. There was no turning head-on into a wall at 180.

The unfortunate part, of course, was the chain reaction. Allmendinger swerved down into Montoya, and all hell broke loose. That made the bonehead quotient seem a bit higher; but had Allmendinger not been collected by Montoya, we wouldn’t be talking about this, because there would not have been so much scrapped sheet metal.

Besides, that’s part of the charm of stock car racing in my estimation. Not the wrecking, mind you, but the rough ‘n’ tumble, payback’s-a-bitch aspect of the sport. If you fine a guy for rubbin’, you’re draining the little character that remains out of the sport.

So here I am, folks. Hit me with it … I know it’s coming!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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11/13/2008 08:47 AM

Hey, racing at 190MPH is their game, and if an idiot like JPM wants to play at that speed, he should accept the consequnces at that speed!

So, in a snide way, your saying Gilliand should hold back until the next Bristol race? Even though your beloved JPM started the thingy at a high speed track?

Well, thats the way I interpret it anyway!

They drive at 190, they cause problems at 190, the should take retaliation at 190! Then maybe the problems would be solved.

But then again your missing dear Brian’s biggest “accomplishment”!

The “safety” of the CoT!

Isn’t, in a backhanded kinda way,that just why the illustrious CoT was forced down our collective throats?

In the name of driver safety? And specifically for the “fast” tracks!

And further (you did know I have more), lets see, we call the Daytona 500 “THE SUPER BOWL OF RACING” (well, NA$CRAP does anyway), and if they truly are comparing themsleves to football, (isn’t that also the reason for the “chase”), I see football players being carried off the field on stretchers each and every Sunday!

So football players are “real men”, and race car drivers aren’t?

11/13/2008 12:14 PM

Hey Douglas, I think there is a bit more danger in bumping someone in the rear (yeh, DG said JPM jacked his wheels off the ground, kinda hard to believe but w/e, it was on the straight and no wreck) at 190 where the differential in speed is under 10mph compare to turning someone into the wall where the differential in speed between the car and the wall (you know, that hard, unmoving thing?) is in the neighborhood of 150mph. It is called physics, not sure you’ve heard of it or not. So you hate JPM, that’s fine but when you spout off about a driver, might want to stay rooted in reality, makes a better argument.

As for football players being “real men” because they get hurt, wtf is that all about? The ability to not avoid injury is now required for manhood? I guess I know a few toddlers who are already set. I think I’ll go fall down some stairs to raise my testosterone levels.

11/13/2008 12:21 PM

Now you have done Douglas……..presented an argument that no one can counter without looking like a candy a**.
I have grown to really respect your opinions. I will agree that the “tuff” guys are in the NFL, not on the track. There will be those who differ, seriously doubt that they were around in the days that pay backs were common……

Matt T. -- FS Staff
11/13/2008 12:44 PM

No, Douglas, I don’t think turning someone head-on into the wall at 180 or 190 is appropriate. Dale Earnhardt died going head-on at 185. Enough said.

I think, however, that Gilliland could’ve gotten his payback (and no, he didn’t have to wait for Bristol in the Spring of ’09). But he went about it all wrong.

You read my column weekly and know that I’m OK with retaliation and drivers policing themselves on the track but I thought Gilliland handled it completely wrong in this case.

And as for “snide” and “my beloved JPM,” I don’t know where you’re coming from. And your logic is utterly flawed concerning football players and CoTs. What you’ve presented is not a sound argument. An opinion? Perhaps, but not a legitimate argument.

That said, I appreciate the feedback!

11/13/2008 08:52 PM

Well, like I said, payback is hell! And JPM named the game, he picked the track also!

I also stand by my “logic” in comparing NA$CAR with the NFL! After all, it is NA$CAR itself that draws the parallels between the 500 and “the super bowl”, not me my friends.

We now have a watered down sport, one that was created under the “dangerous & life threatening” guise, but now with all the pretty boys collecting their millions we want them to do it in complete safety!

My feeling is if you want a completely safe pass-time, then take up lawn bowling, or poker!

Shucks, I was going to use tennis as an example also, but gee, people get injured playing that game also!

And, as far as “manhood” comes into play, that is not a good analogy, ever watch Danica dive into turn one at INDY without lifting? In an open wheel car, with just a little roll bar above her head!

That my friends is racing! And racing because you love the sport and understand the consequences that can, and probably will happen!

It has nothing to do with “manhood”, it has everything to do with being competitive in a dangerous sport!

11/14/2008 08:27 AM

David Gilliland need to make it look less like payback and more like a “Racing deal”. Montoya doesn’t realize his 30 day grace period has expired.


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

Recent articles from Matt Taliaferro:

Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
2009 Season Review: Tony Stewart
2009 Season Review: Ryan Newman
Fanning the Flames: Closing the Inbox on the 2009 Season
Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities