The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: NASCAR's Trifecta Of Current Events by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday June 11, 2009

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Fanning the Flames: NASCAR's Trifecta Of Current Events

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday June 11, 2009


Here’s your link to contact me. We’ve got some in-depth stuff this week, so I’ll keep the opening thoughts short. Actually, they’ll be non-existent. So take a guess as to what we’re starting with …

I have read several articles about Kyle Busch’s poor behavior, but seeing him tonight bash the Gibson guitar on the floor twice is the lowest I have seen him become. Someone needs to take him down a dark alley and teach him some respect and give him an attitude adjustment. This is a mark against his family and how he was raised.

Also I wonder what the Nashville Speedway people and the Gibson guitar people thought about this. I am sure their comments would not be printable, and rightly so. Busch should be bashed and raked over the coals by every reporter that writes about racing. He is a disgrace to the racing world.
— Elvin Wood

A: Somewhere on Saturday night, Paul Stanley was smiling. Of course, Paul uses a prop guitar at the end of a KISS show, and maybe Kyle should have taken note.

You know Elvin, for such a black and white issue, I’ve felt pretty gray all week. I really don’t know where I sit on this one, and that’s rare. The left side of my brain thinks Busch should have thought long and hard about destroying a $30,000 trophy. It’s the only original, after all, and a lot of pride and hard work went into designing it. There’s also the issue of class. Whether he thought it was cool or not, it just wasn’t a classy way to celebrate a victory.

I live in Nashville, and let me assure you, the majority of those who follow racing (and even some that do not) did not like what they saw one bit. It hit a little closer to home for these folks who take pride in the musical heritage of the city and for how that specific trophy truly embodies the culture — it’s more than just a sparkly cup bolted onto a wooden base. It really says “Nashville;” and for a town that loves its racing (and still mourns the loss of its Cup Series dates) it was taken as a slap in the face, regardless of how Kyle intended it.

Kyle Busch imitated KISS’ Paul Stanley on Saturday at Nashville, smashing his guitar at the end of the show.

With that said, there’s still the right side of my brain that screams, “Whoa! I’ve never seen that at a race before … cool!” That may sound crass in itself, but we’re the ones that bemoan our vanilla drivers. We complain of rehearsed Victory Lane celebrations, and an endless list of sponsors that seem to mask true jubilation. Case in point: When David Ragan earned his first Nationwide Series win at Talladega just a month ago, I read that he didn’t appear happy enough. He was too ho-hum about it all, even if that is his personality and he doesn’t know any other way to be.

Well, this is Kyle Busch’s personality and for better or worse, he ain’t changing. I can’t help but wonder if a rogue, brash driver back in the day … say, Tim Richmond, had pulled the same stunt, would we still be throwing stones — or would our memories lead us to shake our heads with a grin and say, “That son of a gun … boy, those were the good ol’ days.”

I don’t know the answer, Elvin. And I still don’t know exactly where I stand on the guitar smashing, but those are my thoughts.

And if you’d like to know what the people at the Nashville Speedway thought of his antics, I’ll tell you that when I contacted Sean Dozier, the track’s director of public relations, earlier this week about the incident he was curt in saying, “Kyle did not ask permission or give us any warning that he was going to do this in Victory Lane. Sam Bass did not know about it in advance, either. He acted completely on his own.”

Cliff Hawks, the track’s Vice President and General Manager, said on a Monday drive-time radio program that (and I’m paraphrasing) if it were up to him, Kyle would never be invited back.

Matt, my question is what is the big deal about the NEW restart? I may be a little on the old age side, but I remember that was the way it was in the old days of NASCAR or any racing for that matter. You lined up in your position in the race at any restart and just received credit for the laps actually run past the start finish line.

Did I miss something, or do I not understand the restart procedure?
— Terry Bagwell
NASCAR fan forever

A: The difference is there are no longer cars one-lap down (or more) lined up to the inside of the leaders. Instead, the lead-lap machines will line up two-by-two (as opposed to single-file) like you’d see at the start of the race. The lapped cars now line up behind the lead-lap cars.

“We’ve heard the fans loud and clear,” Brian France told us last week. “‘Double-file restarts – shootout style’ are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series!”

Jeez, you want a medal or something? Congratulations, you’ve taken the lapped cars out of the equation on the restarts. You’ve also taken a lot of pit strategy out of the equation, too.

Matt, in record time NASCAR has implemented double-file restarts for Pocono. While this gives NASCAR the appearance of “listening to its fans,” isn’t this really just another gimmick?

NASCAR has already given us the “improvements” of the top 35 rule, the Lucky Dog and the CoT — all trying to shore up the sagging attendance and ratings for the races that have been going steadily downward for the past five years. I’m not saying that the new restarts won’t be a good thing, but have they really done anything constructive?
— Sally Baker
A: Don’t forget that Chase “improvement,” Sally. And while the Lucky Dog rule came as a byproduct to NASCAR’s mandate that cars would not race back to the yellow flag, I don’t have as much a problem with that one because of the safety issues involved.

However, NASCAR has thrown a lot of new ideas at us all of the sudden, and this from a sanctioning body that typically takes to change with the same zeal as I feel when my fiancé confiscates the remote and plants it on Dancing with the Stars. So the question is “Why?’ Why now, after ratings and attendance have sagged for the better part of two and a half years, has NASCAR decided it’s time to pull the trigger on these things? And why, if the sanctioning body is making changes at such a fast and furious pace, did it take so long to implement the current safety standards and drug policy?

Why? Because NASCAR is reactive. Four drivers perish within the space of a year and a half? Uh oh, better mandate those SAFER barriers, closed-faced helmets, and HANS devices we’ve had on the back burner. Some kid goes public that he raced in a Truck event smacked up? Hmmm … if we can’t tell a guy is geeked on heroin on raceday I guess this current “when we feel like it” drug policy isn’t doing the trick. And now, after two full seasons of lackluster racing that the powers that be have turned a blind eye to, we get some changes. Not meaty stuff, mind you, but changes nonetheless.

Look, I’m all about making the product better, but lining the lead lap cars up side-by-side on restarts at the front of the field ain’t bringing my buddy who quit watching three years ago back. He can’t tell the difference on restarts, because to him the cars all look the same anyway, and quite frankly, he doesn’t care anymore. He’s gone for good, along with thousands like him because (this is his own words), “All the tracks and cars look exactly the same. Why devote 36 Sundays to the same thing every weekend?”

Cosmetic changes just aren’t going to do the trick anymore.

And to complete the current events trifecta (had we gotten a Mayfield question, we’d have hit the superfecta) …

Did NASCAR take that many points from Petty and that much money[referring to the Carl Long penalties]? Or is it the small company situation?! “I (NASCAR) can get these guys ’cause I can.”

They would not try this with Hendrick, Roush or others.
— D. Lamphron

A: I’d agree that NASCAR wouldn’t lower the boom on one of the big boys — not this hard. A 12-week mandatory vacation would never, ever be given to a Hendrick, Roush, Childress or Gibbs (or Stewart, which I guess is the most fitting example). The 200/200, $200,000 would be levied, though. No doubt there.

Actually, the history of the 12-race suspension goes back to Petty’s oversized engine that you inquired about which took place in 1983. His powerplant after the Charlotte fall race that year measured in at a whopping 381.983 cubic inches (well above the 358 limit). The King kept the win but was docked 104 points (the difference between the winner’s points and the last car on the lead lap). He was also fined a then-record $35,000, although I’ve been told that he won $40,400 anyway, so he came out ahead. No suspension, though. It was then that NASCAR announced that the next oversized engine would cost you 12 races.

To my knowledge, no team owner, driver or crew chief has served a 12-race suspension due to a big engine. Junior Johnson was close, getting the book thrown at him in 1991, but he appealed and had it shaved down to four.

I think the important thing to remember in all this is that Petty and Johnson got nailed for running big engines in points-paying races, knowingly using them to gain a competitive advantage. Long got crucified with a hand-me-down piece of crap that was 50 horsepower light in a qualifier for an exhibition race. Big difference.

And before I go, and not that anyone asked me specifically, but for the love of God, no…Danica is not coming to NASCAR! Why are pixels being devoted to a story we all got burned on a couple years ago? The move makes absolutely no sense, and is an obvious bargaining chip in her desire to wrestle a bigger and better contract from someone in the IRL.

Don’t get sucked into the hype, people. Danica = web hits.

Do you have a question or want to share your views with Matt? Contact him here and see if your name is up in pixels next week!

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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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06/11/2009 08:08 AM

RE: “Oversize” engines. The written info is that Long’s engine was .17CC’s over! (or CI’s), whatever, a very miniscule amount.

This is probably yet another one of those rules, oh, oh, there I go again thinking NA$CRAP has rules, real rules, anyway, I digress, so what if Jr.‘s engine measured .16CC’S, would that be considered simply “in tolerance”?

See how the lack of credibility in NA$CRAP gets one thinking?

06/11/2009 10:07 AM

Very informative and entertaining read as usual Matt. Learned a lot about the Carl Long issue that I didn’t know. Thanks.

Kevin in SoCal
06/11/2009 12:55 PM

Sally should do her homework a little more before writing in. 2005 was NASCAR’s highest ratings, and they have been falling ever since. That was four years ago, not five. The top 35 rule came out at the start of 2005 when the ratings were good, in response to several full-time teams missing races due to start-and-parks making the field in 2004. The lucky dog rule came out in 2003 when they stopped racing to the yellow after Dale Jarret’s accident on the frontstretch at New Hampshire. Again, that was when the ratings and attendance were good, not as an attempt to restore poor ratings. The COT was developed and then introduced in 2007 not to help ratings but to make the cars safer and protect the drivers better during accidents.

06/11/2009 01:02 PM

While the jury is still out on double file restarts, IMO, I believe it will only benefit one racer. And that would be the third place position. Why? Because on restarts, a well placed nudge (going into turn one) in the back of the lead car will push him up and into the outside car. Watch for this at Bristol.
Then, of course, we’ll get more rules.

Mary D
06/11/2009 01:06 PM

For anyone who would like to help out Carl Long, donations big or small can be made online at or mailed to him at Carl Long, 156 Painted Bunting Dr., Troutman NC 28166 This is a chance to tell Nascar how we feel about this fine and suspension!!!

06/11/2009 01:30 PM

Kyle didn’t ask permission from Nashville Speedway to destroy the trophy ? Kyle or any other driver isn’t required to ask their permission . Nashville Speedway needs to get over themselves .
Kyle can use the guitar as a doorstop , or a wheel chock , or he can slam it on the ground . Its his ! lets move on from this non-issue .
There have been far greater rules infractions than the one supposedly proffered by Carl Long . To my knowledge no one has been punished any worse than Long . But keep in mind that Nascar overall is probably the most mis-managed organisation on Earth . The things they do rarely make very much sense to people who know how stock car racing is supposed to be run . When MBAs take over from true profesionals , the result is always something very similar to what Nascar has become .

06/11/2009 05:08 PM

And for the record!

THANK YOU KYLE BUSCH for livening up the OH-SO-BORING races as “orchestrated” by the stooges at NA$CRAP!

In another web sites columns, one Jenna Fryer called Kyle “immature” and said he was “ruining” the sport!

Wonder if she ever called King Brian “immature”, he is doing more to ruin that sport than a hundred Kyle Busch’s!


Kyle should be held in the highest esteem and congratulated for going above and beyond on providing excitement! REAL EXCITEMENT! (not that manufactured NA$CRAP stuff).

06/11/2009 05:44 PM

DANG! I forgot!

Remember “sports” fans, when critizing Kyle for the guitar smashing episode!

That it was non-other than King Brian himself who decreed that NA$CRAP is “ENTERTAINMENT” (as opposed to RACING!

And entertaining Kyle is!

Fits King Brian’s decree to a “T”!

06/11/2009 10:35 PM

Matt, Thank you for clearing the air about who said/asked what to whom. For the record, I agree that the trophy was won by, & presented to Sprout. After it was in his hands. It was his to do with as he pleased. I also agree that in a period of politically correct drivers. Toeing the company line. Kyle’s frankness is a breath of fresh air. Winning the first COT race, then saying what he really thought of the car, in victory lane was classic. That having been said, when the blow back started to come off the fan. He fell back on what most immature people do. He lied! If he had really thought the whole smashing thing through he should have known what the outcome would be. Had he thought about trying to lie his way to lessening the flak. He should have known that wasn’t going to fly either. Both these actions go hand in hand with running away, when things don’t go his way. My take on Sprout,….Great talent, spoiled, immature, brat!


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