The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Sorting Through the Myriad of NASCAR's Midsummer Issues by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday August 5, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Sorting Through the Myriad of NASCAR's Midsummer Issues

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday August 5, 2010


A Truck Series race in Nashville this weekend! Yes, I’ve decided to shelve my beef with the Superspeedway concerning the overpricing issue and am taking my wife to her first NASCAR event on Saturday. I guess it boils down to being willing to pay 35 bucks a pop to see the Trucks instead of the Nationwide cars. After all, at some point she needs to hear, smell, and feel what being at a NASCAR race is all about. Yeah, we’ll hit the All-American 400 at the Nashville Fairgrounds in October, but she needs to see this.

Let’s hope she has as good a time as I’ll have. Something tells me the experience may turn her around. She’s looking forward to it — now, if only I can feel the same about her dance performances …

Here I am, guys & gals. You know the routine.

Matt, we recently found out that Denny Hamlin was fined for his comments about phantom cautions to “create excitement” at the end of races. As I recall, shortly after Hamlin made those comments, Michael Waltrip said publicly that NASCAR was justified in having mystery debris cautions to give the fans a “good show.” Isn’t this substantially the same thing? Was Waltrip fined? And what about DW saying he was “tired of the Chase” in a video on the Fox website? What’s the difference here?
— Sally Baker

A: The difference? Hamlin was opposed to the practice of bunching up the field to engineer an exciting finish while Mikey praised it. Of course, it doesn’t take a vehicular engineer like oh, say, Ryan Newman, to realize the messages were one and the same, so in that respect, I can’t answer your question.

Mikey’s inflection was pro-NASCAR, Denny’s was not.

As for DW … wow. I didn’t see the video until Sally here wrote to me, but I’ve got to say, he really lowered the boom. Suddenly, DW doesn’t like the Chase. A snippet:

“I’m sick and tired of all this Chase and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to fix it,” Waltrip says. “We took one year, when Matt Kenseth won the championship, we took that one year and screwed up that whole deal.”

As Brian France mentioned at Daytona in July, NASCAR is looking into tweaking the Chase format… something fans and media have criticized for years.

“The only way in my mind and, I feel this way, I’ve only tried to work with the Chase, I’ve tried to make it work in my mind, I’ve tried to make it work with the fans, the media, the drivers. Everybody has tried to make it work. In my mind, you go back to the way it used to be. That’s a champion. Thirty-six races. If you win by 200 points, you just won by 200 points. If you’re going to reset the points and you win by 100, well what difference does it make? You could have won it the regular way and won by 200 … you’re still going to win.

“I’m sick of the Chase. I’m sick of them monkeying with it. I wish they would say, ‘We don’t like it, we’re not going to use it anymore, go back to the way it used to be, and you can race 36 races and you’ll be the champ.’”

At that point, Larry Mac jumped in to prove that he’s got the pulse of NASCAR fans about as well as he’s got the pulse of ballerina fans worldwide:

“I actually have been pretty amazed lately, hearing some fans — as all this talk about the Chase and tweaking the Chase — that are not big fans of the Chase,” McReynolds said. “I actually have been quite surprised. I guess the fans really didn’t talk a lot about it, but now that NASCAR is talking about tweaking it, I have been blown away by the number of fans that do not like the Chase, period.‘”

Uh … hellooooo. It’s called “The internet,” Larry. Get on it sometime and read some articles by the guys and girls that work in that little white building called a “media center” that’s located across from you at the racetrack every weekend. Then read the comment section under said article where fans are free to post. It’s been running about 75-25 opposed for five years now.

Anyway, I strayed off point there, so let’s move along.

Hello Matt. Thanks for posting my question last week! If the reports are true that the ‘Dinger is staying with RPM, Elliott and Menard are leaving, and of course Kahne is gone, where does it leave them? Two cars or three? Because I can’t see them fielding four again. And any clue who fills the empty seats? Thanks as always to you and Frontstretch for helping the day along!
— Kelley McNally

A: Thank you, Kelley. Let’s start with what we know: Kahne is gone, and it seems the reports of Allmendinger staying at RPM are, in fact, true, so there’s one seat filled (No. 43) and one open (No. 9).

I can’t help but think the Marcos Ambrose talk is dead-to-rights, (we’ll say in the No. 9) so there’s Kahne’s replacement. I figure Menard is a goner too, and I don’t know what to tell you about Sadler. Will Stanley Tools request he return? Are they paying enough to even make a demand like that? All questions.

Beyond Ambrose, I haven’t heard any potential incoming names, but I’d like to see Aric Almirola not play understudy to a legend in the Cup show. And I continue to think Regan Smith is much more talented than we’ve been allowed to realize.

Evidently, RPM is in better financial shape than many of us believed, although I’m still wondering from where sponsorship will materialize.

How does every NASCAR track that has a race NOT have SAFER walls? I’ve read on this site alone probably 50 times that tracks should have SAFER walls around the whole track, inside and outside walls both. Will it take another death for NASCAR to demand every track have these walls around the WHOLE thing?
— Jacqueline Timmel, Missouri

A: Preaching to the choir, Jacqueline. As we’ve heard more than a few times this week, if there’s a vulnerable spot at a racetrack, a driver will eventually find it. Jeff Gordon found it at Las Vegas three years ago, Jeff Fuller found it at Kentucky about the same time, Ricky Rudd exposed a flaw in Daytona’s structure back in the mid-‘80s. Those were all upgraded, and Pocono will be as well. I’m just not sure why tracks can’t learn from one another and be proactive.

Why a 90-degree turn is built into Pocono’s infield guardrail/earthen embankment is perplexing, to put it mildly. The good news is it’ll all be improved by next season’s first trip — new catchfencing on Kasey’s straightaway, new SAFER barriers, and no mound of earth jutting into Elliott’s infield.

Hey, Matt. Jayski said that Sadler’s hit was the hardest recorded since NASCAR used the black boxes in the cars. He said NASCAR doesn’t share that info, but have you heard what the G load was? Thanks!
— Jerry C., Antioch, Tenn.

A: Nope. Like rulebooks and fines, NASCAR doesn’t release black box numbers. I figure something will leak before too long, though.

And we end with a glimmer of hope …

Is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway losing so much money on NA$CAR that bringing the Nationwide Series in is an option? No offense to the Nationwide guys, but they don’t belong at Indy. And for fans, the thought of losing a great short track race like ORP does nothing to encourage attendance by going to the Brickyard. Please tell me this rumor is false, Matt! We can’t cut ties with another great racing facility like ORP!
- Cassie

A: OK. It’s false.

Quoting a Monday article in the Indianapolis Star: “NASCAR informed the NHRA, which owns ORP, the 2011 race would not be moved to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which in the wake of attendance drops is looking to beef up its schedule on Brickyard 400 weekend.”

I think I speak for many a fan when I say, “Good call, NASCAR.”

Thanks for hanging around until the end. Give me a shout, and I’ll get you in next week.

Thursday on the Frontstretch:
MPM2Nite: The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice
BSNews! NASCAR Announces Airbags Coming Soon
Dialing It In: McMurray Chooses Career Wins Over Chase Berth
Fantasy Insider: Martin and Stewart Will Be Kings Of The Road

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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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08/05/2010 06:43 AM

I like reading answers to fans questions. It shows someone is listening to the fans. Nascar surely is not.

08/05/2010 10:32 AM

DW said that? Well Boogity, boogity, boogity! Who will listen to him?

Kahne to a third car for Hendrick-Stewart.

Don Mei
08/05/2010 11:53 AM

Wow!!! DW actually said something that makes sense! Im surprised his brother (AKA Brian’s butt-boy) didnt chastise him for speaking out this way.

08/05/2010 12:07 PM

I read an article on another website a little while ago that suggested Kahne could end up staying at RPM next year. While I doubt that’s the ideal scenario for him, it certainly seems to be a possibility. Rick Hendrick is having an enormous amount of trouble trying to find him a ride, and I’m sure RPM would love to keep him around another year if they could.

And I strongly agree with DW’s comments!

08/05/2010 12:10 PM

Here’s my take…Pocono and other places have really bad spots that are life threatening to a driver if he/she hits the right way. Pocono is the most glaring and BY GAWD needs fixin! But what is all the fuss about? It needed fixing with or without the recent accidents. Now all of a sudden the media “gets up in arms” and stirs the pot—fans and stakeholders alike…and I am one of them. But what about before now? My suggestion would be that the cynical and lazy media (I say lazy because most don’t come out of the media center; get feed free food and get wider; and just take what’s fed to them by NASCAR their spinions and snooty PR reps for teams. Heyman I have been there done that—seen it.)

The best thing would be for a member of the media or 2 or 3 or 5 or 10 walk these tracks with or without the track president and see where the problems are and bring them to the public’s attention. NASCAR won’t like that but tough. You can’t fix every nook and cranny but gezzuzchrist Pocono is glaring. Call NASCAR’s bluff on “safety is job 1.”

I say this because for 20 years Dover had the most unsafe pit road on the Cup circuit. The garagae area was trash and may still be. Yet all the while Dover was raking in the cash at its well attended races. I love Dover. Ron Bouchard almost won Dover one year in the 1980s and I was on his team. Dover is one helluva race track but their pit road was the worst almost in America at the elite series level. Now at nearly every race in the past that was held at Dover some one or two media guys might point it out but nothing ever sustained.

Let me tellya something some media needs to get on NASCAR’s and Pocono’s back until the dam thing is fixed! If not then we will see Mike Helton one Sunday evening addressing the media again…“this is the hardest thing I have had to do…”

08/05/2010 12:23 PM

And by the way upgrading a track—even for safety—is always about the big MO (aka $). M0 Money MO Money MO Money. Tracks don’t like to spend money on non-fan friendly things and hell ISC doesn’t like to even spend money on fan friendly things—unless they can develop a revenue stream from it.

About 10 years ago I did a story in a reputable publication with quotes from many of the sport’s star drivers, owners, and driver-owners about the amount of money it takes in Cup. From my research I learned—now 10 years ago mind you—that track owners netted some $8 mil per race. Not my figure but reputable financial sources. What do you think it is nowadays? My points: #1 they have the money to do safety projects they just don’t go looking for them; and #2. safer walls were being developed way way before Dale Earnhardt’s death. I know I was writing and researching that too. It was about MO then too.

08/05/2010 12:35 PM

And by the way one final comment and I will shut up. NASCAR will shout from the mountaintops that this was the “hardest hit ever recorded” (Sadler’s Pocono crash) and that the COT did its job…Praise the lord and Praise the COT they might say. But my take is that if the tracks were as safe as they should be (a 90 angle jut out ain’t in the top 1000 of the safest things at a race track) then the COT wouldn’t need to be tested like that. Thank goodness the CoT did hold. THAT IS EXCELLENT! But what about the simple and logical and safest way to do this is eliminate glaring threats from the racetrack?…Na that would be too logical for NASCAR…I have always said in recent times that if NASCAR acted more like a sanctioning body than an “entertainment company” (aka debris caution flag company) then their series would be better. EEEWWWW, don’t like that NASCAR? I know your Big Brother & Sisters are watching. I better watch out I mat get fined.

Kevin in SoCal
08/05/2010 01:04 PM

Matt said: “It’s been running about 75-25 opposed for five years now.”

The Chase worked great the first two years. Then Johnson and the 48 crew figured it out and went on a tear. I fully believe if Dale Jr or Jeff Gordon had won four in a row, everyone would be yelling what a great idea the Chase is.

08/05/2010 04:03 PM

Kevin in SoCal

No we wouldn’t. People have been against the chase since word first came out that it was being considered. It was a stupid idea then and it still is. And the more they “tweak” it the worse it looks. There is no way to guarantee a close POINTS race any more than stop a baseball team from winning their division by 15 games. MLB wouldn’t change their rules and NASCAR shouldn’t have either.

If people care that much about wins they should give a trophy to the driver with the most wins. Winning an MVP award isn’t the same as a championship. How about the Richard Petty Trophy? Oops, that costs mo money. Not a chance.

08/05/2010 07:37 PM

If the Chase is so great, then why does it have to be tweaked? Lipstick on a pig, polishing a turd, just stating the obvious.
And who’d a thunk Ole DW would have those large ones? I think all the media, except for clueless Larry Mac, should speak out with what the fans are saying. What’s NA$CAR going to do, pull everyone’s credentials?


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Contact Matt Taliaferro

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