The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Bowyer Gets Nailed, Danica Signs Some Skin, More by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday September 23, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Bowyer Gets Nailed, Danica Signs Some Skin, More

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday September 23, 2010


And then, there were 11. Richard Childress Racing’s No. 33 team was docked 150 championship points on Wednesday afternoon after failing post-race inspection following its win at New Hampshire, and for all intents and purposes, ending the team’s championship hopes.

In addition, the team has been docked 150 owner points, crew chief Shane Wilson fined $150,000 and, along with car chief Chad Haney, suspended for six races.

NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton and John Darby cited measurements that did not meet NASCAR specs in relation to how the body sits on the frame. According to Pemberton, the measurements NASCAR takes on the car’s X, Y, and Z coordinates (front/back, left/right, up/down) were over tolerance. The amount the body was off was not revealed, as RCR will likely appeal the ruling.

Shortly after the announcement, Richard Childress released a statement that eluded to the car’s left rear being too high due to aid received by a wrecker after Bowyer ran out of gas doing burnouts and being pushed to Victory Lane:

In just three days Clint Bowyer has gone from winning the first Chase to practically eliminated from contention after a harsh penalty handed down Wednesday.

“We feel certain that the cause of the car being out of tolerance by sixty thousandths of an inch, less than 1/16 of an inch, happened as a result of the wrecker hitting the rear bumper when it pushed the car into winner’s circle. The rear bumper was also hit on the cool down lap by other drivers congratulating Clint on his victory. That’s the only logical way that the left-rear of the car was found to be high at the tech center. We will appeal NASCAR’s ruling and take it all the way to the NASCAR commissioner for a final ruling, if need be.”

The penalty drops Bowyer from second to 12th in the standings, 185 points behind the leader, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin’s lead thus increases from 35 to 45 points over new second-place driver Kevin Harvick.

Bowyer’s team was warned last week that the tolerances of the car — although legal — were close to exceeding legal limits after the Richmond event. However, when asked if the issue with the New Hampshire car was the same, Pemberton only commented that the problem was “in the same area” and exceeded legal specs.

So many questions still. Send me your thoughts and questions over the course of the week on the ruling. I’ll have plenty of time to glean answers by the time we next talk. Now on to your emails.

Hi Matt. As a longtime fan that has watched the sport decline in attendance and rating the last few years, even I was shocked by the rating decrease for the Loudon race. 28% drop is insane. Would having races on a Saturday night or a weekday help NASCAR avoid competition from the NFL. I’m all for dropping the Sunday races during the Chase and making the races more accessible to those with only a passing interest.
— Paula C., Jonesboro, Ark.

A: This was a big topic of conversation on Twitter yesterday (before the Bowyer announcement blew all our afternoons out of the water). I’m with you on going away from Sundays, Paula, but only during the Chase.

Imagine the potential of staging the 10 Chase races on a Thursday night, under the lights, in prime time. America watches TV on Thursdays, so the butts are there, it’s just a matter of spreading the word that a major league sport’s playoff series is running live on ESPN or ABC or wherever.

The ratings dip for New Hampshire was shocking, and I thought my boy Tommy Bowles shed some interesting light on it yesterday. If you haven’t read his Did You Notice column, you might want to hit it.

Let’s not fight a battle we can’t win, and we can’t beat the NFL heads-up. NASCAR’s braintrust has shown a willingness to go away from tradition in the not-too-distant past, so why would migrating away from NFL Sundays be any more blasphemous than moving the Southern 500 or turning the points system completely upside down?

Answer: It really wouldn’t.

I thought Ol’ DW said it best on Twitter: “If the 800 lb. gorilla is football, run away from him, find your own slot when no one is watching football, college or pro. Got to try something!”

I hear Danica is running the K&N Pro Series at Dover this week. Is that true? Is she in a JR Motorsports car? If so, it’s a good move. Don’t take her up to Cup, take her down to Late Models to learn what a real stock car feel is. Thanks as always, Matt.
— 9 Fan Soon to be a Red Bull Guy

A: I wondered what you were going to change your hook to, 9 Fan.

Yes, Danica is entered in a JR Motorsports Chevy for Friday’s Sunoco 150 at Dover. Single-A ball. And you’re right, it’s a great move — maybe their best idea yet on how to handle her evolution in stock cars.

Speaking of, it’s not only rock stars that sign big racks. Here’s Danica putting Sharpie to skin.

Lastly, and in response to last week’s Fanning the Flames, a couple of you out there had some ideas concerning the Chase and whatever tweaking that NASCAR may do to it. Thanks for using this column for more than just a Q&A session. DMan, Wendy … take it away:

Matt, the best way to tweak the Chase is to just dump the dang thing. Let’s look at this logically. This is NOT a stick and ball sport. You can’t have a “playoff” or a “championship game” without having leagues, divisions, brackets, groups, regions, etc. Forcing any one of those on NA$CAR would be a logistical and financial nightmare for the teams. And this idea of an elimination format for the Chase is not well thought out. How would it be handled when all but 2 or 4 cars remain come Homestead? What kind of race would that be? Even without a mandate direct from Brian’s Big Top, no one would race those 2 or 4 cars that remain.

If NA$CAR must have a “championship game,” here’s my idea: Run the entire 36-race season and take the top 10 drivers in points, DRIVERS … not car owners and no type of provisional what so ever. Next, pick a track that is not currently on the Cup schedule to level the playing field. Have those top ten drivers qualify. Then you could either … now get this … run two heat races of ten laps each, and heat number one would set the inside row and heat two the outside row. OR, just have the top qualifier draw a pill to set an invert on the field; one row, two rows, etc. Next is a 100-mile (or whatever it takes get at least one pit stop in to make it on fuel) race, winner takes all, the trophy, money, crown, and second place gets a handshake. This needs to be done without any WWE-like stunts that Brian likes, you know, nothing like a mandatory stop on lap XX and must take on three tires, make a driver change and swap out the front shocks. Can you imagine what the TV ratings and attendance would be like?
— DMan

A: Ratings would be great, but just for that one race. NASCAR needs a ratings spike for the entire Chase. That’s why I still believe the solution lies in awarding the most deserving tracks with Chase dates. And by deserving, I mean the most competitive and, from a fan’s viewpoint, exciting. Of course, the Thursday night thing would be cool, too.

My thoughts on the Chase: First 24 races set the field, Chase would be 12 races including Bristol and a road course. Top 20 drivers reseeded and use a separate points system (heard that before right? Would solve the Jr problem usually he should make the top 20 I would think).

This is where I differ. Take the remaining 23 drivers and reseed them also with a separate point system than the top 20. After the 12 races with these drivers, winner take all prize like a million dollars. Then, to make it really interesting, if it is a 500-mile race, split the race into 2 races — first 200 miles, the 23 cars would race and immediately following, have a second 300-mile race with the top 20. Prize money to be distributed between both groups, with a little more to the top 20 as they were the top cars for the first 24 races.

I feel something like this would make it an even playing field for the cars. The top 20 usually are always in the top 20, and they would be racing with no lapped traffic as the cars would be a lot closer. Also, the odds are it would get all of the cars in that won a race up to that point.

The 23 cars would be more evenly matched, and with the shorter races it may make it so less start and par. If the 23 all start with even points, there would be more incentive to race the 200 miles to try for the million dollars.

My system would really be something different and with two races instead of one, I think it would cut boredom, the cars would be more evenly matched and the shorter races would cut the amount of tires needed to buy. Less wear on engines and brakes could cause less mechanical issues also and cut costs as sponsorship is becoming harder to find.
— Wendy

A: Thanks for the shout, Wendy (it’s not Wendy France, is it?). You and I differ on our beliefs as to what would make for a fitting playoff, but hey, I’m here and you’re there and we’re all OK with that.

I used to be of the belief that a win should qualify you, but I’ve been turned around on that and think a bonus — a big bonus, say 150 points per win — would sort it all out in the wash.

Oh, and one more inquiry, only this wasn’t a submitted question, per se. While texting Frontstretch’s managing editor, Tom Bowles, about the Bowyer penalty yesterday he short-handed so Bowyer’s chase is dead? just like that?

A: Yup.

Thanks for hanging around ‘til the end. Keep the faith, Clint.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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09/23/2010 08:58 AM

Thursdays would be a slaughter to attendence for sure…i think the LAST think nascar needs is more ‘dramatic’ changes..they dont seem to be working so far. Bottom line i feel is the common fan no longer connects with the drivers…not sure how ya fix that..but they have become corporate robots and less and less time for the fans…people watch football to pull for “their team”…now-a-days…if people connected with the drivers, they would have someone to pull for on sundays, or saturdays or thursdays..anyday!

09/23/2010 09:05 AM

Question: Will it still be a brilliant move for Jr. motorsports when Dani-can’t-get-out-of-her-own-way Patrick wrecks before lap 50 in the late models? Answer: Yes, those cars are cheaper to repair. As for Childress’ claims that Bowyer’s car was damaged post-race: If your team wasn’t building the car to within a hair’s breadth of the tolerance, it still wouldn’t have happened. You only have yourself and your car-builders to blame.

09/23/2010 12:28 PM

I like Wendy’s idea about seperating them into 2 groups with 2 different races each weekend. the race with the bottom 23 would give them some exposure each week too, considering the way things are now, they are pretty much invisible on the track each week.


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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