The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: And the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel Says... by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday September 30, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: And the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel Says...

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday September 30, 2010

 

There was outcry, speculation, innuendo, doubt, and even a media stakeout at the NASCAR R & D Center in Concord, N.C., but in the end, the word came down just as we had expected.

In short, and skipping over the judicial jargon: “Therefore, it is the unanimous decision of the National Stock Car Racing Panel to uphold the original penalties.”

Richard Childress Racing lost its appeal.

This, despite Childress’ “star witness,” although he wasn’t actually a witness — we’ll call him more of an expert in the field. Dr. Charles Manning, heretofore known to NASCAR fans as “Childress’ guy” is the owner of Accident Reconstruction Analysis, Inc., a Raleigh, N.C., company founded in 1979 that bills itself as an “engineering consulting firm equipped with a comprehensive testing facility and metallurgical laboratory used to investigate aspects of failure analysis and accident reconstruction.”

In layman’s terms, ARAI is a company that studies what failed when something structural goes wrong and effects a person’s or company’s property (be that personal injury, vehicular, aerospace, dog and cat, etc.).

Manning, like Childress, contends that the wrecker knocked the rear end of the car in question — that’d be Bowyer’s — out of tolerance, going so far after the hearing as to say that the commission “paid no attention” to his explanation.

NASCAR, in turn, argued that the telemetry (hmmm, we all forgot about that, didn’t we?) “did not show a sharp impact spike” and that the “rear template still fit snugly across the entire rear of the car,” meaning that both left and right mount points in question were high (as well as offset). NASCAR also claimed that no visual damage was done to the car and that video evidence showed that the wrecker assistance “appeared as relatively gentle pushing.”

Don’t kill the messenger, folks. Just reporting the facts.

Childress plans to appeal to the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer, John Middlebrook, but to find out what the percentages are that he overturns the decision, you’ll have to refer to Ramsey Poston’s tweets or jayski.com.

OK, with that settled for the time being, let’s hit the emails. Bowyer was a big topic this week, so that’s where we’ll start. As always, you can reach me using this link. I’ll get you up next week.

Matt, I think what is getting lost in the Clint story is that Na$car had to allow Jimmy’s and Denny’s cars to have a ‘cool down period’ to allow the heights to get back into spec. Question is, did the other cars, including Clint’s, need a cool down for their shocks? It seems that cheating on the shocks with a fluid that reacts differently when hot versus cool is more of an issue than the dimensional issue AFTER the RACE!

Also, let’s take all 43 cars to the R&D Center after each race and really see how many are in or out of dimension. I know that is not practical, but in all fairness to any car found out of tolerance, all should be checked to see what really happens during a race.

I have watched Na$car racing since it first was on TV, and do not like the way it is headed. Currently I DVR the race and watch it later, so the I don’t have to watch the commercials. I am just about at the point that it makes no sense to waste the amount of electricity that it takes to do that.

Get rid of the Chase, get rid of Brian France, and let the boys go back to racing!
—Bill

A: Oh, Bowyer’s car had a chance to “cool down” alright … like a day’s worth! Remember, his car passed post-race at the track, but NASCAR had informed the team it was taking the car back to the R&D center the week prior. It was there, when NASCAR dissected it, that it was deemed illegal.

As for taking all 43 cars to Concord, you’re right, it’s just not practical. But if NASCAR did, my bet would be that a good 80 percent would be found illegal; some for egregious violations, others for minor tolerance issues like Bowyer’s.

Lastly, Bill, I DVR the races myself and start watching about a half hour into the event. Problem is, when ESPN goes to commercial on lap 11 and then every 20 or so after that, my DVR catches up to the live broadcast much quicker than it used to. And yes, I have noticed a difference in that area. I know that bills have to be paid — believe me, I understand the specifics – but the commercials are coming with an alarming frequency.

Given that a large percentage of fans hate the Chase, could it be possible a large number of drivers do as well?

Hi Matt. It is clear that a sizable chunk of the fan base hates the Chase. Do you or your colleagues have any idea what the drivers really think of it? I don’t recall ever hearing an honest assessment from a current driver, although it was notable when DW recently shared that he didn’t care for it. I’m sure that true opinions are hard to come by, given the Stalinist tendencies of NASCAR to quell criticism, but there must be some talk in the garage area and in the haulers.

If I had to speculate, I’d guess that a handful of the old guard hate the Chase, most are resigned to it (either because they know it is useless to fight NASCAR, and perhaps even because they buy the party line that it’s needed to compete with the NFL), and a few embrace it (either because they have known nothing else at the Cup level, or because their fiendishly clever crew chief has figured out to win the damn thing every year). Thanks!
—Kevin in NYC

A: You did my work for me in your second paragraph. When the Chase was conceived after the 2003 season, some of the ol’ vets had serious issues with it — Ricky Rudd comes to mind — and, like the rest of us, it took an extended “getting to know you” period for many drivers to accept it.

The problem, as you state, is that the large majority of drivers aren’t going to openly share dissenting opinions of NASCAR’s Chase (or any other NASCAR mandates) with the media types. After all, who wants to get busted for pit road speeding violations numerous times in one race like Bowyer did last weekend? Now, in the comfort and privacy of the race shops, the boys may sing a different tune, but they’re not going to give NASCAR a reason to put a bull’s eye on their car (again, see: Bowyer, Clint; Dover, 2010). Therefore, it makes it difficult to glean just what drivers’ true feelings are.

The much-discussed tweaks to the Chase we’ve heard about over the last two months — elimination scenarios, winner-take-all formats, an expanded field — is a little different story. The oft-opinionated Denny Hamlin told SI.com over the Chicago race weekend that, “I hate the constant change. Nothing ever stays the same.”

“[In] this sport, a competitor can make a mistake and cost you,” he continued. “That’s why I think we originally ‘chased’ this out into 36 weeks to make sure you brought it out into a long enough season to where the true champion was crowned every single year. The more you narrow that up and keep resetting points, keep adding guys, the more you’re making this a sport by chance… and luck is going to be a factor.”

“I didn’t think it needed to be tweaked the first time,” Tony Stewart added, again in Chicago, but then did his best to cover his tracks, claiming that, “It honestly doesn’t matter to me what they do. The good thing is that I have the confidence in our sanctioning body that whatever decision they make, if they’re going to change it or whatever they do, something that will have been thought out for a long time and at the end of the day, they will do what they think is in the best interest of our sport. I have the confidence and believe in the leadership we have to be comfortable that whatever they do, it’s for the right reasons.”

Hard to run from that opening comment, though, Smoke.

Even the man who’s perfected the Chase format like no other, Jimmie Johnson, is hesitant to make knee-jerk reactions for the sake of ratings, attendance, drama or — it’s impossible to avoid stating this — his own dominance of the system:

“Some of the wild and off-the-wall stuff that’s been thrown around, I think we’ve got to be careful and not get too far away from what our sport has done, especially overnight,” Johnson said. “As we keep making small changes, we can see if it’s impacting our viewing audience and keeping people involved, but to go from one extreme to the other I don’t think is all that smart.”

But it’s what he revealed next that’s what you’re fishing for, Kevin:

“I know there is a crazy thought floating around about one race to determine the champion and I think through the garage, driver or owner, it doesn’t matter who it is, everybody is thinking that’s a wild one and wouldn’t want to see it.”

Driver and fan opinions aside, NASCAR will make the final call. And if Johnson runs away with No. 5 over the next month and a half, I’d imagine some drastic changes may be implemented.

Thanks for hanging with me ‘til the end. Since we’ve all got inspection fever this week, I found this clip of Joey Logano’s car going through pre-race inspection. It isn’t exciting, it isn’t post-race, but it’s insightful. No word on whether the official’s gut at the 2:06 mark fit template.

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Jacob
09/30/2010 08:36 AM
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The problem, as I see it, is twofold.

1.) NA$CAR has ZERO credibility when it comes to sanctioning it’s own sport.

2.) Childress’ guy is paid by Childress and he wouldn’t bring someone to a hearing that wasn’t willing to say exactly what he is paid to say.

With the popularity of all 300 different ‘Law and Order’ shows, and real life coutroom drama; people are well aware that “expert witnesses” are frequently hired to confuse the facts. It is difficult to know who to believe.

It would be nice if the appeals process had 3 testifying sides NA$CAR’s, the owner’s, and an independent scientific review. Maybe the truth could come out then.

Carl D.
09/30/2010 08:53 AM
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I wonder what Jeff Gordon thinks of the chase? Lets see… four championships before the chase was implemented, none in the six years since…

As for the commercials, it’s not just the frequency, but the fact that we have to watch the same ones over and over. No, Macy, your corporate hack dad is not going to let you drive the Aaron’s dream machine.

DoninAjax
09/30/2010 10:09 AM
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Macy will drive the Dream Machine when Daddy can get enough money for it. I wonder if it will come from Extenze.

Matt T. -- FS.com
09/30/2010 10:33 AM
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Hey Carl, can we still go out for ice cream?

jerseygirl
09/30/2010 11:26 AM
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I made the decision after being at the races in NH and Dover and being reasonably bored at both places that I am NOT going to watch Kansas on TV this weekend — too many commercials and bad coverage for me to waste another Sunday afternoon.

Plus, the credibility factor of NASCAR and their continuing insistence that the CHASE is wonderful when so many fans, including m, don’t like it makes me just say “whatever”.

as you said, NASCAR will do what it it wants, no matter what, except that there will be less and less people watching & buying tickets.

Carl D.
09/30/2010 11:53 AM
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Matt T… Unless you look like Scarlett Johansson, I’m gonna have to pass on that ice cream date. Thanks anyway.

Steve
09/30/2010 12:54 PM
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Jacob said: “2.) Childress’ guy is paid by Childress and he wouldn’t bring someone to a hearing that wasn’t willing to say exactly what he is paid to say.”

Nascar’s supposedly “impartial” 3 members of their council are paid by Nascar. What’s your point?

midasmicah
09/30/2010 01:03 PM
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This will tell you what this long time fans thinks of state of nas$car. For the first time ever I dvr’d a cup race. I then watched a football game instead. When I watched the race later, I fast forwarded a lot. I never thought nas$car would get to this point. Whether Childress was right or wrong, I knew the appeal would be denied. It is not in nas$car’s DNA to admit they do anything wrong.

Jacob
09/30/2010 01:43 PM
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Steve: My point is that you must have failed reading comprehension.

First, when did I claim that NA$CAR’s 3 member panel is impartial?

If you read my entire post (read it slowly, we know that reading isn’t your strong point), my thoughts on how to get some semblance of truth into the process are there.

Oldsmo-Bill
09/30/2010 02:22 PM
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OK, lemme get this straight: NASCAR says you cheated, so you can appeal to NASCAR to overturn their decision. Then, if they (surprise!) stick by their original decision, you may appeal further to… (drum roll, please)… NASCAR! Sure makes sense! (Not to me, but evidently to someone)

Wingcars6970
09/30/2010 08:33 PM
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It’s Kangaroo court at best.

 

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