NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday March 7, 2007
You've got to hand it to NASCAR; the whole circus act just continues to entertain. When the Cup Series takes a week off after three weeks of drama, controversy, and excitement, the Busch Series wasted no time in stepping up to the plate â€” on foreign soil, no less â€” providing media and fans alike with yet another exciting and controversial finish, one that ended with a partisan crowd cheering newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya's first NASCAR victory.
Of course, before the checkered flag flew there were so many issues to contend with it made Mexico seem like a Bristol short track; jumped restarts, questionable caution flags, fuming drivers, and teammates involved in a spin-to-win were among the highlights of a wild race. If this was what an off weekend was like, well, I can't wait to get to Vegas. The on and off-track product always seems to find a way to captivate no matter what and where NASCAR’s racing, keeping the sport in the spotlight when it’s supposed to be shining somewhere else.
On to the questions…as always, feel free to send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: When will Jimmie Johnson and other drivers get it? The NASCAR message they don't get is, â€˜Keep the action close. Don't stink up the show by running off by yourself.' It's the leading drivers own fault when the mysterious â€˜phantom caution' falls. Back up and join the crowd and make a great show like the WWE. When will the drivers get it? â€” Judy O
A: The drivers will heed that advice about the same time NASCAR gives up on the Car of Tomorrow project.
Judy, I realize this question was asked â€” at least partially â€” with tongue in cheek, so I'll reply in kind. "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, even at 75 years of age, takes falls because professional wrestling is not a sport; it's sports entertainment (needless to say, he does not have a Home Depot logo stitched on the back of his underwear, either).
Race car drivers, given the right setup, will drive to the front and pull away because that's what they've done their entire career. It's also what they get paid millions to do professionally. Do drivers get frustrated by a debris caution with 25 laps to go when they're padding a 1.5-second lead? Sure. Are they going to back off so the car running second can challenge for the win, all in the interest of an exciting finish? Hell, no. Besides, if my car is good enough to pull out to a big lead, I'll take my chances that the caution, however unlikely, may not fall this time.
Q: What do you think of the reports that NA$CAR was letting JPM jump the starts and let him merge in the wrong place in his fuel stop? â€” Falcon325
A: Honestly, it looks rather fishy. Both Denny Hamlin and Boris Said commented after the race that Juan Pablo Montoya jumped three restarts and blended back into the field midpack (where he was at the end of pit road) as opposed to the back of the field following his final yellow flag pit stop.
Busch Series director Joe Balash seemingly shrugged off the questions by saying that officials had no problem with the way Montoya restarted and that they "would look at the way Montoya came back onto the track" for future reference.
Muddying the waters further, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. stated in a Monday morning interview that NASCAR does not have sensors built into pit road at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. It seemed odd to him that while most competitors were observing normal pit road speed, Montoya was beating cars out by six or seven seconds per stop. (Here we go with the old radar gun againâ€¦)
Soâ€¦ Do I think it was in NASCAR's best interest that Montoya win the Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200? Yes. Do I think NASCAR may have looked the other way on a Montoya indiscretion or two? Absolutely. But do I think Montoya was the best road racing talent out there that had the field beat regardless? Without a doubt.
Now, for our Grand Finale…
Q: The problem (with NASCAR) started a few years back when they started taking races away from the original tracks! The ones with all the money seem to have the idea that they need to build a track in Alaska or wherever they see fit! HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH FOR THESE GUYS? COME ON, THEY COULD SPEND A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MINUTE FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES AND STILL NOT RUN OUT OF MONEY!!!!!
NASCAR DOES NOT BELONG IN LAS VEGAS, NEW YORK OR MEXICO. These folks are not, and don't get me wrong here, the same fans that southern people areâ€¦I see it as a fad to them! IF THEY WANT THOSE TYPE OF FANS, FINE, THAT’S OKâ€¦JUST MAKE A WORLD LEAGUE AND CREATE A SOUTHERN LEAGUE AND I BET I KNOW WHO WOULD WIN IN THAT BET!!
With that said, it is really ridiculous, and I want the whole USA to hear this: I have been going to NASCAR races since I was three years old with my grandfather, father, mother, stepsister, friends, girlfriend, cousin, his family, and now my wife and daughter. Over the last 30 years, ticket prices have gone from $5 or $10 to HUNDREDS! If it weren't for a special friend in NASCAR, I could not afford to take anyone in my family except for maybe one at a time. This is totally unacceptable!
The time has come for these drivers to take a damn pay cut, kick the corporations aside, and come back home where they belong…in the South! At one time, you could go across the track at the end of a race and get your favorite driver's autograph…not at some damn restaurant in New York!!!!
One last note: If I wanted to see a damn rock concert I would go to the local arena. Whatever happened to country music, anyway?! Shame on you, Brian France!!! You should not turn your back on the very people that made your family so rich!!!! â€” DanB-3
A: OK, where to start? I guess my first piece of advice is to watch your overuse of ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! But the real issue here is racing, right? And unfortunately, I do not believe this one was written tongue-in-cheek. So here goes:
Look Dan, I was born in the South and am a lifelong resident. It hurt me just as much as it did you when we lost Wilkesboro, Rockingham, and a Darlington date to the 1.5- and 2-mile monstrosities that now crowd the schedule. But the truth is that for the sport to grow and prosper, we had to expand our boundaries; more accurately, we had to tear our boundaries down.
Are you thankful that all 38 Cup, 35 Busch, and 25 Truck events are televised? Do you enjoy the daily NASCAR coverage ESPN and SPEED provide? How about the numerous websites that give up-to-the-minute NASCAR reporting and commentary (like a certain one you’re reading now)? Thank the sanctioning body on each occasion for their marketing of the sport; without it, we're back to 20 televised Cup races on ESPN and ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Great race fans, just like the great drivers they follow, are not all born and bred south of the Mason-Dixon Line. You may be surprised to know that roughly 75% of the staff on this website hail from locales outside of what is traditionally considered "the South." I don't see NASCAR as just some passing â€˜fad' in their lives. The same can be said of the drivers. Is NASCAR worse off because of the rags-to-riches story of Alan Kulwicki, a Wisconsin-born driver? Does Tony Stewart bring the sport down because of his Indiana ties? How about Fred Lorezen, Marvin Panch, the Bodine brothers, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, or Jeff Gordon? Hell, even Bill France Sr. was born in Washington D.C…not Charlotte, NC!
My point is that racing is not exclusive to one geographical area of our nation. To love racing is to love racing, regardless of your hometown. Are there fair weather fans of the sport? Yes, and they hail from Atlanta as well as Sacramento.
I believe Hank said it best, Dan: "We're from North California and South Alabam(a) and little towns all around this land."
My suggestion to you, my man, is to hang at your local short track. The grassroots racing has a local flavor all its own, is never dull, and for cripe’s sake, they need the monetary support.
P.S.: Southern Drivers vs. The Rest: Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin vs. Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Tony Stewart. Discuss.
Well, that’s all the time we’ve got this week, folks…that discussion topic should keep you busy well into next Thursday. Remember, if your short term memory bank lasts less than two minutes, just remember my email address should you write in with your own comments : Matt.Taliaferro@Frontstretch.com. Keep those questions coming!
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