The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: NASCAR's Seasonal Shift by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday May 3, 2007

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Fanning the Flames: NASCAR's Seasonal Shift

Fanning the Flames · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday May 3, 2007


I love this time of the year. It's May, and here in Tennessee that signifies a major shift in the seasons. The flowers are blooming, the fish are biting, and there is no humidity accompanying the beautiful 75 degree days that have sprung from the chilly mornings of April.

May also signifies a shift in the NASCAR racing season. The circuit has visited two plate tracks, two short tracks, and five intermediate venues, so we've had a chance to see what each team has in their arsenal. The opening stretch is over…yet the Dog Days of summer are not yet upon us. And look at the tracks we visit this month: Richmond, with it's old school charm and new-age facility; Darlington, the toughest patch of asphalt in existence; and Charlotte, with it's All-Star fireworks and 600 miles of Memorial Day Weekend Madness.

Yes, it's been a rough start to the season. I'm as tired of having to read, write, and discuss Daytona penalties, phantom debris cautions, beer-can projectiles, and the Car of Tomorrow as you are reading about it. But hey, it's May, and we have the greatest single month of venues and competition before us that we'll see all season. Here's to hoping the racing — the pure art form of driving — on three of the circuit's most storied tracks far overshadows the soap opera that fills the six-day void in between the roar of the engines.

With that said, let's tackle some questions. What else are we going to do now that we're in the middle of that six-day racing void? Give me a shout, folks. There are more opinions, issues, and exploits flying around the series than I've ever seen, so don’t be afraid to share the love, people! The address is

Q: So, 14 fans got a lifetime ban from Talladega for throwing stuff at Jeff Gordon after he passed Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on the wins list. Doesn't he get pelted with beer cans after every win? Will other tracks start handing out lifetime bans, or did Talladega overreact, Ricky Bobby-style? — Nate R.

A: I'm sure there have been a few 12-ouncers aimed Gordon's way on a cooldown lap or two, but not to the extent we've seen over the last two weeks. Last Spring's Talladega ending and the Bristol night race in 1999 (when Big E rattled Terry's cage) aside, I do not remember a chorus of projectiles of this magnitude ever.

Look, whatever it takes to make a big enough example out of these “fans” so that it will discourage others from doing the same is fine with me. No one wants to ban coolers, but if this keeps up…

Q: I thought I would give you a heads up. Earnhardt fans are not the only ones who dislike Jeff Gordon. When you go to the next race….look around. You will see fans wearing gear of almost every driver booing him. He thinks the track belongs to him, every driver should just move over and let him pass, and God forbid someone touches him or races him hard.

Perhaps since Dale, Jr. has the most fans, he (and we) get blamed for any negativity on or at the track. Ain’t true, McGee! JG is just a universally disliked driver, and that is the truth. Sooooo, if the worst happens at Dega, don’t just lump all the childish, immature behavior on Junior or Senior fans. There is enough to go around. Include the drunks and fans of all the other drivers. Thank you. — Virginia R.

A: One thing I've always wanted to ask the Gordon Haters out there: If Jeff is so disliked, why did he finish second in the Most Popular Driver voting last year? Virginia, I'm sorry, but I agree with absolutely nothing you said concerning Gordon.

While we (continue to) remain on the beer throwing topic, I've learned from more than one person who was there that a major point of discontent focused on NASCAR changing the scoring after the caution had flown to show Gordon, not McMurray, the leader. Not only that, but I’ve heard that “fans” of several drivers were guilty of beer throwing…not just Junior’s.

Q: Tony, Tony, Tony… NASCAR is the new WWF? If Tony Stewart were a “wrasler,” who would he be? Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jerry Lawler, or Hollywood Hogan? Seriously, he makes a good point. But I think NASCAR officials throwing the caution flag for invisible debris is more like touch-foul star-treatment in the NBA Playoffs. Bad for business, or good for the game? — Rush

A: On the contrary, I believe it's good for business (in the short term) and bad for the game. Tony said it right: “To me, it's not all about the money, it's about the integrity of the sport, and when I feel our own sanctioning body isn't taking care of that, it's hard to support them and feel proud about being a driver in the Nextel Cup Series when they're throwing debris cautions.”

Bunching the field up and engineering excitement may draw fan and sponsor interest to the sport, but like Tony said, when you lose your integrity in doing so, what's the point?

And by the way Rush, judging from Stewart's verbal blast of NASCAR, I'd say his wrestling alter ego is Rowdy Roddy Piper, as Tony's got his own version of Piper's Pit every Tuesday night.

That's it for this week, ya'll. Hope the “beer-tossing” questions go away soon; in the meantime, it is May, so I'm going fishing.

Have you seen the all new Frontstretch newsletter yet? If you haven’t, well, you’re missing out … today, Kim DeHaven told us what to watch for in Saturday’s race at Richmond, and Tom Bowles filled us in on the weirdness behind Kyle Petty’s replacement drivers this summer.

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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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05/03/2007 07:48 AM

I think that alot of the protest from Sunday was caused because of the way NASCAR officials called the caution. The caution should have been thrown as soon as the 00 started blowing up in turn 4, Instead it wasnt thrown until they started going into turn 1 or 2, Giving the lead to Jeff Gordon. When we look at situations like this we seem to see that favorites are being played. NASCAR needs to speek to the fans instead if hiding behind the drivers comments.

05/03/2007 09:48 AM

We also thought Nascar threw the caution late so JG could get the lead. The 00 was at the top of the track throwing oil all over the track (dangerous at those speeds) not down on the apron and getting off the track. It is not so much that JG is hated as it is how much Nascar favors JG. Seems like during many races the broadcasters will say it sounds like JG has a problem and here comes the caution (for no shown reason) and JG day is saved over and over again. I believe the fans have had enough of Nascar and their favortism. I myself can not deny he is a GREAT driver and says what Nascar wants to hear and also donates alot to good causes. The only problem I have is Nascar favoring him so much. As much as we love racing we are losing interest due to this and the commercials.

Brian France Sucks
05/03/2007 02:20 PM

Just another glaring example of the Stooges up in the tower and their inability to achieve consistency with the timing of the caution. These guys are as consistent as the service in fast food restaurants: consistently bad and erratic. What a joke! I wonder if the possibility of increased exposure due to Gordon passing Earnhardt on the wins list had anything to do with Helton and the boys being asleep at the wheel. Guy blows a motor in front of 2/3 of the field and they wait a solid 2/3 lap until they throw the caution. Must’ve not been enough debris out there. Sure was after the race though, HA, HA.


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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