NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Wednesday May 23, 2007
I've tried over the last few weeks to keep my commentary as uplifting as possible. It can be easy, as a third party, to criticize when I see something I don't like. Snap judgments, assumptions, and bitterness seemed to permeate through everything I wrote. Blame those feelings on overexposure to a sport I once followed but now indirectly make a livelihood covering, or simply from a longing of purer Sundays gone by; either way, I was tired of thinking negatively and determined to enjoy the sport more than bemoan it.
Unfortunately, this past weekend's All-Star Spectacle / Extravaganza / Challenge awoke the cynical beast within. I mean, what racetrack paints the wall yellow? Yellow, for gosh sakes! Look, race walls are white. Not pale blue, Homestead; not royal blue, Phoenix; and certainly not day-glow yellow, Nextel. What you call branding, I call an eyesore, one that shines all over what used to be the bright white walls of Lowe’s. You're already on my exhaust list for the “levigation” debacle, Humpy, but this is a blunder you can fix; get it done in time for the 600.
As for the race itself: four segments of 20 laps? Don't the rocket scientists in the tower realize that once Humpy did what he did to the racetrack formerly known as Charlotte, these guys get strung out after 10 laps? The aerodynamic racing that ensues treats us to a single-file parade fit for Macy’s, not Humpy’s. What happened to the final 10-lap dash for cash? Remember Earnhardt / Elliott / Bodine in '87? Rusty and Darrell in '89? Kyle and Davey in '92? Mikey's unlikely sprint past Earnhardt and Rusty in '96? All were the products of the 10-lap sprint that no longer exists under the new format.
Lastly, the pomp and circumstance before the All-Star race itself is getting to be a bit much. Don’t get me wrong; bringing the teams out with the driver onto the stage is cool, as everyone gets their 30 seconds of fame. If you're lucky, some guy even stagedives and ends up face down in the infield. But what's up with the Ben-Hur banners the crews were made to follow while walking inside the grandstand fence? Wasn’t that a bit weird?
If the ending to the race were exciting, I most likely would have forgotten about all this other crap, but that sucked, too. I'm starting to agree with Tom Bowles’ column from Tuesday: Maybe there’s a more suitable track out there that would make for a better All-Star venue. And racing is, after all, the bottom line here…or have Nextel's yellow walls debunked that theory?
Time to get to you, the fans. Remember, if you’ve got a question or a comment about the sport sponsored by yellow walls, feel free to drop me a line: the email’s email@example.com. With a little bit of luck, you can find yourself in pixels this time next week!
Q: I keep hearing speculation that Ken Schrader will not return to the Wood Brothers ride. Bill Elliott brings his six “free passes” and Jon Wood is scheduled to run a few more races in that car, right? Is this the beginning of the end? â€” Terry G.
A: The beginning of the end may have already passed. I don't see the Woods fielding competitive rides until they take a lesson from Jack Roush and get some outside funding. A second or third team wouldn't hurt, either. Makes me think the Woods absorbing the Yates outfit would be advantageous for all involved.
As for Schrader, I believe he stepped away because he was asked, but not because he wanted to walk. I have my doubts we'll see him in the No. 21 again; what does he bring to the table? No Past Champion's Provisionals, no results to speak of, and DNQs in two of the last three races. No word on his immediate future; in the meantime, Wood is scheduled to run 10 additional races in the No. 21, the next being at Daytona in July. Elliott could use up his six PCPs by then, but I believe he'll get them in the show and back in the Top 35 before it's all said and done.
Q: You still think Junior could sign with Hendrick? Your column last week made it sound like it was a real possibility. At Charlotte, Hendrick said he has no room for another driver. Thanks again! â€” Shawna H.
A: Sure, I still believe there is a distinct possibility that Junior goes to HMS. Look, until Junior signs on someone's dotted line, anything is possible. Think Rick Hendrick couldn't work out a driver-leasing program with Ginn Motorsports?
By the way, I still believe Childress is the frontrunner here, but that's just my personal opinion.
Q: When are they going to move the All-Star race to Bristol where we can see an exciting show WITHOUT aero-dependence? At this rate, I'm ready for anywhere but Charlotte. â€” Tommy J.
A: You sure you’re not Tom B.? Sorry, but that's a no-go, boss. Bristol has a little-known “No Yellow Wall” clause in its contract with NASCAR / Nextel.
Once again, I need to submit my pick for this week's race as I was unavoidably detained during our Mirror Driving forum. For the second week in a row, I'm taking Matt Kenseth. He's a chassis guy who can get â€˜er dialed in late in the race here. If he has decent track position with 50 to go, I have the utmost confidence he’ll get the job done.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone!
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