The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Points, Penalties, and Back Pain by Summer Bedgood -- Friday July 6, 2012

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Four Burning Questions: Points, Penalties, and Back Pain

Summer Bedgood · Friday July 6, 2012

 

Is Bruton Smith in his right mind?

Sometimes I wonder if you lose 10 IQ points for every million dollars you make. Bruton Smith’s request to NASCAR this week for mandatory cautions, similar to those that you see in the All-Star Race once a year, had me “SMH” when I heard about it.

Now I can’t argue that some good things haven’t come from the All-Star Race. Double file restarts come to mind. While mandatory cautions—halfway through the race or so—might sound good on paper, however, let’s rewind and look at how that impacted this year’s All-Star Race. While the racing itself was pretty exciting, anyone who won a segment automatically dropped to the back for the remaining few segments until the final one. In other words, there was no incentive to race. No reason. There was going to be a caution in a little while anyway.

It would be the same way with mandatory cautions. If the drivers know there will be a competition caution, if you will, halfway or three quarters of the way through the race, they won’t see any need to bump and bang fenders until after that yellow has already flown.

Mandatory yellows would ensure that Talladega would see no racing of this kind until the closing laps.

In fact, let’s take this weekend’s race at Daytona as an example. If you hated the Talladega race a few years ago where NASCAR banned drafting in the corners and consequently formed a straight line of cars all around the track, you’d really despise the aftermath of mandatory cautions at a restrictor plate track. There would absolutely be zero racing until after the final scheduled caution, as the drivers would see no need to take a risk until after that point.

The only way I could see something like that working is if NASCAR awarded points or a monetary bonus for the leader at that time. I don’t see that happening, and my guess is fans don’t want to, so right now it seems like it is in NASCAR’s best interest to leave All-Star gimmicks where they belong.

Is it still too early to make Chase/championship predictions?

The cross flags have waved on NASCAR’s season, which means the “Race to the Chase” is on. Based upon drivers’ performances up to this point, analysts all over the racing spectrum have pegged who is in, who is out, and who might just be able to squeeze in.

Yet they seem to forget where we are this weekend: Daytona. A track that has been known for its unpredictability, and where just one ill-timed caution can literally change the entire Chase picture in seconds. Let’s also not forget its tendency to produce surprise or underdog winners. In other words, it’s a wild card.

Consider this. After this race last season, eventual champion Tony Stewart wasn’t even in the top 10 in points. No one really saw him as a threat for the eventual champion. Instead, drivers like Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon were on everyone’s radars.

So what’s the lesson here? Basically, anything can happen. Our eventual champion may not even make a sound until the actual Chase begins. So shut up and watch the race!

Does Austin Dillon’s points penalty really do any damage for the rest of the season?

Let me rephrase this a little bit better … Six points?? Really?

While Dillon admitted the team made a mistake, the issue is that the team failed inspection and had a very light penalty issued against them. Now he’s a whopping four points out of the lead (as opposed to leading) and oh my gosh how will he ever overcome that?

The issue of whether or not the win should be stripped has already been beat to death (and I happen to agree). At the very least, though, shouldn’t the penalty at least be significant enough that competitors aren’t encouraged to try and skirt the rules? Not that they don’t already, but there isn’t much stopping them if they don’t feel like they will be punished for it.

Does Denny Hamlin’s sore back have any championship implications?

If his previous injuries are any indication, probably not, but let’s give this its fair amount of coverage too. It wasn’t too long ago that Jeff Gordon was routinely being asked about back pain and eventually underwent a procedure to fix it. He still managed to win a race during the season and finished third in points.

I think Hamlin’s choice to sit out the Nationwide Series race and both practice sessions won’t do much damage, especially since they’re racing in Daytona and all. All joking aside, I hope Hamlin gets it together soon. Those G-forces and tight belts can’t be easy on back pain.

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