The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Penalties, Patching Things Up, and Peeved Drivers by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday June 6, 2013

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I feel sorry for Juan Pablo Montoya.

Sure, he has a tendency to be the most obnoxious lapped car on the track and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to stock car racing. He deserves most of the rap he gets and rarely receives maximum respect from his peers because of that.

Still … he has his moments. Aside from his expected road course standouts, he does have strengths on a few ovals and will occasionally emerge as the frontrunner when even Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are left behind. Last weekend in Dover, he was just a couple laps shy of heading to Victory Lane for the third time in his career and first ever on an oval.

And people were still making jet dryer jokes. No, really, even as Montoya took the green flag (or not, if you ask Jimmie Johnson) there were fans saying, “Wait, make sure all the jet dryers are off the track!”

It is most unfortunate really. For a driver who is nearly racing royalty outside of NASCAR, it’s sad when their legacy is forever tarnished by a split second mistake on an already strange night. Montoya could win 10 more NASCAR races before he retires … and he’ll forever be remembered for the jet dryer. Win the Monaco Grand Prix, and it’s forgotten a few years later. Have a part break that sends your car into a ball of flames, blow up a truck, and burn a hole in Turn Three at Daytona, and you’ll never live it down.

Will Tony Stewart’s win at Dover propel him to Chase contention this year — as well as provide some stability within the team despite recent rumor mongering?

That kinda sucks, don’t ya think? Then again, you were probably making the same joke!

I read about the penalties Brad Keselowski’s team got for their nose being too low after Dover. But if Paul Wolfe was already on probation, why were his penalties so light? Shouldn’t he have been suspended? Michael

The reason Paul Wolfe had such minimal penalties—$25,000 fine and remaining on NASCAR probation through the end of the year—was because it was decided that the front end was too low as a result of a parts failure. Since Wolfe is still in charge of the car, he was fined, but further infractions weren’t deemed necessary.

Personally, I think it was a good decision and, for the first time in a while, NASCAR’s initial penalties were actually understandable (as opposed to overbearingly harsh). Had they say, suspended Wolfe for another two months and docked the team 25 points, well, they were probably setting themselves up for another embarrassing overturn either from the appeals panel or Mr. John “Rescind” Middlebrook himself.

I know none of them are happy about the penalty at all—including the six-point penalty—but considering how NASCAR has been so penalty happy this year, they might want to consider letting this one be.

Is Lee White retiring because of TRD’s engine failures? Maybe Kyle Busch will actually start finishing races now. Kimberlyn

The president of Toyota Racing Development’s retirement is actually a result of some family health issues, and he was planning to retire at the end of the year as it was. I would say priorities are in order there and he has every right to take care of them.

In terms of TRD’s performance, I have a hard time believing he is solely responsible for their performance (or lack thereof). I’m nowhere close to being an engineer, but I would make the suggestion that the problem with Toyota is not from the president of the company but rather some deep rooted problems within the actual organization. Whether or not Lee White’s departure will impact the on track performance of their teams remains to be seen, though I think it will be minimal if at all.

TRD has a lot to figure out for sure, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up about this fixing anything. They will have to continually look into the problem and people in various positions of power will need to look at making changes where necessary.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be too worried about Kyle Busch. He seems to have this whole “victory lane” thing covered.

Can we officially put this whole ‘NASCAR fixes races for Jimmie Johnson’ to rest now? He clearly got screwed on that restart call. Josh

Jimmie Johnson’s pass-thru penalty for jumping the start Sunday at Dover has been talk show fodder all week long.

I agree that we should put the “fixing” saga to rest. I’ve never been on board with that conspiracy theory anyway, though I feel like I’m preaching to the choir right about now.

I disagree, however, that he got screwed on that restart. I’ve seen in about 150 times now (give or take a few…) and I just can’t figure out what Juan Pablo Montoya was doing. I don’t know if he did or didn’t go. All I know is that whole “I tried to let him go and then I tried to give it back” claim from Jimmie Johnson … was baloney. He clearly mashed that throttle and tried to run away from the field, just like any good racecar driver would do.

I think NASCAR mad the call that they had to. If Johnson had run away from the field (which he would have) and won the race, they would have opened the door for other drivers to try the same thing in similar circumstances. Can you imagine if next week at Pocono, the second place driver took off on the final restart of the day and NASCAR decided not to penalize him? It wouldn’t go very well either way around. So even if Johnson is telling the full truth about his attempts to give it back—which I’m not buying for a second—NASCAR couldn’t give any leeway. They had to follow the rules and there just wasn’t enough evidence to say that anyone other than Johnson didn’t follow them.

Now, my question to all of you: Do you think NASCAR gives special discretion to certain teams or are they generally fair?

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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06/06/2013 02:12 PM

I don’t know about NASCAR not wanting Johnson to win, but it sure seemed that a lot of fans AT Dover were happy that he was blackflagged and therefore lost the opportunity to win.

I think that NASCAR manipulates things via debris cautions (since Johnson got a caution early in the race that allowed them to stay on the lead lap). IMO NASCAR does this with other drivers as well.

I also think that Johnson was justifiably blackflagged for the restart. He laid back and then jumped out there to 2 length lead. What did he think would happen? Did JPM snooker him? If he did, good for him.

I thought the comments from Knaus – they don’t want you to win and Johnson’s response were both arrogant.

06/06/2013 02:26 PM

The whole 48 team is arrogant bunch of cheaters !!!

06/06/2013 02:44 PM

JJ Was guilty..He received the correct penalty..All is as it should be..(tough break/blonde moment) kudo’s to Juan if he snookered him (I think he did)& JJ shouldn’t be blameing Knaus (drivers know the rules & drive the car)…Juan RE: respect sorry babe thats earned (& in Nascar it hasn’t been)..Paul Wolfe..Lets see your on probation & more rules are broken ..Hmm..I guess if I want to win I might look at having a part break to get there(Jr Johnson et al)..That debris caution looked pretty shaky to me though (I usually laugh at all the conspirecy folks)..

Wayne T. Morgan
06/06/2013 03:08 PM

Why can’t NA$CAR do as every other track and for the most part other series and if you jump the start they do it again and the second time you are sent back one row? Golly Dee is that soooo hard NA$CAR??

06/06/2013 04:06 PM

You know, there are a lot of Formula 1 fans who don’t remember Montoya for winning the Monaco GP. Many of us only remember all the times he threw tantrums about drivers he couldn’t beat (yes, the moves may have been underhanded, but he reacted like a 5-year old) or when he tossed out conspiracy theories when he didn’t win the championship in 2003.

Just a different perspective, I guess.

Steve K
06/06/2013 04:31 PM

In open wheel, if you let a car by voluntarily you lose your job. This is engrained in Montoya and I am sure he has battles in his mind about what to do. Montoya has been good for NASCAR. He brings a different kind of credibility to the sport. He is not a white American. He has a fun personality. He has his controversial moments. He is very active on social media. These are all things any sport could use more of.

I will always wonder how well he would have done if Ganassi’s Cup program was on par with its IndyCar program. Either way, I will not know who to pull for when he is gone. I started following the sport because he joined.

Bill B
06/06/2013 07:56 PM

Re: “That caution looked pretty shaky to me”.

Ya think? If you’ve been watching every race it should come as no surprise. Start paying attention. Here is the formula. Long green flag run at the start of the race. 20 drivers left on the lead lap. They go to a commercial. When they come back there will be a debris caution. Nothing will be shown. No cars will have any damage. And they call it a sport.

06/06/2013 08:56 PM

LOL, Bill B, you have absolutely pegged that one.

NASCAR is so predictable and then they wonder why people have decided to only watch the last 20 laps?

06/07/2013 01:45 PM

I’m not a fan at all of Johnson and his crew chief, but I have to say on this one, he got screwed. He was well within the restart box and Juan never took off. What was he supposed to do?

They need to change the restart rules anyway. Green flag starts the race, or change it back to single file, or put the leader all by himself at the start with everyone doubled up behind him. Any of those I would be happy with over what we have now. Too much inconsistency and too much of it put into Nascar’s hands, which is never a good thing.

Doug in Washington (State)
06/07/2013 05:46 PM

Jimmie took of right at the first restart line. Juan had until the second line to “go”. By then, Jimmie was already gone. If Jimmie had been behind Juan at the second restart line, then I’d agree that Jimmie was screwed, but he wasn’t.

Juan didn’t react and try to catch up- why should he? Either Jimmie was gone and was going to win the race, which was the likely scenario if he hadn’t jumped the restart, or NASCAR would throw a penalty. Which they did.

You could eliminate the whole thing by having the flagman restart the race (which I actually prefer) but drivers use the restarts to their advantage because they can, and Jimmie had no reason to jump that restart. He had a better car, and there were plenty of laps to pass Juan. He got snookered.