The Frontstretch: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It by S.D. Grady -- Monday May 7, 2012

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Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It

S.D. Grady · Monday May 7, 2012

 

“I think we ought to make it a Figure 8.”

Most assuredly awkward silence reigned amongst the media reporters as they exchange confused glances at Tony Stewart’s declaration on what to do with Talladega. And I sat here and thought, “Well, why the hell not? Great idea!”

One of Tony Stewart’s better suggestions for improving racing at Talladega: Have half the field run backwards. Photo Mike Neff

After the unusual conclusion to Sunday’s Aarons 499—where the field did not wreck coming to the checkers or even in Turn 1, like the Nationwide Series did the day before—Tony Stewart met with all and sundry to answer questions. Except he didn’t. It was more like a Q&A from the Twilight Zone, where the answers belonged to some other place and time. These sarcastic comments, made with an expressionless face as only the best straight man in the business can summon, could not possibly be part of a NASCAR PR session. The fact it was says much about the state of affairs at Talladega and the general dissatisfaction a visit to the aged venue always generates.

We hate it. We—as in the fans, the drivers, the owners…the list goes on. We hate the carnage, the crazy simulated racing which can short circuit the most stayed racer on the roster, and the irrelevance to NASCAR as a whole. Generally, by the end of a plate race I am angry at somebody, and it’s usually difficult to pinpoint at just who. This week the irritation drifted more in the direction of those that thought reducing the effectiveness of the tandem would benefit the overall show.

We got what the lower ratings and dropping attendance at the plate races seemed to indicate—NASCAR fans didn’t like the tandem. So, we got the pack back. Yeah, like that is so much better than a day long game of strategy conducted via the spotter stand. The pack, combined with no communications, brought back three to four-wide and six deep racing which when the drivers come to a restart or near the end of the race invariably results in a heap of shredded metal. On Saturday, we even got the trip to the local trauma center via helicopter.

That sucks—that’s about as polite as I can phrase it and not get called to the principal’s office.

Talladega isn’t a race, it’s a demolition derby. I, for one, have never shilled out cash to attend one of those events, NASCAR sanctioned or not. I can’t even think of a single redeeming reason I would attend a race at ‘Dega. Not when it’s a fact the fastest car won’t win, and it’s a long shot that an also-ran has an equally good chance of capturing gold on any given Sunday. Where is the value in an event where Lady Luck not only will wreck an even playing field but send in a bulldozer followed by a tilt-a-whirl to finish the job off?

Yes, Cup racing is the home to Spectacle in America. It preys on the basest instincts in humanity, dangling carnage and body parts before our eyes in hopes of stealing a few more of our hard earned dollars. Unfortunately, the fans of NASCAR have spoken and trained the suits that we respond well to those stimuli. The coliseums at Daytona and ‘Dega stand as proof of our willingness to spend cash on bloodletting.

And now we watched another race at the aforementioned shrine to speed and we are unhappy…again.

We didn’t like strung out fields. We dissed the metal eating packs. Men ran shrieking into the night when the cars paired up for their debut. Slam-drafting, enlarged radiators, shrinking fuel cells, rear wings, missing SAFER barriers, tires, shredded pavement…all of these things have been blamed for some travesty of a race in the past decade. Every post-race meet and greet with the drivers has sounded much like Stewart’s diatribe of suppressed anger. Every year there is a new list of regulations designed to stymie the much bemoaned problems of the previous meet. Yet, the cycle continues to repeat.

So, if ISC and NASCAR have been unable to fix the racing via re-engineering the rulebook and the actual car…what is left to blame?

The track. Talladega and Daytona are too damn big to race on. It’s a simple equation. Unrestricted, the cars run too fast. Restricted they become 195 mph time bombs unable to escape the eddies of their comrade’s airstream. There’s nothing to be done except perhaps one…

Turn it into a Figure 8.

Why not? The resultant race couldn’t possibly be any worse than what we’ve got now.

Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat
Talladega: NNS in the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
Qualified: 17th
Finished: 13th
Led: 1 Lap
Points Position: 10th

Contact S.D. Grady

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Lydia
05/08/2012 07:51 AM
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I don’t have any answers..maybe make two Bristol ovals out of the track..split the field..have two races at the same time..top fifteen each field advance to final race on one of the ovals..it was an exasperating race to watch…and when they started running of of fuel in the middle of the pack..way too dangerous! I love the excitement of Talladega but all the carnage has got to go! Maybe keep the plates, give them bigger radiator, bigger air opening, but change the noses (just for plate races) so they are not conducive to tandem racing.

Greg
05/08/2012 09:23 AM
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Geez, I don’t know if Tony is like so many others, including many in the media, and just doesn’t get it or not.

We don’t want wrecks taking out teams. What we want is better, harder, racing.

Drivers may love the ride around easy going Auto Club Speedway and tracks like it, but it’s F’n BORING for fans to watch. Hell, even the mighty Bristol and Richmond have lost their teeth because of the Chase points system.

So while Tony’s comments are indeed funny, it doesn’t help make “race” any better. Talladega is a complete crap shoot. Go ahead and plan all you want, it won’t matter if A.J. Allmendinger decides to cut in front of you with a handfull of laps left.

Plate racing isn’t racing. It’s a SHOW and a dangerous one at that.

john
05/08/2012 10:48 AM
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The solution is a simple one that NASCAR ignores because they want the wreck-fest and unpredictability to try and sell the race.

Mandate a different engine just for those two tracks, that is much smaller in displacement (say 260ci or so), with a smaller cam (lift rule).

No matter how big your carb, heads or exhaust are, if you’ve got a given displacement and a given cam, you’re only making so much horsepower.

Or specific heads, for that matter. The point is to arrive at engines that you’d find in a short track late model instead of a Cup car, for four races.

So we’d end up with the same 400-450 hp, but it would be without a restrictor plate, which means A) it drives like a normal engine, with normal throttle response and B) the engines would have more varied power, depending on the make and engine builder.

So with modern aerodynamics the cars would still be quick, but would likely be in the 190-195 mph range “naturally,” rather than the BS plate way. Real slingshot moves would make their return, too.

And to say “oh that’s too expensive to build dedicated engines for these tracks” … I’ll point out that the big teams already HAVE dedicated “plate engine” programs, to try and extract 0.5 horsepower out of plate engines, so the cost would be the same or less.

DW’s idea of putting giant wings on the front and rear to slow them down would certainly work, but it would also make the “aero push” so bad that no one would be able to pass.

Anyway, won’t happen. NASCAR loves their wreckfests.

Tom French
05/08/2012 03:29 PM
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Here is a solution. Flatten one of the corners at Talladega & Daytona. This will allow Nascar to dispense with the mickey mouse restrictor plate rules, increase safety by slowing the cars a bit, reduce the chances of “the big one” crapshoot and give us some real racing where faster cars are faster and slower cars are slower.

Dennis
05/08/2012 04:22 PM
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Tom French has a similar idea to the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. who said “knock down the damn banking”.

I prefer to reduce it at one end and see how that went. And then maybe do the same at the other.

Bill B
05/09/2012 12:06 PM
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With the current track configuration there are three choices; tandem racing, pack racing, or parade racing. Those choices are like asking someone what type of cancer they’d prefer to have.

Contact S.D. Grady