The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? The Unbreakable Car, the Unbearable All-Star Rules and Sophomore Success by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday May 14, 2008

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Did You Notice … The degree to which the Car of Tomorrow’s durability stepped it up a notch on Saturday night? There’s no questioning the new car has better durability, but the amount of vehicles who walked away from serious problems with the wall – especially turn 2 – was unprecedented for the Lady In Black. Kyle Busch was the biggest offender of the CoT luck bank at Darlington, slamming the fence so many times you’d think his car would have been mincemeat by sometime around Lap 150. But Busch held on, and so did several others as the DNF total for Darlington stood at just two when the race was over; and neither one of those problems was due to a crash.

Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler took heavy hits early in Saturday’s race. But thanks to the CoT, both were able to return to the track and finish the race.

So, complain all you want about the CoT – and clearly, it still has some problems – but if we had the old car this past weekend, there’s no telling how many cars wouldn’t have finished the race.

Did You Notice… That the possibility of drivers making it into the All-Star Race having competed in one Cup race all year long simply isn’t fair.

But that’s exactly what Kenny Wallace is trying to do. The Cup veteran – currently with a full-time ride in the Nationwide Series with Jay Robinson – has signed up to drive the No. 37 car for Front Row Motorsports, knowing full well his presence in the field could win him the 2008 Fan Vote for the All-Star Race. Last year’s winner of the vote – which guarantees a starting spot in the main event – Wallace is hoping his fans will step to the plate once again.

But with all due respect to the man – who’s a great guy and a Frontstretch.com Driver Diary participant – why should they vote for him? It’s one thing to run a part-time schedule or even a handful of races in the series so far in 2008. But Kenny Wallace has driven in just one. I look at the fan vote the same way I look at casting my ballot as a fan for the Baseball All-Star Game in July; if a player will spend the better part of the season on the sidelines (disabled list or otherwise), why would that make him an All-Star?

Wallace will have an opportunity to earn his spot the hard way – by finishing in the Top 2 in the Sprint Showdown before the race. But should he lose and the fan vote swings his way, he would be better served to give up his spot to a semi-regular or regular driver who deserves a shot at the main event.

Did You Notice… That the All-Star Race was extended from 80 laps to 100 for the upcoming weekend? Instead of four segments of 20 laps apiece, the series will be running four segments of 25. That, I don’t understand; especially with the Car of Tomorrow’s problems on intermediate tracks – where cars have had problems passing on anything other than new tires — shorter segments would seem to lead to better racing.

Personally, I’ve never understood why you needed four segments for the All-Star Race anyway. Can’t we just have a 20-lap sprint for the big money? I know that would cut down on the TV time and pre-race pomp and circumstance; but the first three segments usually just serve as an idle warmup for one last dash of incredible racing at the finish. Do this experiment with me – can you remember the winners of segments 1,2, and 3 of the All-Star Race last year? No, I don’t either; that should tell you all you need to know. Especially with no inverting the field this year, having multiple segments just seems kind of silly to me.

Did You Notice… That NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott is going to have to qualify for the All-Star Race? Since the part-time driver isn’t a Cup champion within the last ten years, he’s no longer eligible under the criteria needed to be a part of the main event.

Wait a second … since when was a former Cup champion not an All-Star? Especially since this will be Elliott’s final full season driving on tour, it seems like the equivalent of a small crime that NASCAR’s 16-time Most Popular Driver can’t rest on his laurels at 52. Considering that traditions like golf’s Masters Tournament accept champions long after their competitive playing days, it seems a little strange to force a man who won the initial Winston Million into having to earn a slot in the field.

Considering all those years where the sport accommodated former champions like Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, and even Terry Labonte, you’d think an exhibition race would be able to make some room; heck, 1999 champion Dale Jarrett retired two months ago, and he’s receiving an automatic entry into the field. I can tell you this much; if I voted in the Fan Vote competition, I would be definitely pushing for Elliott to get in.

Did You Notice… That while the current rookie class is struggling, the 2007 rookie class is holding their own one year later? So much for the sophomore slump; David Ragan’s entrance into the Top 12 is the highlight of a great year for all five drivers in their second season. Ragan, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Reutimann, and Paul Menard are all higher in the point standings than they were at this time last year, with each of them showing marked improvement at various tracks. They’ve also combined to make every race so far in 2008, a far cry from the litany of DNQs both Reutimann and Menard experienced to start off their freshman seasons. The only driver lagging behind is A.J. Allmendinger; but to be fair, he hasn’t had much of a chance this season after sitting out nearly two months while Mike Skinner attempted to bring his car back into the Top 35 in owner points.

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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
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Ed
05/14/2008 07:59 AM
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The “all star race” (such an original name) is like every thing else NASCAR is doing these days. They’ve messed it up again. I can’t imagine Bill Elliot or any other champion having to qualify. NASCAR doesn’t know how to treat its past with respect. They only look to the future and how many dollars they can make.

M. B. Voelker
05/14/2008 08:31 AM
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What good would a 20 lap race be? Why even bother holding it?

Why would anyone drive the family several hours and pay enough money to cover a month’s mortgage to see half an hour of racing?

Why do so many Nascar writers seem to believe that giving fans less for their money, in the All-Star or in the regular season, is a good thing?

Ken in Va.
05/14/2008 09:52 AM
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I think the fabricated All-Star race is a waste of a weekend that could be better used to have an actual points race at a track that provides good racing at a track that NA$CAR has dropped a race from, ignored or abandoned. This could be Rockingham, Darlington, Kentucky, etc. (with schedule rearrangement)

Mike In NH
05/14/2008 12:05 PM
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I recall a time in the past when you could bounce your car off the walls and keep going, but that was before the car that was retired after last year – could it be that rather than this car being too tough, the previous car was too sensitive to punishment?

Douglas
05/14/2008 12:46 PM
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Who cares how many cars finished the race Saturday night?

At what expense?

At the expense of all the spectators and “core fans”, that’s who!

I/we want to see REAL RACIN!

Not how durable a bunch of (sick) cars are!

Joe
05/14/2008 08:55 PM
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Anyone who thinks that a champion from 2 decades ago who can’t even finish in the top 25 on a consistent basis deserves to be in an all star race, is just plain stupid. That would be like saying Dale Murphy should be a shoe in for the all star game in baseball if decided to come back. I also don’t believe that the “never was” Kenny Wallace should even be allowed to attemp to make that race. Like said, he has only been in 1 race this year, and finished dead last. What makes him so special that he can go out and potentially screw up a regular guy’s night (we all know he’s going to wreck) and prevent that person from making the big race. Kenny needs to stick to the announcing.

And one more thing..

People who replace the “s” in NASCAR with a “$” should shoot themselves. They are in the business to make money. Fact is, it’s their game, and if you don’t want to play their way, then you are m ore than welcome to go home.

 

Contact Tom Bowles

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