The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Red Flag Means Work, Tires Need Work, And No Work For Carpentier by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday October 8, 2008

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Did You Notice? … Officials appeared to be taking debris off certain cars on the track during the first red flag period? I wasn’t at the track this weekend, so maybe my eyes were seeing things on television. But I could have sworn that officials appeared to be removing some metal from the front grills of a couple of cars stopped on the track.

Combine that with whispers I’ve heard that teams were allowed to work on their cars during the second red flag period (for the big Edwards-Biffle wreck), and that’s somewhat concerning – especially since it’s not the first time this year I’ve heard of such a problem. Is it just me, or does it seem NASCAR is getting lax on that rule? And since rules are such a big source of controversy this week, let’s revisit what the red flag means:

“Repairs or service of any nature or refueling will not be permitted when the race is halted due to a red flag. All work must stop on any car in the pits and/or garage area when the red flag is displayed during the race, unless the car has withdrawn from the event. Work must not be resumed until the red flag is withdrawn.”

Now, unlike the yellow line rule, that seems pretty cut and dry to me (out of Section 10-5 of the NASCAR rulebook). With red flags becoming more common to clean up messes, I’d hope officials become a little more vigilant to ensure teams in the garage area aren’t trying to do a little sneak sneak repair behind someone’s back. It’s an important rule to watch for places like Martinsville coming up, where getting out of the garage one or two laps earlier could mean a six to nine point difference in the final results.

Did You Notice? … A quote from Robin Pemberton that reminded me how this Goodyear tire issue is not going to be an easy fix? Here’s what struck me from what he said at the Indianapolis tire test:

“One of the things that we had done on a test a couple weeks ago was take some of the bits [from the Car of Tomorrow] that the teams have used early in the year that have changed and became more fashionable, whether it’s the rear steer of the cars or anything like that, and then to go in there and try to make sure that is not what has added to the extra wear and tear [on tires]. So, we’ve put a check in a box of a lot of those bits and pieces that the teams have used to improve the handling of their cars. As the car evolves, and it will continue to evolve just like all race cars do over the years, it will be a moving target for Goodyear and everybody involved.”

The key words in that statement were “evolves” and “moving target.” Here’s the thing: nearing the end of the Car of Tomorrow’s first full season, we still go to places where Goodyear struggles to match the initial technology of this new vehicle. And with the offseason looming, the configuration of the CoT is about to change again. Don’t believe me? I have a hard time stomaching that after all the complaints we’ve seen from car owners, crew chiefs, and drivers, NASCAR won’t make at least a few minor tweaks to this thing between 2008 and 2009. And when that happens, Goodyear’s going to have to take a step back all over again and re-evaluate the compounds that they’re using.

Despite the numerous race cars that left Talladega a mangled wreck, Goodyear insists that there’s nothing for race teams and fans to be concerned about.

Sigh. It’s hard to catch up when you already start so far behind and the very vehicle you’re trying to figure out keeps changing every offseason. I almost feel like we’re faced with a difficult choice. Either we wait another year to make changes on the CoT and hope the tires catch up and fix the problems, or we make aerodynamic changes to the CoT knowing full well we’re going to have five or six races next year where the Goodyears flat don’t work. Neither choice seems appealing to me, but judging by how far behind Goodyear is with this car I wonder if it’s the only one we have.

Did You Notice? … Talladega’s blown tires are being labeled “punctures” by the Goodyear faithful? According to Grant, “At this point, the indications are those are punctures from the racetrack or something off the car.”

Why does that bother me? Because the level of punctures at NASCAR’s fastest track on the circuit was never this high. Why is it that every time these cars touch now it leads to a cut tire? Remember the old days where people used to beat and bang and nothing bad would come of it? I’m not saying I want people slamming into each other all the way around the track at 190 miles an hour – we saw what happened when Edwards and Biffle did that – but the amount of punctures seems like an awfully strong coincidence to me.

Did You Notice? … In the wake of Patrick Carpentier’s firing, Reed Sorenson didn’t move over to the No. 10 car before the end of the ’08 season? Even though he’s hired to drive the car full-time in ’09, GEM has hired a combination of Mike Wallace and A.J. Allmendinger to finish out the year instead.

While this is a big boost to Allmendinger’s chances to get a ride for next year – the equipment’s Top 10 capable at certain tracks – why isn’t Sorenson getting a head start on ’09? This could be a sign of some of the bitterness remaining between Sorenson and Chip Ganassi. Think Chip and Felix Sabates are going to let Reed out of his contract early – benefiting a rival Dodge team — after the bad blood between the two boiled over midsummer? That sucks, because releasing Sorenson and putting a Jeremy Mayfield in the car for the final five races would make perfect sense for both sides. While Mayfield would have his shot to prove he’s the right guy to drive the No. 41 car, Sorenson could get a head start on his career with GEM.

Here’s another thing: what if Allmendinger has an A+ performance in the No. 10 car over the final five races? Could he be signed by GEM to drive a fourth car if they don’t merge with someone? All very interesting stuff. Oh, and about that GEM to Toyota rumor … what do both Mike Wallace and Allmendinger drive (or used to drive) on a regular basis? I’ll give you a hint … it ain’t Chevys.

Did You Notice? … In the wake of Patrick Carpentier’s firing, only two rookies are left with a full-time job… Regan Smith and Sam Hornish, Jr. Hornish is also the only open-wheel convert left of the four that applied for ROTY to start the season: Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, and Jacques Villeneuve were the other three.

Is there any more evidence needed to show the open-wheel craze is over? Let’s put it this way: enjoy Scott Speed, because he’s the last one coming up the pipe for a long time to come. Unless, that is, someone’s willing to write Danica a check she simply can’t refuse …

Did You Notice? … Three years after leaving DEI to start his own team – a move deadpanned by many – Michael Waltrip may have more fully funded cars in 2009 than the team he left behind?

You gotta wonder what Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s thinking from the grave.

Did You Notice? … Regan Smith got robbed? Nah, NASCAR didn’t seem to either.

Contact Tom Bowles

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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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10/08/2008 06:27 AM

I’m curious to know the thinking behind the NASCAR decision to let the COT become such a bastard of a race car . Neither fish nor fowl as the saying goes . Why allow the teams to mount the bodies offset to the chassis ? Why allow the teams to alter the rear end hosing , forcing the car to track like a crab on the straights ? There is no race car on earth that looks as ridiculous as the COT has been allowed to become . NASCAR proudly trotted out their new templates to show everyone how serious they are about keeping this car within the rules . Yet they allow the builders to twist the car up like a pretzel so it handles better . No race car should have to travel sideways down the straightaways to work in the corners . And the teams should never have been allowed to circumvent the rules , including the spirit of the rules , by altering the COT design . NASCAR can very easily check each car to make sure that its square , that its tracking straight , and that the body is mounted as it was intended on the chassis .
I can’t help but wonder if some of the tire problems would be solved by forcing the teams to put the cars back the way they were intended to be .

10/08/2008 06:58 AM

In regards to teams being “allowed” to work under the red flag: Somewhere out there Sterling Marlin has to be fuming!

10/08/2008 07:06 AM

Nope Tom, your eyes are not failing you. I saw the same thing. Pieces of metal, tear of stripes, and stuff being pulled form the cars and cars being worked on under the Red Flag. But keep in mind you have to consider the source. It’s NA$CAR. their rule book is not a book…it’s an etch-a-sketch…. just give it a shake and make it say what you want it to.

10/08/2008 10:09 AM

Kevin: my thoughts exactly, lol…

Peter DiVergilio
10/08/2008 10:09 AM

NASCAR designed the COTto be “bulletproof” so they can beat and bang on each other and hit the walls, and the cars can still keep racing. Knowing this, drivers abuse the cars and each other, and the next weak link is the tires. Splitters are at the right height to cut tires down when cars collide and pieces falling off the cars puncture tires; just flinging the cars around more aggresively strains the whole package. There’s no ,such thing mas a free lunch in racing – whatever you do in one direction has the ability to come back and bite you at some point.

10/08/2008 10:17 AM

The only cars that were working under the red flag were the ones hat were headed to the haulers.

10/08/2008 10:23 AM

And it was a NA$CAR “offical” cleaning the debris off of the cars while they were stopped under the red flag!

10/08/2008 10:48 AM

I could buy the Goodyear finding maybe this time more than the last time as the ARCA series were having the same right rear tire issues Friday. I do think Nascar is in deep denial over this car being the end all do all they have claimed it to be. From the early Atlanta race on there have been tire issues and set up issues on too many good cars for it to be just s simple “well we just missed the setup this week ah shucks” normal alibi, ever since the July Daytona drivers conference where they effectively imposed the gag rule on any complaints on tires or cars or Nascar in general. The problem at this point is they have crossed river of no return on this car too many have been built too much money spent to turn back and unless there is major changes and additional team flexibility allowed 2009 will be an instant replay of 2008. Nascar spends most of it’s time themselves or through their minions trying to convince everyone this is the best racing that’s ever been at some point you don’t know if they are trying to convince fans, sponsors or themselves on this point.

10/08/2008 11:25 AM

You are right. An official removed a huge chunk of metal from underneath the 48. I gave it a shrug because technically the metal was on the track…but wait! There was a full windshield tear off on the front of the 16…after pulling the metal from underneath the 48 the official headed towards the 16 and I started going nuts not believing he was going to do it but at the last second the camera cut…hmmm. Also, during the second red flag they spoke with Mike Skinner saying that he was helping the crew work on the car…they also showed the 29 team working on Shell machine too.

Kevin in SoCal
10/08/2008 12:23 PM

Callaway, the “gag order” was at the June Michigan race, not Daytona.

I have no problem with NASCAR officials pulling tire chunks or a windshield tear-off off of cars on the race track. That stuff is a safety hazard. When the cars get going again, it could fall off and get run over and damage another car. Also if it falls off then the cleanup crew has to go back out onto the track to remove it, extending the yellow flag time and adding another caution lap. No foul there in my opinion.

10/08/2008 12:23 PM

I wondered about the NA$CAR official pulling stuff off the cars. Also the work going on during the red flag stop. Then it hit me, Hey this is NA$CAR, what do you expect? As for the finish, I really think Stewart won, more due to the inexperience of the guys chasing him more than anything else. If the track below the yellow line is a safety issue, then put it out of bounds. So far so good, but then being NA$CAR they have to muddy that water as well. With 3 teammates behind him on the last restart Stewart should have been toast. Instead Martin gets left on the restart. Inexperience, A senior moment, did he doze off? Whatever, he’s out of the picture. Now it’s The Human Volcano, followed be two teammates, in a three car break away. Tony’s blocking like crazy, hugging the low line. What do you think Cousin Carl would do. On the last lap both DEI cars pull out. The Invisible Man, gets a solid bump draft from Mr. My Daddies Rich. Game over. Seriously, they just hadn’t been in this position enough to make the right moves.

10/08/2008 01:32 PM

Where does one find this mysterious rulebook you’re quoting from.

You mentioned a specific section, so I assume you have one?

10/08/2008 02:21 PM

Hey Kevin in SoCal, wrong again!

And I am not surprised!

In essence, this NA$CAR track patrol official provided an un-fair advantage to those cars he removed objects from!

He positively, and unfairly, helped determine and influence the outcome of the race!

This should not be in the hands of an “offal”!, ooops, sorry, “official”!

The cars should remain untouched during a red flag, not have some yo-yo decide he is going to help out!

Maybe next time he will carry a tire pressure gauge and ask what pressures they should be at?

Windshield cleaned anyone?

Yet more sicko NA$CAR crap!

Kevin in SoCal
10/08/2008 03:57 PM

Douglas, we’re both entitled to our opinions.

I’m perfectly fine with a NASCAR official (not a member of the car’s team) removing potentially dangerous debris off a car during a red flag period, for the reasons I described above. The official is not going to be adjusting fender gaps or checking tire pressures, be serious. That debris could come off the car when they start moving again, and be a danger to the driver, or another car, an official, or even a spectator.

10/08/2008 04:37 PM

So? How about a car that picks up debris off the track while under the yellow, or the green, he then must make a pit stop and lose track position!

Debris is debris, A NA$CAR “offical”, touching a race car during the race, removing anything from a race car during a race, should call for his immediate dismissal!


If the answer is no! He, once again, provided an un-fair advantage to a select group of cars!


10/08/2008 04:58 PM

Regardless of removing debris giving someone an “advantage”, the fact remains that NASCAR is reading their rules however they wish to interpret them—no one is supposed to touch a car under red flag, period. If they need to remove junk from the car, it should be written into the rules as “officials are permitted to touch the cars, not crew.”

Managing Editor
10/08/2008 09:38 PM


Yes, the mysterious rulebook does exist. And we got ourselves a copy ;O)

10/08/2008 10:26 PM

Isn’t the point of the red flag for the track workers to clean up the mess on the track so they don’t burn so many laps out under caution??? I saw the official take the debris off the 48 splitter and i don’t know if he got the tear off from the 16 because they went to a different camera shot. I also think that if a team is DONE FOR THE DAY. They can procede to load up for the trip home. Any car that’s not done for the day should not be touched by a team member, but an official or track worker cleaning up the wreck is okay IMO.

Kevin in SoCal
10/09/2008 02:17 AM

So? How about a car that picks up debris off the track while under the yellow, or the green, he then must make a pit stop and lose track position!

Stay on topic here, Douglas. We’re talking about red flag conditions.


Contact Tom Bowles

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