The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Double Yellow Line Means Ridiculous, Stremme's Sad Debut, And Said's Big Chance by Thomas Bowles -- Tuesday February 10, 2009

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Did You Notice… The giant black wrecking ball on the track Saturday night? NASCAR was looking for a new wrinkle to make the races more exciting, and…

Hold on a second. That was David Stremme? Ohhhh … now it all makes sense. Seriously, it’s hard to think of a worse debut for a driver with a top-level team. I know the Shootout is an exhibition race, but Stremme was putting on an ugly exhibition of his own Saturday night, involved in multiple wrecks while destroying his Veriz … er, Penske Championship Racing Dodge. He followed that up by falling flat in qualifying the next day, taking full advantage of his Top 35 exemption into the field after timing in a dismal 41st.

I know, I know; it’s hard to criticize a driver before they’ve even completed a full points race this year. But let’s not forget this is the very team that passed Tony Stewart on the last lap to win the Daytona 500 a year ago. Anything less than a top 10 would be a major disappointment for Penske, and right now it doesn’t look like that car is capable of running in the top 20. And then there’s the whole matter of that “Veriz,” otherwise known as Verizon Wireless — the company which inherited sponsorship of the No. 12 after a merger with Alltel. While they can’t put their logos on the car due to NASCAR’s exclusivity clause with Sprint, the company is still pouring millions into the sport in advertising through television and other initiatives. And for a company in direct competition with the sport’s title sponsor, there’s a strong desire for them to be successful; after all, what better way to shove it in your competitor’s face than to be standing in their Victory Lane with your car?

All this pressure adds up to a critical next few weeks for Stremme. If he stumbles out of the gate, there aren’t a whole lot of drivers out there that Penske can sub in right now. But if Justin Allgaier comes out strong in Penske’s Nationwide No. 12 … let’s just say this whole deal is reminding me of Jason Leffler’s decision to drive the No. 11 of Joe Gibbs Racing three years ago. In over his head, the Nationwide Series veteran lasted just half a season — paving the way for Denny Hamlin’s eventual rise to stardom in the FedEx machine instead. Could Allgaier be the one following in Hamlin’s footsteps? We’ll have to wait and see; this thing is certainly still Stremme’s ride to lose. But first impressions are hard to break … and he hasn’t made a good one to start.

Did You Notice … That speaking of Hamlin, he’s giving away four tickets to every race this season? I’m really interested to see who wins next week at California — just to see if they’ll simply say, “No thanks,” and mail them right back.

Did You Notice … The big announcement on Thursday concerning Boris Said? It’s at 10:00 AM at the Media Center, and while I’m not yet at liberty to divulge details, rest assured this thing is big. I mean, big with a capital B. For Said, the most important thing is it’s going to give him an opportunity to finally compete in a full season schedule (by 2010) and see how he stacks up against the Big Boys. For years, he’s wanted a chance to see if his road racing expertise could translate onto the oval tracks, but no owner or sponsor was willing to take a chance on him for more than a few races a year.

Now, for Said the waiting will all be over; he’ll have the funding he needs, and the chance he deserves. In a larger sense, there’s no question his weekly presence will be a fresh boost for the sport desperately in need of new blood; a loyal breed of “Said Head” fans make him more popular than most Cup veterans who’ve driven in the sport for years. But this partnership will run much deeper than Said’s driving career. Said and his new African-American co-owner, Rick Clark, have a plan in place that’ll make his team the talk of the town in the weeks and months to come. Just pay attention, watch on Thursday, and wait for the major twist.

Did You Notice… The irony in Mark Martin winding up runner-up for the Daytona 500 pole to Martin Truex, Jr.? Two years after his second place finish, Martin comes up the bridesmaid once more in Daytona — to the very team he left at the end of the season for greener pastures at Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin Truex, Jr. was all smiles Sunday, but whether he can do that two Sundays in a row rests on the hinges of his ECR motor.

And while Martin will wind up with a far better season in the No. 5, there’s no question his HMS team was looking up at the ECR (Earnhardt Childress) horsepower they saw muscle down the back straightaway on Sunday. Here’s the one thing that makes me nervous, though, about this whole ECR engine resurgence — we haven’t gone 500 miles yet. Wasn’t the old DEI breaking parts and pieces to the tune of nearly one team per race just a year and a half ago? I’d like to see Truex do well, but I have this nasty feeling he’s got “contender for 400 miles before unforeseen mechanical failure knocks him out” written all over him.

One more note on Mark Martin before moving on … he hasn’t won a pole since Richmond in May of 2001. Since that time, he’s qualified on the outside pole sixteen times — including six in 2008 alone. Sometimes people think the whole Mark Martin “hard luck” storyline is an exaggeration — but you just can’t make this stuff up.

Did You Notice? … This whole double yellow line thing? In my opinion, it’s a whole bunch of bull. Do you really think an extra yellow line painted on the pavement was going to keep Regan Smith from going for the win on the final lap at Talladega? Of course not. All that extra line has done is highlight once again the utter stupidity of holding races at a track where you feel like you need an out-of-bounds for safety reasons. Either come up with a solution that allows drivers to go back to running on the ragged edge … or admit the track is unsafe and find a way to remove the plates or change the overall design of the oval. It’s really not that hard to use common sense in this scenario …

One more thing while we’re on this subject. I was watching classic finishes of the Daytona 500 in the offseason, and just think of how many passes would have been disallowed if the yellow line rule were in place. The first one that comes to my head is Jeff Gordon’s pass of Rusty Wallace to win his second 500 in 1999. That’s looked at as one of the greatest passes in racing history, still talked about by many longtime fans today; but in this era of “safety first,” Gordon would have finished at the tail end of the lead lap, handing the victory to someone else.

And NASCAR wonders why they’re having a problem keeping fans entertained. Ugh.

Did You Notice? … Since we’re on the topic of safety, that horrific crash between Patrick Sheltra and Larry Hollenbeck in the closing laps of Saturday’s ARCA race was one of the scarier ones we’ve had in a long time. I have to tell you, I’ve been coming to the track full-time for three years now, and I’ve never been as worried as the moments after that wreck. Sheltra was certainly blessed, because another foot or two to the left and that hit could have very well been fatal.

For all of us, those tense moments after the crash — where the cars were cut open and both men got transported to the hospital — reminded us all that this sport is inherently unsafe. No matter how many soft walls you put in and no matter how many safety innovations you come up with, there will always be the chance a car winds up at the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. It’s tough to think about, but impossible to avoid … and not something a double yellow line is going to keep from going away.

Did You Notice? … How all over the place the cars were in Saturday night’s Bud Shootout? In one sense, it’s refreshing to see drivers struggling to come to grips with handling to the point they can actually spin out on their own because they can’t keep the car under control. With all the criticism of the Car of Tomorrow, I do believe it’s made the man behind the wheel a little bit more important than two or three years ago.

But… and this is a big but … the bounciness of the cars makes the racing look awkward at times, especially when cars are struggling to say side-by-side. Their difficult handling characteristics just appear to be that much more exaggerated; you can easily tell when one of those cars is loose. It’s made the old body style seem so silky smooth in comparison — even when those cars were on the verge of being out of control. And even as the teams get a better feel for how to adjust the CoT, you can’t get around the simple fact the things just look ugly. And we all know what happens to ugly cars — they don’t sell.

At least the racing was some of the best we’ve seen in years for an exhibition race, though. Here’s hoping it continues right through the Duels and the 500 next Sunday…

Contact Tom Bowles

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
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Ford Fan
02/11/2009 02:56 AM

Wow! A little early in the season to be this cranky. Man, you already have Stremme out of his ride. Did you notice that almost all the Dodges stunk it up in qualifying? Stremme’s own teammates Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish qualified behind him. And how about Kevin Harvick? Why not pick on Casey Mears, he was nearly as bad, qualifying 40th and wrecking Jimmie Johnson. The cars are bouncing around more that I ever remember, maybe partly the car and partly the bumpy track.The 500 could be a real wreck fest.

I got it. The big news with a capital “B” is that Barack Obama is going to include Boris Said’s team in the next bailout plan! LOL

Bill B
02/11/2009 07:47 AM

I can’t imagine any scenario (short of Boris driving each rach with a live grenade in his mouth) that will make this start up team “the talk of the town for many months”. Either you are exagerating or this is going to be something really whacky.

To me the double line just adds more ambiguity to the rule… so now, do you have to go below the first yellow line or second yellow line to get penalized?

02/11/2009 07:48 AM

Your “And NASCAR wonders why they’re having a problem keeping fans entertained. Ugh”, reminds me of what the WWF did maybe 20 odd years ago!

They changed the classification of wrestling from “SPORT”, to “SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT”, thus have less legalities to deal with being classified as entertainment, such as a movies and stuff!

Me thinks it’s time for NA$CRAP to do the same! After all, the “racing” is totally gone from NA$CRAP! It is pure staged entertainment.

And on your observation of the way the CoT looks on the track!

SICK isn’t it? I can’t even stand to look at those silly Cars of Crap go “porpoising” down the straightaways! They look like drunken land crabs!

Racing you say? WHERE?

02/11/2009 08:30 AM

You must have watched a different race. The race I watched showed that D.Hamlin caused the wreck that involved Stremme. Hamlin was in the middle and jumping all over the place when he started the wreck.

02/11/2009 08:37 AM

Amazing!!! You actually used the words “na$car” and “common sense” in the same sentence. As for the shootout, this is what happens when you put a bunch of inexperienced drivers at the head of the pack. Also, Ryan Newman not making the shootout while these other drivers were in it. As far as the car of crap, it’s ugly, it doesn’t race good side by side, and it bears no resembelence to the showroom model. Other than all this, everything is fine with na$car. At least that’s what Nero France would have us believe.

02/11/2009 09:48 AM

The cars are out of control because they ride on the bumpstops instead of the springs and shocks . NASCAR could easily change this by banning the practice , thereby giving the fans and the drivers a much better experience . But curiously , NASCAR doesn’t seem to mind the 1940s suspension technology being used .
Penske lost its way in NASCAR several years ago and the drivers they’ve had since that time are fighting an uphill battle . Don’t blame the drivers , blame the team for bringing undrivable cars to the track .
Its been suggested many times by some of the legends of auto racing that the use of spotters may be increasing the chances of driving into wrecks . The drivers have come to rely on the spotters and have stopped paying real attention to the surroundings . Remember , spotters are a fairly recent invention and racing went along very well for many decades without a spotter tell ing a driver what was happening in front of him . I imagine there were were crashes in the old days that could have been avoided by having a spotter ,but the crash in the ARCA race might easily have been a case of the driver waiting for the spotter to tell him there was a wreck instead of seeing it and reacting to it . The cars need to be redesigned so that the drivers can see out , and drivers need to start being much more aware of whats going on instead of relying on the spotter .

02/11/2009 10:38 AM

Oh, and regarding the “double” yellow lines!

I don’t care if they painted 20 yellow lines on any track, it is if? and when? NA$CRAP chooses to invoke the no-passing, and when it chooses to ignore the rule!

It is truly a NA$CRAP problem, NOT a drivers problem!

Bill B
02/11/2009 11:10 AM

Now that I’ve seen the Thurs announcement on Jayski I know that the “the talk of the town for many months” is an exageration. So what, a minority is the majority owner… BFD. It’s worth talking about today but in a month the novelty will wear off and it will be just another owner/team.

02/11/2009 12:24 PM

Good for Said!!! I could never figure out why he never had a ride. He is very personable; seems to have a built-in fan base. And he would be a favorite to win at least two races a year (and honestly – you can’t say that about several of the drivers that somehow keep showing up again and again.)

Of course this is all probably a moot point as chances are his team will be out of the top 35 before they can get a handle on things.

Kevin in SoCal
02/11/2009 12:48 PM

Anyone who has California tickets and wants to give them to me, feel free! I’m all for it. LOL
The double yellow line is just another reminder not to go below the line. I swear, you hardcore NASCAR fans hate ANY kind of change, no matter what it is.
And I think the new car is NOT ugly. It isnt pretty, but it is not ugly either.

Jeff Meyer
02/11/2009 12:58 PM

When it comes to Daytona, its not so much the CoT that is the problem, it is the TRACK! That thing is bumpier than most of the aging Interstates in this country! Time to redo it entirely!

02/11/2009 01:18 PM

“It’s really not that hard to use common sense in this scenario …”

Brainless Brian France & NASCAR have NO common sense!!!

02/11/2009 01:21 PM

David Stremme or the “Yellow Line” rule, flip a coin, both are a JOKE!!!

Stremme belongs in a Cup car about as much as I do!

02/11/2009 01:25 PM

“Did You Notice… The giant black wrecking ball on the track Saturday night? NASCAR was looking for a new wrinkle to make the races more exciting, and…

Hold on a second. That was David Stremme?”

You just gave Stremme his “nickname”; The “Wrecking Ball”!

02/11/2009 01:33 PM

Only 46% of the cars finished the Shootout, we could have only 19-20 cars finish the 500 if we have a repeat!

02/11/2009 03:15 PM

Hey PokerJoeK, your “Brainless Brian France & NASCAR have NO common sense!!!

I stand up and cheer your comment! You my friend have really been paying attention!


And Joe! Let me see, with 35% MORE cars in the 500! Then maybe even more cars get crashed out! The more cars! The more the chances of the REALLY BIG ONE happening!

Actually, maybe this is what it would take to gain the attention, no matter how fleeting it might be, of King Brian and Company!

And prefacing the following comment with “the CoT is a really safe car”, (not my words folks, NA$CRAP’S)
then I would be looking for a 25 car BIG PILEUP!

How neat would that be?

Wipe out half the field!

Me thinks this is what NA$CRAP is reduced to!


Kevin in SoCal
02/11/2009 03:51 PM

Speaking of Verizon and Alltel, how come Alltel is still running TV commercials, but they cant run Alltel on the car? AT&T was allowed to run Cingular on the car, they just couldnt use AT&T themes.


Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

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