Editor’s Note : Becca Gladden is taking a few weeks off of Big Six and will return to the column in August. In the meantime, watch some of your other favorite Frontstretch writers take their stab at filling in!
Each week, the Frontstretch looks at the prior weekend’s NEXTEL Cup race as if we were back in journalism class, covering the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” of the race, the drivers, even the commercials. Check back every Wednesday for the fun and thought-provoking commentary.
Who … Does Elliott Sadler think he’s fooling by saying he has “several options” as to where he’s driving next year? Forget us media…even the most casual fan knows Sadler’s strongly rumored to the No. 19 team for 2007. I know the team won’t be able to make an official announcement for at least a couple of weeks, but Elliott, at least say you have a team you’re going to and you just can’t announce it yet. With Mayfield likely heading to Michael Waltrip’s third team, what other quality rides are open other than the No. 19 and the one you’re leaving, anyway? Don’t try and fool the common fan by saying you might be considering heading towards one of the open rides at, say, Front Row Motorsports. How silly!
What … Happened to all the attrition at Pocono? The new gear rule, that’s what. Just a few years ago, a 500 mile race at this triangular speedway would produce up to a dozen DNFs on a regular basis, with engines and transmissions dropping like flies. But, with NASCAR’s new gear ratio rules in effect, it makes it unnecessary for drivers to use shifting at any point on the race track to gain an advantage. With every piece of equipment other than the brakes breathing a sigh of relief, 41 cars were around for the checkered flag on Sunday, easily a Pocono track record. Sadly, while more cars make it to the end, that same rule has also taken away from some of the side-by-side racing, as the shifting often allowed guys to gain advantage on another car heading into the Tunnel Turn. Not only that, but there’s something about the cars shifting at an oval track that’s unique and challenging in its own right; here’s to hoping shifting makes a comeback here.
When … Will Pocono Raceway realize that the time has come and gone for 500 mile races here? While I’m definitely a purist, even the most diehard fans have a problem staying awake at times during this event. On long green flag runs, the field gets especially spread out, with 55 to 56 second laps meaning you can have 30 cars on the lead lap, yet no one close enough on the track to race each other. Not only that, but the above mentioned gear rule has taken away from some of the side-by-side racing, as the brakes give out sooner and some cars find themselves just hanging on for dear life by the end of the event. If the rules are going to stay the same, shortening the race to 400 miles might create more of a sense of urgency to get to the front, increasing the quality of racing and keeping those brakes from getting too hot in crunch time.
Where … Was Tony Stewart on Monday that he couldn’t make it on camera somewhere and issue more than a blanket written statement condemning his actions in Sunday’s race? In case you’re still living in a cave, Stewart intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, an incident in which Carl Edwards became an innocent victim. After the race, Stewart blamed the young drivers for causing the problem, even though TV cameras clearly showed he wrecked Bowyer intentionally, causing Stewart a one lap rough driving penalty from NASCAR. Not only that, but Bowyer did no serious damage to Tony’s race car! (Stewart finished 7th in the event). The type of written statement actually put out stinks of boss Joe Gibbs stepping in and forcing Tony’s hand, which, if that’s the case, is disappointing and almost as bad as Stewart not even bothering to apologize.
Why … Does NASCAR keep sending messages and handing out hefty fines to the most underfunded of teams? On Friday, the unsponsored No. 61 Front Row Motorsports team was found to be too low during post-qualifying inspection. That caused their speed was disallowed, moving the team from 38th into a DNQ. That’s a harsh penalty for failing inspection, considering any Top 35 team who would encounter the same violation during qualifying can start the raceusing a provisional. I’m not surprised, though, because the penalty is just another in a series of tough breaks being given to underdog teams since February. It all began when NASCAR fined Hall of Fame Racing $25,000 at the Daytona 500 for a part they got directly from Joe Gibbs and never knew was illegal. Then, Derrike Cope’s McGlynn Racing team was fined $50,000 for an illegal manifold, a penalty so severe for the tiny team it caused the team to start and park for races it qualified for in order to start recouping the money. Meanwhile, teams from Hendrick, Gibbs, and Childress are allowed to qualify for races and keep wins even if they fail postrace inspection. Does anybody else have a bit of a problem with that? Fellow FS writer Tommy Thompson does, and you can read his thoughts here.
How … Did Dave Blaney get it into his head that he could bumpdraft Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Pocono? Did he develop a little bit of jealousy after teammate Michael Waltrip was involved in two separate “bumping” incidents at New Hampshire and wanted to show the world he could do it, too? Do construction workers using CAT equipment have a certain preference for Miller Lite? Or did Blaney, usually a clean racing driver in his own right, have a momentary lapse of judgment that caused the incident most people will point to should Junior fall just short of the Chase? I go option 3, but options 1 and 2 are funnier.
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