The Frontstretch: Ten Points To Ponder ... After Michigan by Tommy Thompson -- Monday August 18, 2008

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Ten Points To Ponder ... After Michigan

Tommy Thompson · Monday August 18, 2008


1. Give Backs – After five years on the sideline, the Southern 500 is back! Well, sort of. Track officials have announced that next year’s Mother’s Day weekend race will be renamed the Southern 500 — replacing the Dodge Avenger 500. The track lost the traditional Southern 500 date to the Fontana, CA racetrack in 2004. However, since the loss of one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, the track has improved its infrastructure and fans have rallied, selling out its lone race on the Sprint Cup schedule the last four years.

OK, Darlington’s got the crowds back, the Southern 500 back…now, all they need is the Labor Day weekend back! Southern 500 at “The Lady in Black” on Labor Day weekend under the lights would be sweet!

2. It’s The Thought That Counts – Elliott Sadler showed strength in qualifying for the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan and finished a respectable ninth. However, had he won, his sponsor Stanley Tools would have donated $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network.

Isn’t that just wrong that sick and injured kids are dependent on Sadler winning to receive additional help with their medical needs? If the money is available…why not just donate it?

3. Don’t Get Smoked – The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company announced that it will conduct two days of testing in September at the Brickyard with tentatively three Sprint Cup teams participating — and then another two days of testing in October with at least ten teams present. This move comes following the disastrous running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 27th that saw NASCAR calling competition cautions every 11-13 laps, as the Goodyear tires were not able to withstand the wear and tear from the surface at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One suggestion to Goodyear…make sure to invite Tony Stewart to those tests!

4. Out With The Old – Morgan-McClure Motorsports, though presently not actively fielding a Sprint Cup entry, still has employees working in their shop and are hoping to return to the race track as soon as necessary funding can be found. However, NASCAR informed the owners Friday their trademark No. 4 number has been transferred to Stewart-Haas Racing for 2009. That came much to the surprise of MMM management, who assumed that they would have been allowed to veto any transfer of the number. “There’s some sweat and history in that number 4. We feel like it’s ours,” MMM co-owner Tim Morgan said.

Hey, how ‘bout a little respect NASCAR….after all, it wasn’t that long ago that the yellow No. 4 Morgan-McClure entry was whooping it up on the field at the Daytona 500. Jeeezzzz!

How long will the lovey dovey feelings between Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman last once they hit the track as teammates / owner & employee next year?

5. Strange Bedfellows – Silly Season has officially peaked with the news that Ryan Newman — who is leaving the only NASCAR home he has ever known at Penske Racing — will drive for his nemesis in both his past open-wheel career and in stock cars… Tony Stewart. Newman describes both himself and Stewart as “…just hardnosed racers.”

Both Indiana natives have also been accused of being “hard headed,” as well. Will this be fun to watch or what?

6. Works In The NFL – Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition, was visibly peeved and insinuated that there was a deliberate attempt by the crews of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 and No. 20 Nationwide Series teams to circumvent results from post-race inspections. Though specifics of the “cheating” were not disclosed, it apparently had to do with the use of magnets to alter the throttle response of the two top-performing cars during a dyno inspection following the completion of the Carfax 250 Saturday at Michigan. Pemberton left little doubt that stiff penalties would be forthcoming. Joe Gibbs, team owner of JGR and three-time winning NFL Super Bowl coach, seemed genuinely taken aback by the violation and in a statement said in part, “We will also investigate internally how this incident took place and who was involved, and make whatever decisions are necessary to ensure that this kind of situation never happens again.”

Wind sprints, Coach! Lots of wind sprints!

7. Scary – Bobby Labonte, who was wobbly after a wreck at Turn 11 at Watkins Glen last week, said prior to his start at Michigan about the violent accident, “Everybody that came in there got pretty torn up. Not only did it look spectacular, but it actually was as bad as it looked. It was just a crazy wreck, as you all saw. You were like, ‘Holy cow. That was at Watkins Glen? You don’t normally see something like that there.’ I’m glad to get back on an oval this week. Better here than Bristol, at least for this week.” Labonte, nursing sore ribs, finished one lap down and in 27th Sunday at Michigan in the No. 43 Petty Enterprises Dodge.

Holy Cow is right, Bobby! You had a whole bunch of NASCAR fans holding their breath until they heard that you were going to be OK!

8. A Word From The Wise – 22-year-old Roush Fenway driver David Ragan, who has had a propensity for wrecking at times, had another solid day at Michigan on Sunday and currently finds himself only 26 points out of the 12th and final Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff slot. Right now, he’s currently tied with Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer at 13th in the driver point standings. Ragan, who wrecked out of the Nationwide Series event yesterday, was met by team owner Jack Roush Sunday morning before the start of the 3M Performance 400. Roush laid it on the line to his young driver when he said, “OK, David, you can wreck once in a while, but you’ve had your first wreck for awhile now. Let’s focus on making sure we stay on the black stuff.” Ragan then ran well throughout the day, eventually matching his Cup career best finish of third place after staying out on old tires during a caution flag on Lap 183 to gain track position.

Who said these kids won’t listen?

9. Manufactured Drama – After Michigan, just 77 points separate positions eighth through 12th in the points race for the 12 Chase eligible positions; with Kevin Harvick 8th, Jeff Gordon 9th, Matt Kenseth 10th, Kasey Kahne 11th and Denny Hamlin holding down 12th. David Ragan and Clint Bowyer are in serious striking distance for a Chase berth should any of the other listed drivers falter.

With just three races remaining until the Chase field is determined, is the Chase format providing the nailbiting drama that it was designed to do?

10. Well…It Isn’t A Win – Carl Edwards won the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday for his fifth win of the season!

Kyle Busch didn’t win… he just finished second!

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08/18/2008 05:36 AM

GIBBS can act innocent about all this all he wants , there IS no way he doesnt know how much horsepower his motors are making ! And if he knows how much they are making then he obviously knows they gotta hide it or lose it !!MY question is how do ya get this far into the season before someone takes a GOOD look at this sort of domination ? ANY doubt why toyota is winning everything now?

08/18/2008 07:23 AM

Just goes to show ya: Them NASCAR boys have done some pretty good cheatin’ over the years, but to really do it right, ya need a football coach! ain’t that right, coach Belichek? (Oops, I mean Coach Gibbs)

08/18/2008 07:44 AM

Quote: “With just three races remaining until the Chase field is determined, is the Chase format providing the nail-biting drama that it was designed to do?”

What “drama”? Maybe a bit for two or three cars, but this does not “stand out” as real drama in a field of 43 cars!

Nope, gotta do better than this for sure for real drama!

Still got all my nails!

08/18/2008 08:56 AM

The racing , not to mention the drama , hasn’t been improved one bit by the dopey Chase idea . Nor by the COT idea . NASCAR , with it’s total lack of direction and leadership , has added nothing to the sport with these half baked ideas .
Cheating is cheating . No one in NASCAR has ever cheated inadvertently . EVER . This incident with Gibbs is no different than any other cheating incident . But money makes no difference to the teams . So maybe NASCAR should just do the logical thing for a change . A car or team found to be not in compliance with the rules is DQd . PERIOD . No points for that event for driver , owner , or manufacturer . No prize money . Watch what a huge and immediate influence that rule would have on cheating . Why would that be so hard to do ?

08/18/2008 11:57 AM

No, the Chase is not increasing excitement in NASCAR. The fact that someone like Bowyer or Ragan could steal the title away from Busch or Edwards makes me ill to my stomach.

On the other hand, maybe it would be a blessing for a winless driver to win the Cup so Brian France would finally have to admit the Chase is a crock of sh*t.

Jeff G
08/18/2008 12:55 PM

marshall said it all. Parking a car no matter who it is, will get EVERYONES attention! Let’s see if Brian, Mike and Robin have ANY guts to do the right thing…..

08/18/2008 02:11 PM

2. It’s The Thought That Counts…

Don’t you think they knew there was no chance of having to give the money away anyways, Sadler had as much chance of winning as Brad Coleman did, none.

08/18/2008 03:39 PM

I would like Soviet-Nascar to take a look at Gibbs #18 cup car dyno numbers…

Maybe then we might know why Kyle keeps winning races….

He is good, but he is no Petty or Pearson….

08/18/2008 06:31 PM

First off this wasnt exactly cheating …it was protecting an advantage that toyota gave them with a brand new motor design , SECOND : ASK yourself why chassis dyno testing is neccesary in the nationwide series (when toyota is dominating ) but not in the sprint cup series ( when toyota is dominating) LASTLY : ask yourself how good this all looks for nascar when last years champion was caught BLATANTLY cheating at least twice ….and this years possible champion has been given an advantage over all the other competition because the manufacturer has DEEP POCKETS ??

08/18/2008 06:57 PM

>>This incident with Gibbs is no different than any other cheating incident.<<

I don’t agree, Marshall. This is WAY bigger. JGR didn’t try to cheat the competition. They tried to cheat NA$CAR.

Have you heard that “Autoextremist” dude’s rant about the Detroit automakers wasting their money on these phony “stock” cars? Now why in the world should Ford, Chevy and Dodge pump something on the order of $150 million a year into the France family’s favorite sport to be props in a Toyota commercial? When NA$CAR let the Japs bring a better engine and makes them run their old stuff (particularly Ford)….

Them JGR boys are in deep, deep doo-doo. Heads will roll, I tell you!

08/18/2008 09:31 PM

NA$CAR rules are like the death penalty, if not carried out in a swift and sure manner, there is no real deterrence. Like Marshall said, “park ‘em”. If NA$CAR really wants to stop a time honored tradition (like they’ve stopped all other time honored traditions) then they need to “park ‘em” like they don’t exist.
Teams have always played a cat and mouse game with NASCAR on the rules. It’s truly a tradition that helped build this sport. But NA$CAR, with their Holy Grail of a “race” car, have opened new doors. They drew a line in the sand. In doing so they have put themselves in a position of having to levy stiffer and stiffer penalties to the point of it being laughable. “Don’t touch our car, but we want you to race”. “If you have found an advantage, we’re taking it in the name of equality, but we want you to race”.
So go ahead NA$CAR, “park em”. You’ve already made sponsors run, you’ve made fans run, the only thing you can’t make run is your “Holy Grail”.

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