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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: A Confused Writer Has a Question of His Own for NASCAR

Before we get going with your questions this week, I have a question of my own:

Q: Dear NASCAR: How does Kurt Busch slam into Tony Stewart‘s car while on pit road, almost hitting Stewart’s jackman in the process, only to walk away with the new standard of a 100-point docking and a $100,000 fine. Meanwhile, Ted Musgrave gives Kelly Bires a pop after a wreck at Milwaukee, while still on the track, mind you, no crewmen anywhere close, and gets docked 50 owner and driver points, $10,000, and gets suspended for a race?

See NASCAR, I’m a little miffed because we, both the media and the fans, spent an entire week arguing whether Kurt should get the ol’ heave-ho. Hell, I was even on your side in the matter! Anyway, Kurt, and more importantly Miller Lite, got off without a suspension. If that’s the way it is, fine, we accept your ruling. However, two weeks later Musgrave does half of what Kurt did and he’s sent packing?! Is this because Kurt is a star in the Cup Series and Musgrave is “only” a Truck Series participant? Please tell me the difference, NASCAR, because for the life of me I can’t figure out why you’d throw fuel on the fire of rules (in)consistency.

You’ve already had a bad week as it is, NASCAR. With the No. 24 and No. 48’s penalties and their merits (or lack thereof) and the Aric Almirola/Denny Hamlin switcheroo in Milwaukee, which still has many longtime fans feeling a bit uneasy, we need a strong hand guiding the ship. I’m afraid, if left to drift, this ship is doomed to wander in a sea of contradiction, doubt, and illegitimacy. – Matt Taliaferro

Q: NASCAR said it owns the No. 8 (not Teresa Earnhardt). But Budweiser No. 8 merchandise could become a confusing copyright fight between DEI and Hendrick if Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to drink and drive. What are the odds Junior continues to use No. 8, replaces Kyle Busch as No. 5, finally takes his daddy’s old No. 3 out of retirement, or does none of the above? – Nate

A: OK, I’ll play oddsmaker:
Odds Junior continues to use the No. 8: 800-1.
Odds Junior uses the No. 5 next season: 10-1.
Odds Junior drives the No. 3 next season: Astronomical. As in, ain’t happening.

The whole number swap/buyout issue is only going to grow in speculation and confusion, and I do not believe anyone has a solid handle on what will happen at the moment. To be honest, the best odds may lie on “none of the above.”

Q: Juan Pablo Montoya took the checkers on the road at Sonoma this weekend, and he didn’t even have to wipe out a teammate to take the victory this time. With a Busch Series win in Mexico City and a Nextel Cup win in California, is Montoya a road course specialist or a threat to join the big dogs of stock car racing after learning the tricks of the trade as a rookie? – Rush Rocket

A: For now, he’s still a road course ace. I view road racing circa 2007 the same as I do plate racing; it is more about playing the cards you’re dealt and crossing your fingers that you are in the right place at the right time (see: Dale Jarrett, Talladega 2005). With smaller fuel cells this year, the road races simply come down to a thinking man’s game of pit strategy and conservation.

Now, do Montoya and crew chief Donnie Wingo deserve an ‘atta boy?’ Absolutely. They played the game better than 42 other teams. But let’s face it, the Ganassi organization has been a step off since Sterling Marlin‘s near-miss in 2002, and I don’t see them being back as weekly contenders just yet.

That being said, Montoya’s top five at Atlanta in March proved that it’s not going to be long before he’s a legit big dog on the circuit. The dude’s got the talent; it’s only a matter of familiarization with the heavier Cup cars and the ovals upon which they run. Look for continued improvement and a possible oval win next season.

Q: OK, so Toyota wins all the Truck races, and NASCAR says they can’t use the engine anymore. Chevy wins all the Cup races, and NASCAR OKs a new and better engine. Can you explain this? – Mac

A: Well, we all know some of the decisions NASCAR makes, so I don’t know if I can justify them; but I can tell you that the manifolds the Toyota Busch and Truck teams were using, and that were OK’d by NASCAR before the season started, were found to be producing 20-30 more horsepower than the other make’s engines. In NASCAR’s never ending quest to ensure that no manufacturer, team, driver, or jackman has an unfair advantage, they deemed Toyota teams must use the older model manifold that was used in the Truck Series last season. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: So much for ingenuity in today’s NASCAR.

Anyway, the new generation of Chevy engine, the R-07, has been in the works for awhile and was approved by NASCAR for use awhile ago. It is being phased in now, and I understand she’s quite the beast.

In summary, no I can’t explain it, but if you’d like to take a crack at the Musgrave/Busch ruling I’d be grateful.