NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: ESPN Overload, Merger Madness & Political Correctness

Just a couple of thoughts on Indy before I get to the questions this week… humor me.

Anyone hear the old story about how Brad Parrott was actually the guy who started the tradition of kissing the bricks after winning the Brickyard 400? Of course you have, because ESPN repeated it 472 times last weekend. Every time Dale Jarrett was in front of a camera, that softball was lobbed his way. Talk about overkill.

Think Kevin Harvick wasn’t more than a little PO’d with Tony Stewart after the contact that sent him parachuting back to seventh? Everyone made like all was swell afterward, but I believe Harvick’s post-race shot was a little more than a playful congratulatory pop. Not that I expect the two to break up or anything… apparently, the two are so close Stewart has his own room in Harvick’s house.

Blue air, yellow air, whatever. Congratulations on figuring out how to put colored graphics on the screen, ESPN, but I still don’t feel like Dale Earnhardt.

Guys, when are you going to learn you can’t drive three-wide into a turn at Indy? I heard Kyle Petty mention that there looks to be a lot of real estate when they make laps in the pace trucks at 35 mph. Racecars at 200 mph heading into a 90-degree turn tend to be a little less stable.

Alright, time to turn from fleeting thoughts to a long line of questions from you, the fans!

Q: DEI and Ginn merge. Then, Robert Yates and Newman/Haas. Not to be outdone, JR Motorsports merges his Busch Series shop with Hendrick and Kevin Harvick aligns with Richard Childress. At what point does it end, what does it mean for the future (only seven owners?) and who’s next?Matt H.

A: The future, whether we like it or not, is heading towards franchising. No one likes the “F” word, but you said it yourself: There conceivably could be only 10 or 11 owners in the field in a few years. If we get to that point, it most likely would be advantageous to all parties involved (read: NASCAR and the owners) to go the franchise route.

Who’s next? I think that sound you hear is Haas CNC Racing going to Def Con One.

Q: NASCAR’s PC police have once again outdone themselves. I just do not understand how NASCAR can take points away from a driver after he has earned them for something he did or said off the track. I know a precedent was set when Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. cursed in Victory Lane. Tony should not have said what he did, but this was cable TV, not network television!

What happens when a penalty for a curse word actually changes the outcome of the point standings? What if a driver does not make the Chase because of a 25-point penalty? What then, NASCAR? – Terry G.

A: I knew this one was coming, so here’s my take: One of our contributing writers, Tony Lumbis, summed it up best in Mirror Driving yesterday when he stated, “I think we’re dealing with two different arguments here. Is it a stupid to issue a [points] fine because someone is not PC, absolutely. But is it necessary in today’s environment? Unfortunately, it absolutely is.”

Bingo. Of course, it is absurd to take something as valuable as Nextel Cup points for something as harmless as a little curse word. But the fact of the matter is, Terry, NASCAR has no choice. After Janet Jackson’s show of professionalism at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago (thanks Janet, we were all just dying to see that) the FCC told the broadcasters to clean it up. And a network, and yes, I know ESPN is cable, but they are a network nonetheless, that is continually made to pay fines for its on-air content will eventually drop the product that is causing the problem. I know it’s no fun, but that’s the reality of it.

Q: I have noticed the No. 13 is still technically 35th in owner points. This may be a stretch, but what if a startup team who has never competed in Nextel Cup before decides to run and use the No. 13? They do not get the owner points, right?Tony H.

A: No. NASCAR owns the numbers, incidentally, I’ve always wondered how one can “own” a number, and they grant permission for teams to use said numbers. Although the No. 13 still shows in 35th-place in the owner standings and is an “open” number now that Ginn Racing dropped it after the merger, NASCAR would never open the can of worms you have inquired about.

So now, it’s off to Pocono, with a long, long, long afternoon of long, long, long straightaways ahead. I guess I should look on the bright side; We’ve got a road course and a 2-mile gas mileage parade coming up after that. Man, August 25th can’t get here soon enough.

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