NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: What a Weird Week for NASCAR It’s Been

Wow, what a week. The Kansas race still has fans buzzing, while 2008 plans have become just as much of a hot-button topic: why just yesterday, Kyle Busch got a new sponsor (M&M’s), Scott Riggs a new home (Haas CNC Racing), Ganassi Racing a new open-wheeled Scotsman (Dario Franchitti) and the Busch Series a new title sponsor (Nationwide).

Oh, and did I mention Talladega is up next, with four, count ’em, four, drivers attempting to qualify for their first plate race (in the midst of the Chase, no less). Geez, just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder…

Thanks for the questions this week; the quality just gets better and better from you folks.

Q: In several CoT races, cars that finished well have been found to be too low in the rear quarterpanel. We are constantly assured that this is, in fact, a handicap to running well. Here’s my question: With all the limits on the CoT and all drivers talking about the lack of front downforce, are we sure that lowering the quarterpanel is still a handicap? Wouldn’t that help equalize the balance on the car?SallyB

A: That’s a great question, Sally, and with the unknown nature of the new car, it is hard to give you a fully qualified answer. However, I talked to my buddy Matt McLaughlin here on Frontstretch, and we concluded that even with the downforce-challenged front end on the CoT, the teams are still using the maximum amount of allowed rear-wing angle, a tolerance set by NASCAR, to maximize downforce on the flat and intermediate tracks. If there were an advantage to having less downforce on the rear, they most likely would be adjusting towards the opposite allowable tolerance using the wing… not the body.

Besides, the cars that have been found to be too low have been low on the right rear. If a team wanted to increase downforce, they would want the right rear of the car up in the air, not down; that increases the weight to the right front tire, the one bearing all the load on a banked track (or, to an extent, on flatter tracks). Theoretically, this would decrease the amount of understeer, allowing the car to turn more freely.

That’s not to say we can answer this question with 100% certainty, though. As McLaughlin so succinctly put it, “But (even with all this evidence), I don’t have a seven-post shaker and a wind tunnel, either (to prove the theory). So, is such a thing possible? Anything is possible.”

Q: Now that former IRL star Juan Pablo Montoya has produced a Rookie of the Year-type of season, and current IRL star Franchitti has signed on to race with Ganassi next season, do you think there will be an influx of successful open-wheel drivers into the stock cars of NASCAR? Maybe even a more marketable presence, like Danica Patrick or Marco Andretti?Rush Rocket

A: Don’t forget, Rush, that southern-fried David Ragan is only 12 points behind JPM in the Rookie of the Year standings, so there is still hope for us Southern boys. But yes, more open wheelers are coming. Now.

Sam Hornish Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve, both former IRL and Indy 500 champs, are looking to qualify this weekend; Hornish for Penske Racing South, Villeneuve for Bill Davis Racing. Not to be outdone, Ray Evernham will place Patrick Carpentier, the 1997 CART Rookie of the Year, in the No. 10 Valvoline Dodge in 2008.

Of the bunch, I think Franchitti will wield the greatest marketing power, though nowhere near Patrick. He had an amazing 2007 in IndyCar, brings a very likable personality, and – let’s not mince words here – he’s married to Ashley Judd. As Villeneuve and Carpentier might say, “Oh, la la!

And to whom I will once again say, “Go ‘Cats!” (Judd graduated from Kentucky in 1990). I’m the class of ’98, baby, and check out their college football team: No. 8 in the nation. Not only that, but sunny days lie ahead with Billy Clyde on the hardwood this winter.

Q: After all the controversy that has ensued after Greg Biffle‘s Kansas win, I would like to know what the rulebook states on the lead car not making it back to the line first under caution on the last lap. Or is there even a rule written for this? It is hard for me to accept a win when the car that is declared the winner did not even cross the start/finish line first!Angela_004

A: Well, NASCAR is not in the habit of handing out rulebooks (because as the old joke goes, it’s written in pencil), but I was able to get this rule, at least the closest rule that would cover the scenario. For cautions, it states:

“, cars will be scored on the basis of their respective track position. No passing will be permitted, as long as cars maintain a reasonable speed considering the conditions that exist on the track. The determination of respective track position and a reasonable speed are judgment calls that will be made by NASCAR Officials.”

Get that last part? Reasonable speed (is a) judgment call that will be made by NASCAR Officials.

GLADDEN: GREG BIFFLE WON, PERIOD

That’s important, because after the infamous Robby Gordon/Marcos Ambrose fiasco at the Montreal Busch Series race earlier this season, NASCAR’s version of the White House Press Secretary, Ramsey Poston, was quoted as saying, “When a caution flag waves, all cars must maintain a cautious speed. A car will no longer be scored when it cannot blend back into the continuous line.”

Seems to me Biffle, frozen field or not, should not have been scored the leader because he could not maintain a cautious speed. Simple as that. But as the rulebook states, it was NASCAR’s judgment… and they made their call.

The wrong call, in my opinion.

Enjoy Talladega this week, folks. Whether you love restrictor plates or not, you can’t tell me you won’t be on the edge of your seat all afternoon.

STILL not getting the Frontstretch newsletter? Consider that in just the past two weeks, we’ve been first in line for the following stories – the sale of Brewco, the inside story behind Rensi Motorsports and the possibility of Robert Yates using the No. 28 for Nextel Cup competition in 2008. If you want to be the first to know about the week’s breaking stories – and if you can’t get enough of your favorite Frontstretch columnists – then you’re missing out on a special part of our site! Click here to get yourself signed up today!

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