NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: “Smack” Talk, Engine Issues & That Damn Gopher Cam

Thanks to all the guys and gals out there who are sending a wide range of questions. You all manage to keep the input timely and (sometimes) challenging, but that’s a good thing.

By the way, could someone tell me who won that Yankees/Red Sox game last Saturday night? I was watching a ballgame that was one pitch from being over when the sound of 43 engines abruptly slapped me across the face.

Q: NASCAR keeps saying that the CoT will get better as teams learn more about the car. Wouldn’t it make more sense, coming out with a new car with so many restrictions, to allow teams to do more testing to speed up the learning curve? Even opening a track up a day early, allowing the teams to run tests just before the races would seem relatively inexpensive (as opposed to having to schlep everyone back and forth midweek) and could actually make the racing more competitive. Oh right, that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it? – SallyB

A: It would make sense, Sally. So much so that NASCAR has taken Lowe’s Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler up on his offer to open the track May 5th and 6th for an impromptu test session. Go figure, huh? This after Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, made the same offer to NASCAR in March… an offer it promptly declined.

But after an Atlanta race that witnessed just 13 cars on the lead lap by race’s end and a Texas race that had only 10, NASCAR asked around the garage at Phoenix and got a resounding “yes” from the teams when asked if they’d be in favor of the Lowe’s session.

“We always strive to work with the teams and do what is in the best interest of the competitors,” NASCAR V.P. of Competition Robin Pemberton said concerning the test.

Funny you should say that, Robin. Read on.

Q: Bottom line, Matt. Why isn’t there a more thorough [drug]-testing policy in NASCAR? Many of the biggest stars have said they have never been tested since they have been in NASCAR. I don’t think there is a big problem, but just one bad seed that gave the sport a black eye. Still, isn’t the adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry” a fitting one in this case? – TG in Indy

A: Well, the word “stubborn” comes to mind. “Idiocy” is another. Everyone down to the local sports talk radio dorks that know nothing about NASCAR (except that they have to schedule a weekly “expert” to call in for 15 minutes) has given an opinion on this by now, so I’ll keep mine short:

It took a tragedy… hell, it took four tragedies… to get some major safety initiatives enacted. Is that what it’s going to take to institute a hard and fast drug testing policy in the sport? You’d think someone in Daytona would realize that – especially when the actual competitors are pining for it.

THOMPSON: RANDOM DRUG TESTING – FORM A LINE!

Most people you talk to will tell you there is not a drug problem in the sport, and I’d agree. However, some guy admitted to being geeked up on smack while racing, which, as it turns out, is a huge problem. Some, including NASCAR, believe there is no reason to be proactive on this issue. I believe there is no reason not to be.

Q: Hi, Matt. My husband swears the Gopher Cam has been used before. He says FOX isn’t the first to utilize that camera angle. Is this true? – Samantha Daugherty

A: He’s right. The first time I remember seeing that camera used was on ESPN’s “Thursday Night Thunder” broadcasts back in the ’80s. I’m sure it’s been utilized since, as well, but I couldn’t pinpoint it; my colleague John Potts actually has a good column on the history of the camera he wrote a few weeks back. FOX, however, is the first network to give the thing a name, a mascot, and a merchandising link on its website. Shameless.

Q: What is the CoT engine program from each manufacturer? Do they each cast and assemble the engines? Trying to clarify this confusion amongst friends. Thanks! – Mike Miller

A: The engines used in the CoT are no different than what was used with the spoiler cars, Mike. Each manufacturer provides its unique engine block to the teams, which are then bore, outfitted, and assembled with proprietary parts to meet NASCAR’s specs.

Q: It’s so good to see Ken Schrader get in a ride at Talladega that stands a fighting chance! The BAM deal was going nowhere for him, even though it was good to see him on the track. Is this a one-race deal, or will he be in the No. 70 for a while? And what do you think of his chances at Talladega with a Hendrick engine? – Terry G.

A: I wondered if I’d hear from our lifelong Schrader honk this week. Schrader is a good choice for a team just trying to get a car in the show, although he hasn’t had any success at Talladega in a decade. He does run well at Daytona; but for some reason, the notes just don’t transfer to Alabama for him.

I’m glad to see your boy got a ride, Terry, but I figured the smart call would have been to Mike Wallace, who is a plate-track ace. And as for the length of the contract, it appears it’s a one-race deal for the time being. I’m sure that could change in short order, depending (and most likely will the minute this article posts!)

Enjoy the slow weekend, everyone. I can be reached on our bass boat at Lake Barkley.

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