NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Dancing Drivers, Loose Lugs &… Eliot Spitzer?

No time for an intro this week; you’ve given me so much feedback, it’s time to get right down to it. Still have questions, comments, concerns, or just looking to tell me where to go? Just one condition, please: No need to use multiple exclamation points… one at the end of a sentence will suffice. Good? OK, let’s cha cha our way into the first question:

Q: Two-time Indy 500 winner and open-wheel dancing machine Helio Castroneves recently acknowledged his interest in making the jump to NASCAR. How much interest would he draw as an offseason free agent on the Cup circuit? Where might he end up?  Dale Petty

A: A dance contest winner in NASCAR? People, I’m this close to walking away from it all. Can you imagine how Cale Yarborough would have handled that?

Castroneves claims his remarks centered around a defection to NASCAR, when he said, “I won’t deny that I’m thinking about it. It would be great to one day try the [stock] cars. But at this point, I’m focusing on Indy cars and winning the Indianapolis 500 again,” were taken out of context. Well, it seemed pretty straightforward to this writer; but he backtracked last week when he had this to say:

“They [the L.A. Times] asked me questions about thinking about NASCAR. Every driver [is] thinking about NASCAR or new challenges, let’s put it this way. But it depends on the opportunity, and my opportunity right now is great being here in IndyCar, especially with the merger.”

It’s hard to say how much interest Castroneves would draw from stock car teams, but it would most likely remain confined to Penske Racing – who he drives for in the IRL. But especially if Ryan Newman bolts to RCR, creating an opening at the No. 12 teams… the possibility exists for Castroneves to make the switch.

Q: Will someone please tell me how the point system works? It appears that Jeff Burton can run in the middle of the pack or in the back and still rack up points, so someone needs to tell the other 42 drivers that if they want to get points, just stay with Burton.

As for NASCAR changing its mind about the violation on Dale Earnhardt Jr., give me a break! Kyle Busch said he would wreck anyone that got in front of him, Denny Hamlin hits Brad Keselowski on purpose – and NASCAR did nothing – so why don’t you have something good to say about Dale Jr.? I don’t see him out there wrecking people just because someone is in front of him. And yes, I am an Earnhardt fan as well as a great grandmother. If I acted like some of these boys do, I would have gotten my ears boxed. Thank you for letting me mouth off.  Mary Libby

A: Well, for starters Mary, Burton has yet to finish outside of the top 15 – including a Bristol win – and has completed every lap this season – so I’d hardly say he’s a mid-packer. He is, however, as consistent as anyone out there, and his driving style and on-air personality aren’t flashy, which gives him a workmanlike image. But you are correct in that if other drivers want to earn more points, they should hang with Burton, because he’s usually near the front.

As for the Earnhardt comments, I’m not sure which Frontstretch article you’re responding to – maybe just evil media types in general – so I’ll say something nice about Junior for ya: he always says, “I’m proud of all my guys,” even when they make a bonehead decision or a slow pit stop that loses a race for him. What a nice young man.

Q: Hi Matt. I would like for you to explain what a vibration is. When I was watching the Coca-Cola 600 and Brian Vickers hit the wall, they blamed it on a vibration. Can you explain this?  James Paul

A: Sure. In Vickers’s case, the lugnuts that hold the wheel and tire were loose. The lack of “snugness” caused the wheel to rapidly vibrate side-to-side. The driver feels that movement and reports a “vibration.” Vickers was not able to pit before the lugs came loose from the studs due to the stress of the vibrating, so the wheel came completely off.

Q: Wannabe NASCAR surgeon general Kevin Harvick is piss testing his entire organization and wants everyone else to do the same. Is this denial and paranoia on an Eliot Spitzer prostitution scale? Remember, Spitzer was “cleaning up” NYC before getting busted. I think Harvick protests a little too much. Whoever smelt it, dealt it.  Rowdy Rush

A: Wow, I’m honestly at a loss for words on this one. You type like another “Rowdy” drives.

I think the precedent that Harvick is setting by instituting a hard and fast drug testing policy at Kevin Harvick Inc. is one that other team owners should take note of. I received a number of comments and questions concerning this very topic shortly after Aaron Fike admitted using heroin on a race day. My one theme throughout those series of inquiries was this: Some, including NASCAR, believe there is no reason to be proactive on this issue. I believe there is no reason not to be.

Kudos to Harvick for being proactive. And as for the Eliot Spitzer comparison, I’d say you’re about as off-base as a Matt Kenseth qualifying setup.

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