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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Vague Rules, Driver Moves & a Long Dry Spell

Thanks for the input this week, folks. The questions continue to keep me busy.

Before we get going, I just have to say that I disagree with all the road course bashing I’ve heard over the last week. Was it really that boring at Infineon last Sunday? I thought it was a nice change of pace, personally… OK, back to the grind…

Q: Matt, what is the penalty for running over the air wrench supply hose? In the past, it was either a pass through pit road, a 15-second stop-and-go, or being held a lap. I know every situation is different, but several weeks ago Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran over a hose and I didn’t see any penalty enforced – or heard any post-event discussion of a penalty. What driver ran over a hose recently [Michigan]? What was the penalty? Thanks.  Doc Riley

A: Straight from the official NASCAR Rulebook (yes, it does exist) the rule is 9-15-C: During a pit stop, all equipment used to service the car must remain in the assigned pit box. When a car runs completely over or under its air hose or any other equipment within its assigned pit box, the driver may be instructed to return to the car’s assigned pit box for inspection at the direction of NASCAR officials.

Yes, this is the actual wording of the rule. And yes, it leaves all kinds of wiggle room – as most all of them do.

To answer the second part of your question, Greg Biffle was the driver that ran over his air hose on lap 186 at Michigan. He came onto pit road running in the top 10, but was forced to serve a pass through penalty for the infraction, which burned him. With only 17 laps left to make up ground, Biffle wound up 20th.

Q: Matt, let me start this by saying I am like most NASCAR fans. I have a soft spot for Mark Martin, one of the old guard. But a jump to Hendrick? Wasn’t he hanging up his driving shoes in 2004? How much longer will the “Salute to You” last?  Pat Hamby

A: Well Pat, let me start by saying I honestly can’t tell you how much longer Martin is going to drive in the Cup Series. I don’t even think Mark knows for sure. But if he’s going to continue, why not at Hendrick Motorsports? Even Hendrick’s fourth car is better than what he’s run the last two seasons.

Mark is in the unique and rare position of having the racing world at his feet; he can pretty well call his own shots at this point. Wanna run a full season chasing that elusive title? Go for it. Wanna stay on the ¾-schedule plan so you can skip Talladega, California, Loudon and the road courses? That’s cool, too. Any team owner would work with him after the track record he’s put up in this series.

Personally, I’d love to see Martin go to HMS, and I’d love to see him make another run at a title. I’d just hate to see him lose the grit and become a backmarker like so many other greats we’ve seen late in their careers. And by the way, Mark was originally scheduled to hang ‘em up following the 2006 season, not ’04.

Q: TNT reports said that David Gilliland’s second-place finish at Sears Point [Infineon] was the best finish for Robert Yates Racing or Yates Racing since Dale Jarrett won at Talladega in 2005. Is that right? It kills me to hear it has been such a long streak for a great race team like Yates.

Could you tell me if this is true, and if so, what their best finishes were since DJ’s win? And how many wins does Yates Racing have all-time? Thanks.  Gary Davies

A: I’m afraid Bill Weber speaks the truth, Gary. DJ made a last lap dash through the field after hanging in the back all day in the 2005 UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega, winning the race when a spin broke out behind him – freezing the field. Jarrett had just squeaked past Tony Stewart when it happened.

The Yates boys have been close on a few occasions since, namely on the plate tracks where their Bad-A** engines always kept them competitive. But the organization had notched just three fourth-place runs (Elliott Sadler, Daytona 2006; Jarrett, Kansas 2006; Gilliland, Talladega 2007) in between DJ’s win and Gilliland’s runner-up last weekend.

Oh, and Yates Racing/Robert Yates Racing has 57 career Cup wins dating all the way back to 1989 with Davey Allison.

One closing thought: My brother Ryan is getting married this weekend to a beautiful young lady named Katie. Since he reads the column regularly and critiques the pieces, I thought I’d use this forum to announce it to the world and say congrats to you two. Love ya both.