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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Strong Fan Reaction Makes This a Brickyard Backlash

Another strong batch of questions from the Frontstretch faithful this week. You’re building steam on the front end of the 17-week stretch to end what is turning into a real Dog & Pony show…as we saw on Sunday afternoon.

Let’s go ahead and get a couple of the Indy responses out of the way. They were short, to the point, and not the least bit surprising.

Q: Most ridiculous race I’ve ever seen. Is this some sort of unfunny joke? I’m done with this crap. I’ll just read about it here on Monday.  Disgruntled in Missouri

Q: Goodyear should be held accountable for that “race.” If that is the best they’ve got, then get Firestone or Hoosier in and let them do better. 100% Goodyear this time. You can bet I’ll never own another set.  HemiHead

A: “Disgruntled in Missouri?” What is this, a “Dear Abby” column? OK, first off, accountability is two-fold here: Goodyear needs to get its shizzle together and bring tires that are compatible to the Car of Tomorrow; that much is obvious. We can’t afford to have another Atlanta or Indianapolis this year. Period.

Secondly, NASCAR is ultimately running the show. Regardless of the spin we heard on Sunday, the sanctioning body is being informed of everything that is happening throughout a given race weekend. NASCAR knew there was a problem, same as Goodyear, and hoped for the best – which was not the proper course of action.

While we’re on NASCAR, the CoT was its baby, and in my estimation is the true culprit in this mess. So, they get another lashing for that.

How does it all add up, you ask? Yes, Indianapolis was a disaster, and no, it couldn’t have happened on a worse weekend. But look on the bright side: As Robin Pemberton reminded us, they’re 14 for 15 at Indy, which is a pretty good batting average!

That last part was sarcasm, folks.

Moving on, it seems my man Vito Pugliese put everyone in a Caddyshack state of mind this week with his Tuesday article. And after the embarrassment that was the Allstate 400, that’s not necessarily a bad place to be. Read on…

Q: “This isn’t Russia, is it Brian France? Is this Russia?” Because the last time I checked, competition is what the USA and NASCAR were all about. Eliminating that competition by forcing every team to use Goodyear tires is just asking for an Indy-style meltdown. If teams have the option to drive a Toyota or Chevy, they should be able to ride on Bridgestone, Firestone, or Hoosier tires.  Ty Webb

A: In theory, Mr. Webb, but NASCAR has an exclusive contract with Goodyear that runs through the 2012 season. Goodyear became NASCAR’s one and only rubber buddy after 1994, which happened to be the last time we witnessed – gosh, I love this term – a tire war.

That season, Hoosier and Goodyear both provided tires to individual teams, and the results were about as bad as Al Czervik in an 18-hole match-play round. In a nutshell, each tire manufacturer, in its quest for speed, went riskier and riskier with the compounds – a pattern which resulted in blown tire after blown tire. Not good, but not much different than what we witnessed at Indy or at Charlotte in 2005. NASCAR eventually ran Hoosier out of the series by instituting a tire count rule that it knew Hoosier could not comply with (for the record, Goodyear couldn’t either; but it finally met the requirement once or twice, and by that time, Hooiser had packed up shop and left).

Anyway Ty, Hoosier has no interest, from what I’ve heard, in getting back into NASCAR’s three touring series – and with a contract in place it seems unlikely any other tire company will be getting in the game before 2013. Of course, Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch could recommend some lawyers that are pros at getting contracts broken. But that’s old news.

Now, how ‘bout a Fresca?

Q: Six of the last 10 Brickyard winners have gone on to win the Cup title [Jimmie Johnson in 2006, Tony Stewart in 2005, Jeff Gordon in 2001 and 1998, Bobby Labonte in 2000, and Dale Jarrett in 1999]. Do you think that trend will continue this year with Jimmie? Wouldn’t that be a classic moment in Chase history, for Kyle Busch to get screwed out of a championship after one of the great seasons in recent memory. – Rowdy Rush

A: It’s certainly not out of the question that Johnson and Chad Knaus get hot once again and go three-fer thanks to NASCAR’s Chase format. To this point, Kyle Busch is without a doubt the most deserving of the Cup, but we still have 16 races to go, which gives Johnson or a guy like Carl Edwards plenty of time to rip off a few more wins of their own.

But let’s say Johnson or a wildcard like Matt Kenseth – who may get one or two wins max – sneak up and win the Chase based on consistency. That’d prove once and for all that NASCAR’s jimmied-up Chase is more about TV ratings (in theory) than crowning a rightful champ.

I think we all would like to see a deserving champion crowned each year, and that is where many fan’s issues with NASCAR’s engineered playoff format begin. But admittedly, I also partied as hard as a fifth grader could when ol’ DW with all of three wins beat Awesome Bill and his 11 triumphs for the championship in 1985. Yep, Big K Cola and Pop Rocks all Sunday long on that chilly November afternoon…

Q: As for the NASCAR dyno testing of the different motors, why isn’t an independent source doing it? We have different numbers from different sources, [so] who do we believe?

It is getting harder and harder to trust NASCAR, seeing their main interest is raking in money. In most sports, they promote the team or player that bring in the crowds, and it seems NASCAR is doing the same.

If Toyota has too much power in the Nationwide Series, doesn’t it make sense they have too much in the Sprint Cup Series? I would like independent timing and inspections. – Robert Beane

A: Robert, I don’t think the numbers that come out of the dyno tests differ – it’s that different outlets report different digits. The dyno numbers are not made public by NASCAR (it wouldn’t want that fans to know what’s going on, would it?), so it’s up to the media to go digging. When it does, different people who are believed to be “in the know” will give different answers depending on their agenda. Hypothetically, Jack Roush may throw out one number while a certain Toyota driver, before he announced he was jumping ship, throws out another. It’s big ol’ game of Cat And Mouse.

As for Toyota having more horsepower in the Cup Series based on the findings of its Nationwide dyno tests, I guess there’s some merit there; but top-end horsepower is not the end-all, be-all. And I’m convinced that what happened with the Nationwide Toyota deal had more to do with keeping the Big Three at bay at a time when they simply can’t afford to keep up with Toyota’s money, and what JGR is making with it.

And for the record, I would also like an independent source for all timing, scoring and in-race ruling matters, but that ain’t happening. Ever.

OK, that’s all for this week. Now would someone help the judge here find his wallet?