NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: NASCAR Fines, Edwards’s Flips & Some Canadian Love

Your questions were all over the board this week, which was a welcome respite after last week’s Goodyear bashing, er… I mean, questions. As always, shoot whatever you got my way, and I’ll either answer it or make light of it next week!

In case you’re wondering, that last part was a joke… nevermind, let’s get to it:

Q: When we hear about the astronomical fines being levied by NASCAR, who pays the crew chief’s fine? And if the owner pays for fines assessed against the owner and the crew chief, why doesn’t NASCAR just cut the nonsense & call it what it is? It’s a fine against the owner/organization! Thanks!  Ted Paskiewicz

A: That’s a good question that has many answers, Ted. It really depends on who the crew chief is employed by, and what he did to earn the fine.

Chad Knaus, when asked once if Mr. Hendrick pays his fines, sarcastically told a reporter to check his W-2 at the end of the year. Ouch… as many times as Chad has been burned, I’m guessing Bruna’s engagement ring was a couple carats smaller than she hoped for.

Jack Roush also addressed the topic once, and seemed to have a pretty sensible policy: “If a crew chief wants to push a rule and I think it’s in the bounds of reason, I’ll say, ‘OK, I won’t stand behind you, but I’ll stand beside you, and if you do get in trouble, I’ll send you a cake with a file. If you push a rule and you did not ask for my advice and counsel, then I won’t send you a file.’”

Assuming that most crew chiefs are making anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million per season, NASCAR’s new $100,000 baseline fine – up from $25,000 to $50,000 over the last couple of seasons – can be a painful one.

Next up is one last Goodyear/Indy query that was also Pocono-relevant, so indulge us…

Q: What teams did NASCAR test at Indy, and when did the test happen? And why didn’t the tires at Pocono have the same problems if they brought Pocono tires as backups to Indy? Thanks.  Jon Craeger

A: Actually, NASCAR did not hold the tire test at Indianapolis; it was Goodyear who brought in Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers. The test itself was done back in April, the only one that included stock cars until the 400-mile weekend at the end of July.

To answer your second question, the reason we didn’t see the same tire problems at Pocono is because the surface there is much different than at the Brickyard. Indianapolis’ surface was “diamond ground” in 2005, which essentially cut grooves – for lack of a better term – into the track. The compound tire that Goodyear brought to Indy was not wearing – or laying down rubber into the grooves – which helps increase grip.

Pocono has not had the same diamond grinding performed on its track, and the racing surface is just not as abrasive in general as Indy’s – never has been. Pocono’s turns aren’t nearly as taxing, either. Yes, they’re tight, but Indy’s are a quarter-mile from the time a car hits turn 1 until it exits turn 2 (same in 3 and 4) – which is sustained abuse.

Q: With the Beijing Olympics right around the corner, what are the odds that some form of racecar driving gets added one of these years? Open wheel is already international, and stock car is going global. But no matter what kind of car or track it is, people will watch, and the best racers can drive anything with wheels. – Dale Petty

A: No doubt people would watch it – it’d sure beat rowing, table tennis or synchronized swimming – classic SNL moment from Martin Short: “I’m not that… strong a swimmer.” But geez, hammering out the details would just be brutal. So brutal, in fact, that I don’t think we’ll see it anytime soon.

You also mentioned the stock cars vs. open-wheel issue, but are we running on an oval or a road course… or a street course, which is slightly different still? How about the technology? Is traction control allowed? How about those million-dollar steering wheel/laptops that the Formula 1 guys use? And who’s making the cars? Does each nation brings its own? And are they common templates? And while I’m asking questions… what the hell is a bargeboard?

I’d love to see Lewis Hamilton vs. Tony Stewart or Kimi Räikkönen vs. Tony Kanaan, but I’m just not sure how the details would be, or could be, worked out. Besides, isn’t the Olympics about man vs. man? I’d feel a bit squeamish if this turned into yet another manufacturer war. That said, it’d give me a reason to watch an event other than women’s beach volleyball (sorry, Mom).

In the meantime, check out a replay of the X-Games Rally. Now, that was just bad-A; manufacturer identity, hairpin turns, jumps that would make Bo and Luke proud – and the course was on asphalt and dirt. Dale, I’ve reached Nirvana.

Q: I am a subscriber of yours and I enjoy your missives. Boy, have I got a scoop for you! I hate to blow a hole in a great story everyone else is hyped up about, but history was not made last weekend at Montreal, when the first-ever NASCAR money-paying points race was run in the rain. That dubious distinction occurred six weeks ago on Father’s Day Weekend at Mosport near Toronto, when the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race (yes, a money-paying points race) started under a brilliant blue sky and ended under a thunderstorm in a torrential downpour.

I remember the race well: I got soaked, the windshield was a grey fog, the Goodyear wet weather tires performed as hoped, and I finished seventh – it was a terrific experience. I’d do it again tomorrow. Now, just wait until the first-ever NASCAR race is held in a snowstorm… count me in!!  Pierre

A: There you have it, guys and gals, Fanning the Flames now has a correspondent! For those keeping score that was Pierre Bourque, whose resume includes driving in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and Grand-Am Rolex Cup – as well as stints in the Truck, ARCA and Camping World East Series.

Thanks for the info, Pierre; and congratulations. Now please write Marty Reid and clue him in, because if he had told us what a historic and groundbreaking event we were witnessing one more time last Saturday, I was heading outside to wash the ‘Stang while listening to the sweet sounds of Pandora (If you haven’t heard of it, go there now – and when you speak of me, speak well).

Q: How long will Carl Edwards keep “flipping out” after every win? More importantly, do you think he’ll fall before he stops doing backflips in celebration, or will he stop before he embarrasses himself? It’s cool right now… don’t get me wrong. But it can’t go on forever.  Rowdy Rush

A: I’m sure if Jack had his way, the flips would come to an end sooner rather than later; but he’ll have to settle for flips onto the infield grass (where applicable) for now. I don’t know when Carl, whose 29th birthday is next week, will give ‘em up, but my guess is it’ll be long after Tony gets tired of lugging that frame of his up the catchfence.

That’s it for me this week. Oh, and congrats to Jeff Gordon; he’ll get off the schnide at the Glen on Sunday and snag his first win of the year.

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