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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Penalties & Robby Gordon… A NASCAR Tradition Since 1991!

The only thing that makes me cringe more than sponsor plugs during the pre-race invocation is when the sponsor being plugged is Heluva! Good Sour Cream Dip.

It’s just not right.

But to prove that I can be a glass half-full type guy, I am thankful that the ACLU hasn’t seen to it that the pre-race invocation has gone the way of Wilkesboro.

Moving along, you Flameheads sent in a diverse batch of stuff this week. Let’s get on with it, then.

Q: How was it Robby Gordon and [Joey] Logano were not penalized for rough driving long before Gordon drove him into the wall [in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at the Glen]? NASCAR penalized Gordon and [David] Stremme at Pocono for basically the same behavior.

No penalty this time and someone ended up on fire because of it. This could have been avoided. Sit them down before it gets to that point, NASCAR. – Amilee Watts

A: I always take a beating for my responses to questions involving Gordon. Therefore, let me preface this by saying I think Robby is one Heluva! Good racecar driver who does more with raw unadulterated talent than most anyone on the circuit. And I make the proceeding comments fully aware of the backlash that’s to come. But… Robby once again proved to be his own worst enemy out there. In fact, he does so at nearly every road race, all of which he has the talent to win. His temper and/or flawed strategy decisions do him in every time.

Such was the case on Saturday, when Gordon – the veteran – should have acted the role and taken the high road when dealing with the youngster, Logano. Getting into a fender war was short-sighted at best, and indicative of the way Gordon’s career has gone to date. But to dump Logano in that turn – a turn that’s so fast and played host to a pair of hellish wrecks during the weekend – was just not cool at all. Beatin’ and bangin’ is one thing… but wreckin’ is another. (In the interest of being fair, Logano himself should’ve known not to poke the hornet’s nest… but still…)

So why did NASCAR not penalize Gordon? Your guess is as good as mine, but a lack of camera angles may have had something to do with it – even ESPN was having difficulties showing the fans at home clear evidence of what happened. Having a different set of race controllers up in the booth from the previous weekend’s Cup race may have played into it as well. I do find it ironic, though, how Robby got set down for five laps at Pocono for voicing intent but never following through, yet got more than his money’s worth at the Glen and was allowed to continue unimpeded.

Speaking of…

Q: Matt, I noticed something during the Pocono race [last] Monday. While the two bad boys [Gordon and Stremme] were having their little five-lap timeout in the naughty chair, they were working on their cars. I know you can’t work on them during a red-flag condition, but I was unaware it was OK to turn a wrench when you’re in the penalty box. Has that always been the case? – MJR, Springfield, Va.

A: Questions like these allow us to prove that a NASCAR rulebook exists. I present to thee Section 9-12 (Parking):

A NASCAR Supervisory Official may direct a competitor to cease competition, to leave the racing premises, or to bring the car to the pit road and/or garage area for a specified number of laps, and/or a specified time penalty, for the balance of the race, or future NASCAR races, if it is necessary to do so in order to promote the orderly conduct of the NASCAR event(s). Such a directive will only be given in extraordinary circumstances, as determined by the NASCAR Supervisory officials. It will not be deemed or construed to be a disqualification, suspension or other “penalty” within the meaning of Section 12 and is not appealable under that section.

In plain English, nothing’s listed there about not working on the car. So if Gordon was parked for five laps, and the flag status was still yellow or green (which it was), his crew was allowed to touch it.

I’ve also seen one-lap penalty violations in the past where the team actually used the opportunity to refuel the car and do other work so they’d be in good shape when they got back on the racetrack. The Pocono instance you mention is no different… just with more laps involved in the penalty.

Again, we have a segue…

Q: Totally random, man: What happened to the 15-second penalty when a driver had to pull into his pit stall and be held by an official? I never see those anymore. Was the rule changed? – Barry, Turpin Hills, Ohio

A: Yep, the rule was changed. A driver that is caught speeding, etc. (see above) no longer has to park it for 15 seconds. Just a pass through the pits under green-flag conditions and off ya go.

Q: I realize that the “debut” of rain tires in the Bus… er, Nationwide Series last year left a lot to be desired… no wipers or defogging equipment didn’t help, and the amount of rain on the track made visibility a moot point. However, in a case like the Glen Sunday… if the rain stops and they can blow most of the water off the track, couldn’t the cars start on rain tires as the track finishes drying? When it dries completely, they can switch to slicks, the way the Formula 1 series does.

It seems it would be a practical application of rain tires, getting the race started so there was less chance of running out of daylight (since most races start so late these days) and actually finishing it? Just asking. – SallyB

A: Once again, Sally provides a sound voice of reason. That’s about the best idea I’ve heard concerning this whole rain mess. Of course, rain has a tendency to come and go, flaring up in one section of the track while it’s dry on another. That’d make a fine line as to when to actually race and when to park ‘em due to falling rain.

Still, I like where you’re going with this. And not that anyone asked, but I’m not in favor of racing in the rain. I mean, why would I want to see that debacle?

Q: Why can I not find updated Rookie of the Year standings?!?! GRRRRRR!!!! — Tracey, Wilmington, N.C.

A: Probably because you haven’t Google’d them. Looks like Logano leads Scott Speed 207-185.

Q: Matt, with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s performance this year (and last really) have you heard any talk of him not returning to Hendrick next year? That would blow the lid off Silly Season. Probably won’t happen, but I’m still curious. Thank you. – Jim P., Heartland Park

A: Yeah, I’ve heard things, but nothing that holds water. He’s under contract to Uncle Rick through 2012, and I expect him to honor it. I also expect things to eventually work out for him at HMS… he’s not the purely-mediocre driver he’s being indicted as in some circles. Two Busch titles, three top-five points finishes on the Cup level and 18 career Cup wins prove that in my book.

Now that’s thinkin’ with my dipstick, Jimma! (THA-WHAP!)

That’s all, folks. You’ll find me at Lake Barkley for my bachelor party this weekend. You’ll know the group when you see it, I’m sure… I won’t get into visuals here. Yeah, we’re going to a lake for my bachelor party… it’s what you do when you get married at 34. Or if you’re from Kentucky. Michigan’ll get DVR’d.

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