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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Talladega’s Biannual Brouhaha & Griese’s Racist Remark

Lots to get to this week, and I’m sure you know what’s first on the agenda.

Oh yeah, and the wedding and honeymoon were great, blah, blah, blah… Now it’s on to Talladega:

Q: Wow, single-file racing, how exciting! Wow, racing at half throttle, how exciting! Wow, can’t wait for a commercial break for some real excitement!!!! NASCAR screwed the pooch on this one. – Cameron Linn

A: This was the unanimous sentiment I received all week, and here’s how I see it: NASCAR finally backed the drivers into a tight enough corner that they had no choice but to abandon “The Show” for the first three-quarters of the race and ride. I guess if that doesn’t send the message, nothing will. Because that’s what NASCAR is looking for at Talladega – The Show. Why else would the sanctioning body tighten the pack by slowing the cars with smaller plates and tell the drivers, “We’re serious about his bump drafting thing this time.” (Overlooked fact: No bump-drafting in the corners has been a rule for several years, just never enforced.)

Think about how April’s Talladega race went. Once the drivers understood they could hook up with one other car and bump draft their way out to a sizable lead, the cars got halfway strung out (think Newman/Earnhardt and Edwards/Keselowski). Of course, NASCAR wants a snarling pack of 43 coming into the tri-oval on the white-flag lap with a blanket thrown on top of them – not two cars sprinting away.

So no, these rules changes/enforcements weren’t about safety as much as they were about providing for an exciting finish. This wasn’t a NASCAR race… it was a NASCAR show.

Q: Matt, I’m writing you on lap 82 just before I let myself drift off to sleep on the couch. Is this some kind of joke? I DON’T love a parade. Thanks NASCAR, but I’ll do myself better with a nap today. – Terri, Snoozeville

A: Set your alarm clock for lap 183.

Q: Can you explain Jimmie Johnson‘s position from 22nd to 16th to ninth during red/caution flags at Talladega? And WHY Michael Waltrip was black flagged for bump-drafting [the] No. 48 during practice? Would it be the same if it was ANY other driver?

I believe NASCAR has chosen their champion… may as well make Johnson’s trophy and sign his check. This could be why NASCAR is losing fans and TV ratings… including my household. It’s not a RACE TO THE CHASE, it’s [the] No. 48 practicing 26 races and winning any and all points the next 10. Please prove me wrong. – Sandi Burford, Ohio

A: Johnson advanced those positions so quick because Chad Knaus called him onto pit road for fuel before the red – while the race was still under yellow. Once the ensuing red condition reverted back to yellow, everyone started running out of gas. That’s where you saw the No. 48 making up spots, and that’s what Jimmie credited for the sixth-place finish in the post-race presser… not the strategy to lay back.

As for Mikey getting set down in the practice session for bump-drafting in the corners, I don’t know that it had anything to do with who he was roughing up. This was a way for NASCAR to show the field it meant business by parking one of the craftier plate racers on the circuit. The fact Johnson was involved was just coincidence… or icing on the cake.

And seriously, Sandi, don’t get caught up in the No. 48 conspiracy hype. NASCAR has taken his car back to the R&D Center every week since Dover to make sure Knaus is legal. Believe me, if he were fudging, he’d get busted. Hell, if he were doing everything technically within the rules and NASCAR still didn’t like something, it’d at least tell him not to bring it back. And we’d have heard about that.

You think NASCAR wants a runaway championship? Again, they want it for all the marbles coming out of turn 4 with the checkers in the air. It makes for a much better story, and a good story gets play, which equals attention, ratings and, ultimately, dollars.

OK, so we’re getting off the Talladega kick. I had a few more, but I’ve only got so much space and, well, they all voiced the same concerns. That was painless enough, though. I guess Danica is next week, right? Ugh… not again. Before then, we’ll finish up with some fresh ones:

Q: Haven’t heard anything about this so I thought I’d ask you, Matt. With Brad Keselowski at Penske now, are there any crew chief changes involved? Thanks. – FLW, Roanoke, Virginia

A: Doesn’t look like it. Roy McCauley is listed as the crew chief for the No. 12 car on the Texas entry list. YeeHaw.

Q: Hi Matt. Longtime listener, first-time caller… or something like that. Anyway, just picked up a scuffed left-front tire and rim from one of the racing teams that I am making into a cool coffee table. What is the recommended running pressure for a cool NASCAR coffee table anyway? – Jason in the Midwest

A: I wouldn’t recommend that, Jason. Goodyear doesn’t have a good coffee-table compound. Especially if your living room has been levigated.

And for our finale, I’m going to switch gears yet again …

Q: Mr. Taliaferro, I for one am not in agreement with Bob Griese’s suspension. I don’t think anything should have happened; at least not so soon afterwards. Hear me out…

Juan Pablo Montoya didn’t even know that the comment had been made and when he did hear it, HE HAD NO COMMENT. Had he heard it and been upset, yes, by all means, do what you need to to solve the issue, but Bob did apologize on and off the air to Montoya and to his fans several times. To me, that should have been sufficient.

I myself, I thought it was funny being that, for the most part, they don’t eat tacos in Colombia. Also, the fact that I am a Mexican-American, I thought it was funny anyway.

This country needs to start worrying about a lot more important things instead of who is doing what, where, when, how and with who and who said what to who about who, etc. This petty arguing over the slightest comment is stupid and too time-consuming. We had 12 guys die in a helicopter crash yesterday and we’re worrying over Montoya being upset about a comment made that he didn’t even hear… ridiculous!

Have a great rest of the week. – Tina

A: Alright, these are always tricky, so let me give you two sides of this story. Actually, let me give any readers that aren’t aware of what happened a little background:

During last weekend’s Ohio State-Minnesota college football game, ESPN ran a NASCAR Chase promo featuring the usual cast of characters (Johnson, Gordon, et al). Montoya, however, was not featured, prompting broadcaster Chris Spielman to ask where Montoya was. To this one, Bob Griese replied, “Out having a taco.”

Griese later apologized for the ill-timed quip and did so once again even later. When informed of the remark, Montoya asked, “Where is Griese now? Out eating a t-bone and having a scotch?”

OK, so I made that last part up. Montoya’s reaction went something like this: “I don’t really care, to tell you the truth. Yeah, I don’t. I could say I spent the last three hours eating tacos, but I was actually driving a car. But that’s OK, I don’t care.”

Classic JPM. He really doesn’t.

So no, Juan wasn’t offended by it. However, I happen to be married (12 days and counting!) to a beautiful Mexican-American girl myself. So as soon as I read Tina’s email here, I turned to Rachel and asked if someone had said that about her, would she have been offended.

“Ohhhhh… Yeah, a little!” in a what-the-hell-kind-of-question-was-that? tone. “It might just be a little thing, but it’s also just a little racist.”

Hmmm. Interesting. See, as a guy that’s spent my whole life being an averaged-height, averaged-weight, white male, I guess I don’t see racist remarks the same as those that have been subjected to them – and let’s be honest, I never have been. My last name may look Italian, but I was born and raised south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and I think everything – from my accent to my interests – screams that. In fact, my initial thought when I heard about this whole thing was, “Well, if someone had asked where Matt Taliaferro was and the response was, ‘Out getting a cheeseburger,’ I’d have probably shrugged and agreed that they may have been right.”

I surely wouldn’t have taken offense. But my girl Rach kind of turned me around on it. So yeah, I guess I can see where the Worldwide Leader may have sat him a week. You know, it’s more about advertisers and whatnot than anything to them, anyways. That’s just protocol.

And on an ironically funny (and very true) note: After our conversation, I asked Rach what we were going to eat for dinner. Her response?

“Leftover tacos.”

No joke. We both cracked up and preceded to eat leftover tacos.

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