Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Sorting Through the Myriad of NASCAR’s Midsummer Issues

A Truck Series race in Nashville this weekend! Yes, I’ve decided to shelve my beef with the Superspeedway concerning the overpricing issue and am taking my wife to her first NASCAR event on Saturday. I guess it boils down to being willing to pay $35 a pop to see the Trucks instead of the Nationwide cars. After all, at some point she needs to hear, smell and feel what being at a NASCAR race is all about. Yeah, we’ll hit the All-American 400 at the Nashville Fairgrounds in October, but she needs to see this.

Let’s hope she has as good a time as I’ll have. Something tells me the experience may turn her around. She’s looking forward to it — now, if only I can feel the same about her dance performances….

Q: Matt, we recently found out that Denny Hamlin was fined for his comments about phantom cautions to “create excitement” at the end of races. As I recall, shortly after Hamlin made those comments, Michael Waltrip said publicly that NASCAR was justified in having mystery debris cautions to give the fans a “good show.” Isn’t this substantially the same thing? Was Waltrip fined? And what about DW saying he was “tired of the Chase” in a video on the FOX website? What’s the difference here? — Sally Baker

A: The difference? Hamlin was opposed to the practice of bunching up the field to engineer an exciting finish while Mikey praised it. Of course, it doesn’t take a vehicular engineer like oh, say, Ryan Newman, to realize the messages were one and the same, so in that respect, I can’t answer your question.

Mikey’s inflection was pro-NASCAR, Denny’s was not.

As for DW… wow. I didn’t see the video until Sally here wrote to me, but I’ve got to say, he really lowered the boom. Suddenly, DW doesn’t like the Chase. A snippet:

“I’m sick and tired of all this Chase and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to fix it,” Waltrip says. “We took one year, when Matt Kenseth won the championship, we took that one year and screwed up that whole deal.”

“The only way in my mind and, I feel this way, I’ve only tried to work with the Chase, I’ve tried to make it work in my mind, I’ve tried to make it work with the fans, the media, the drivers. Everybody has tried to make it work. In my mind, you go back to the way it used to be. That’s a champion. 36 races. If you win by 200 points, you just won by 200 points. If you’re going to reset the points and you win by 100, well what difference does it make? You could have won it the regular way and won by 200… you’re still going to win.

“I’m sick of the Chase. I’m sick of them monkeying with it. I wish they would say, ‘We don’t like it, we’re not going to use it anymore, go back to the way it used to be, and you can race 36 races and you’ll be the champ.’”

At that point, Larry Mac jumped in to prove that he’s got the pulse of NASCAR fans about as well as he’s got the pulse of ballerina fans worldwide:

“I actually have been pretty amazed lately, hearing some fans — as all this talk about the Chase and tweaking the Chase — that are not big fans of the Chase,” McReynolds said. “I actually have been quite surprised. I guess the fans really didn’t talk a lot about it, but now that NASCAR is talking about tweaking it, I have been blown away by the number of fans that do not like the Chase, period.’”

Uh… hellooooo. It’s called “The internet,” Larry. Get on it sometime and read some articles by the guys and girls that work in that little white building called a “media center” that’s located across from you at the racetrack every weekend. Then read the comment section under said article where fans are free to post. It’s been running about 75-25 opposed for five years now.

Anyway, I strayed off point there, so let’s move along.

Q: Hello Matt. Thanks for posting my question last week! If the reports are true that the ‘Dinger is staying with RPM, Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard are leaving, and of course Kasey Kahne is gone, where does it leave them? Two cars or three? Because I can’t see them fielding four again. And any clue who fills the empty seats? Thanks as always to you and Frontstretch for helping the day along! — Kelley McNally

A: Thank you, Kelley. Let’s start with what we know: Kahne is gone, and it seems the reports of AJ Allmendinger staying at RPM are, in fact, true, so there’s one seat filled (No. 43) and one open (No. 9).

I can’t help but think the Marcos Ambrose talk is dead-to-rights, (we’ll say in the No. 9) so there’s Kahne’s replacement. I figure Menard is a goner too, and I don’t know what to tell you about Sadler. Will Stanley Tools request he return? Are they paying enough to even make a demand like that? All questions.

Beyond Ambrose, I haven’t heard any potential incoming names, but I’d like to see Aric Almirola not play understudy to a legend in the Cup show. And I continue to think Regan Smith is much more talented than we’ve been allowed to realize.

Evidently, RPM is in better financial shape than many of us believed, although I’m still wondering from where sponsorship will materialize.

Q: How does every NASCAR track that has a race NOT have SAFER walls? I’ve read on this site alone probably 50 times that tracks should have SAFER walls around the whole track, inside and outside walls both. Will it take another death for NASCAR to demand every track have these walls around the WHOLE thing? — Jacqueline Timmel, Missouri

A: Preaching to the choir, Jacqueline. As we’ve heard more than a few times this week, if there’s a vulnerable spot at a racetrack, a driver will eventually find it. Jeff Gordon found it at Las Vegas three years ago, Jeff Fuller found it at Kentucky about the same time, Ricky Rudd exposed a flaw in Daytona’s structure back in the mid-‘80s. Those were all upgraded and Pocono will be as well. I’m just not sure why tracks can’t learn from one another and be proactive.

Why a 90-degree turn is built into Pocono’s infield guardrail/earthen embankment is perplexing, to put it mildly. The good news is it’ll all be improved by next season’s first trip — new catchfencing on Kasey’s straightaway, new SAFER barriers and no mound of earth jutting into Elliott’s infield.

Q: Hey, Matt. Jayski said that Sadler’s hit was the hardest recorded since NASCAR used the black boxes in the cars. He said NASCAR doesn’t share that info, but have you heard what the G load was? Thanks! — Jerry C., Antioch, Tenn.

A: Nope. Like rulebooks and fines, NASCAR doesn’t release black box numbers. I figure something will leak before too long, though.

And we end with a glimmer of hope…

Q: Is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway losing so much money on NA$CAR that bringing the Nationwide Series in is an option? No offense to the Nationwide guys, but they don’t belong at Indy. And for fans, the thought of losing a great short-track race like ORP does nothing to encourage attendance by going to the Brickyard. Please tell me this rumor is false, Matt! We can’t cut ties with another great racing facility like ORP! – Cassie

A: OK. It’s false.

Quoting a Monday article in the Indianapolis Star: “NASCAR informed the NHRA, which owns ORP, the 2011 race would not be moved to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which in the wake of attendance drops is looking to beef up its schedule on Brickyard 400 weekend.”

I think I speak for many a fan when I say, “Good call, NASCAR.”

Thanks for hanging around until the end. Give me a shout, and I’ll get you in next week.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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