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The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2011 FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

There were several outstanding performances at Dover that deserve a tip of the hat, but to one driver in particular, a top-five finish meant more than a handful of points and a relaxed Monday morning meeting. A year ago, Brian Vickers was watching this race from a hospital bed as Casey Mears drove his No. 83. Vickers was lucky to be alive after several blood clots were found in his lungs and legs, and his future as a racecar driver was in serious jeopardy. He’d need heart surgery as well as surgery to widen blood vessels in his leg, but Vickers is back in the seat of his own car, and grabbed his first top five of the year to boot. To him, the points and the relaxed Monday are just icing on a much bigger cake.

What… was THAT?

Nothing about racing is easy, but Dover can really throw teams and drivers for a loop. Toss into that mix one of the most difficult pit-road entrances on the circuit and it makes for an interesting day. Both David Ragan and Andy Lally had trouble navigating the sharp turn off turn 3, spinning out right at the top of pit road. Ragan didn’t hit anything, but was lucky he wasn’t hit by Jamie McMurray as McMurray made his own approach to pit road during a round of green-flag stops. They don’t call it “The Monster Mile” for nothing.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

The grid was set for Sunday based on speeds in the first practice session after rain forced cancellation of qualifying and put the defending Sprint Cup champ on the pole and looking for a record-tying seventh Dover victory. After dominating the race for the first half, Jimmie Johnson faded a bit. He still had a car capable of winning, however, until a call for four tires on the last caution put Johnson completely out of the running and barely inside the top 10 for his earlier efforts. Johnson finished a disappointing ninth. Given that the No. 48 saw little tire wear all day, a four-tire call at the end was a bit puzzling. While four is standard operating procedure for the No. 48 team in most situations, why not call an audible and get track position at the end?

When… will I be loved?

It’s unusual, but we got through the entire weekend at Dover without a real villain. The worst incident took place on Saturday coming to the white flag of a green-white-checkered finish when Carl Edwards and Joey Logano both got loose in the wrong place at the wrong time. Edwards wiggled up under Logano’s left-rear quarterpanel, which got Logano loose and sent him spinning; in the resulting pileup, Clint Bowyer was sent over on his side, very nearly flipping over the inside wall onto pit road. The replays showed that Edwards never touched Logano’s car, but some were still skeptical about the intent of the No. 60 driver. Said Brad Keselowski after the race:

True, but that might still be a bit extreme. Edwards clearly meant to loosen Logano’s car and send him up the track, but not to trigger a multi-car incident. So blame that on the nature of the beast and move on. But Keselowski did raise one good point: why is using aerodynamics to loosen a car and send it up-track any more acceptable than a bump-and-run that accomplishes the same thing without wrecking the other car? My answer: it’s not, and both are acceptable in the closing laps, provided the intent was to move, not wreck, the other car.

Why… have a tape delay on the truck race?

The excuse was to reap the benefits of a primetime audience. But here’s the thing. Between social media and even NASCAR’s own website, it was next to impossible NOT to know who won the race before it even aired on Speed. I’m sure there are diehard fans who didn’t turn on their computers or televisions until race time, but that’s impractical for many, if not most, people who depend on their computers for other communication. And I do wonder if some of those who found out ahead of time, whether by accident or by design, that Kyle Busch took the checkers simply decided not to watch since the outcome was rather predictable and knowing took out any surprises. Which begs the question: if people may choose not to watch based on knowing the outcome, does that negate waiting until primetime? I’d venture a guess that there’s not a significant enough gain in viewership to justify ruining the race for many fans who would have been home from work in plenty of time to see most of it, some of whom no doubt turned on their computers instead, saw the results, and just didn’t bother. Races should be aired live, period.

How… come there’s no All-Star event for the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series?

Search me, because there certainly should be. It would take a little schedule rearranging, but why not make it a doubleheader for the Cup off-week that follows the summer race at Loudon? While it would be necessary to look at different qualifying criteria (hard to use wins when series regulars never win in their own series…), the regulars do deserve recognition. Why not have a pair of Saturday-night specials on a short track like Richmond for only those eligible for series driver points? And since we know NASCAR likes to imitate other major sports, it makes even more sense: minor league baseball holds all-star games at all levels, and the International Hockey League has its own as well. NASCAR and the networks already do their level best to bury the considerable talent in those series; why not showcase it instead? It might bring a few more fans, and that’s never a bad thing.

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