NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Four Burning Questions: Sarcastic Stewart and “Secret” Meetings

*Sarcasm aside, what should we take from Tony Stewart’s post-race interview?*

A frustrating race at Talladega left Stewart irritable post-race, but instead of lashing out at the media as Stewart is known to do he just decided to take the sarcastic route. Aside from the extravagant “suggestions”—like a figure eight racetrack or racing around the track backwards—he was essentially calling out the track for being a wreck-fest and, to a lesser extent, fans for wanting it.

And before anyone feels the need to remind me, yes I know he was being sarcastic. As an individual who is fluent in the language of sarcasm, it wasn’t all that hard to detect. Still, as all fellow sarcasm-fluent people know, he was trying to make a point … and sometimes the best way to make a point is to say the opposite. Simply put, Stewart hates Talladega and the ensuing bent-up sheet metal that results. I’ve already spoken about how the accusation that “fans want crashes is complete crap”:https://frontstretch.com/sdreyer/38597 so I won’t go into that this time around.

The other side of that argument, though, is if something about Talladega needs to be changed—or scrapped completely as Stewart’s driver “Ryan Newman suggested.”:http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/nascar/story/2012-05-10/Ryan-Newman-talks-Talladega-fines/54879060/1 I’m open to argument, but my personal opinion is that it doesn’t, and it is a good thing to have unique racetracks like Talladega and Daytona on the schedule. No I don’t think they should take up a large chunk of the races, but four times a year doesn’t hurt anything other than Stewart’s ego and maybe his team’s bank account. The thing is, no one ever said racing was easy, and if you try and get into the sport without being ready to lose a metric crap-ton of money, you’re too naïve to ever succeed anyway.

I understand the concern about safety. Eric McClure’s crash was enough evidence of that. In that regard, however, I don’t believe the answer is to remove Talladega from the schedule but simply to make it safer. I believe NASCAR and its tracks are always looking at ways to keep the racing exciting while still maintaining a relatively safe environment. They’ve done a great job of it up to this point, and many fans love Talladega. So Stewart is likely just going to have to suck it up for now.

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Sam Hornish Jr. fell victim to a post-race wreck at Talladega that has raised a number of questions as to NASCAR’s willingness to discipline its drivers.

*Can NASCAR afford to remain silent on the Danica Patrick/Sam Hornish Jr. incident?*

A meeting in the NASCAR hauler doesn’t count as a punishment. That’s even more laughable than probation, since probation at least serves as a warning. NASCAR hasn’t really revealed much about what will be said to Patrick, but I can only assume some sort of verbal reprimanding is what we are expected to believe.

…Seriously? Is she six years old? Do we really think a secret “meeting” is going to get the point across to her? Even more important than the message it sends to Patrick is what it tells the other drivers about their behaviors towards their fellow drivers.

Patrick has since claimed she didn’t mean to turn Hornish and was only trying to tap his bumper to voice her displeasure.

But … does it matter? Several incidents in the past few years—mostly involving a person by the name of Kyle Busch, but I won’t go there—have resulted in penalties from NASCAR. Even if it was something as small as probation or a fine, the sanctioning body still felt it was necessary to react to drivers intentionally wrecking each other on the track. If Patrick is allowed to display this sort of behavior and get away with it, other drivers may follow suit. And why shouldn’t they? If NASCAR is going to let their drivers crash each other into oblivion for small contact, then they should! Self-policing or not, when drivers’ emotions run hot, they do stupid things. It’s just the way of the sport, and that’s when NASCAR needs to step in.

Then again, if NASCAR wants the drivers to “have at it”, then fine. They’d just better follow through with it the next time another driver without a racy GoDaddy ad pulls something similar.

*Why has Hendrick Motorsports been shut out so far?*

10 races into the season and not one of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers have taken the checkered flag. This is one of those “if you’d have told me, I wouldn’t have believed you” moments, yet it’s staring us in the face. While I’m sure there are many of you who certainly aren’t complaining—heck, fans dealt with Jimmie Johnson for five straight years—it’s still a hard concept to grasp.

However, it’s still a little surprising and there isn’t necessarily one reason to point to. Jeff Gordon has had horrible luck and has to eventually shake the monkey off his back; Dale Earnhardt Jr. has come close several times, and is actually the strongest of the HMS cars right now; Jimmie Johnson has been mediocre, at least as mediocre as a five-time champion can be; and Kasey Kahne just needs to worry about getting back inside the top 15 in points.

I’m just going to go out on a limb and say Earnhardt will be the driver who gets HMS their 200th win, but the fact that it hasn’t happened yet with any of the four drivers makes me wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. It couldn’t be that, _gasp_, the Sprint Cup Series is actually competitive this year … could it?!

*Is Carl Edwards a good addition to the broadcast booth?*

For those who hadn’t heard, Edwards will be in the broadcast booth for ESPN during this weekend’s Nationwide Series race in Darlington and later this season at Kentucky Speedway. It was an announcement many of us saw coming and absolutely nobody was surprised by it. I even joked with some friends of mine about who was going to be ESPN2’s in-race reporter this season now that Edwards was scaling back.

When the announcement was made, you heard the terms “good ambassador for the sport” and “very well-spoken” thrown around for Edwards—both of which are true. However, most of those were made by media members.

Here’s the thing. The media _loves_ Edwards. I’m not accusing anyone in the media of outright cheering for Edwards in the actual races, but he’s a goldmine for easy quotes. On a personal note, he was the first driver I ever asked a question to in the media center. I was nervous and knew he would give me a good answer, regardless of what I asked. He’s easy to talk to and always has been.

However, while Edwards has a pretty significant fan base, there are also many others who just can’t stand the idea of having to listen to him call the race for the entire length of the event. As such, many media members were baffled by the response. “How can you not like Carl Edwards? He’s such a nice guy!”

Edwards _is_ a nice guy … on camera. However, a variety of on-track incidents and a very corporate like persona have turned fans off of the nice guy image, and instead see him as two-faced or all out fake. I don’t fault them for it. Edwards might be well-spoken, but he’s also predictable and honestly can be kind of a kiss ass. I have no problems with him being in the booth, but it’s no surprise to me that certain fans are so turned off by the idea. He’s less Waltrip and more Jimmie Johnson, which isn’t necessarily good either. He’s personable, but somewhat stale. Well-spoken, yet has shown a rough side.

I think the bottom line comes down to that fans don’t know who the “real” Edwards is, and it turns them away. At the same time, I think Edwards can appeal to a wide range of people and will overall be a good thing, especially for viewers tuning in for the first time.

It’s certainly a “pros and cons” type question. Personally, I think it’s a good move, but I don’t blame you if you’re fuming through the entire race. At the very least, give him a chance. Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think.

“Contact Summer Dreyer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/28526/

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