NASCAR Race Weekend Central

MPM2Nite: Short Takes Before A Short Break

Some of you might not realize but after Sunday’s race at New Hampshire, the Cup regulars get a weekend off before the Brickyard 400; that off-weekend will be the last one of the season. Right now we’re in the midst of a 12-day heat wave that has sent temperature soaring into the triple digits, and by the time the Cup season ends I’ll likely be burning my wood stove. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate: the Cup schedule is simply too long and needs to b e shortened by 25 percent, with a few off weekends added during the summer especially.

So before my week off, I wanted to comment on a few topics causing a buzz amongst the fans right now.

*AJ Allmendinger:* Ever since the news broke that AJ Allmendinger had been temporarily suspended for a failed drug test just prior to Saturday night’s race at Daytona, the fans have been buzzing (no pun intended) and left wondering what exactly was going on. In the absence of information rumor flourishes and I’ve read some pretty wild stuff on message boards and Twitter.

Wednesday at last some of the speculation was put to rest. Allmedinger’s business manager said that his driver had been found to have a “stimulant” in his system. Most of you are adults and know what the word “stimulant” means. Stimulants can range from some pretty nasty stuff, particularly meth and the various forms of “speed” right down your 12-ounce cup of Joe from the local convenience store. The spokesperson here went on to note that Allmendinger was collecting all of the prescription meds, dietary supplements, and such he regularly uses to see if they could have triggered a false positive on the test.

When the news broke (and again information abhors a vacuum) it spread like wildfire. There was rampant speculation that Allmendinger’s false positive could have been triggered by an energy drink he now endorses, Fuel In A Bottle acclaimed to be one of the most potent (though of course, not illegal) such products. Doing his due diligence “John Daly of _The Daly Planet_”:http://dalyplanet.blogspot.com/ located a particular substance labeled as a “potent stimulant” on a drug testing website by the name of methylxanthine. I contacted the makers of Fuel In a Bottle (whose parent company incidentally is Coca Cola) to see if methylxanthine was found in their product. I haven’t heard back from them yet; let me say I was just covering the bases here. There is absolutely no hard information that their product or any other energy drink is at the root of AJ’s problem at this point.

In doing further research I found out that methylxanthine is a family of chemicals not a unique one. Included in that list if “caffeine” a key ingredient in coffee, the world’s third most commonly consumed beverage. All energy drinks I have researched including Fuel in a Bottle contain caffeine. And again let me repeat ad nauseum whether an energy drink had anything to do at all with this drug test is strictly speculation at this point.

So is it possible that a legal substance sold in convenience stores would cause someone who consumed it to fail a drug test? It is entirely possible. Head to your local GNC and there any number of “dietary supplements” you or I could buy that would cause us to fail a NASCAR….or Olympics, or NFL, or MLB etc….drug test. If the cops pulled you over transporting the stuff you’d be in the clear. But these various sports sanctioning bodies have decided to ban such substances feeling they give competitors an unfair advantage. Or to take another example, beer is a legal substance for those of age. But use too much of it and you’ll fail a drug screening too.

All things in moderation, including alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks.

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AJ Allmendinger’s uncertain future became even more murky following a failed drug test at Daytona last weekend. A follow up test due shortly will either clear his name – or seal his fate.

In reading between the lines of Allmendinger’s brief statement Tuesday he said, “I would never knowingly take a prohibited drug.” Note that he’s not saying he thinks he was clean or that this is all a mistake. He’s basically saying, “yes, this stuff was in my body but when I took it I didn’t know it was banned.” Ignorance isn’t going to fly as an excuse when it comes to flunking a drug test. It’s up to an athlete to study the ingredients on the bottle of anything he’s going to ingest right down to an energy drink.

*U.S. Army Dismisses Newman and the No. 39 Team* The U.S. Army has decided to end their sponsorship of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 39 team at the end of this season. While there had been an effort in Congress to pass a bill not allowing any branch of the military to sponsor any sort of sporting events, the Army said their decision was not based on political pressure. They reevaluated the costs of their involvement in NASCAR racing, both the costs of sponsoring the No. 39 team and to actualize their sponsorship at the tracks and on TV, finding the return on investment unacceptably low.

Simply put, the Army and other branches of the armed services use NASCAR and a plethora of other marketing opportunities to meet their recruitment goals. They vary from the kiosks you see at local malls, to direct mailing campaigns, to appearances at high schools and colleges, as well as a heavy internet presence, to entice young people to consider a career in the military. They look at the cost of each of these efforts and how many enlistments they gain through each program, calculating the cost of each enlistee by the dollars spent.

At $8 million a year for 12 races, NASCAR was found wanting.

The story became a bit more confusing when later Tuesday the Army announced they intended to keep sponsoring Tony Schumacher’s Top Fuel NHRA team. So why drag racing and not stock car racing? The NHRA fan demographics are exactly the sort of pool the Army wants to fish in. They tend to be younger, more racially diverse, and more blue collar. The median age of self-described NASCAR fans is over 50 years old; not exactly the ideal demographic for the Army. They’re looking for guys and gals in their late teens and early 20s who might consider a career in the military after high school, college, or a few dead end jobs in the civilian sector. You’ll note that as of late, most U.S. Army ads during NASCAR races aren’t aimed at recruits themselves but rather at the parents of potential recruits who might be hesitant to see their sons or daughters join the military.

That’s a lot better demographic fit with people following our sport.

*Musical Chairs:* So where does the loss of Army sponsorship leave Ryan Newman for 2013? Certainly SHR racing will aggressively look for a new sponsor to replace the Army, but it’s pretty slim pickings out there right now, and teams ideally like to have sponsorship commitments signed by Labor Day. Will a lack of backing cause the No. 39 team to shut down and SHR to remain a two-car team with Danica Patrick in the No. 10 machine? Even members of Patrick’s own team admit she needs another year of seasoning in the Nationwide series before a full-time run for the Cup.

So if Allmendinger loses his ride with Penske Racing either because of lack of performance or this latest scandal, might Newman be a good fit in the No. 22? Well that would be a bit awkward considering Newman drove for Penske and left to join Tony Stewart’s burgeoning operation. It’s widely rumored that Matt Kenseth will end up in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car, but might an opening in the No. 22 make him change his mind? If Logano is in fact out of the No. 20 might Penske consider him for the No. 22? Meanwhile if Allmendinger ends up being dismissed from Penske and Newman leaves SHR over funding issues as Kenseth essentially has, might Stewart consider AJ Allmendinger for the No. 39?

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Too little, too late? Joey Logano’s Pocono win may have not helped him retain his ride in the No. 20 at JGR. However, it did confirm his marketability in an ever-evolving Silly Season free agent market.

Of course standing there beside the merry-go-round is Kurt Busch still looking for the last open pony.

*Fines, Fines, Everywhere a Fine: (blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind)*It was a busy Tuesday afternoon when NASCAR began announcing fines levied against drivers after the Daytona race weekend across their top two touring series.

At the top of the list was Tony Stewart who was docked six driver and owners points for a NACA duct found left open after qualifying. Crew chief Steve Addington was fined $25,000 dollars and placed on probation until August 22nd. While accepting the fine, competition director Greg Zippadelli said that the No. 14 car had suffered a broken rear visor during pre-qualifying inspection and in the scramble to replace it they’d dislodged the hose without intent.

Austin Dillon lost six driver points for a similar infraction. Because his crew chief, Danny Stockman was already on probation after having the No. 3 car found too low after winning at Kentucky. Stockman was suspended for two weeks and fined $10,000.

Joey Logano’s Nationwide car was found to be too low after the Daytona race. Car owner Joe Gibbs was docked six points, while crew chief Adam Stevens was fined $10,000 and put on probation until August 22nd. Why wasn’t Logano docked points? At the start of the season a driver must declare whether he will run for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series championships. He may only earn points in that one series. Thus Logano is ineligible to earn Nationwide points, and such a penalty would be meaningless.

*Twitter:* OK, I’m still new to this Twitter thing. Can somebody tell me when this, #, changed from being just a symbol for a number?

“Contact Matt McLaughlin”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14348/

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