NASCAR Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito — Charting The Suspendables and Expendables

When it was made known that Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing were going to appeal their respective penalties, many were skeptical of the outcome. After all, Middlebrook has connections to GM! He’s friends with Rick Hendrick! Penske fields Fords! Gibbs is nearly guilty of treason running Toyotas!

In actuality what happened was after failing in the initial appeal, Middlebrook reduced the initial fines imposed by NASCAR in the final appeal to those that most feel reasonable, equitable, and within the scope of the infractions in question. Penske Racing will get their crew chiefs, car chiefs, and team manager back after three weeks instead of seven.

Joe Gibbs Racing had their fine reduced from 50 points to 12, a six-race suspension for crew chief Jason Ratcliff will now just be one, the wins and pole count towards the title and next year’s Sprint Unlimited – and Joe Gibbs is eligible for owner’s points. Satisfied with that result, JGR declined to appeal the rulings any further.

Which begs the question: Why not make Middlebrook the one in charge of issuing penalties in the first place? Whoever is on the panel that decides such things, they apparently have a greater grasp of the parts, pieces, and processes involved than the guillotine of points, prize money, and personnel that has been wielded in recent years.

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With that being said, NASCAR has opted not to fine Ryan Newman after the late race accident at Talladega saw another car end up in his lap, in about the same spot he had a blowover a couple of years back. Newman’s comment that, “They can’t get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the race track, and that’s pretty disappointing. I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is.” NASCAR was not happy with the remarks, but said they opted not to fine him because he “did not disparage the racing product.”

Uh, what? So Denny Hamlin is fined for saying the cars aren’t racing like the used to – yet – , but Newman tells the sanctioning body on TV to get their heads out of their ass, and he gets a thank you for not trashing the sport? At this rate, I can only imagine what will happen the next time Johnny Sauter thanks Jesus for a win and a safe race…

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While David Ragan was sailing past former teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth for the win on the final lap at Talladega last Sunday, I couldn’t help but marvel at yet another talent Roush Fenway Racing has allowed to walk out the door and find success in recent years. After he got the boot from the No. 26 in 2009, Jamie McMurray promptly won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 — while just missing out on the Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Matt Kenseth left the only home he had known after 13 seasons this year, and already has two wins, and has dominated all but a few races thus far. To think that they almost lost Carl Edwards a couple of years ago as well, should be a splash of wake up water to RFR.

Between losing sponsorships, foundation laying personnel, and mothballing iconic car numbers, the days of it being simply Roush Racing seem eons ago. Sure, Nationwide titles are nice, but Cup wins are what make headlines and reign in the sponsorship and top talent. What was supposed to be a marketing boon and sponsorship bonanza has nearly gone bust in recent years, between shutting down cars, losing drivers, losing a title on a tie-breaker, and chasing their tails for almost two years with faulty simulation software.

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David Ragan’s win at Talladega will go down as one of the greatest finishes in that track’s history. If you have a few minutes, check out my compilation of the 10 Most Amazing Talladega Finishes — there is a new one that needs to be added shortly.

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About Vito Pugliese

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Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.