The past Sprint Cup races have shined a bright light on one of the more stupid decisions that NASCAR made in the past few years. While many fans may be more than happy to note that there have been such a quantity of stupid moves that it is difficult to have one stand at a spot of more significance than any other, the one highlighted here was baffling from the start.
The issue here: lugnuts. More specifically, not enforcing that each wheel must be fastened to the car with all five lugnuts tight.
The move was made when NASCAR switched to the new eye-in-the-sky camera system that polices pit road. Was it because the system couldn’t detect that aspect of the pit stops? Maybe. Whatever the reason, the change is helping to make a mockery of things.
First, let’s recognize that teams will do anything possible to gain whatever competitive advantage they can. If teams can shave a tenth of a second off a pit stop by bolting just four lugnuts, then good job. Pit road had already become a crazy orchestration between man and machine but now things can be even faster.
The result thus far is that because the teams are left to ‘police themselves’ that the on-track product suffers because teams do the minimum to get the car back on the track but then have to deal with a driver pulling back in for a new set of tires because one’s loose.
Bristol acted as the perfect example of this silliness as seemingly half the field had some kind of wheel or tire issue during the race. As a fan, you want to see you driver/team do everything they can, but when these things can be avoided, it’ll drive you nuts.
Then there’s the more obvious issue, one that this column addressed last year: safety.
Tony Stewart recently ranted about this aspect on Sirius XM radio, stating how stupid the current situation is. For all the safety improvements, things like HANS devices and SAFER barriers, the governing body is now encouraging the sport to compromise one of the key aspects in driving a racecar. That’s just the drivers.
What about if/when a wheel flies off and bounces down pit road, or into the infield, or more disconcertingly, into the stands? It’s a risk not worth taking.
It’s great that NASCAR wanted to try and let the inmates run the asylum, but it’s time the governing body took back the keys and did something smart.
Happiness Is…Whining. Usually when the topic is whining, there are a few easy targets for NASCAR fans. Danica Patrick. Kyle Busch. Some retired driver by the name of Jeff Gordon used to get a lion’s share of these types of comments. But here, this is about the fans, or so says Ryan McGee at ESPN.
In his column this week, McGee attempts to tell fans to quit their whining. He states that sponsors have been driven away by the negative attitudes. That some TV executives have also been turned off by the problem. Even some of the drivers. McGee’s insistence is that everyone should shut up and just enjoy the good racing.
The problem here is that telling fans to like something is not the same as fans actually liking or appreciating something. Fans in NASCAR have likely felt betrayed by the amazing amount of changes that the sport has endured since the late 90s. The tracks, the cars, the Chase. It’s not like other sports where the changes have been minor, something that allows for more of a sense of continuity. So for now, go at it.
Happiness Is… Finally. Last weekend the XFINITY series debuted the use of heat races to set the field for the main event. It’s hard to say whether or not the change came as a bonafide success because passing at Bristol seemed impossible. But maybe it heightened the sense of urgency for the drivers. That stuff doesn’t matter because for the first time this season, an XFINITY regular won a race!
Kyle Busch had been killing it in the series and it was beginning to look that he would win every race that he entered in NXS. He certainly was in position to continue his winning ways, but Erik Jones made a brilliant pass and held on for the win. Jones is a rising talent and was almost sure to win a race at some point this year. To see him finally do so is good for the series. Now it’s up to another regular to do the same. There’s only one spot filled in the NXS Chase grid.
LUNKENHEIMER: Erik Jones Excelling in Full-Time XFINITY Ride
Happiness Is…Caution Free. This past Sunday, the IndyCar series ran a caution-free race at Long Beach. While just two years ago the series ran caution-free at Mid-Ohio, to think that they could do so at the unforgiving California street course was rather surprising. But caution free and controversy free are not the same.
Simon Pagenaud’s win received some ire because he crossed the blend line at the end of the pits too early after his second stop. IndyCar is still working out the kinks of how it penalizes drivers and for this infraction it seemed to work, though some drivers wanted a harsher punishment. The bigger problem with the race was that drivers seemed to be settled into fuel conservation mode from the get go, which compromised the spirit of the racing. So should being caution free actually be considered a detriment?