Three-time champion Tony Stewart rejoined the Sprint Cup series this past weekend at Richmond after missing the first eight races of the season. His return brought with it a number of aspects that circle the sport. Let’s start off with the fact that Stewart found himself getting fined $35k for calling out NASCAR on the asininity of the rule that allowed cars to leave the pits without all five lugnuts fastened securely.
The fact that the series had sanctioned such a move was ludicrous to start. That Stewart ranted about the rule is no surprise. But what took the whole thing to a different level of stupidity was the fact that Stewart did not get fined for criticizing the series but rather for his tone. The rules for fining drivers were based about their being critical about NASCAR but now, apparently, a driver can pay for how it is said. Um, sure, that works Brian France.
Stewart’s comeback also highlighted the rules surrounding the Chase. Call it the Kyle Busch rule or whatever, but should Stewart earn a win and sit inside the top 30 in points, he will enjoy the likelihood of competing for a championship.
One way of looking at it is that it’s fine as the precedent has already been set.
The other way of looking at it is that it’s unlikely Stewart will make the Chase anyway. He finished 24th in points last year and rarely raced near the front. While seeing him in the playoffs would be a great way to see Stewart end his career, it doesn’t seem very likely. Although…
Here’s another aspect of the rules that also makes one wonder. This weekend at Talladega, Stewart will hop out of the No. 14 at the first caution and hand the wheel over to Ty Dillon. Should Dillon win the race, which, really, could happen as Talladega promotes the concept that luck is more important than skill, then Stewart will, by rule, be credited with the win.
So that would mean that, providing Stewart is in the top 30 and the only win to his credit is from Dillon at Talladega, that he would be a driver who missed the first eight races, didn’t really ‘earn’ the win and still would have a chance to hoist the big trophy at Homestead.
Happiness Is… Taking Your Punishment. Ricky Stenhouse’s crew chief, Nick Sandler, got suspended by NASCAR this week for having an illegal steering coupling on the No. 17 ride. The punishment carries with it a one-race suspension and some sort of fine but who cares. For starters, a coupling doesn’t seem like some kind of performance part but rather one that does that little bit of work pretty much attaching the steering column to the car’s suspension.
As of press time, there was no word on whether or not the team was going to appeal the suspension. To that, Happiness Is says screw it and do the time now. Talladega is not some master chess match where the crew chief can be a savant and earn his driver the victory. Why not skip this race rather than miss one where his input would be more integral to performance? The real person that matters on the team at Talladega, other than the driver, is the spotter, so as long as that person’s there, everything is good.
Happiness Is… Teammates. Back in 2007, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon put on a show at Martinsville at the end of the spring race. Seemingly equally matched, the two were battling for the lead with Johnson in front as the laps wound down. On the final laps, Gordon politely banged into Johnson a number of times but never really took Johnson out of the groove, and Gordon ultimately could not get past for the win.
Drama sells. That being noted, there’s not much that is different from the final laps at Richmond with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch than there was with the aforementioned race, with the exception that Edwards proved to be more successful than Gordon. While the race debrief may have been a little tense this week at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop, there’s probably nothing to come of it. The two will likely be cordial and skip any kind of statements that would spur any kind of controversy. So things will be quiet – that is, until, perhaps, the Chase, maybe? Please?
Happiness Is… Russia. If watching NASCAR play its game of chance this weekend at Talladega is not your thing, there’s some other racing that might catch your interest. Over in Sochi, Formula 1 will be contesting the Russian Grand Prix. While The sport has often been plagued by follow-the-leader racing, this season has seemed to be different, graced with wild starts, reliability issues and some fantastic driving.
Something to watch for is whether or not Red Bull can continue its strong start or whether they’ve just been fortunate. In addition, the race will also be worth watching to see whether or not Nico Rosberg earns another win which would put him at a ridiculous six in a row. The race, for those on the East coast, will be early but could find a home on your DVR and should work as a pleasant complement to NASCAR.
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