Today’s Question: Recent rumors have Sam Hornish Jr. considering dropping his stock car career for a full-time move back to the IRL. After just eight races, is it too soon for Hornish to back away? Or is this the move he should have made all along?
Daytona Beach, Fla. — In what can only be described as a shocking admission, Brian France revealed today that he has, in fact, used Coke on a daily basis for a few years now… even on days that he was scheduled to make important decisions regarding how NASCAR is run. Fans may remember that a few years ago, France was involved in an incident involving the Daytona Beach Police Department, where witnesses say he was driving erratically near his home. Upon investigation, police found a substance on the front seat of his Lexus. That substance later proved to be a potentially dangerous “cocktail” of Coke and another substance that is believed to have originated in Puerto Rico.
Since the last time we talked, our team did a NASCAR official Truck Series test at Martinsville. The Ford Powerstroke Diesel ran well for two days, and the Maxx Force Diesel ran well for two days with Brendan Gaughan. Even Adam got a shot at driving the Ford Powerstroke Diesel for the first time, and handled it like a veteran. He put some speed up on the charts. I’m real proud of Adam, and I’d really like to thank everybody for having the confidence in him and the team for working behind him. He had a couple of sponsors to mention for the race at Martinsville, but his Dad and the car owner, Mr. Mitchell, decided not to let him race because I think he needs a little more racing experience. But we have to appreciate the people at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Company, and Roush Yates Engines, who were going to provide Adam with a chance to run in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Maybe when Adam gets ready, they’ll have that chance again.
Recent shocking revelations that former Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series driver Aaron Fike not only concealed a painkiller addiction from NASCAR officials, but competed in CTS events after using heroin on race day has renewed criticism of the sanctioning body’s present drug testing policies. At the moment, NASCAR does not have a random drug screening policy like other major sports; instead, they maintain the right to test under the broadly worded “reasonable suspicion” edict in their rulebook. This position gives them almost an unfettered right to test anyone at their discretion participating in a NASCAR-sanctioned event. Additionally, team owners are free to test drivers and crew members either randomly, or on a basis of reasonable cause. This results in two layers of detecting possible problems; but for some, that just isn’t enough. That’s a shame… because it should be.
Saturday’s race came down to a fuel mileage gamble, with a crew chief begging his driver to slow down for the win. Is fuel mileage racing good for the sport — or should NASCAR be looking for the invisible debris instead?
There were only 10 seconds between the front-running car and second place. Still, Chad Knaus’ words had plenty of wisdom to back them up. Jimmie Johnson had not stopped for gas, and according to calculations, his No. 48 Lowe’s machine was running on nothing more than fumes. Knaus stood on top of the pit box screaming at his driver to please lay off the gas pedal; otherwise, his chances for a win — and the momentum that comes with it — would fall victim to the tragedy of an empty fuel tank.
The move was risky, but the ploy worked. By slowing the pace, Johnson managed to maintain his lead, take the checkered flag, and even do a burnout. Granted, the Polish Victory Lap was less than stellar, as he had to accept a little bit of a push from a wrecker to reach Victory Lane; but clearly, it was worth the wait.
1. Longtime Gone – The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has become a favorite of many race fans, due to its highly competitive fields and close championship battles. The racing that the series provides has been likened to “old school,” and has steadily increased in popularity. However, there has been no race scheduled since the series visited Martinsville March 29th, over two weeks ago. The wait won’t end anytime soon, either; the series will take to the track next in two weeks, on April 26th at Kansas Speedway.
The big news for the week from bubble land involved the No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet previously driven by Jeremy Mayfield. On Monday, Haas CNC Racing announced that the team and Mayfield agreed to part ways after the No. 70 car fell out of the Top 35 in owner points. According to team General Manager Joe Custer, “Jeremy stepped into the seat and did everything we asked him to… and more. Ultimately, we were unable to provide him with the right balance, handling, and speed he needed to be successful.”
It often appears that the suits in NASCAR hold all the cards; they are usually confident that no matter what the circumstances, they always have four aces up their collective sleeves. But a young driver named Aaron Fike — in his bid for eventual re-instatement as a NASCAR competitor — may have just laid down a royal flush. Fike’s recent admission that he used heroin on days he was scheduled to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series before he was suspended in July of ’07 has left many in the racing world stunned, and at the very least, has Brian France and his court jesters frantically searching for a napkin to wipe the egg from their faces. One of the reasons Fike’s admission is so stunning is because it is a 180-degree turnaround from statements he made in an Associated Press interview last year, after undergoing four months of intense rehab.
NASCAR commercials deliberately focus on the sport’s tradition and history. They remind us that in every era of NASCAR, there have been great finishes, great victory celebrations, and great rivalries. When I say “nice try,” it isn’t meant to be sarcastic or critical. It is actually meant as a compliment. NASCAR had at least finally noticed that their unwelcome innovations in recent years have been Chasing (pun intended) traditional fans away from the sport. For recognizing that, they truly do deserve credit. But ultimately, a full-force marketing campaign and any number of speeches isn’t going to undo the damage done to NASCAR’s old-school fanbase during the Brian France era.