My friend Sandy just doesn’t get NASCAR. She thinks it is just a redneck pastime. Not even a real sport. She asks me questions like “how can you just sit there and watch people drive around in circles?” Sandy even told me that the only reason to watch a race was to see the wrecks.
She just doesn’t see the personalities behind the sport like the speak your mind frankness of Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick. Or the intensity of Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr. Or the usually unspoken inter-team rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Sandy thinks that anyone could drive a race car. “How hard is it to make a left turn, after all” she asks me. When those left turns are coming up every 15 seconds at 190 miles per hour. I wonder how she would do coming off turn 4 with Kurt Busch on her rear bumper and Danica Patrick to the inside.
The strategy of the race totally escapes her. Sandy doesn’t realize that races are won and lost on pit road. The decision to pit. 2 tires or 4? Gas only. These decisions can make or break a race team’s day. To Sandy they just stop when they run out of gas.
How about you? Do you have a friend like Sandy who is totally clueless when it comes to NASCAR? I’ll bet you have some funny stories. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
By Jim DeWitt
NASCAR drivers descended upon Daytona International Speedway Thursday, Dec. 23, testing the surface for the first time since the historic track was completely repaved. Following the rigorous testing, the general consensus among drivers is that the Daytona 500 could provide even more thrills than it has in the past, complete with faster speeds and closer finishes with cars running three-wide at speeds in excess of 200 mph. The track also enhances the possibility of spectaular crashes.
Jamie McMurray, who won last year’s Daytona 500, says the revamped Daytona track will feature “a lot tighter packs than I’ve ever seen.”
“It’s certainly going to be more Talladega-type, really close, restrictor-plate racing,” McMurray said. “You’ve got to hope that you’re going to make it to the end because the odds (of big wrecks) are going to be really good, I’d say.”
This marks the second repaving project Daytona International Speedway has undergone. The first repaving was completed in 1979. With the latest facelift complete before the 2011 Daytona 500, the troublesome bumps in turns two and four have been removed, along with the infamous pothole that suddenly became a factor in last year’s race. Pit Road is now wider in an effort to increase safety measures, and NASCAR officials say the track is a lot smoother, causes less tire wear, is conducive to faster laps, and a near mirror-image of Talladega racing.
Veteran NASCAR drive Bobby Labonte is quick to agree with McMurray’s assessment of DIS.
“It’s going to be more like Talladega,” Labonte said. “It’s going to lend to more pushing, more shoving, more drafting like that. Obviously, that’s going to lend to more things that could happen. Nobody knows that. If you sat here on a Monday and ran a 500-mile race with 43 cars and you did it again Wednesday and again Friday, you’d have three different races probably.”
Eighteen drivers were on hand for the test drive, representing six teams. Among those drivers were Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya. All of the teams used a slightly smaller restrictor plate than the one used at Daytona in 2010. The top spped was recorded at 197.5 mph and, according to Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, NASCAR officials will conduct further evaluation of the results and then made the decision whether or not to make further reductions on the restrictor plate.
“We may need to come down a little bit off of that, which would be like a 64th of an inch or something,” Pemberton said. “We’ll have to go back and talk to the teams and we’ll look at the speeds from the last two days of testing.’
Teams are scheduled to return to DIS for a three-day test in late January.
Is NASCAR really just a bunch of rednecks going fast and turning left for hours on end?
That is what writer Rob Sylvester said in an article posted on the NBC Sports website.
â€œLook, Iâ€™ve never been much for NASCAR, mainly because if I wanted to watch teams of rednecks expel gas while going in circles for hours, Iâ€™d turn on FOX News,â€ said Mr. Sylvester in an article about a renewed interest in putting a NASCAR track in New York City.
Mr. Sylvester even discounted the economic viability of a track in New York. He openly doubted whether race fans would bother attending races there; despite the fact that other tracks in the Northeast like Pocono and New Hampshire have no problems selling tickets.
The article by Mr. Sylvester went on to describe NASCAR drivers as â€œa few good olâ€™ boys (and not to mention the occasional California prettyboy).â€ And his idea of a typical race fan who might visit New York to attend the race is a â€œtouristâ€¦ from the Red State region.â€
Whatâ€™s troubling about the entire article is not Mr. Sylvesterâ€™s opinion, however. It is the fact that the story was published on the official NBC Sports website. A company that once made a very good living broadcasting NASCAR races on TV, and likely will again when the current TV contract comes up for renewal.
What do you think about NBCâ€™s view on all this?
Did you see the NASCAR episode of Undercover Boss on CBS?
NASCAR Senior Vice President and Sr. Vice-President Steve Phelps went undercover to see what is really going on behind the scenes in NASCAR.
Did NASCAR fine Dale Earnhardt Jr for something he said? Or was it Kyle Busch, or Jimmie Johnson?
NASCAR Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston has admitted that two star drivers have been fined for making remarks about NASCAR and the way it runs races. But Poston did not say who was fined or what was said that NASCAR didnâ€™t like.
A secret penalty system is a little bit suspect. NASCAR needs to be more transparent. If they are covering up the fact that divers are being punished it makes people wonder what else is being kept under wraps.
One driver was fined as much as $50,000 for making comments disparaging to NASCAR, according to the Associated Press.
Poston defended NASCAR’s actions as protecting its brand.
“It is the sanctioning body’s obligation on behalf of the industry and our fans to protect the sport’s brand,” Poston said. “Any action taken by NASCAR has nothing to do with the drivers expressing an opinion. It’s focused on actions or comments that materially damage the sport. We have specifically discussed this in meetings with teams, drivers and stakeholders.”
If a driver makes comments that are not true, and that drive fans and sponsors away from NASCAR, then they should be fined. But the fine and the reason for it should be made public.
But if a driver is stating a fact or arguing his point he should not be fined for it. There is a line somewhere â€“ we just donâ€™t know if that line was crossed because all this was handled in the back room.
Where do you think that line is? What should drivers be allowed to say without fear of retribution? Do you agree with NASCARâ€™s secret penalties?
If NASCAR wants to put more fans in the grandstands and in front of their TVs they need to make the cars that win on Sunday look more like the cars you can actually buy on Monday.
They have at least taken steps in the right direction. The wing is gone and the spoiler is back. Next year in the Nationwide Series Ford plans to race a Mustang and Dodge is bringing a Challenger. There is talk that those same cars could also come to Sprint Cup.
Changes to the front end on Sprint Cup race cars seem to be all but a done deal.
Chevy just doesnâ€™t get it, though. They are planning on racing an Impala, when they could be bringing a Camaro.
The car companies have a big say in what races on the track. If Chevy would race a Camaro it would bring some added excitement to racing and help sell more cars for Chevrolet. A Camaro would be good for NASCAR and Chevrolet.
But Chevy is at least keeping an open mind and listening to race fans who canâ€™t believe that GM would pass on the opportunity to race the Camaro GM racing boss Pat Suhy said â€œIâ€™ll never say neverâ€ when asked about the possibility of a Camaro in NASCAR. But so far the word from GM to NASCAR and race fans everywhere is no.
With Mustang, Camaro and Challenger to racing in the Sprint Cup Series â€“ with bodywork that actually looks like the cars down the street in the showroom fans would become more engaged with NASCAR.
There is no Ford vs. Chevy rivalry any more. Thatâ€™s because no one can tell them apart on the race track. Come on NASCAR â€“ give us our stock cars back.
I know you have a lot of smart engineers working in your R&D Facility in Charlotte. Together with the automaker engineers I know you can come up with a car that looks like a stock car and still keep the cars even aerodynamically.
Would a Camaro, a Mustang, a Challenger and Toyotaâ€™s new sports car make NASCAR more exciting for you? Would you be more likely to buy one?
Photo Credit: Ford Racing
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Why is it that NASCAR canâ€™t allow two drivers to have a discussion after a race?
Jeff Burton wanted to have a word with Kyle Busch on pit road following the Coca Cola 600. A NASCAR Officiial and Matt Clark, the teamâ€™s pit crew coach, were bound and determined to stand between Burton and Busch cutting off communication.
Jeff Burton was prevented from fully explaining his point of view to Kyle Busch, and Kyle was denied his right to respond.
Come on NASCAR. You said yourself â€œHave at it boys!â€ Let the boys have their say.
What do you think?
Here’s an interesting interview with Richard Petty on Fox Business.
Petty says that today’s drivers have lost touch with the roots of NASCAR.
The King also admitted something he probably didn’t mean to say, and Ford executives should pay attention to this. Even though Petty races Fords on Sunday, he says he still drives a Chrysler on the street.
Watch the interview here. What do you think about Petty’s comments?
NASCAR is Openly Encouraging Increased Aggression by Its Drivers
It quickly became clear today during a press conference at the NASCAR R&D Center that NASCAR is not only telling drivers to take the gloves off â€“ but that NASCAR is openly encouraging more aggressive behavior by competitors. Both on and off the track.
NASCAR is a Contact Sport
â€œThis is a contact sport,â€ NASCAR CEO Brian France said in his opening remarks. â€œThis is the best racing in the world.â€
â€œWe have an eye on putting things back in the driverâ€™s hands. Weâ€™re going to loosen up.â€
Then France repeated his opening mantra once again. â€œWe want to see more contact. This is a contact sport.â€
Bump Drafting is Back
NASCAR also announced that they were eliminating the restrictions on bump drafting that made last yearâ€™s Talladega race so boring.
NASCARâ€™s Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton made no bones about where NASCAR stands on giving the drivers the freedom to bump draft. â€œBoys have at it and have a good time,â€ said Pemberton. â€œThatâ€™s all Iâ€™ve got to say.â€
Pemberton also revealed that restrictor plates at Daytona would be less restrictive this year. The plates will have 63/64â€ openings this year. The largest openings in 21 years.
So why did NASCAR decide to give teams the bigger restrictor plate? â€œWe felt like it was important to give the drivers a little more horsepower â€“ a little more throttle response,â€ said Competition VP Robin Pemberton.
No More Wing
The wing will also soon be gone off the rear of the car. Pemberton confirmed that Sprint Cup cars would return to the use of a spoiler early on in the 2010 season. But for Daytona the wing remains.
So why is NASCAR doing away with the wing and returning to the spoiler? â€œThe spoiler has come on for the car to look more like it used to and drive differently,â€ explained Brian France.
â€œIf we didnâ€™t think that the racing would be improved â€“ spoiler vs. wing â€“ we wouldnâ€™t have done it.â€
Indeed the spoiler makes the car look a lot more like a stock car and less like a tuner car.
Now NASCAR needs to get rid of that splitter on the front of the car. Brian France indicated that was a possibility. â€œThe front end is something we are looking at,â€ said France.
The yellow line rule at Daytona and Talladega will stay in place for now, however. NASCAR met with drivers and teams about doing away with the double yellow line which prevents drivers from going below the line to advance their position.
Eliminating the double yellow line rule was seriously considered â€“ and it may eventually be done away with. But not yet.
Encouraging Drivers to Show Personality
NASCAR President Mike Helton said that NASCAR was â€œencouraging the characters of the sport to show their personality.â€ But he also left some wiggle room as far as how far NASCAR is willing to go. That doesnâ€™t mean you get a free pass out of jail,â€ he said.
So is NASCAR putting the show over safety in promoting their racing as a contact sport?
Mike Helton doesnâ€™t think so. â€œNASCAR racing from day one has always been highly competitive,â€ said Helton. â€œIf you ainâ€™t rubbin’ â€“ you ainâ€™t racin’.â€
â€œWeâ€™re the last people that want to over-regulate the sport. Weâ€™re very careful about what regulations we ease up on.â€
â€œThese cars are safer than 5years ago,â€ Helton continued.
More Exciting Racing
â€œObviously the racing is going to get more exciting,â€ said Sprint Cup Director John Darby.
So drivers, put your big boy pants on, pull those belts a little tighter, make sure that helmet is strapped on tight, and hold on. This is going to be a wild ride.
Is NASCAR going down the right road? I believe so. What about you?
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