Thursday, June 29, 2006

Possible NASCAR Chase Changes Prove Abolition The Best Change

NASCAR confirmed as the Firecracker 400 weekend was starting that Winston Cup's playoff format - the Chase For The Championship - will be altered for 2007. Four changes are being considered -

- Increasing the number of "playoff" drivers above the current cutoff of ten.

- Changing the 400-point cutoff for the Chase, presumably increasing the point cutoff, with the cynical suggesting such a change is motivated because Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon failed to make 2005's playoffs.

- Changing the point structure for the ten-race playoff run, with Brian France suggesting NASCAR would increase race-winner points, albiet by a very small amount, in the final ten races.

- Changing the types of tracks used in the Chase, as intermediate superspeedways predominate in the final ten races (five are on intermediates) while only one short track and no road courses are in the Chase.

The point structure is the most likely avenue, according to Brian France.

The change comes as the sport approaches its third season with the playoff format inagurated after Matt Kenseth's comparatively easy waltz to a title in 2003. But a rule of thumb in racing and a lot of other endeavors is that format changes come about because of a fundamental weakness in concept - i.e. changing doctrine to justify a piece of equipment, a common fault in military circles over the years.

Format changes have been a way of life for NASCAR's All-Star Race, formerly known as The Winston, and the frequency of such changes indicated a concept that was basically unsound. With the Chase For The Championship, coming changes once again prove the rule of thumb of changing to justify a concept.

The Chase format has never been popular in the sport because of its fundamental unsoundness. The playoff format for racing effectively throws away effort from the previous two-thirds of the season and artificially locks out most of the field from possible position in the final points run. In the very first Chase, the sport saw Jamie McMurray collect enough points to have handily finished in the top ten at the end.

There is also the continued farce that is lack of emphasis on race wins. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were the first Chase Champions and won a combined one race between them during their playoff runs. Brian France indicated any increase in race winner points for the Chase will not be anything close to large - "We'll be thinking about the point structure - should we add a little more to the win in the final ten."

None of this can overcome the fundamental unsoundness of the Chase format. And it continues to prove that the only change that works for the Chase is to abolish the concept.

Instead of a playoff format, inherently contrived in a racing setting, the points structure should be the basic Latford system with a strong increase in points for race wins and also direct counting of race wins and total laps led into a driver's points position. There should be massive quarterly and seasonal bonuses for winning the most races and leading the most laps, such as -

- 200 bonus points per season quarter for most wins during that quarter and 200 for most laps led during that quarter.

- 500 bonus points for most wins during the season and 500 for most net laps led.

Such a structure will make the points race a real race by putting in the one requirement presently missing from racing - leaving a driver no choice but to win the most races and lead the most laps to have any chance at the season title.

Some will object that such a system, with its bonuses for winning races, will make points races even bigger runaways that was the case with Matt Kenseth's 2003 title. To this I respond - does anyone think any driver will let any one driver win so many races or lead so many laps?

NASCAR says any changes in the Chase will be "performance driven." The best performance drive for any points structure is abolition of the Chase and replacement with a points structure that directly requires winning the most races and leading the most laps.

The Great Liberal Iraq-Up: Prosecute The NY Times

NOTE: This is a follow-up to a post from June 12:

The Great Liberal Iraq-Up - er, Crack-Up - has been going on almost since the statue of Saddam Hussein was ripped down. The latest evidence of the GLIU comes from the MSM as it straddles the fence on Zarqawi in a way reminiscent of the way WEEI's Glen Ordway straddles the fence on his highly-rated afternoon Boston radio show. Of course Ordway's fence-straddling is for laughs and for setting up debates with the likes of Sean McAdam, Bill Burt, and Steve Burton. The MSM's fence-straddling is motivated by opposition to US victory over Islamo-Arab imperialism and by the old Cover Your Ass mentality.

Coverage of Zarqawi's death illustrates this CYA approach - there were repeated denials about Zarqawi, Al Qaida, and Saddam Hussein, even though the facts showed the truth of the matter to be the opposite of the MSM's cherished conceit denying that Iraq and Al Qaida were allies in aggression. And such denial continues as a successor to Zarqawi is named. The reaction of Democrats to Zarqawi's passing further reinforces that the Democrats are not interested in US victory, which says a lot about how much Democrats sincerely care about this country.

And this culture of denial continues as the hard truth that Saddam Hussein had strong stores of N/B/C weapons and it was the US - no one else - who destroyed them continues to come out.

Even more revealing, though, is how much the MSM and liberals in the State Department don't care for US victory, shown as they team up to blow another operation by the US against Al Qaida. And as the MSM screams about the brutal treatment of Zarqawi, one should contrast their willingness to kill Terry Schiavo.

Then there is the MSM's smear campaign against Ann Coulter because she pointed out that the Jersey Girls, four widows of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, had been coached and cajoled by leftist writer Gail Sheehy into becoming propagandists against US victory against the enemy that killed their husbands. It shows what kind of "tolerance" the MSM has - and an even more egregious example of liberal "tolerance" is the recent harassment of Swift Boat veterans who called out John Kerry for lying about his service and lying about American conduct in Vietnam, harassment disturbingly reminiscent of Communist psychological torture of American prisoners.

So Now we have the New York Times in effect breaking the law by blowing the cover off a legitimate program tracking terrorist bank accounts. The program is perfectly legitimate and effective, but perish the idea that the Times would ever give a damn about American security - this is, after all, the same Times that published the stolen Pentagon Papers in grossly falsified form to push an antiwar agenda that the actual papers resolutely did not support, this on top of its consistently inaccurate coverage of Vietnam onward (and hence the title of one of the few books to take the Times to task for its shoddy foreign affairs coverage, the recommended 1984 document Bad News: The Foreign Policy Of The New York Times by Russ Braley).

The Times has thus given away what most objective viewers felt for over 40 years - it is a newspaper dedicated to aiding and abetting the enemy of the US, pretty much no matter who it is.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Road Racing Hinders Talent

Sears Point is the first of two road races in Winston Cup, and the usual nonsense gets written about how the road courses bring out the talent of race drivers and so forth. One shakes one's head when someone tries to defend road racing, particularly in NASCAR or IRL.

The talent argument goes along the lines of how drivers have to brake, get off the gas, shift gears, etc. to navigate the course. The problem is that this is not a display of talent.

Talent in racing lies in passing. Racing is not about driving racecars, it is about racing other racecars. Road racing by its very nature impedes ability to pass, so what we get is not a display of racing talent but impediment to such.

We've seen some good racing the previous few weeks at Dover, Pocono, and Michigan. Certainly all three deserve even better than what they saw - Pocono and Michigan in particular used to rival Daytona and Talladega in breaking the 40-lead-change barrier - but they were and always are still enjoyable. There is not that much to enjoy in a road race, because it is all about staying on the track, not racing anyone.

That is not real racing.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Michigan 400 Postscript

Rain and Kahne fell mainly on the plain that is the locale of Michigan International Speedway, and when what turned out to be the Michigan 300 came to an end Kasey Kahne had his fourth win of the season. It turned out to be a pretty spirited duel up front as the lead bounced around several times a lap at some points; it didn't quite resemble Pocono's Lap 75 with its three clean passes in three consecutive corners, it was closer to older-style cushion racing where the highside car could use the "hill" of upper banking to gain speed. And the end result was some very good racing.

But the issues of the manufacturers at this speedway located within earshot of those manufacturers began bubbling up again amid word that John Fernandez of Dodge may be on his way out and toward Chip Ganassi's team, a development that has renewed concern that at least one NASCAR manufacturer will quit the sport.

The potential dilemma for NASCAR is several fold. There is legitimate reason for manufacturers to be upset, because of costs that are hundreds of millions of dollars beyond reason, because of rules biases both historic and recent (the most egregious being the reduction of Dodge engine cylinder width in mid-2002), and because of the ill-conceived Car Of Tomorrow project that has yet to entice any genuine support beyond a few drivers because of costs and poor testing.

The dilemma gets worse as Toyota ramps up for its 2007 debut. While questions about organization deserve to be asked, organizational miscues can't be counted on to stop a Toyota juggernaut well known for further pricing racing beyond reason; it certainly has not stopped Toyota in Trucks, where after a rough first year the Toyota juggernaut eventually got going to where now the only way to stop Tundra wins is for the other brands to bring in Truckwacker drivers like Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte. At Michigan, though, even the Truckwackers weren't enough to stop Johnny Benson and Bill Davis Racing from the win.

The ultimate dilemma comes down to this - if manufacturers leave, what is the potential damage? Losing manufacturer money is never a positive development for the sport, and the nightmare scenario is that more than one manufacturer leaves and in effect Toyota winds up competiting against itself, to where there are Toyotas winning races and no other brand can even finish on the same straightaway. We've seen what Buschwacking has done to BGN racing, where there is virtually no competitive depth and the only thing keeping the series going is Buschwacker outfits - can Winston Cup afford such a scenario if between Toyota and everything else, other manufacturers have to leave?

Or more precisely, what will NASCAR do to avert a nightmare scenario such as this?


Kahne's win was his fourth of the season and fourth on intermediate superspeedways. There are eight such races left on the 2006 schedule - Chicagoland, the Yankee 400 at Michigan, Fontana, Kansas, Charlotte, Atlanta, Texas, and Homestead, and given the strength shown by Kahne on such tracks it isn't beyond reason to expect him to bag at least four more such wins.

The Chevrolet squadron, though, showed an unusual muscle for Michigan this time around, as the Hendrick fleet got into a spirited tussle with Dale Junior for the lead. Notoriously hard on Chevys over the years, Michigan this time didn't look quite so hostile.

Jeff Gordon showed no lingering effect from his Pocono crash and posted his best effort in a number of weeks, while Jimmie Johnson looked more like someone protecting a point lead.

Tony Stewart's title hopes took a hit, and any concern for Stewart's shoulder should be assuged by how hard he was swinging the hammer onto his banged-up fender in the garage area.

The series takes a break from ovals and hits the road course at Sears Point, where Tony Stewart is the heavy favorite; he'll need a win and a poor finish from Jimmie Johnson, though, to cut into the point lead.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Do Ted Christopher And The Danbury Trashers Have In Common?

Unfortunately, both have in common that their competitive endeavors have - for now at least - been wiped out. Ted Christopher is perhaps the most exciting and successful racer in the history of New England motorsports. The Danbury Trashers are a hockey team, competing in the United Hockey League; they won the UHL's Eastern Division but bowed out in the league's Colonial Cup playoffs.

For myself, both converged in a conversation with a fan at New Hampshire International Speedway before the September 2005 NH 300. The fan, a lady from Danbury, wore a Trashers jersey and noted how the Trashers were a strong local draw and played hard every game. Being an AHL fan with years of attendance at the Providence Bruins, Worcester IceCats (soon to be Sharks), and Manchester Monarchs, I can identify with the lady's love of the Trashers.

The Trashers, however, will not play in the UHL's 2006-7 season, and for Ted Christopher, "I guess I'm retired now," he said when federal agents arrived and seized his racecars.

Both the Danbury Trashers and the Mystique Motorsports race team are casualties of the indictment of Jim Galante, a Danbury, CT businessman with a large garbage-collection company among other businesses. Galante is one of some 29 people indicted in a federal sting of area businesses involved with Organized Crime. Although Christopher's own auto repair business has worked with Galante's trash-collection company by fixing truck transmissions, Christopher's own business is not part of the federal indictment.

It's a little hard to describe the emotion that Ted Christopher has sparked among New England race fans. In many years at Stafford Motor Speedway I was witness to many a night of booing of the driver nicknamed Terrible Ted, and also a witness to numerous controversies between Christopher and drivers such as Chris Jones and Bo Gunning, none more spectacular than the race in early 1998 where Christopher got into Jones and under caution Jones roared through the field and plowed over Christopher's left front wheel. This got Jones suspended for most of the season, but he was able to race in that year's Fall Final; asked about that May 1998 contretemps, Jones deadpanned, "I gave it all I had."

Love him or hate him - and there is legitimate reason for both - no one can deny that Christopher has been perhaps the biggest name in New England racing, especially for NASCAR's Whelen Modified Series. If I were asked by team owners looking for a driver, I'd say, "Sign Christopher." The Modified Tour and Busch East definately need him.

As for the Danbury Trashers, I am hoping the UHL can find a legitimate owner in the Danbury area to relaunch the team. Racing and hockey are two passions of mine and they're passions of a lot of people, and both areas are worth helping out right now.

FOLLOW-UP - The Winston Cup level now has a similar problem with the indictment of Gene Haas, owner of Jeff Green's #66 Chevrolet.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tale Of The #25

Casey Mears' decision to take on Rick Hendrick's #25 team makes him the latest entry to try and get a win out of a racecar that once was the most feared in the sport but which has not lived up to that history since the latter 1980s. It is a tale worth recalling given the seeming curse that hovers over this car.

Begun in 1986, the #25 team paired two seemingly incompatable personalities - crusty veteran crew chief Harry Hyde and flamboyant racer Tim Richmond. The pairing produced little in the first third of 1986, but following a North Wilkesboro tire test in which Richmond saw for himself how he was abusing tires as opposed to making up ground, the two began to click, and from late May of 1986 the #25 became the proverbial rocketship.

Richmond followed back-to-back seconds at Charlotte and Riverside with victory in a crash-torn Pocono 500, then won another wreckfest at Daytona. But his greatest triumph came at Pocono in the Summer 500. Racing three wide for the lead as a caution came out for Jim Sauter's first turn crash, Richmond lost control in the Tunnel Turn and spun into the path of Richard Petty. The two cars clashed side to side and Petty was eliminated while Richmond spun down the north straight. He ran backwards to pit road and lost a lap, but after a huge Tunnel Turn wreck that injured Neil Bonnett's shoulder, Richmond fought Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and unlapped himself. When fog forced NASCAR to end the race at Lap 150, Richmond rocketed through the field and on the last lap grabbed the lead; teammate Geoff Bodine fought back and the two banged together onto the frontstretch; Ricky Rudd, a lap down much of the day, came from nowhere and dove three abreast at the stripe. It took nearly three minutes to determine that Richmond had won by a raindrop.

Richmond nailed down wins at Watkins Glen, the Southern 500, and the Capital City 400 before wrecks and blown engines ruined his wildcard title hopes. He wrapped up 1986 by winning at Riverside, but after the season he fell ill. It turned into double pneumonia and there was concern whether he'd live another day.

He made it through that illness and raced a shortened 1987 season, winning at Pocono in June and then at Riverside a week later. Richmond, however, carried the secret that he had AIDS, and his sickness eventually led him to resign from the team. Bizarre behavior by Richmond eventually led to his now-infamous drug testing with NASCAR, a defamation suit against NASCAR, and an out-of-court settlement when the judge ruled that Richmond's medical records (which NASCAR had requested) were relevent to the issue. Richmond would die of AIDS in August 1989, and has been all but forgotten by the sport.


Since then the #25 has struggled to live up to its 1986 legacy. Ken Schrader won at Talladega in 1988 in a spectacular ten-car slugfest on the final lap, a win that proved to be Harry Hyde's final win as a crew chief. Schrader next won at the 1989 National 500, but repeated breakage in 1990 ruined his season before he triumphed at Atlanta and Dover in 1991. Schrader never won again, and it unfortunately is a sign of how uninspired his career has been that one has to strain to remember that he indeed was a winner in Winston Cup.

Ricky Craven took over the #25 in 1997 but repeated injuries almost ended his career. Randy LaJoie had a noteworthy run in the #25 at Martinsville but his tenure there ended soon after a wreck in the '98 World 600 with Dale Earnhardt; following the wreck LaJoie gave a bizarre interview where he kept pointing to the #16 of Ted Musgrave as if he were involved somehow in the wreck, this despite Musgrave being over a second behind the incident.

Wally Dallenbach took over the #25 for the second half of 1998 and all of 1999, posting several top ten finishes. Jerry Nadeau came on board for 2000 and authored a dramatic win at the Dixie 500 at Atlanta. A follow-up win would not come, however, and he was released early in 2002. Joe Nemechek joined the team for the majority of 2002 and at Richmond in May 2003 pulled off the win.

From 2004 onward Brian Vickers, a protege of Rick Hendrick's son Ricky, has driven the #25 and was on the hot seat in mid-2005; he posted several strong finishes but wrecked a lot and ultimately ran out of gas in his driving, and thus now finds himself finishing out 2006 as a lame duck.

The #25 team thus has yet another new driver, as living up to the shadow of Tim Richmond continues to perplex many who remember the legacy the #25's greatest racer continues to leave.

Pocono Postscript and Michigan 400 Preview

The Pocono 500 has now come and gone and it had some good racing highlighted by several strong rallies from trouble, notably Denny Hamlin's rally from a spin in the Tunnel Turn to victory lane. His, though, wasn't the only rally - Brian Vickers came back from a pit penalty to finish fourth amid his lame-duck status with Hendrick Motorsports - a lame-duck status made more so as his successor has officially signed on -while Tony Stewart rallied from his shoulder injury to finish third.

Vickers and Kurt Busch put on some of the best racing of the first third of the season on Lap 75 as they swapped the lead three times in one lap, giving everyone a taste of the old Pocono competitive vinegar. As is usual for most NASCAR races, though, the best battles were out back, a situation the opposite of what racing is supposed to be. One of the cars striving to get into the top ten was Bobby Labonte, who got tires late with most of the others on the lead lap and rocketing from about 18th to 12th at the finish.

Labonte's stock has risen lately leading to Michigan, where he's won three times including the '95 Michigan 400. For this Michigan 400 weekend he will drive Bobby Hamilton's Dodge Truck, an important edge for Labonte and the Petty #43 in terms of extra track time, as well as a Truckwacker for Hamilton's team, Truckwacking now being the biggest edge a non-Toyota team needs in order to battle the Tundras. It's also fitting that a former Petty driver is getting help from the present Petty driver.

There were gripes from fans about how Pocono is about fuel mileage a lot; Michigan is likewise frequently about lengthy periods without cautions, though given the reality of NASCAR and its aero-tire packages the last three seasons you almost never know what you'll get any race - witness Dover's dramatic shootout for the win after years of subpar racing on its concrete surface. Certainly Michigan's layout is favorable for hard racing with three abreast easily attainable in the track's huge sweeping corners.

Roush Racing won at Fontana, Michigan's West Coast twin, so the Cat In The Hat's armada is favored here, this after something of a frustrating day at Pocono in which two Roush Fords finished in the top seven - one, Greg Biffle, got brake work done during the race that left others shaking their heads - but Mark Martin and Jamie McMurray finished out back on the lead lap and Carl Edwards started 40th, rocketed into the top ten, then the crew blew it all on his final stop under green.

Pocono proved to be a re-turning point for Tony Stewart's title chances after his Charlotte and Dover troubles, and the 2000 Michigan 400 winner can be trusted to make an effort at cutting Jimmie Johnson's lead here as well.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

IRL Anticlimax At Texas

The IRL's Alamo 500k at Texas is usually the most anticipated race of the season, because of its history of spectacular sidedraft warfare for the lead, a reputation first begun in 1998 in a huge racelong fight won by Billy Boat over Greg Ray and Kenny Brack, and cemented by June 2000's all-time epic multicar war won by Scott Sharp over Robby McGehee. That reputation continued with Scott Goodyear's spectacular finish over Eddie Cheever in October 2000 and further by Scott Sharp's spectacular win after a 40-lap fight with Cheever and Ray in which Ray tried to blast under a slow car and wrecked himself and Cheever.

Panther Racing had won twice with Goodyear, but with Sam Hornish they triumphed in back-to-back Lone Star 500ks, first in October 2001 in a rollicking three-abreast photo finish, then in September 2002 in a race-long sidedraft showdown over Helio Castroneves.

As IRL cars have gotten slicker the weakening draft has affected ability to pass, and the anticlimatic fuel duel win by Castroneves over Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon in June 2006 is the most galling such anticlimax yet. Sam Hornish had won the pole but took a back seat all race to Wheldon, who pushed Chip Ganassi's #10 into the lead and stayed there unchallenged all night. Late fuel stops necessitated by a dearth of yellows wiped out Wheldon's edge and left Hornish in a particularly frustrated finish after he stalled getting out of his final splash-and-go.

The win is Penske Racing's fourth of the IRL season to two for Ganassi, and this monopoly has left other strong teams fuming and working still harder to steal it. Andretti-Green Racing, Vision Racing, and A.J. Foyt's #14 driven by Felipe Giaffone were the only cars that could get a sniff of the dominant Penske-Ganassi fleets, while Sharp parlayed fuel strategy to put his Adrian Fernandez car into top ten contention.

Giaffone's disappointing finish is doubly galling because of his rally from last after not posting a qualifying time into the top ten, a superb drive coming off his solid top five at Watkins Glen. And further showing how upside down finishes can be from on-track performance, Danica Patrick slogged through the race with a new Dallara chassis yet managed a decent finish, a far cry from the abysmal night the rest of Rahal-Letterman Racing had between Jeff Simmons' slow speeds and Buddy Rice's blown engine.

The IRL teams hit a quick Kansas test before taking this weekend off before hitting Richmond Raceway, which should be a tense affair as Richmond races tend to be.

The Great Haditha Fraud

Somehow you just knew it would turn out this way. It is required reading to see the chronology of the Haditha "massacre" and see where the Great Haditha Fraud gestated.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

MSM Coverage Of Iraq As Seen IN Iraq

The following is a repost from June 2, 2006:

The whole brouhaha over what may or may not have happened in Haditha brings disturbing light to the increasingly shrill Congressman John Murtha, who appears to be motivated not by good faith but by pure evil in his campaign against US victory in Iraq. It also raises questions about what actually happened there, though given the recklessness with which charges of American brutality are always made, that shouldn't come as a shock - especially as the best available information indicates that soldiers stormed houses from where they were being shot at, and firefights ensued in which civilians wound up dead - possibly from guerrilla fire; I find it frankly unlikely that civilians were shot by Marines, given how they are trained to avoid such incidental casualties.

That the MSM is fawning over "Red-Light" Murtha's pomposity is doubly disturbing because, as shown here(see also here), the MSM's false picture is being falsified even more when shown in Iraq.

FOLLOW-UP: There is evidence that some of the local witnesses in the Haditha incident were making details up for "blood money," a possibility worth examining here.

NASCAR's Multicar Limits To Get Serious?

NASCAR may get serious about limiting the size and scope of multicar teams, based on some little-noticed language in NASCAR's rulebook, although some team owners aren't sure NASCAR would have a legal leg to stand on.

They might here, though. Few remember that NASCAR has reserved the right for itself to seize racecars and not give them back, so putting language into the entry blank requiring entries to in effect open their books for NASCAR to see may not be so outrageous.

If anything, it's overdue, because the sport should never have allowed a handful of team owners to effectively buy out the starting field. The day that 25 or more individual raceteams are fielded each week, with each team building its own cars and its own engines, is a day the sport needs to reach.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mason-Dixon 400 Preview

The Mason-Dixon 400 is up, the second concrete skating rink race of the Winston Cup season. Dover Downs is bigger than Bristol but only slightly less hard on drivers, even when they're healthy. It's "only" 400 miles, which is a test for certain, although lacking the same level of toughness and sense of accomplishment that Dover's 500-milers of the past always held. One wishes Dover would be allowed to return its races to 500 miles, since those races were always a better test of man and machine than the cheaper 400 miles of today.

As for what to expect this time around, there will likely be a lot of yellows, although unlike Bristol, Dover is known for lengthy green flag periods; indeed, Dover is a track where periodically you don't know what you'll get. A new tire brought in for this race showed promise in the BGN and Truck events, but the concrete surface has made side by side racing essentially impossible.

On the Chevrolet side Jimmie Johnson, a former winner here, starts in the bottom three after spinning on his qualifying lap; he has to share a pit stall with Scott Wimmer, but given his status as Hendrick Motorsports' point man, Johnson is almost certain to get the lead and finish in the top five; a top ten will be something of a disappointing finish for him right now. Jeff Gordon is less of a threat for the win but isn't at the level to dismiss his chances.

The other familiar Chevrolets are likely contention candidates - Kevin Harvick at RCR (although Jeff Burton is a good wildcard choice after his win in the BGN race), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The one question mark is Ricky Rudd, driving in relief of Tony Stewart at JGR, and driving a Chevrolet for the first time since the 1993 Dixie 500 at Atlanta - irony alert: after that race he fanged General Motors and for all practical purposes vowed never to race GM again; he thus spent the 1994-2005 period exclusively in Fords and famously fanged about the Monte Carlo after the 1995 World 600, "I don't know how to compare it, we're racing a completely different class of automobile with downforce. It's like the IMSA cars with ground effects cars and non-ground effects cars."

Rudd, having sat out half the year, is something of an unknown although he traditionally gets around Dover well. Drivers on part-time schedules simply haven't done well the last few years, shown by sub-mediocre efforts this season by Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott, so Rudd is an unknown here.


On the Ford side it's all Roush all the time. You can pretty much throw out chances for Robert Yates and the Wood Brothers; Ken Schrader simply isn't racing and the Yates effort looks in disarray. The one question for the Roushketeers is whether Jamie McMurray can get some kind of consistency going after his strong effort at Charlotte.


Over at Dodge the favorite has to be Bristol winner Kurt Busch. Ryan Newman may be on the pole and has won here before, but his inconsitency continues to baffle railbirds, so for Penske Racing the one to watch is Busch.

Fresh off the 600, Kasey Kahne wants to continue on a hot streak and is clearly the best Dodge. Jeremy Mayfield is on the front row but his terrible season has been such that even when he wins, he loses, shown by his points penalty after a strong effort at Charlotte.

The one possible wildcard from the Dodge camp is Bobby Labonte, fifth at Bristol and a former Dover winner. The recent string of night races didn't go well for Labonte after a strong eighth at Phoenix, so getting back to daylight and its more consistent handling landscape may be what he needs for now.


The Monster Mile has long lived up to that reputation and remains a stout test of driver and racecar.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

No To Substitute Drivers

Tony Stewart will have Ricky Rudd stand by to relieve him at the Mason-Dixon 400 at Dover after injuring his shoulder in the World 600. And as one might have expected, that prospect has renewed discussion about allowing substitute drivers to earn points for primary drivers in races.

The idea is that Tony Stewart should be allowed to sit out Dover and have Ricky Rudd drive the entire race, but the points would go to Stewart. The argument is that this would allow an injured driver to heal up properly instead of trying to start a race. Points are awarded to the driver who starts the car, and the sport has periodically seen injured drivers run a lap or two and then pit to get out and let a relief driver take over.

Terry Labonte and Richard Petty in 1987 both saw consecutive start streaks all but end. Labonte was T-boned in a vicious melee at the Rebel 500 and in the next two short track races Brett Bodine ran for Labonte; Labonte ran one pace lap and then pitted to let Bodine into the car; under NASCAR rules at the time Labonte got the points by running the first pace lap. At Dover Petty broke two ribs and Joe Ruttman likewise relieved him for two races; by driving the pace lap Petty got the points.

NASCAR changed that rule a few years later, requiring drivers to run at least one lap to earn points.

The problem with substitute drivers is they would be earning points for someone who is not even trying to race. Substitute drivers are basically a mulligan for primary drivers, a cheap rule contrived for convenience. It typifies the absurd risk-adverse attitude frustratingly common to modern sports that anyone could take the idea of substitute drivers seriously. Under a substitute driver rule, the primary driver can skip races for basically any reason and still get points.

This is senseless. The points should always go to the driver who starts the car. The counterargument is that the present system "forces injured drivers to race." So what? It is how it is supposed to be.

The rule for injured drivers should be simple. Tony Stewart should be benched by NASCAR for two races to heal up. No one should mourn any dashed title hopes for Stewart because title hopes don't matter as much as race wins in any event. Injured drivers should be benched for a minimum of two races or until they heal enough to be able to run 500 miles without need of a relief driver.

Substitute drivers cheapen the sport and should never be a rule.