Sunday, July 08, 2012

Brian France's Deja Screw

Matt Kenseth wins the Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski wins the Winston 500 at Talladega.

Kasey Kahne wins the World 600 at Charlotte.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the Michigan 400.

Tony Stewart wins the Firecracker 400 at Daytona.

If you think you've seen these outcomes before in recent years, you have. It's been a deja vu season in NASCAR with outcomes identical to 2008 and 2009. But if it's been deja vu, it's also been deja screw, as we're seeing the outcome of bad ideas all season again.

The Firecracker 400 was ugly. The racing was grossly inferior to what transpired the night before (and using a Shank Shaughnessy-ism it shows the truth of the song lyric "treat me like you did the night before") in the most competitive Daytona race in the history of NASCAR's second-tier stock car series.   Making it even better was the rally of the wrecked car (and all-but-wrecked career) of Kurt Busch to the win while the Richard Petty #43 and the RCR #3 fought it out in the battle for the win ending in the #3 wrecking (as happened with some frequency in Dale Earnhardt's career at Daytona).

While the Firecracker 250 was awesome the 400 was only memorable for Tony Stewart's perposterous rally after being over half a lap down, needing a mid-race yellow to catch back up, then seeing himself and Kyle Busch using sidedrafting to stop what were the otherwise-unstoppable Matt Kenseth/Greg Biffle tandem from winning.   With NASCAR insisting on the small spoiler and giving only a minor concession to allow radiators to cool the cars, the drivers had to breathe the cars instead of race, and they were obviosuly not handling, especially with the top line never coming in all night.  The result was an abysmal race.   A huge number of cars were torn up, but this is to be expected of competitive racing.

The fact remains Brian France's hatred of tandem racing hurt the quality of competition in the Cup series; that he refuses to get it shows his lack of qualification for his job.

Further showing the absurdity of NASCAR is the two crashes involving pit road.   First came Jeff Gordon sideswiping Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne, spinning them into the parked car of Brad Keselowski.   Why NASCAR insists on closing pit road when the yellow comes out and throwing everyone in at once remains mystifying.   Pit incidents like this didn't happen before March 1989 (the month NASCAR began closing pit road under caution); drivers dove into the pits when they wanted to when the yellow flew; pit crowding was far less frequent.   NASCAR began closing the pits under yellow because of scoring/pace car issues at the 1989 Atlanta 500. 

The second incident was the ten-car wreck near the end when Kenseth and others slammed on their brakes to enter the pits at the mandatory speed limit.   Wrecks like that (involving Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon most notably) have happened before when leaders slow to enter the pits under the speed limit; I'm amazed they don't happen more often.   The better alternative (in addition to leaving pit road open when the yellow comes out) is not to have pit speed limits; Kenseth et al should have been able to dive into the pits at speeds under their control - once again we have a scenario where NASCAR's mania to control the racing makes things more unsafe.

Before the weekend Brian France gave another of his dissembling state of the sport addresses and the ensuing racing proved anew why he's been wrong about his job and his view of racing.

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