Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sizing Up NASCAR Entering Texas

Mike Mulhern authors a good thorough examination of the Winston Cup season so far, with particular attention focused on the NASCAR policy where a driver has to start the race in order to get championship points plus the separate driver points and owner points dichotomy in the sport.

I'm not in favor of allowing a substitute driver to earn points for another driver, because for all the hype about racing being a team sport - and certainly teams do matter as far as the building of the racecars etc. - in its essence the sport is one driver racing a racecar vs. 42 other drivers racing racecars. The analogy to NFL teams using backup quarterbacks when the starter gets injured fails because in the NFL multiple participants are on the field at the same time as a single unit facing another such unit; in racing it is one car vs. another car vs. another car etc. An individual racecar represents less a team than an individual, be it the driver or the car owner (i.e. the #43 as Richard Petty's car regardless of who the driver is); even the car number often reflects an individual driver (remember the insane controversy over the #8 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. switched to Hendrick Motorsports?) as opposed to a team.

The concern is because of injured drivers trying to race instead of sitting out races. Certainly NASCAR needs to stand up more and bench injured drivers to heal up a lot more than the sanctioning body presently does. But it should not basically reward being injured.


As far as the racing goes, the Generation Six got off to the dismal start, then picked up at Bristol and the surprisingly raucous California 400 before tailing off at Martinsville. Texas will be a test of the Generation Six, for if it puts on memorable racing up front - the sport needs races in addition to Daytona and Talladega that even flirt with 60 lead changes - then it will be making believers out of people who still have reason not to buy into the concept. Goodyear is bringing a new right side tire to Texas, which adds another question mark.


As far as individual racecars, Brad Keselowski has the best average finish of all drivers, but hasn't won, while Joey Logano got into two scrapes at Martinsville. The Penske effect extends into the Ford fleet, where as expected his bunch is ahead and it's coming at the expense of the other Fords. The Toyotas of JGR have won twice and Kyle Busch is fourth in points, while the Hendrick Chevys led by Jimmie Johnson are of course above everyone else.

Falling the deepest has been Tony Stewart and his fleet - a result to be expected given the fall of Danica Patrick's other raceteams when she raced Indycar. Also embarrassing is RCR, where the inept Paul Menard is in the top ten in points and Kevin Harvick is riding out his string at RCR while Jeff Burton is going nowhere in every sense of the term. While on the Toyota side, Michael Waltrip's team gets Clint Bowyer and as usual nothing else.

Outside of this, no one else has done anything of note in the series so far. STP's sponsorship of the Virginia 500 was a very nice gesture but they didn't get anything out of Aric Almirola as his career continues to go nowhere - a further insult to Petty's #43 (and Mulhern asks a good question in noting the lack of information of Michael Annett after his Daytona crash). The Ganassi Chevys are in even worse shape as Juan Montoya's lack of stock car moxie curiously keeps getting overlooked while Jamie McMurray can only be known as a one-shot wonder.

So the sport enters Texas for the seventeenth season of this tumultuous track's existence hoping to accelerate positive momentum.

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