Sunday, July 24, 2016

Burning Busch At Indianapolis

The late melee on a restart at the Brickyard 400 was the only memorable moment from a weekend a lot of people didn't particularly want to witness and which few want to remember - and that's yet another sign that NASCAR has not made anything better in racing.

Kyle Busch was burning hot at Indianapolis and the victory lane at the Brickyard had to be renamed Canaan the way Busch was burning. Almost from pole day onward the outcome of the weekend was eminently predictable, and it showed in 149 laps led on Sunday with NO challenge at any point - and it showed in a discouragingly small crowd, despite a reported 35% increase in ticket sales this year - a report I'm not sure is all that accurate.

Busch's monopoly of the Brickyard was such that even the other Toyotas looked mediocre (especially on restarts where the outside car was often dead meat) even though they for the most part outclassed everyone else as well.  It also made some creditable runs by others look utterly irrelevant - because in a real sense they were.   Jimmie Johnson salvaged third place and Jeff Gordon finished quite well given he hasn't raced all year, this while subbing for Earnhardt Jr., out recovering from concussion symptoms he reported before the race were starting to get better - certainly a positive sign, though we suspect he won't return until Michigan, an easier track to start over on than Watkins Glen or Bristol. 

Tony Stewart's final Brickyard 400 was at times strikingly good, at times tellingly bad, and ended respectably, while the rest of his outfit for the most part did decently - except of course for Danica Patrick, involved in another wreck.

The seemingly power-less RCR Chevys ran decent, as Austin Dillon and Paul Menard were 9-10 at the end.   The Fords had nothing to cheer for despite Joey Logano's top-ten, a respectable 11th for Ricky Stenhouse, and an eye-opening 13th for Chris Buescher.   The eye-popping stat that Penske has yet to win a Brickyard 400 stayed intact even as the Penske duo led 21 laps. 

It was stunning that Toyota didn't win the manufacturer crown in 2015; if they lose it this year it will be an even uglier shock, because Toyota has it all and overall Ford has jumped ahead of Chevrolet in true muscle.    Those bemoaning the dominance of Toyota have it backward - the sport has long needed a competitive correction from the semi-monopoly of Chevrolet.   Ford's six manufacturer titles in the 1992-2002 period have been gathering cobwebs galore and seeing Chevrolet knocked down a few pegs is a corrective the sport needs. 


Kyle Busch's monopolization of the Brickyard has been absolute the last two seasons, sweeping both the Xfinity 250 and the 400 in two straight seasons.   And they've come despite radically different downforce packages.

Kyle Busch's last-lap pass in the 2015 Brickyard 250 is some of the kind of racing NASCAR was looking for then, and is still looking for now - the balance sheet remains they had the right idea with high downforce in 2015, what they overlooked is what is key there

The number of people in varied forums (not just fans but such writers as Matt Weaver at RACER ) advocating the Xfinity series race be moved back to Indianapolis Raceway Park - and oddly Matt Kenseth expressed a view in that range on his Twitter account as well - shows anew how much a lot of people misguidedly hate the big ovals, whose history remains replete with high-quality racing - such comments also seem to ignore the state of disrepair that IRP now resides within, as evidenced during the track's ARCA race during Brickyard weekend.   Certainly IRP deserves better than that.

If anything, what should be considered is adding a 200-miler for the Truck Series at the Brickyard, especially with the competitive renaissance the series has undergone the last five years.  

Adding the Trucks to the Brickyard would likely do what they've done everywhere else they've raced - put on a battle for the lead that illustrates why the low downforce package is not working.   The lesser horsepower, higher downforce, and far more forgiving tire of the Trucks remains a striking contrast and one that keeps being illustrated in better racing.    It also showcases why NASCAR and Goodyear need to stop kidding themselves on the tire - they got it right at Dover, they need to get it right at Pocono etc. 

It is curious that unlike previous broadcast media forums this season, the IMS Radio call didn't promote low downforce but instead offered a factual analysis of the package - and in so doing illustrated its weakness; it's been a long while since any NASCAR media discussed the "beach ball" effect the cars are now generating.   It's also a telling comment on the state of NASCAR media in general.

So the Cup series kisses the Bricks and whips eastbound to Pocono, a race that is usually strikingly different from June - and one hopes it is such in many positive ways.

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