Tuesday, September 06, 2016

NASCAR Labors With Some Dumb Racing

The Southern 500 saw throwback week but the real throwback to some of racing's uglier moments erupted at Bowmanville's Truck race when John H. Nemechek swerved Cole Custer so violently it led to an on-track brawl

Southern 500 weekend resumed the theme of Throwback NASCAR with paint schemes conjuring up memories of NASCAR's past.  The most popular was Tony Stewart's Coca-Cola Chevrolet. It turned out to be an ugly race as Stewart swerved Brian Scott pretty gratuitously - reminiscent of Bobby Allison at North Wilkesboro in 1972 with these colors

Jimmie Johnson drove a Rod Osterlund-flavored Chevrolet and it wound up like Osterlund's team in June 1981 - it crashed

Richard Petty's team has always struggled at Darlington and 2016 saw yet another wreck there

Stewart-Haas Racing's frustration was team-wide as Kurt Busch and Paul Menard tasted the wall

So what to make of all this?   Several takes -


The capacity for utter hypocrisy by drivers showed again with heavy driver criticism of Nemechek and seeming ignorance when Tony Stewart blamed "old tires" for taking out Brian Scott.  


Kevin Harvick's reputation for frontrunning and then folding at the end got another notch, and his anger at his pit crew exploded again - one eye-popping stat said he lost an aggregate of seventeen seconds on pit road in the Southern 500.   Another eye-popping stat is he has finished second some twenty-four times since joining Stewart-Haas Racing.  

Martin Truex's win is the first time the Barney Visser team has won more than once in a season and is a sign his winning is only beginning, especially with a second car forming for 2017.


Remember how NASCAR's low downforce package was supposedly making the racing better?  Remember how jazzed everyone was for the racing at Darlington last year with low downforce?  Even with the epic of yellows in the second half the racing wasn't very good - and the ugly Truck finish at Bowmanville earlier that Sunday showcases an embarrassing fact for Brian France - the Truck Series has become the most competitive series in NASCAR with deeply competitive races at Daytona, Kansas, Texas, Michigan, and now the most insane finish in years at Bowmanville; the series also saw some interesting competition at Kentucky.   And they're doing it exactly the opposite way the cars are trying it - with high downforce, substantially less horsepower, and a noticeably more raceable tire.    Combined that with spectacular Indycar races at the Brickyard, Pocono, and Texas and Brian France gets exposed as having no clue yet again.

Reading reaction from former crew chief Barry Dodson to the Stewart melee, one ponders an age-old question - at what point does NASCAR flag off certain drivers for causing these wrecks?   The Nemecheck-Custer fracas brought to mind Ricky Rudd's penalty out of victory at Sears Point in 1991 for spinning out Davey Allison, which caused more than the usual fury of controversy (and was in keeping with Rudd's frequent outbursts in his four-year tour with Hendrick).   One is hard-pressed to recall similar penalties for dirty driving - the only other one I can come up with is Robert Black - later curiously blackballed by NASCAR - penalizing Dale Earnhardt out of Charlotte's BGN 300 in October 1991 after spinning out Phil Parsons. 

It is always a tricky proposition given that NASCAR overofficiates the races to an often-embarrassing extent.   Holding drivers accountable - especially recidivists like Stewart - certainly is a necessity, especially with the collapse of professionalism in the sport to where few of its winners display genuine character.  


Lost amid all of it is Kyle Larson finished third while teammate Jamie McMurray had a respectable night, and with Chevrolet losing SHR next year one wonders if Ganassi's team may benefit from getting engineering help that was going to SHR.  

And so it went as NASCAR enters Richmond and hypes its ace of Chase.

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