Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What a weekend: Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart and controversy in the Firecracker 400?

Saying what a weekend in NASCAR is an understatement when the subject of Daytona Part Two comes up, even before last Saturday night’s Firecracker 400 (Coke Zero 400 at Daytona if you want to get specific) NASCAR had fireworks starting early…

On Thursday, it was Martin Truex Jr.’s #1 DEI Chevy that became the headline as his DEI Chevrolet was taken by NASCAR for a roof issue with templates, sending him to a backup car, oh boy that’s big in the penalty department and it was as on Tuesday, Martin Truex Jr. found out that he and DEI was penalized 150 driver and 150 owner points, both the crew chief and the car chief suspended for six races and Manion was fined $100,000 (From NASCAR PR), that’s right in line with what NASCAR has been handing out earlier this season with the two Haas-CNC Racing cars. I really don’t understand the 150 driver and owner points, 100 was enough, being docked 150 driver points will keep Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship period.

Staying with Daytona, while the Nationwide Series race was interesting, NASCAR must be looking at the Toyota’s, the other three makes are not going to catch them, it’s almost like unless the #20 or if the #18 is in race, they wreck or they win period. I read Dale Jr.’s interview with Nationwide:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third behind Hamlin and Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said: It was fun, I had a good time. The track was real slick; you know we were able to pass more than I thought we would. And Kyle and Denny were real quick, and they handled really really good. I couldn’t run on by like they were, so I really didn’t have many options, I was trying a couple of things and nothing was really working, so it was hard to come up with anything that would have been able to get by them, so. Anybody really, I think, around the top five did a good job cause it was pretty slick out there, but it was a lot of fun. (From Nationwide.com) Enough said.
Now comes the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, I watched this entire race and yes, there were fireworks early and offen during this one, but for the love of me, I can’t even begin to explain what happened. The race was entertaining, but it went from a good race to a wreckfest and wouldn’t you know it, there was a controversy on the final restart which was a green-white-checkered, but they didn’t get to the finish line as a photo was needed to determine the winner…Shrub wins again, 6 wins this season, next. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Following the Firecracker 400, two questions were raised by the fans and the media:

1. When should have the caution lights been displayed? When you look at the final restart, NASCAR made the correct call in not throwing the caution when Jeff Gordon got spun by Carl Edwards, Gordon was just protecting his position from Edwards and Edwards was already at the bottom, it happens, however the caution should have come when the crash happened and the leaders were going into turn 1, but it wasn’t until an even bigger wreck came out that NASCAR finally through the caution. The issue here is timing on the last lap, they missed the timing which created a controversial photo finish.

2. Could NASCAR’s green-white-checkered policy be changed? A couple years ago, NASCAR had an unlimited green-white-checkered policy in the Truck Series and it turned out to be a nightmare, the race was at Gateway and they had this two lap shootout several times before a winner could be crowned which included several wrecks – Bobby Hamilton sliding down the back straightaway wall after getting hit from another driver. The point is, as much as the one-shoot deal with the green-white-checkered policy is one-sided, it still works, its fair and the fans, drivers, teams and owners knows happens, it works, it might end in controversy like last Saturday at Daytona, but it’s still works right that way the policy reads, there’s no need for change period.

What about TNT’s Wide-open coverage? I want to watch the race again on Thursday before I comment if I even both.

Silly Season:
Last weekend in New Hampshire, it was announced that Hendrick Motorsports and Casey Mears would part ways at the end of the season and not even a week later, on Friday at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Mark Martin would drive the #5 full-time in 2009 and part-time in 2010, what a two-year deal and you know, it works for both parties. Personally, Mark Martin driving for Hendrick is ironic in away, think about it, this time last year, Dale Jr. already had announced he was leaving DEI and joining Hendrick with Mears moving from the #25 to #5 and now fast forward to the present, Mark Martin is doing the same to drive the #5 car, which also completes the dream team. I was hoping for Tony Stewart to drive the #5 car, but Mark Martin’s just as good as he joins Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and NASCAR’s most popular driver and my favorite driver Dale Earnahrdt Jr., what a combination – a NASCAR Dream Team at Hendrick Motorsports, not even Joe Gibbs Racing or Roush-Fenway Racing can match this.

Specking of Tony Stewart, his rumors and speculation continues somewhat with Stewart-Haas Racing being formed with Newman on-board and Office Depot and Jack Daniels as sponsor, stop, stop , stop, I am going to treat this like Dale Jr. last season, I am going to wait for Smoke to make his announced and then I will comment and support whatever decision he makes, but personally (this is not a rumor, this is my opinion), Stewart should say good-bye to JGR and either drive the #33 at RCR and own a piece of Hass with Newman and Truex Jr. as drivers or drive for himself with a teammate, either way he is driving a Chevrolet, but just remember, fact – Tony Stewart has one more year on his contract period.

If those two were not enough, Ganassi Racing made a surprising, shocking announcement…Ganassi Racing was shutting down the #40 car effective immediately due to lack of funds (no sponsor), leaving Dario Franchitti without a ride. Looking at Ganassi Racing racing, I would be surprised if this entire racing organization were to shut down by 2010, it just isn’t working and that’s it, Ganassi should go back to would works and that’s his Grand American Rolex Team and IRL teams…

Now, after the Firecracker 400 at Daytona, both the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series turn their attention to good old fashion Saturday night racing under the lights at Chicagoland, this will be the first night race at Chicagoland, this should be interesting as Kevin Harvick is the defending champion of the Nationwide Series race and Tony Stewart as the defending champion of the Cup Series race, this is where smoke could turn it all around and win big as it’s his time of the year (the summer) to shine. Comments.

- Racedriven