Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NASCAR Atlanta race debate continues: Gas Man suspended for four races and 94,400 at Atlanta race on Sunday.


A picture is worth a thousand words and this picture shows both discussions in details with #47 gas man chased after his driver's loose wheel, some empty seats on the front straightaway during the Cup race and Clint Bowyer in the #33 BB&T Chevrolet racing at full speed, wow what a picture. (Photo Credit: NASCAR.com via Yahoo! Sports)

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this past weekend debate lives on with two key discussions.

1) Marcos Ambrose’s crew member did what during Sunday’s Cup Series race? In case you didn’t see what happened, here’s the NASCAR.com video, basically, on lap 67 during a round of green flag pit stops, the #47 car made a normal pit stop, during the stop, a tire got away, so the gas man of the #47-Marcos Ambrose’s team, chased the loose tire which was halfway to the flag stand on front straightway by the time he caught it and rolled it back, because he went out to get the tire during green conditions, NASCAR called for a caution for safety reasons, which put all, but six cars a lap down. By the way, the gas man was ejected for the rest of the race. As a result of this, on Tuesday NASCAR suspended the gas man for four races.
(From NASCAR PR): Jimmy Watts, a crew member for the No. 47 team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been suspended from the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events (until April 22) for rule violations during last Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.Watts was found to have violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 9-15-U (crew members must not go on the race track for any reason while the cars are racing or while the cars are running under the yellow flag or the red flag, unless otherwise directed to do so by a NASCAR official). Watts has also been placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.In addition, Frank Kerr, crew chief for the No. 47, has been placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31 for violating Sections 12-1 and 9-4-A (crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of the team).
What a statement made by NASCAR, of course just about any penalty issued by NASCAR is a statement, however what message it sends is different each time, with that, did the penalty fit the crime?

One, this has to be a first in NASCAR at least that I can remember (of course if I am wrong, please leave a comment here on RaceDriven.com) that there really isn’t anything I can go off of except for other (or basic) penalties, two, four races gets the garages attention, it’s not the first time NASCAR has passed down a four race suspension before, three, keep in mind, Bobby Labonte spun in that same area 5 laps before this happened.

So yes I think suspending him for four races does fit the crime, look the gas man made a huge mistake that I bet he nor anyone else will make again, or so we hope.

You know, following this action and penalty, I wonder if NASCAR might be thinking about requiring the pit road to be separate from the race track, currently Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte, Atlanta, Talladega, just to name a few have the pit road open sort of speck to the racetrack, unlike Richmond for example that has a wall and grass between its pit road and the track, with a wall, a loose tire will NOT get onto the racetrack, unless of course it jumps the pit wall. This could be an issue, but a temporary pit wall can be built and removed in a weekend, only a thought because I also don’t remember a tire going on to the racetrack before either, well, maybe once, but where and when?

2) How many NASCAR fans did the Atlanta Cup race have in attendance? Now let me state the obvious right from the start, one, I like watching racing from Atlanta Motor Speedway, the speedway has produced several great races and some of the closest finishes in NASCAR history (of course the closet finish in NASCAR history happened back in 2003 at Darlington, Ricky Craven beating out last weekend’s Atlanta winner Kurt Busch by .002 seconds.)

Two, if it wasn’t before, now in 2009, the attendance question will be an issue for a long time to come because in NASCAR, a Cup Series date is worth a fortune, there are very few dates to go around, there is no more room to add to the Cup Series schedule anymore, and as a matter of fact, the schedule for most people is already too long at 36 races now.

Three, every racetracks wants at least once Cup date if not two and for SMI and Smith, they want two more Cup dates on top of what they have already. The first cup date they want is at the newly bought Kentucky Speedway (which in my opinion isn’t going to happen before 2011 at least, because of the pending lawsuit with the former owner, there are already too many cookie cutter tracks on the schedule and the track is located in an already saturated market), if you want more on Kentucky Speedway, check out this article, it’s on a good blog I read.

The second cup date they want is at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which unlike Kentucky has a chance and could be positive for NASCAR (I want good racing period, I don’t care who owners it whether its SMI, ISC or private owned), the track could be near to a sellout for both races. Las Vegas for a second date could work, of course I would suggest getting rid of California Speedway’s first race, the 2nd race of 2009, there are way too many Cup dates on the West coast now and California speedway is 244 miles to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and for that matter Phoenix (PIR) is only 368 miles from Las Vegas too.

Why do I bring this up, according to a NASCAR.com article, “NASCAR and track officials announced attendance at 94,400, but critics say the actual number of people there was far less”.

Atlanta Motor Speedway currently has 124,000 seats, above says that there were 94.400 in attendance, but where do they come up with this number, are we talking just grandstands? Or does that number include all fans in the venue like campers and the infield? Either way, I will say this, when I was watching the race, there did look like there were a lot of empty seats on front straightaway, but one area off turn 3 was packed, I don’t know, but in defense of Atlanta, in this economy, 94,400 is a good number depending upon where they got it from and yet the grandstands still looked empty in some spots (picture above).

So now does Atlanta Motor Speedway (like California, Martinsville and others over attendance issues) deserve two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dates? Personally, I would hate to lose a cup date at Atlanta Motor Speedway, however there are other racetracks that do get a near sellout crowd that could prove they should get a second cup date or just add another track to the schedule in a good market. Either way, target is now on Atlanta for its fall, Labor Day Weekend, Sunday evening race to sell better, now what will be the ending for this one?

By the way, I travel from my home in Massachusetts (down by the RI and CT border) to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a day trip to see NASCAR, one way is 116 miles, I don’t use I-93, it’s better that way, so 244 miles is a lot, personally I would get a hotel room in Las Vegas if I were traveling 244 miles one way for a race, just thought that that was a interesting piece of information, and even more, one reader on another blog said he travels from Kentucky to Talladega in 6 hours for a race, wow, that’s far, but it’s a weekend with friends and family. So how far does everyone else travel?