Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and double-file restarts – yes it’s an all NASCAR column.

Welcome back ladies and gentleman, as I sit here on a Wednesday afternoon watching the replay of the Pocono 500 on television from this past Sunday, however I am thinking about Kyle Busch at Nashville, the double-file restarts and Tony Stewart winning at Pocono.

Kyle Busch smashing a guitar?
Last Saturday night was shaping up to be just like so many NASCAR Nationwide Series races, Kyle Busch leading the race and in most cases dominating the race, the ESPN announcers cheering him on as they are part of his fan club, the fans waiting for just about anything to happen, the TV Broadcast following the too early to cover points fight between Busch and Edwards, but no one covering the a driver’s car on fire heading into the garage and of course Kyle Busch winning the race.

So what the headline, well leave to Kyle Busch to make a statement in his car that everyone was going to get a piece of that guitar, that’s not a bad thing to say neither that crew deserves a lot of credit, and yes they do, NASCAR is a team sport, not driver only, however no one was expecting Kyle Busch to take the trophy, a beautiful Gibson Guitar painted up that any driver would love to win and smashes it on the ground in victory lane and give pieces of it to his crew.
It should be said that unbelievably Kyle Busch asked Sam Bass and Gibson if he could smash it and from what I understand according to Kyle they approved it.

In the Nationwide Victory Lane interview from Nationwide.com,
Kyle Busch said: “We had a good day that went smooth today and we didn’t have any issues, you know we have had smooth days that were going great the past few weeks, just at the end it comes to something taking us away. So it was relief today, I mean I was actually nervous coming down to the end of the race because I wasn’t sure, something might happen. You never know, it would just be a never-ending saga really. But finally we were able to knock the monkey off the back and get a win here, for me especially to get my first Nationwide Series win at Nashville and my second guitar I won an archer race here, it’s been a long time since that day and it was very cool. “

Now the winner at Nashville always gets a custom painted Gibson guitar that every driver takes great care to get home safely. That is until Busch, who took out his acts in victory lane and did his best impression, of a rock star.

Busch: Yeah, I always said if I win here man I’d smash that thing. So I had to stick to my word man it’s karma or something I guess. So I won here so I tried to smash it up. Ozzy (Osbourne)’s done it right? I think Ozzy’s done it too; I think KISS has even done it. I mean everybody’s done it except racecar drivers. All them sorry saps they take it home in one piece and put it on the shelf. I’ll break that thing up and spread it among the team so everybody’s got a piece. He’ll have to do that by cutting it up with a saw because the man who customized the guitar, artist Sam Bass pointed out.

Sam Bass: “That shows what a quality product Gibson makes. Because that guitar did not break, the neck did not break in a half and it’s probably still playable if you plugged it in.” - Thanks Nationwide.com

The smashing of the guitar has gotten a lot of fans attention, most fans are calling this disrespect, while others are defending him, so where does this NASCAR fan stand?

Personally, a trophy that you receive by winning a race such as the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, Indianapolis 500, a Martinsville Cup Series race to a Nashville Nationwide Series race deserves respect, it says you won the race, first to cross the finish line, and with the competition so competitive, races are hard to win these days and that trophy a perfect way to cap off a good race day for the driver, the team not only at the racetrack, but back at the show, the owner, the sponsors and all the people that make it possible, so if a driver smashing a trophy whether it’s a Gibson Guitar or a grandfather clock from Martinsville Speedway, that to me is disrespectful.

I understand that the trophy in this case is Kyle Busch’s, but that’s still disrespectful. So where do you, the fans stand with any driver smashing trophy after the race in victory lane to give to your crew, is that disrespectful to the tradition or is it the winner’s trophy and they can do what they want with it?

The Pocono 500:
First, last Thursday, NASCAR announced in a press release that they are making a rule change and listening to the fans, so they have added double-file restarts to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race starting this past weekend at Pocono Raceway. (Originally I wrote this before the race, “NASCAR adds Double-File Restarts in the Cup Series – Part One: First reaction.”, check it out)

You know I have to say that any rules change that NASCAR makes sometimes just makes say what? However when it comes to adjusting the COT which they haven’t done yet or make an overdue change like in this case adding double-file restarts, I am all for it.

The Pocono 500 a race that needs to be shortened to 400 miles and that is known for sometimes producing some good race, but at the same time just ending up being a long and drawn out race that can be boring at times as well. But wouldn’t you know it, the race would mainly be a long, drawn out with few caution flags and green flag pit stops. Pocono is a 2 ½ mile racetrack that on a long green flag run can just go almost forever.

However there were a few things that caught my eye during the race:First the double-file restarts: This was a good place as any to try out double-file restart and while it didn’t have too much of an impact on the final results, the rule change did enable for some more exciting restarts. I noticed that the leader mostly started on the outside instead of normally starting on the inside, however it didn’t matter.

Anyway, it was better having the lap down cars behind the lead lap car instead of lineup next to them and on the restart, you know who was racing who, the driver were racing the drivers next to them period and that made for some better restarts and enabled drivers to make moves and sure enough there were some three-wide starts to boot. As a fans, the double-file restarts worked, however it will take a few more races to really see what it can do.

Second, the television broadcast: This was TNT’s first broadcast in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and that meant that NASCAR on FOX was over. With the NASCAR on FOX broadcast, there were some positives and some negitives, first had to be dinger, I mean I am fine with dinger popping out of his hole from time to time, looking at the cars coming at him and jumping back in the hole, however the negative had to be all of the dinger animation shows, so many times we say dinger, enough already.

I will say that I did like the NASCAR on FOX crew from Mike Joy, Larry Mac and Darrell Waltrip in the booth, they have magic in the booth to the pit reporters, the only thing is just live Hammond in Hollywood Hotel along with car next to him to explain things.

However in watching the broadcast, I dreaded the NASCAR on TNT broadcasts, but with the exception of the announcers, Weber, Dallenback and Petty, (their just no magic in that booth), I enjoyed the TV Broadcast. The pit reporters where great, right on top just about everything, no weird animations yet and going through the field several times including before lap 20. Hats off to TNT having a free racebuddy on NASCAR.com, I used it, it was worth it especially during the commercial, I watched the action on track while seeing commercials on TV, wow what concept.

Tony Stewart:
Who would have thought that only 14 races into the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season that Stewart-Haas Racing would be this competitive week in and week out, while I supported Tony Stewart and his move, even I didn’t see him winning races and leading the points so early in the season, I mean Smoke really put the right people in the right places at Stewart-Haas Racing, what a change.

Tony Stewart not only won the NASCAR All-Star race and came ever so close to winning several times this season including a few second place finish, one being latest weekend at Dover with dueling with Jimmie Johnson in the final laps, However who would have known that after a harsh practice crash, going to a backup car and starting 43rd at Pocono that smoke would rocket his way up through the field, passing car after car, making the right changes on pit road would set Stewart up to win this race.

The biggest point of the Pocono 500 had to be on the from the race off of pitroad, beating Carl Edwards after the last stop for some including Smoke to that final restart to the finish, save fuel by letting off the gas petal a ways away from the corner and coast in not using the brake petal and seal the deal, Tony Stewart winning the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

After the final restart and everyone faned out, it was interesting seeing Smoke on-board that he was saving fuel by rolled out of the throttle very early before the corners, coasted in and then gently applied the throttle again only to do it all again in the next corner, what a way to say fuel.

Of course Tony did come over the radio at one point and say I hate racing like this, for the most part I hate seeing it, but it was needed for the victory. At one point I thought that Tony Stewart had gotten some advice from Carl Edwards who has won a few fuel mileage races in the past, but what a victory, Tony Stewart wins the Pocono 500 and in turn picking up his first victory as a driver/owner. Great job Smoke.

Smoke must have taken lessans for the Carl Edwards who has won his fail share of fuel economy races including Texas last fall and Homestead.