Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NASCAR gets it wrong with telling non-Chase drivers to back off.

Racing is all about pushing the limits and the #48 and #5 were and are doing just that.

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, over the past three weeks, NASCAR has been pushing the limits with several teams as well as its NASCAR fans and among the first three Chase for the Sprint Cup races has caught my eye in two areas that have just left me asking why they would do that.

With New Hampshire two weeks ago in the record books with a good race on the magic mile that ended up being a battle right to the caution flag on the white flag laps that saw Mark Martin hold off hard charging Denny Hamlin and Juan Montoya to win the Sylvania 300 and extend his points lead, it was off to Dover. While Dover didn’t do the chase drivers any favors, the race itself ended up being a sleeper as Jimmie Johnson dominated to win the AAA 400 over him teammate and the point’s leader Mark Martin.

However after the race was really where the story lied sort of, it all depended upon who you talked too or listened too. After the AAA 400 at Dover, the winning car, the #48-Jimmie Johnson and a random car which just so happen to be the #5-Mark Martin where not only inspected at the racetrack, but were also brought back to the NASCAR R&D Center for closer inspection.

According to NASCAR, this is a normal practice to bring the winning racecar and a random racecar back to the R&D Center for closer inspection. I have know this for a long time, SPEED even showed what NASCAR does in an average weekend (that being the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte) which included them bring the winning racecar, the #9-Kasey Kahne back to the R&D Center for closer inspection.

However after the inspection, “NASCAR officials found both cars to be pushing the limits of NASCAR's allowed tolerances, and notified them accordingly” (Info from NASCAR.com article and interviews with NASCAR officials on SPEED).

Basically even though both the #48 and #5 were found legal and broke no rules, NASCAR felt since both cars were too close to the tolerances than normal that they should call both teams (crew chief, engineers, anyone that really worked on the car) to the NASCAR R&D Center for a meeting to go over where they were too close and to see what the teams measurements where compared to NASCAR.

I guess I understand what NASCAR’s position is here, I mean they don’t want to see this chase be affected by penalties rather than what happens on the racetrack. I heard thi story hit Friday morning when I was watching the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session the next week at Kansas on SPEED.

One reporter asked the NASCAR official John Darby about, he commented which is basically listed above and that was it. I would have thought that the end of the story, but since NASCAR called a meeting, the story blow up. I personally don’t see a story here other than both the #48-Jimmie Johnson and the #5-Mark Martin where pushing the limits.

Ladies and gentleman, racing is all about pushing the limits, from getting everything out of the racecar (10ths, 100ths, 1000ths of second can make the difference on the track and can be the difference between winning and finishing 10th or 30th) to racing everybody, chase driver or non-chase driver as hard as you can for each position. Both drivers with their crew chiefs, crews and the people back at Hendrick Motorsports did their jobs plain and simple, they found everything in those racecars and it showed on the racetrack.

Looking past the #48 and #5 cars being too close in inspection last story which by the way both cars were taken back to the R&D Center after Kansas and cleared, who didn’t see that one coming, another bad call by NASCAR entered the spotlight. Now I have to admit, I love watching my NASCAR on television every week, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing about it, I hardly miss a Cup Series race and if I do I make sure I tape it on my DVR, but there is one thing I hate about NASCAR, they try and change a few things, as one driver put it, playing god.

According to the live telecast of race on ABC/ESPN, it was reported that during Sunday's Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR officials told Brad Keselowski to not race so aggressively with the Chase drivers early in the race. (Read this article for a head to head on it)

So is it ok for NASCAR to tell a non-Chase driver to back off? Let me think about this one for a moment, oh NO, No NASCAR, it’s not ok for you to tell a non-chase driver to back off period.

NASCAR, you put on good races most of time, yes there are these races that are just boring and last week at Dover was just one example and another one is California Speedway. Personally I can’t figure out if the boring racing at California Speedway is because of the new COT car, the tires or the racetrack itself.

However telling non-Chase drivers, especially a driver like Brad Keselowski that earned a top 5 starting position to back off is wrong, stop trying to change the racing. The chase drivers can handle themselves. If you want to change the racing, fix the COT car.

I watched last Sunday’s Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway live on television (yes on ABC), and while the race did turn out to be not only a good race (better than Dover) and helped the chase itself including now having the top 8 chase drivers back in the championship hunt, it was the chase drivers that actually caught my eye.

If NASCAR really wanted to warn drivers for aggressive driver, they made the wrong choice in picking Brad Keselowski considering its Denny Hamlin who keeps not only running his mouth, but doesn’t respect some other drivers nor Juan Montoya. NASCAR should have looked at Montoya, he was ruffing up Brad Keselowski, not the other way around. Be fair cross the board, not just with non-chase drivers.

What about the chase picture, congratulations to Tony Stewart on winning the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas, that win really put him back into the championship hunt and to Joey Logano for winning last Saturday’s Nationwide Series race after that terrible crash at Dover last Sunday in the Cup Series race. Logano, 19, flipped 8 times in his #20 Home Depot Toyota and he walked away, that’s the way to get back into it.

Bottom line, to NASCAR, NASCAR fans, media, everybody, racing is all about pushing the limits, from getting everything out of the racecar (10ths, 100ths, 1000ths of second make a difference on the track and can be the difference between winning and finishing 10th or 30th in some cases) to racing everybody, chase driver or non-chase driver as hard as you can for each position. There are no free rides in racing, you want to pass, earn it, don’t just cry on the radio or knock them out of the way, race for it.

(The photo of Jimmie Johnson crossing the finish line to win the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway was taken by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)