I took a ride with Kyle Busch on Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He knows what he's doing out there. I was mostly not terrified. More on that later this week. For now, your letters.
The run-up to the Chase this year has, so far, been exciting, especially with the wildcards. But it seems like NASCAR will probably take a lot of heat if someone like Paul Menard gets in with his fuel-mileage win and a 13th place in points, and a Tony Stewart or Earnhardt Jr. get left out with a higher points finish. I know he still has to beat Hamlin; just throwing out a "what if". It seems like NASCAR would secretly be crying if the first year of the "wildcard" format knocks out Stewart or Junior from the Chase.
— Jerry Hicks
That's a great point; you realize that we lived for a week in a world where David Ragan and Paul Menard were our wildcards. That's kind of horrifying, in a way. But in another way, it's kind of awesome. Here's why.
What do NASCAR fans say they want drivers to do, more than anything? Go for the win. What's the only way to get in (at this point) via the wild card? Go for the win. So, yeah, if one of NASCAR's marquee attractions ends up on the (metaphorical) sidelines, that'll tick off the drivers' fanbase and Amp/National Guard/Office Depot/Burger King. But realistically, I think everybody gets that it's a flat-out meritocracy at this point: win to get in. I don't think that Junior will miss the Chase, but if he does by finishing 11th, aside from being a knife-twist irony, we will finally stamp out the last embers of the NASCAR/Junior conspiracy ... while starting a NASCAR/Menard conspiracy, of course.
All right, let's get to the story of the hour...
I am so sick of NASCAR's inconsistencies! The David [Ragan]/David [Reutimann]/Boris [Said] wreck was BAD and should have forced a caution to come out, yet they wait until Tony spins? I like hard racing until the checkered flag like the rest of the fans, but if the ESPN camera guy noticed the wreck, it was definitely yellow flag-worthy ... What's next? Is Boris going to be fined for his comments to a magazine reporter that happened to be aired on live TV? Ugh...
— Janine R.
My thinking on this was that NASCAR was assuming that since the initial wreck would have no impact on the racing (since the drivers could slow down before they made it back to the carnage) that they could let 'em run and not finish under yellow. But then once Stewart spun and the whole track was spattered with wreckage, that got to be too much. Which makes absolutely zero sense, now that I look at what I've written. Which is to say, I have no idea. I'm all for throwing cautions when there's any chance somebody can broadside another guy, like on a last-lap sprint when somebody wrecks in Turn 1. But if it's not going to affect the racing, if the drivers have enough time to slow down before encountering the wreck ... let 'em roll.
And if NASCAR does fine Said, I think it'll be one of those "get us the money whenever" sorts of fines, and then they'll say, "Oh, did you drop this?" and hand him a briefcase full of cash for getting NASCAR into the headlines yet again.
What the hell was Boris thinking? I thought he was a respected road racer. Never heard a bad thing out of anyone's mouth about Boris Said. Hell, the folks on SPEED wear his wig for the entire Trackside show! If they had had a hauler selling them at Infineon, I would have bought one.
It's the end of the race. Last lap. He is a ringer, this is a one-off. The men around him NEED this race. Ragan needs it badly. Yes, Boris is running out of track; yes, Boris needs to stay on track. So, why the hell didn't Boris lift off the throttle for one mini-second and let Ragan have the spot?
But for the safety rules of NASCAR, the grace of God and despite the <cough> safety barriers at WGI, Reuti and Ragan walked away. Both these guys were shaken. Badly. Not everyone is Carl Edwards and jogs their way out of could-have-been tragedy.
Forget the sit-com-in-the-making, "Boris and the Biff" - I'm talking about Said's on-track behavior. Maybe Allstate should sponsor him so he can wear "Mayhem" on his firesuit from here on out.
That's exactly the thinking of many of the drivers; Said has his dignity, his owners and his sponsors to think of, but should that trump the season-long run of the regulars around him? I say no. I think it's Said's obligation to give ground when necessary (like when you're in TWENTY-SECOND PLACE).
Since my entire life is organized around sports and hard-rock music, here's an anecdote that ties them both together. I was a huge Guns n' Roses fan back in the day. I also dug Skid Row as kind of a good time-killing replacement band while Guns got their act together enough to record an album once a decade. But I was at a show once where Skid Row's Sebastian Bach joined Axl onstage to sing "My Michelle," and Bach ran around preening to the crowd like they were there to see him. And the prevailing mood of the crowd was, "Get out of the way, you nitwit, so we can see Slash!" Though with a lot more f-bombs. Anyway, that's the same deal here with Said: we're glad you're here for your twice-yearly cameo, Boris, and we know you want to run well and not embarrass yourself. But it's not about you.
Now, everybody reading this in your office, go crank up "November Rain," stand on your desk and air-guitar the Slash solo. Send me a photo of same and I'll run it.
Jay, what is the deal with Watkins Glen? Are they trying to kill someone? NASCAR should not go back until they spend the money on SAFER barriers. Three major hits [Monday]. Damn lucky nobody was seriously hurt.
You know how, when you were a kid, you'd spend like an hour cleaning your room and your mom would come in and find the one t-shirt shoved in a bookcase or whatever and the whole effort would be ruined? Yeah, NASCAR drivers are like your mom. (That seems like an insult of some sort.) No matter how many barriers the tracks put up, somehow the drivers manage to find the bare spots. Jeff Gordon in particular; that guy seems magnetically drawn to unprotected sections of the wall. I bet he walks into tables and desks all the time.
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, SAFER barriers. Yeah, I'd imagine there'll be some more work done at Watkins Glen before we come this way again.
This may be a trite point, But ESPN has pissed me off! Why was it necessary to come up with a new term/name for the Watkins Glen "Bus Stop?" My wife even noticed at no point did anyone in the broadcast refer to the 'Bus Stop' during the race... it was "The Interloop." HOGWASH! Quit trying to reinvent the wheel and call it what it is. The Bus Stop gives The Glen part if its identity... not the Interloop, Outerloop, Hula Hoop, or Crappy Group of ESPN Analysts. It was a great race though! GO #18!
— Lee Anderson
Fort Worth, TX
I have only a few words for you: Vader. Moobs. Flatline. Zoolander. Urt (or, perhaps, Crickets). Those are the nicknames for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch that we've come up with over the last couple years in our chat. So it'd be pretty hypocritical of me to criticize ESPN for doing the exact same thing. Frankly, as long as they never ever get Chris Berman to announce any of this stuff, I'm fine with them coming up with their own wacky terms.
When is NASCAR going to move some races to tracks that are one mile or less? Living in the north I am going to enjoy my three months of summer, which means no sitting in front of a television to watch 4 hours of racing from Michigan or Atlanta. Then once September comes it is not a hard choice between football or watching a race from Kansas or Las Vegas. If you crammed 43 cars around a 3/4 mile track there is a better I would watch that than another 43 car parade at Texas. Heck, I would rather have a couple more road courses than Pocono and Los Angeles.
Understandable. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said something recently questioning why nobody has built a Bristol replica and tried to replicate its success, and I have to agree. Billionaire investors with tons of cash to invest in tracks, listen up: stop with the cookie-cutters. Build yourself a sweet Thunder Valley knockoff and you'd instantly win the admiration of an entire fanbase. I'd be happy to serve as a consultant on this project for a reasonable fee. You can kick a few ducats Mifan's way, too.
When it rains I can't phone in to work and say I am rained out and carry my work over to the next day. Why does NASCAR persist in not issuing rain tyres (note correct spelling ;-)) when the weather turns English during race meetings? As I understand it both NNW and Cup cars have the capacity to run with windscreen wipers why not use them?
— Art Tidesco
PS Congratulations to Marcos Ambrose on breaking his duck at Watkins Glen.
Art, obviously, is from across the pond. I ran this letter even though we talked about why NASCAR doesn't run rain tires on Sunday for one reason: "breaking his duck" is a great English expression that I'm going to use constantly, no matter what the context. (Oh, and Jeff Gordon said that his windSHIELD wipers broke off early in Watkins Glen rain testing.) So, yeah, while it'd be nice to run in the rain, it's logistically tricky. And with every race playing a major role in the Chase, it's NASCAR's point that there's no point in halfway measures.
I hate to take up for the 48 but he got hosed on the last restart by being on the outside. JJ dropped from 6th all the way down to 12th but got up to 10th. The restarts are exciting even on the ovals but those on the outside seem to get punished more on road courses. I've got no answers to it. Just a small observation. I guess that's the breaks of NASCAR.
— Christopher Reeves
Duly noted. Still, I think that Vader is OK whenever he's on the track. It's when he has to come off that the trouble begins. If he could switch his own tires mid-run, I think he'd do it.
OK, let's wrap it ...
Is it too early to start the "Tony Stewart for 2012 Sprint Cup Champion" campaign?
Big Spring, Texas
Not at all. Shoot, I think Smoke could win the 2012 GOP nomination. Just don't get any photos of him eating a corn dog. Those never work out well.
And on that note, we're out. Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org, find us on Facebook right here, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous!
- Tony Stewart