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Blown chance

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CONCORD, N.C. – Saturday night's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway should never have been held.

Sure, it would have cost millions of dollars in refunds, but if NASCAR knew how bad the race was going to be, it should have stepped in and done one of two things:

Either demand that the track be completely repaved before Saturday night – a repaving already is scheduled to occur – or cancel the race outright.

There was no other choice.

What more evidence did NASCAR need? Not only did we have the five-hour, 13-minute fiasco called the Coca-Cola 600 in May – more than a quarter of that race (107 of 400 laps) was run under caution – we also had several drivers crash during testing at LMS a few weeks back. And let's not forget Friday night's excruciating Busch Series race.

What more evidence was needed to predict Saturday night's mess, which featured blown tire after blown tire after blown tire?

And while it might seem a no-brainer to point fingers at Goodyear's tires, drivers and crew chiefs agreed the tires themselves weren't the problem.

"It's not Goodyear's fault, it's just too fast for what we've got," said Tommy Baldwin, crew chief for Kasey Kahne. "They don't make a tire for this place. [The track] did it [levigation] without telling anybody."

Added Mike Bliss, who was one of those collected in one of the tire-related wrecks, "It's not a Goodyear problem." Tony Stewart was among others who echoed that sentiment.

The diamond-ground levigation of Lowe's 1½-mile surface was supposed to smooth out some of the race track's notorious and legendary bumps and dips. But instead of fixing what had been a problem for years, the process created a whole new problem: unmanageably high speeds that the tires couldn't handle.

"These track owners, I wish they'd contact somebody before they'd do anything to the race track," said Sterling Marlin, another victim of the tire wreck-fest. "They had a good track here before and didn't need to mess with it. They messed with it and messed it up and ruined it for everybody."

Without question, NASCAR had options that it could have demanded LMS owner Bruton Smith and track president Humpy Wheeler consider and/or implement, but instead NASCAR did what it does best – it was slow to react to potential problems that almost everyone predicted beforehand.

"I'm sure Humpy's thinking about repaving it now," said Kyle Busch, who exited on lap 150, courtesy of, what else, a blown right front tire.

We saw a joke of a race – no humor intended – in May and an even greater laugher on Saturday night. With so much attention focused on the Chase for the Nextel Cup, this race was nothing short of one of the biggest humiliations the sport has seen in a long time.

Kevin Harvick, yet another victim of the blown tire equals "hello, wall" equation, will vouch for that.

"This is the biggest joke in racing that I've ever seen, with tires going down, and it's just terrible," Harvick said. "Everybody saw it coming [Friday] night ... just knowing that at any time the tires are going to go. It's pretty disgusting and pretty embarrassing for our sport."

Saturday night's race was reminiscent of the tire fiasco back in June at the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where only six teams, sporting tires from another manufacturer, took to the track after Michelin could not assure that its tires could adequately and safely handle the speeds on the twisting road course.

NASCAR officials obviously didn't take a cue from that. If they had, the sanctioning body would have forced Smith and Wheeler to repave the place or else threaten cancellation of the race.

After all, if a mile-and-a-half stretch of freeway can be repaved in a couple of weeks or less, why couldn't the same have been done at LMS?

When asked during the race if anything could be done about how things played out, Harvick may have put it best: "Yeah, throw the checkered flag and get the hell out of here."

But let's not look at the glass as totally being half-empty. The bright side is that all the blowouts meant NBC could fit in all its commercials and then some.