Track Smack: Gordon gets a parking pass
1. Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000, docked 25 points and placed on probation until Dec. 31 for his on-track actions at Phoenix. Fair?
Joe Menzer:I'll be honest. I understand why he wasn't parked for this week's finale at Homestead, but I thought he should have been. It was just a really stupid thing to do, given the time of the race when he did it and how it could have had a profound impact on how the championship played out -- as Brad Keselowski barely missed all the carnage. So I thought he should have been parked for Homestead, which would have cost him 43 points. The fine is whatever, the probation irrelevant, really.
Mark Aumann:It's fair. But exactly what did it actually do? Gordon won't get a trip to Las Vegas because of the point penalty. But cash and the probation? Like Keselowski has said before, "It's only money." If NASCAR wanted to send a message about deliberate use of a high-speed, heavy vehicle, they didn't do it.
Jarrod Breeze:LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. I'm laughing out loud because that penalty is a joke -- all the way around. First of all, the loss of 25 points for a driver mathematically eliminated from the championship? On probation for six more weeks? What is this? 1950-whenever when the next season's schedule started in November or December of the current year? The guy should have been parked.
Mark Aumann:I'm not sure how you can point to all the safety initiatives on one hand, and then let something as patently unsafe as that (watch) happen on the other. That was a move that quite honestly would have gotten you a very long suspension at nearly every weekend short track in the country.
Jarrod Breeze:Now listen, if Jeff Gordon thought that Clint Bowyer had it coming, I have no problem with that. But Kyle Busch probably thought Ron Hornaday had it coming last year. Seems pretty inconsistent to me.
Joe Menzer:OK, here is what folks have to understand -- because lots of fans keep asking me about the Kyle Busch deal and comparing the two. Remember that Kyle wrecked Hornadayunder caution. Even dumber and more dangerous than what Gordon did.
Jarrod Breeze:I'm ready for that one, Joe. Don't hand me that garbage about being under caution. If someone is going to wreck me intentionally, then I would just assume they do it when I'm going as slow as possible, and not speeding down the highway.
Mark Aumann:Everybody wants to point at how this is a product of racing "in the old days." I call bull. Those guys understood exactly how dangerous it was to blatantly turn somebody into a wall on purpose. They had more respect than to do what we've seen in the past few years.
Jarrod Breeze:And NASCAR didn't penalize Bowyer, so obviously in their eyes he did nothing wrong to provoke Gordon's attack. NASCAR has been fast to park another Gordon. And anyone named Busch. I didn't understand how Carl Edwards didn't get parked when he flipped Keselowski a few years back at Atlanta and I don't get why Jeff Gordon wasn't parked this time.
Mark Aumann:I don't know how to stop it, and I don't know if NASCAR does either -- or wishes to. At some point, somebody may not walk away -- either the guy who's the target or the aggressor. Maybe that's what it'll take to stop the sideshow.
Jarrod Breeze:Unfortunately, it generally takes something along those lines to get anything changed -- and that's just not in NASCAR, either. Suddenly, concussions are a big thing in football and base coaches in baseball wear batting helmets.
Joe Menzer:JB, you need to go back and look at video of the Busch-Hornaday deal (watch). Busch actually sped up to ram him when he wasn't expecting it. Of course, in this deal Gordon actually slowed down and let Bowyer come to him before turning him. Neither one was right, and I already said I thought Gordon should have been parked, too. But they were a little bit different, that's all.
Mark Aumann:Paybacks? I get that. You want to bang a fender or bend some sheet metal after the race? Fine. But to deliberately go after somebody with the intention of putting them out of the race? That's nonsense. And here's the deal: What if Gordon's actions had taken out Keselowski as well and affected the championship?
Jarrod Breeze:Keselowski was lucky to escape that mess coming down the final stretch after Danica wrecked.
Joe Menzer:Well, that's a whole different story there. Why the caution never came out before it got to that point on the green-white-checkered, I still haven't figured out.
Mark Aumann:Yeah, Joe, I see the Gordon-Bowyer incident as being much more in line with Edwards-Keselowski at Atlanta (watch), rather than Kyle's dustup in the Trucks.
Joe Menzer:Exactly. And Carl didn't get parked for that one, either. And of course, the Busch incident -- again -- was under caution. Big difference there. Sorry.
Jarrod Breeze:You'll never convince me of that. Although I'm not saying Busch shouldn't have been parked. It may be apples and oranges, my friend, but both aren't they both fruit?
Mark Aumann:Well, we Track Smackers have been considered slightly bananas.
Joe Menzer:Although I want to say I wrote a column saying I think Edwards should have been parked that time, too. After the Atlanta-Keselowski incident, I mean.
Mark Aumann:So "boys have at it" does have a line you can't cross. But I'd really like to see that line a whole lot closer to respectability.
Jarrod Breeze:I know everything else is just a game, but if a player receives a suspension and the season ends before the suspension is over, it carries over into the next season. How about a 25-point hole for Gordon to start out, and probation through at least the first five races?
Joe Menzer:Yeah, the probation deal is an absolute joke. No question about that.
Jarrod Breeze:And like Mark said BK said, I'm not even going to discuss the money. If it all goes to charity like it's supposed to, then at least something positive came out of this.
2. Which championship has the potential for the most drama going into the final weekend of the season?
Joe Menzer:Oh, this one is easy. It's the Trucks. All the drama got sucked out of the Cup and Nationwide battles last weekend at Phoenix. It's too bad, really, because it had been shaping up as a great three-way deal all the way across the board. Wait a minute. Three-way? That reminds me of Skyline Chili.
Mark Aumann:I've got to think the Trucks will be the most entertaining. You've got Timothy Peters and Ty Dillon there, ready to pounce, if James Buescher has any trouble at all Friday night.
Jarrod Breeze:Come early this weekend if you want to see a true championship battle. Three drivers within 12 points. It's still Buescher's to lose, but one of two guys will be right there if he does.
Mark Aumann:Yeah, Joe, I think NASCAR was expecting at least two down-to-the-wire finishes out of the three series. And Elliott Sadler and Jimmie Johnson pretty much let the air out of the balloon at Phoenix.
Jarrod Breeze:Phoenix sucked a lot of the drama out of championship weekend, but not in the Truck Series, where it got a little tighter. The Trucks were really tight at one point ... by exactly one point, a few races ago. Then the gap widened. But now, it's the closest of them all.
Mark Aumann:It's interesting that Buescher has decided not to run any Nationwide races down the stretch in an effort to concentrate on his Truck ride. That paid off pretty well for four consecutive races, including the win at Kentucky. But he's finished 11th and 17th the past two weeks. Anything close to that at Homestead could let Peters or Dillon steal the title away.
Joe Menzer:Guys, it's a no-brainer -- like ordering a five-way with a cheese coney on the side at Skyline. The Trucks will be exciting this weekend. The other two, you'll just be watching to make sure Ricky Stenhouse Jr. doesn't blow up early in Nationwide or Keselowski doesn't blow up or do something stupid in Cup. I don't see either of those guys encountering problems.
Mark Aumann:We've seen some really amazing last-race drama in the Trucks at Homestead in the past. Isn't this the place where Brendan Gaughan told off Jim Smith after getting wrecked by one of Smith's team trucks? I think Johnny Benson Jr.'s title also came with some late-race magic, too.
Joe Menzer:I remember one year when Hornaday and Mike Skinner came down here for a last-race duel for the title, too.
Jarrod Breeze:The Nationwide Series could be worth watching to see Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon jockey for position in case Stenhouse stumbles. And they will be ex-teammates right after the race, if that matters for anything. But really, they are racing for second place.
Joe Menzer:I felt bad for Sadler at Phoenix. But he more or less did it to himself.
Mark Aumann:That's two years in a row where Phoenix has eliminated Sadler, Joe. I wonder if he thinks he's hexed there.
Joe Menzer:Well, he won there in the spring!
Mark Aumann:Maybe it's the switch to Standard Time!
Jarrod Breeze:As for the Cup Series, any chance of any more retaliation? Could that be the only thing that wrecks Keselowski's 400-mile Victory Lap, if he gets caught up in a vendetta?
Joe Menzer:What? And have those guys risk further probation? Seriously, I don't see it happening. But when you least expect it, sometime in the middle of next season, look for Bowyer to take Gordon out and claim it was an accident. That's really how you're supposed to do it!
Mark Aumann:This really reminds me of the first Chase, JB. Kurt Busch -- remember him? -- had a nice points cushion. And then he lost a tire and struggled to stay in contention the rest of the day.
Joe Menzer:It's going to take something catastrophic like that for Keselowski to lose this title. But I will say this: at least on the Cup side, I do think the 48 team will be good and will put as much pressure on Keselowski and that No. 2 team as possible.
Jarrod Breeze:Yes, I remember Kurt Busch. I also remember him being parked before.
Mark Aumann:Hey, one more crack like that out of you and I'm putting you on double-secret probation!
Jarrod Breeze:It's a good thing Dec. 31 is right around the corner.
3. The Nationwide Series will replace the road course at Montreal with Mid-Ohio in 2013. Thoughts?
Joe Menzer:I am pumped about this! I've been saying NASCAR should race at Mid-Ohio for a long time. It's a very cool track, an excellent venue. Did I mention it's in the state of Ohio? And that there are Skyline Chili franchises located nearby?
Jarrod Breeze:Mid-Ohio. Is that where Cleveland and Cincinnati come together?
Mark Aumann:I don't know if there are any sidewalk cafes in Columbus, but from a sponsor's standpoint, it's probably the best option available. Montreal is still my favorite NASCAR venue, just because of the history -- both the track and the city.
Joe Menzer:This is a nod to the facility and the Nationwide Series title sponsor. The track is located not too far from Columbus, where Nationwide is based.
Mark Aumann:But Mid-Ohio is a pretty cool layout and should present a lot of challenges to the road-course ringers who will show up. Even though there won't be a strong Canadian contigent, I still expect an international field.
Joe Menzer:Who cares about all that? Let's talk about something real important ... do you think they'll serve Skyline in the media center?
Jarrod Breeze:Honestly, I prefer Gold Star to Skyline, but I'm not here to hawk products. That's a driver's job.
Mark Aumann:If I show them a Montgomery Inn BBQ Super Spender account, will that count?
Joe Menzer:Guys, I have a little story to tell you about Mid-Ohio, all kidding aside. I used to go there to watch my cousin run sports-car races. He raced against Paul Newman once. And then I went there once for a media event when I was just starting out in this business, around, uh, let's just say in the 1980s. I got my first pace-car ride in a stock car there then. It truly is a very cool and unique road-course layout.
Mark Aumann:Again, losing Montreal -- and the international flavor that venue provided -- is a disappointment. But Ohio has a ton of NASCAR fans, the track is in Nationwide's backyard and it's a road course. That's three good reasons to circle that on the calendar.
Jarrod Breeze:Here's hoping it has a longer stay on the schedule than both Mexico and Montreal had. Is that a location thing, or a road-course thing?
Mark Aumann:JB, I think both were hindered by logistics and costs. Mexico City more than Montreal.
Joe Menzer:I think it's more a location and logistics thing.
Joe Menzer:Neither place has Skyline Chili, for instance. Ohio does.
Mark Aumann: I do hope Montreal -- or another Canadian track -- gets another chance in the future. There are lots of great fans up that way. And Montreal has poutine!
Jarrod Breeze:I pooh November probations through Dec. 31.
Mark Aumann:With that, I'm calling a moratorium on probations until Dec. 31.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the participants.