Hot/Not: Pit road speeds need no longer be a mystery

Seven races and six different winners into the 2011 season, it's fair to say we can't predict how this year's NASCAR version of "As the Wheel Turns" will play out. Regardless, 500 miles from a Texas Saturday night and Matt Kenseth scoring a cowboy hat for the Dairyland has left a few ramblings on my plate:

HOT: Following a week of criticism about the secret nature of how it monitors pit road speeds, NASCAR finally allowed fans a look at its policing system.

Fox initially had Larry McReynolds make his way to the official's box to explain the system. Then, when Tony Stewart was busted for speeding on pit road during his final pit stop, Fox immediately went back and showed how the system tracked Tony's speed.

Seeing the monitor — a device so unnecessarily guarded by NASCAR — finally gave some credence to a system that not long ago replaced officials standing on pit road with stopwatches. In 2011, NASCAR needs to make it a priority with its TV partners that the information can be relayed into a no-brainer graphic available for every trip shown on pit lane. {ysp:more}

Transparency, above all, is what gives sports credibility, and it makes zero sense for NASCAR to continue to hide such an easy-to-understand system.

HOT: Texas Motor Speedway opting for a Saturday night race. While 500 miles in prime time might be 100 miles too long, it was nice to get NASCAR in without competing with The Masters.

NOT: Tracks that don't have systems like Texas' caution lights to alert fans when a yellow flag waves are missing the boat. Not everyone can hear the P.A. announcer over the engines, you know.

HOT: Clint Bowyer's save on the frontstretch was the best we've seen all season. Jamie McMurray had a similar save at Charlotte years ago, and both serve to remind us just how good these guys are. (That may or may not apply to Sam Hornish Jr.'s NASCAR talents.)

NEUTRAL: Hendrick Motorsports managed to get Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the top 10, but the only laps led by the group happened by staying out during green-flag pit stops. The HMS gang has some work to do on the 1.5-milers.

NOT: Matt Kenseth in a cowboy hat. Check that: most drivers in a cowboy hat. Jack Roush, too.

HOT: Martin Truex Jr. walking away from yet another vicious hit. It's been an expensive two weeks for Michael Waltrip Racing and Talladega on the horizon probably doesn't strike joy in the hearts of MWR's accountants.

NOT: Denny Hamlin's much-needed march back to the top has gone nowhere just when we thought it might. He floundered all night; finished 15th.

HOT and NOT: Kurt Busch's near-meltdown during most of the race after handling went away on his No. 22 Dodge. Busch provided plenty of comic relief as he stressed his anger and lambasted the crew for failing to correctly adjust the car in-race.

Among several quotable lines, this was likely the funniest:

Kurt: "Got a nice vibration."

Steve Addington (crew chief): "Feel like a wheel, bud?"

Kurt: "…It feels like we SUCK!"

Addington: "[silence]."

It makes you wonder — does Steve Addington just really, really love how the Busch brothers handle bad moments? There's got to be a reason he's signed on to work for both.

NOT: The NASCAR community — including myself — eating crow. Paul Menard finished fifth Saturday night for his third top-10 of the season. He's 11th in points.

Marcos Ambrose, who easily could have been rideless this season had Richard Petty Motorsports not pulled a rabbit from a hat to continue racing, was a feature in the top 10 all night and finished sixth.

Looking ahead to this weekend at Talladega, I'll air my cautious warning now: race cars can still fly and parts (or more) can still hit unsuspecting fans. The head-in-the-sand mentality of "oh, we just need stronger fences" is absurd and near ignorant in relation to where fans are allowed to sit and walk.

Move them back.

That said, here's to hoping for a good, safe race this weekend — I'll play Debbie Downer as little as possible.

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