From the Marbles - NASCAR

Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, which had to be the most --

-- hang on, let me take a break. Okay, good.

The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard featured some intense sprint action, in which --

-- whew. Okay. I need to rest my fingers for a sec. There we go.

When talking about the worst races in the last 50 years of NASCAR -- no break, let's just go for it! -- you're going to have to put the 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard in the conversation. Bet Allstate's glad they sponsored this one -- though, in truth, Allstate's about the only monolithic corporate entity that escaped brutal criticism this weekend.

If you missed this race, go hit yourself in the head with a hammer. (Gently.) There, now you've gotten the same amount of pleasure that the rest of us got out of this race. Bonkowski gives a good recap of the debacle right here, read that if you dare. Now, in the morning light, let's examine the wreckage.

Sure, you could blame NASCAR for mandating cautions every ten laps, or Goodyear for producing tires that seemed completely incompatible with the track, or the Brickyard itself for having what appeared to be a tack-strip track. But at this point, blame is meaningless. Somewhere around Friday, everybody involved realized how godawful this race was going to be, and they realized they had utterly screwed themselves for this weekend.

The only reason to give this race any praise at all -- and make no mistake, I'm not doing that -- is because it was the best of a bunch of bad alternatives. Cancel the race? Curtail it to the Allstate 200? Let the teams run and blow out tires, with the possibility of serious injury? All unacceptable, so we ended up with the tiptoeing-on-an-ice-rink racing that we had Sunday.

Rather than screaming about how we're done with NASCAR -- really, we promise, we're not kidding this time -- fans should be paying extremely close attention to what NASCAR and Goodyear do in response to this mess. If they get proactive and start projecting out possible problems like this weeks or months in advance, if they mandate testing and tweaks to the Car of Tomorrow to accommodate different tracks, if they stand up and admit that this just wasn't acceptable competition for a major American sport, then they'll blunt a lot of the criticism. If they do nothing, if they get secretive, if they blame the fans for not appreciating linked-sprints-as-racing, NASCAR's going to continue shedding both prestige and fans. Just like the rubber yesterday.

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