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Nascar Fireworks at Daytona: the After Chatter from the Coke Zero 400

The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona did have fireworks both during and after the race and, as I expected, the race went right down to the checkered flag with Tony Stewart winning after Kyle Bush went spinning into the wall after making contact with Stewart. The race ended with that second “Big One” of the night and, of course, I am sure it will be the topic of conversation for days to come.

I’ve already heard several people once again blaming the restrictor plates for the accident and comparing it with the wreck between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski at the end of the race at Talledega. There have been those that blame Tony and those that definitely lay the blame at Kyle’s feet, but, just about anybody you ask that saw it has an opinion about it and they are more than willing to express themselves.

Much to this fan’s amazement, many take the opportunity to condemn the restrictor plates and want to exile them to the junk pile. They further take the opportunity to suggest getting rid of them immediately. This is nothing new, but it is becoming more frequent than in the past. I hear a lot of emotion speaking out, but I don’t hear a lot of sense being made or suggestions for safely improving the situation. (The operative words are, “safely improving” the situation.)

Although I don’t suppose many care too much what I think, as a Nascar fan, I offer my opinion of the finish of the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night and will touch on restrictor plate racing in general.

I don’t consider myself to be more knowledgeable than others when it comes to racing, but after being a driver, I do think it gives me a perspective that some others may not have. Believe me, my driving experience falls no where close to those in Nascar, but I did go from just being a beginner, to winning races and then finally, championships, on a local scale, so I have had some small success in racing.

The statements I have heard most often from drivers, crew chiefs and all sorts of commentators since the incident is that, “no one was to blame, they were just doing what they had to do to win…”

I do somewhat agree with them. If we take a good, honest look at the last “Big One” the race ended with on Saturday night, it is true, it was more of a “just racing” incident than anything else. They really were both doing what they, with their quick “in race” judgement, thought they had to do to win. After the fact, they probably both have a different opinion now and wonder what they would do differently if they could do it over again.

Here is the way I view the incident as a fan: Coming into the tri-oval to take the checkered flag, both Tony Stewart and Kyle Bush had a chance to win. Stewart knew he had to pick a line and chose the outside because it opened up. Kyle had been blocking Stewart and successfully impeding his ability to get a run on him for the last lap. The outside move Tony made gave Kyle a split second to make a counter move to block him once again. Unfortunately, Tony had gotten his left front fender further into Kyle’s right rear quarter panel before Kyle could make the block and he ran into Tony and turned himself into the wall. I come to this decision after reviewing the many camera angles of the incident. According  to what I saw, Kyle did, very obviously, move up on Tony to try and block. The rest is history,( as they say.)

Now, I know there will be some that disagree with my assessment of the situation, but I challenge all to look at the tapes of the straight-on camera shot of them coming to the finish line and draw your own conclusion. This is just the way I see it; I don’t think I am wrong, but I do understand some may see it differently. Just take a look for yourself.

This brings us to the point some have made. They have said, (and they are not placing blame on anyone), the accident was not unavoidable. It is true, it was not unavoidable, but the choices they both would have had to make totally goes against the desire of a competitive driver to win. Tony could have backed off and let Kyle pull in front of him and been content with second place; (yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen.) Kyle could have held his line and quite possibly could have held Tony off until the finish line; (and that’s gonna be the decision one of the most aggressive drivers in Nascar makes in a split second? I don’t think so.)

Truthfully, things could have turned out totally different if either of the above would have happened. I personally believe that Kyle would have won if he would have held his line. It would have been really close, but, I do think he would have been ahead as they crossed the finish line. There would have been no last lap “Big One” and Nascar fans everywhere would have a whole lot less to talk about this week, (and may not have been able to look forward to the coming race at Chicago with as much anticipation).

From just this fan’s view, restrictor plates are not the problem and Nascar doesn’t need to “do something before someone gets killed.” Although restrictor plates have their drawbacks, they have made interesting races out of ones that could have been relatively humdrum.

If you’ve been paying close attention, the drivers have been finding out some interesting little things they can do with the restrictor plates at Talladega and Daytona. At Talladega we have seen a relatively new thing called the two car breakaway. At Daytona we saw the front four or five cars be able to pull away from the rest in the draft and that was something recently new with the restrictor plate and the COT.

In retrospect, looking at the Edwards/Keselowski incident at Talladega and the Stewart/Bush incident at Daytona, Nascar doesn’t need to come up with some new rule restricting blocking and they don’t need to discard the restrictor plates. Looking at those two incidents unemotionally shows they were both caused by drivers making bad split-second decisions resulting in an undesired result. They can blame restrictor plates and Nascar all day long but the answer is in their hands and the decisions they make yields the results they experience.

Yes, restrictor plates do cause the drivers to think blocking is always the answer, but the results show it is not always a way to protect themselves from losing the race. I believe in the end, the drivers are going to have to train themselves to not always react with the same response. Blocking has been to blame for the end results at both Talladega and Daytona this year and, in the end, only the drivers have control over whether or not to do it …

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© July 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.