Nascar at Atlanta: Some Thoughts and “Just A Fan’s View” of Unrestricted Wide Open High Speed Racing

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The top twelve in points will start up front again this week because of the third consecutive rain-out of qualifying in Nascar Sprint Cup Racing. That makes pit selection and starting positions easy to figure out, but has caused a lot of fan chatter about the way Nascar handles inclement weather, (especially on qualifying day.)

Because this has been an unusual year of rained out qualifying sessions, (ten to date), it has become one of the hottest fan topics of the year, especially in the the last couple of weeks. There are calls for changes to be made so that it be “fair” to the ones that have to qualify to be able to race in the event of the weekend. This is in addition to the ever running criticism of the top 35 rule. Some have even called it the “top 35 protection rule”. I emphasize the word “protection” because that’s what seems to be the understanding of many of the vocal critics of the rule used to place the top 35 along with the others in case of rain outs and other situations that may arise.

So … I guess my first questions are why is this such a big deal? Why is it that everything Nascar does to keep things going disagrees with so many fans? I’m not sure I know the answer for sure, but I do know that Nascar has been around a long time and they are still going strong and are pretty much as popular as ever.

I know most won’t care to hear about my experience in short track racing, but I’m going to give it to you anyway only because it gives some perspective to the situation.

When I was growing up visiting our local race tracks there were times they had time trials every weekend. When I actually started racing years later, we didn’t have qualifying time trials, we lined up according to points. During the regular weekly racing, the field was set by the points accumulated by the drivers or car owners except that the field was inverted. That meant that we had to start further in the back the higher our points were. If someone was new to the track or had no points for the season they also started all the way in the back.

Usually, the people higher in points sort of outclassed the ones that were low in points. Like any other kind of racing, some one has usually figured something out a little better than some of the others and they dominate for a while. Whether we are talking about local racing or Sprint Cup Racing there is a reason why they call it competition. When someone goes faster than the rest, the others work harder to find the extra speed and be the one out front the others are chasing. That’s just the way it is.

One thing different when I was racing was that we had a mid-season championship and an year-end championship. When those particular races were held during the year, we lined up by high points in front and so on. This worked out most of the time, but there were times that it seemed unfair to us as drivers because we had to dodge the less experienced drivers mishaps. (In reality, sometimes there was no way to dodge ’em.)

Another difference was, most of the time at our local short track, we didn’t have people that didn’t get to race because we didn’t have more cars show up than could fit on the track and in the pits. Most everyone that showed up got to race and in our class, we generally had two heat races and a feature.

Oh well, we will talk more on this and other subjects in the off season. For now let’s move on to one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit.

Atlanta’s no restrictor plate racing is what helps make it one of the fastest tracks on the Nascar circuit. The track banking of 24 degrees and configuration completes the ‘speed cycle’. That means things happen fast at Atlanta and usually results in some ‘hard hitting’ action when something go es wrong.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the line-up because it is pretty obvious form the standings who is going to benefit. What I will spend a little time on is who I think is going to win this weekend in Atlanta.

There is no doubt that Rousche/Fenway Racing is good on the one and a half mile ovals. With that being said, I do expect them to have a very strong showing this weekend. Carl Edwards probably would have won the race in Spring except his engine blew spoiling his chances. Greg Biffle and Matt Kennseth both run strong here also.

I think it goes without saying the Kyle Bush will also be a strong contender this weekend. We know he is anxious to get back on the winning track with his disappointing finishes earlier in ‘the Chase’. Although I think he is pretty much out of ‘the Chase’ at the moment, I am sure he is interested in finishing out the year with a strong showing.

Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick are without a doubt hungry for points and wins and will be in contention for the win at the end of the race.

Although the Hendrick Motorsports’ teams have struggled at the mile and a half ovals, it is evident that they are making headway. I do think Jimmy Johnson will have a good advantage by having the number one pit stall even though he and the other Hendrick teams have been known to struggle at places like this. I don’t hink he is going to win the race this week but I do think Jimmy Johnson will be in the top five. I am not quite sure where Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr will finish, but I think they will be n the top ten.

So … who do I think will actually win this weekend? I’ll tell you it is a tough choice to make but I have to go with my gut feeling. I think it will be a toss up between three of them, namely, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kyle Bush. Any of the three could finish out front and that’s what makes it so hard to choose, but, choose I must. I do think Carl Edwards is going to take the checkered flag although I am having trouble choosing between him and Kyle Bush.

There are also some dark horses out there that could also win this weekend even though I think their chances are less. To name a couple would be Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon. Brian Vickers runs strong but I do believe his equipment is just not reliable enough yet. As for Jeff Gordon, he can win any race he is in. He has proved that over his career and this week is no different. I personally believe they are just missing a little speed so far. That could change, but, I see next year turning out much better for Jeff. I think this year he is just doomed (so to speak) to finishing in the top five for ‘the Chase’.

So there it is, my choice for winning the race at Atlanta this weekend is Carl Edwards. That’s the way I see it and I’m sticking with it.

See ya next time

Rusty

©PCN Productions and Rusty Norman

Nascar at TallaDega — A Fan’s View Of The Day After Chatter

The exciting, yet slightly controversial, finish to the Sprint Cup race at Talladega yesterday left me no choice except to comment. Being a long time Nascar fan and an ex-small track racer I have my own opinion and view of what happened, especially at the end. Believe me, I don’t mention either of these two previous items to brag or somehow get you to subscribe to the fact my opinion somehow carries more weight than someone else’s, but, I do want you to know where my limited expertise comes from.

I have been a stock car racing fan for many years starting with going to the Saturday night races with my parents at the dirt tracks in Southern Illinois way back in the Fifties. After we moved to Florida when I was 10 or 11, I kinda lost touch with racing for a while. Although I’ve actually loved racing as long as I can remember, I never really got the chance to have my own car until I was in my early twenties. I frequented and raced at a couple of small asphalt tracks in our area of SW Florida for over 10 years.

I really don’t remember when I began to listen to, or watch, Nascar racing but I do know it was a long time ago and I have seen a lot of changes take place over those years. I won’t say every change has been for the better, but overall, most everything seems to have improved the quality and closeness of the competition.

Though some may disagree with that statement, I stand by it. When I was racing it didn’t bother me at all to be the one to lap the field. When I watch racing, the last thing I want is someone lapping the field, clearly outclassing them and then knowing the only real race worth watching is for third to fifth, (or maybe even worse.)

Ah, but I digress. Perhaps I will tell you more abut my memories of the past at another time. Instead, I would much rather give my “Fan’s View” of yesterday’s Talladega race while it is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

First of all, it was my opinion the race was a really good TV event and that was because of the appearance of real racing for position throughout most of the event. Because there was an abundance of passing for position on a regular basis, I guess most of us thought the drivers were giving it their all right from the start.

This illusion was only slightly diminished when commentator Dale Jarret asked Dale Jr how the race was going in one of the “in-car reporter” interviews. It seems most were just killing time waiting for the final 10-15 laps. One of the memorable statements from that particular interview was when Dale Jr said that if a person was in second it was only because he wanted you in front of him, (or something really close to that.) It was his opinion everyone could pretty much pass at will but no one could really stay out front on their own.

After some tire problems and two “big ones” occurred the whole race came down to the last few laps and, as is the case normally, the very last one in particular. I watched it happen as it unfolded on the Tv screen and I listened to the explanations afterwards. I basically knew what the ruling would most likely be from my understanding of the yellow line rule, but I did find interesting the reaction of many on this, the day after and immediately after the race.

You see, it doesn’t really matter what I think about the judgment call that led to the declaring of a winner to the race so I won’t give you my opinion just yet. Logically though, what happened to Regan Smith happened for a reason and I would like to offer some input from my understanding of the reason for the “Yellow Line.” Admittedly, much of this could be considered assumption from input gathered from what has been talked about by many. Please understand, I don’t pretend to speak for Nascar, but in my amateur understanding there is a reason for having a yellow line marking an out of bounds area that makes sense.

First of all, did Regan Smith win the race?

  • Well, maybe but not necessarily according to the established rules for the race. I won’t go into the statement of the rule for the “yellow line” that has been quoted from the drivers’ meeting, you can look that up for yourself. What is important here is that Nascar needs to make clear to all concerned exactly what they mean so that there will be no more misunderstanding.

Here are some options concerning this situation as I see it:

  • Option one: Nascar could have required the tracks build an inside wall and, by doing so, that would remove any possibility of a driver passing another on the inside. Since that would be extremely dangerous in case of an accident involving cars crashing into the inside wall, it would not be a good idea.
  • Option two: Nascar could have required curbing be installed to mark the boundary. This would not be a good idea because cars could easily climb the curbing causing any number of bad situations to occur. The curbing could be a deterrent but more likely cause more problems than it would solve.
  • Option three: Nascar could have left things the way they were and have drivers trying to outdo each other to get the shortest way around the track. This would allow driving “through the grass” to the win. In some ways this may seem appealing. In my opinion, however, this does not make for a great ending. It makes the track way to wide. With the limitations of restrictor-plate racing, the racers need the advantage of being able block, (boy, I bet that opens up a can of worms).

What Nascar chose to use was an invisible barrier extended above an area represented by a yellow line on the inside of the racing surface. They use the yellow line to make it easier to determine when someone violates the established rule. After that it becomes a judgment call. If a driver races below the line and advances his position he will be black flagged. If a driver forces someone below the line it is possible he may be the one black flagged.

I think the idea of the yellow line makes a lot of sense, but without consistency it will always be a call based on judgment. They can solve the problem by making sure it is understood by all that you cannot go below the yellow line to advance your position as if there were a wall there. I know if one was there, nobody would be trying to stick their nose in and take the chance of hitting the wall. The same goes for the one out front. If he can’t hold his position next to the line (once again, as if it were actually a wall), he too will have to forfeit his position in some way.

I know this could possibly be an over-simplification of the problem, but, it is the way I see it …

See ya next time …