Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

February 16, 2007

NASCAR: Mishmash of events this week

NASCAR DOT WHAT?: I guess I’m getting stupid in my old age. Yesterday I went to NASCAR.com to see how the Truck Series qualifying went, and today I went to see how Busch qualifying went. Neither time was I able to actually find what I was looking for. NASCAR’s yearly web redesign this year is a major step backwards. What happened to the good old days when you could actually get real information from NASCAR.com?

CHEATERS (MOSTLY) NEVER PROSPER: Wow. This has been the week of scandalous happenings in the NASCAR garage. Ray Evernham, Michael Waltrip, and Jack Roush’s teams were hit with record penalties for “cheating” last week. And Jeff Gordon got his wrist slapped for his car being too low after the 60-lap qualifying race he “won.” A rogue crew member puts something in the gas? Suspend the crew chief indefinitely, fine him $100,000, and dock the owner and driver 100 points. But, if you win a race, and fail an inspection (with an infraction that could gain you a half second on the field, you get sent to the rear in the big show (and you get to KEEP THE WIN). Of course Gordon says it’s “fair”; what else is he going to say? NASCAR says the infraction was unintentional. OK, then, why fine a driver for the actions of a rogue crew member? It’s not like the driver instigated it.

I will say one thing about NASCAR: they’re consistently inconsistent.

AVOID CLICHES LIKE THE PLAGUE: Just once, I’d like to see a real interview after a driver gets out of the car, where he
actually says what he thinks. Tony Stewart used to do that, but he’s been silenced by his sponsors and NASCAR, so that now he’s just another one of the 43 vanilla drivers in the Cup Series. Basically all a post-car-exit interview is nowadays is a cliche-ridden monologue in which the driver takes time to “thank the sponsors, thank the car owner, thank the crew” and puts forth a generic observation about how the car handled, depending on where he finished. I especially like the ones where the driver finished outside the top 20, but still thought he had a “top five” car. Uh, if you had a top-five car, you’d have finished in the top five.

INTERESTING CONFLICTS: I wonder what safeguards NASCAR has in place to avoid conflicts of interest? The sport is full of them (or at least the appearance of them, which is just as bad). You have a former crew chief in charge of inspecting his former teams, you have an active driver (who happens to be in the middle of a big cheating scandal) as one of the TV commentators for the Truck Series, you have a retired driver on TV whose brother is an active driver (and, again, happens to be in the middle of a big scandal this week).

Yeah, it was heartwarming for Ned Jarrett to call his son’s Daytona win, and for Darrell Waltrip to call his brother’s Daytona win, but how can they be expected to be unbiased? Or are they expected to be unbiased (at least where broadcasting is concerned)? It didn’t use to bother me, but after the events of this week, and seeing that Michael Waltrip was one of the Truck Series announcers, it got me to thinking.

What would have happened if NASCAR had decided to suspend Waltrip for a few races? Would Speed have had to find a replacement broadcaster? Or would he have been allowed on the property since he was on the broadcast team? Did that play into the decision at all when they levied the penalties against him?

Just to clarify, I’m a big Darrell Waltrip fan; I’m not accusing him or anyone really of any improprieties. But as NASCAR gets bigger and bigger, I think they’re going to have to address some of these issues to continue to be taken seriously as a professional sport.

AGEISM: They said during the Duel 150 broadcast on Speed that “everyone was rooting for James Hylton.” Obviously my tin foil hat was keeping them from reading my thoughts, since I wasn’t. Hylton never had a chance; he ran in the back most of the race until he stayed out when everyone else pitted. It’s clear that his reaction time is slower than other drivers, and where a tenth of a second can be the difference between hitting the car in front of you or not, he has no business in this sport.

And this “lucky dog” thing is still one of the lamest things NASCAR has done in a while. Hylton was penalized a lap when he overshot his pit stall. So then when the next caution comes out, he gets the lap back. So he effectively wasn’t penalized. Doesn’t make any sense to me.

AFTER DAYTONA: I haven’t really decided yet if I want to watch next weekend’s races in California. That track has, in the past, produced some of the most boring races ever (only Dover has it beat). I’ll keep up with qualifying (but not on NASCAR’s site) and if it looks interesting, I’ll set the races to record so I can skip through the commercials and the boring parts. It just seems that NASCAR has taken all the excitement out of the racing and made things too homogenized. I think it’d be interesting to know how long the average NASCAR fan has actually been a fan, and how many fans NASCAR is losing from year to year. But if NASCAR has those numbers, there’s no way they’ll see the light of day.

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