NASCAR makes it incredibly easy to write these columns every Monday. They also did a great job of making us forget what an absolute disaster qualifying is when the finishes appear to be a bigger disaster, and are obviously more important. First, debris cautions happen. Yes, drivers are part of the reporting process, so when a driver repeatedly reports debris and they’re the driver who will be the recipient of the Lucky Dog then you have to examine whether the debris real or contrived. So, when the caution came out on lap 186 and Austin Dillion happened to be the driver that benefited the most from the caution, the conspiracy theorists came out in full force.
Fox was unable to show the debris, because as Mike Joy says, “When we can see it, we show it.” And ya know what, that’s fair. It isn’t on NASCAR’s broadcast partners to help debunk any conspiracy theories. I would have liked to have seen the debris, but I didn’t, and at that point it didn’t matter to me much anymore.
Fast forward to the final Green-White-Checkered attempt, which if you know anything about me, you’ll know I’m not a fan of overtime in motorsports. I’ll go on record saying that I like that NASCAR didn’t throw the yellow flag when Greg Biffle spun his car on the frontstretch. He was able to get his car started, and drove away without leaving any debris on the track. Race on.
The next question everyone has is the consistency NASCAR has shown or not shown so far this season when it comes to cautions on the last lap. I’ll say this as a person who referee’s basketball: consistency within the same game is much more important than it is across games. That means that similar plays should have a similar results in that game we’re playing today, and in theory any good referee will have similar results across all of their games.
Is Fontana the same as Daytona? Clearly not. Did the spin at Daytona involve multiple cars or one? Multiple. Did all the cars at Daytona drive away after the incident or did they hang out? All but one drove away. We just asked and answered three questions that totally changed the circumstances from Daytona. Was the result the same from Daytona? No, because the play was different. Biffle spun and drove away, at Daytona a car was stuck on the front stretch. Average speed at Daytona: 160mph; average speed at Fontana: 140mph. I haven’t seen anything similar between the two races at all.
All that said, is there an appearance that NASCAR didn’t want Kurt Busch to win? Yes. It’s clear that there’s an appearance. Most people consider Kurt Busch to be a complete and total idiot, but many of those people would argue that Busch shouldn’t have been suspended earlier this year. A win at Fontana may have looked like egg on NASCAR’s face, but I don’t think the race was actually modified so Busch wouldn’t win.
Before the final restart, we knew Brad Keselowski had four new tires, while Busch and the other leaders only had two. As soon as the race went green, Keselowski was on the move despite the fact that Busch had the fastest car all weekend and led the most race laps. I’m not a Kurt Busch fan, but would say that I’m a supporter, and I would have liked to see him win the race. He earned it, but after only two races this season he’s already 28th in points.
Kurt Busch will be fine.
IndyCar’s Return on Investment
We have aero kits, and we also have two teams under the same manufacturer that will likely dominate this season. Penske and Ganassi with Chevrolet. That isn’t to say that the other teams don’t have a chance, but in reality all the money and power run through those three organizations. Honda’s engines are good as are their teams (Andretti Autosport the flagship), but can you see the haves and have not’s are already formed.
Dominance is cyclical, and so in the early part of the season I expect the have’s (Penske, Ganassi, Andretti) to master their respective aero kits, but as Curt Cavin says, can you imagine a world where the Patriots and Lakers dominate the NFL and NBA just because they have the ability to outspend everyone?
The question remains, is that IndyCar’s biggest problem? Are there so many teams that have that much more in resources that the return on investment for the smaller teams isn’t there now or could go away in the coming years? Only time will tell, but over the past five years, IndyCar has been better than it’s ever been. Of course, all the teams were running essentially the same cars, and now that will change with the recently released aero kits.
So if you own a smaller team, what’s your return on investment? If you begin every year knowing you don’t have an honest chance at winning the championship, and only have an outside chance at the Indianapolis 500 because one of the power three will make a mistake, why continue to race? If you’re Honda and Chevy, why sell engines to the smaller teams when the only teams that make the investment worthwhile are already at the top?
The IndyCar season starts this week at St. Petersburg, and hopefully the smaller teams will be able to keep the first half of the season competitive while they figure out how to get the most of their aero kits.
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