Forget the cost, NASCAR should mandate SAFER Barrier Everywhere

Like many who watch NASCAR, I was under the impression that all immovable racing surfaces had been mostly covered by SAFER barriers. Turns out Daytona International Speedway isn’t, and last week we found out Atlanta Motor Speedway isn’t either. Then we found out, most tracks don’t have all of these surfaces covered by the system designed by engineers at the University of Nebraska and first implemented at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR says individual tracks are responsible for the installation of the safety system, and track owners and presidents say installation is time-consuming and expensive. Drivers want SAFER installed everywhere, and as a matter of consequence don’t really care who installs them as long as they’re present.

On February 21 during the Nationwide race at Daytona, Kyle Busch broke his left leg and right foot after his car went head first into an unprotected wall. There’s been no timetable for Busch’s return, but according to all the medical experts his recovery could take a significant part of the season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZBLnKkWgQw

Then, last week at Atlanta, both Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin crashed into an unprotected wall at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Thankfully, neither were hurt, but the angle of Gordon’s crash was particularly unnerving, and likely destroyed his car.

"I knew it was a hard hit; I didn't expect it to be that hard," Gordon said after being checked out and cleared from the infield care center. "I got out and I looked and I was like, 'Oh, big surprise, I found the one wall here on the back straightaway that doesn't have a SAFER barrier. "I don't think we can say anymore after Kyle's incident in Daytona. Everybody knows they've got to do something and it should have been done a long time ago, but all we can do now is hope they can do it as fast as they possibly can and get it done.”

At least they can replace the car.

The solution to missing SAFER barrier is easy: NASCAR should mandate that SAFER barrier be installed on every surface a car can come in contact with while racing. Financing the cost of installation is expensive for track owners, especially if they only host one event per year, but reward far outweighs the risk in this situation. NASCAR should also take it upon itself to subsidize the installation of the system at every one of its national tracks.

This will be expensive, and it will hurt their bottom line, but what’s worse is if a driver becomes severely injured or dies as a result of crash that could have been easily prevented.

In the wake of Dale Earnhardt’s death at Daytona in 2001, NASCAR required all drivers begin to use the Head and Neck Restraint System developed at Michigan State University and first adopted by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). That device has saved countless lives.

“We’ve always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. We assume that risk, but it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it.” Tony Stewart – February 23, 2013

IndyCar and CART developed a wheel-tethering system only after spectators were killed and seriously injured at Charlotte and Michigan this after years of watching wheels separate from cars and go bouncing down the track or outside of racing facilities like the tragedy of Wilbur Brink in 1931.

As humans, we’re slow to change anything until we’re forced to do so either by active desire, death, or legal action.

Today, many insist that danger and risk are the best parts of racing, and I agree. As an American, I always want to see cars go as fast as they can, hell, that’s been the bedrock of the Indianapolis 500 for 99 years, but don’t be stupid about safety. If all the great, or even good, drivers are concussed to the point where they aren’t allowed to drive, or are dead and cannot drive, then what do we have left in motorsports?

The expense of installing SAFER barriers is high, but so is the risk that a driver will be significantly hurt or worse, dead. And when that happens, all PR isn’t good PR. NASCAR should do the obvious and mandate that SAFER barriers be installed, and do the right thing and fund that installation if needed. The sanctioning body has more than enough money in the bank to handle this, and can have the tracks reimburse them through sanctioning fees.

Feature image courtesy of Brian Cantonl/Flickr.

Wednesday Wheels - November 12

Hi, it’s been a long time since I’ve written in this space. I’m back. Back when I started this site last year, my goal was to write here at the very least three times per week. Then life and the rest of the network got in the way. For now, I’ll start with trying to write every Wednesday and we’ll go from there. I don’t have a name I like for this column, but I’ll come up with something. If you’ve ever read any of the “College Quickies” we do at the College Football Roundtable, this will have a similar feel.

NASCAR: Touching is racing. Finale should be Stupendous

Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way right now: I’m not a fan of NASCAR’s new Chase format. In fact, I’m not a fan of the Chase at all, but writers have already wasted enough words on it, so the 32 I just wasted was more than enough. While we’re getting things out of the way, I’ll say this: most fans' commitment to one driver has blinded their objectivity about racing. What’s that mean? Stock car racing is about driving, and when someone is in your way, it’s about moving that person out of the way. If you’re interested in racing where no one touches anyone, and the racing is actually about speed and grace, then open-wheel racing is for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdsvoloZAbg

Make sure you watch and listen to that video. It’s from Richard Childress Racing, and it’s great. Yeah, Childress owns Newman, so there’s some bias there, but the message is the same.

I love open-wheel racing, but stock car racing isn’t open-wheel. I get that many Jeff Gordon fans are upset about Ryan Newman moving Kyle Larson to advance to the Championship 4 (terrible name, btw) this weekend at Homestead, but it is what it is. NASCAR is built on the ability of its cars and drivers being able to take a punch, either by car or fist, and all Newman did is what racers in the sport have done for years.

Yes, I’m a Gordon fan, and I’d love to see him get a Cup Championship so everyone can shut up about how he can’t compete and how old he is, but it isn’t happening in 2014. Finishing 29th at Texas didn’t help his case. He did what he needed to do, but Ryan Newman gets paid millions per year and he did what he needed to do, too. Newman did more than Gordon.

So, I’ll bring in the oldest analogy NASCAR fans of sick of seeing: If Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had done same thing under the same circumstances, would anyone be complaining?

Didn’t think so.

Homestead will be great, and the brawl after will be just as exciting.

IndyCar Needs To Move Beyond 500

I love the Indianapolis 500. It’s my birthday gift to myself every year, and it’s truly IndyCar’s most important event. It’s so important, that I have the feeling IndyCar is sacrificing the rest of the sport to prop up one month.

Last year, IndyCar decided they didn’t want to compete with the NFL, so it no longer has any races after Labor Day. There was a small glimmer of hope that would change in 2015, but it isn’t the case. IndyCar shuffled the deck chairs and moved the schedule around a bit, but did nothing significant to improve its schedule.

I’m sure New Orleans will be great, finding a way to stay in Baltimore and Houston while adding NOLA would have been more impressive. Sure, I’d take another oval or two, but as I’ve said before, for the sport to survive it has to bring in more road races and street circuits. The die-hards want speed, and the casuals want to look at more than cars going in left-hand circles.

That’s the harsh reality of IndyCar right now. It does itself no favors by seemingly propping up the month of May as the only thing the sport can stand on while the rest of the schedule languishes. A few weeks ago I suggested they return to Cleveland, and I’m not stupid enough to think that would ever actually happen, but it should find a way to extend the season beyond Labor Day.

As George Phillips wrote Monday, the series could first start by being a better promoter of itself. I can’t speculate if the marketing dollars are there or not, but yeah, putting an IndyCar at or near every NFL stadium would probably get NFL fans a little more interested in IndyCar.

I promise they’d at least take the time to Google Image search the funny looking car that doesn’t look what Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drives. If they do that, and they land on IndyCar’s webpage, then marketing dollars are worth it.

I live in Cleveland, and Mid-Ohio is in the middle of August, and I see almost no local advertising for the race. When I wear Mid-Ohio gear, non-racing fans ask me where the track is, and when racing happens there. That’s the fault of IndyCar AND the folks down at Mid-Ohio. Again, not suggesting that Mid-Ohio does all of IndyCar’s advertising, but you should probably at least lock up your back yard.

So, what’s IndyCar’s solution? I don’t know, and finding the proper balance isn’t easy. Making traditional fans happy won’t happen if they hope to draw in casual fans. Traditional IndyCar fans would riot if IndyCar tried to do an elimination-based playoff system like NASCAR is doing. But would that bring in casual fans? Probably.

Would effectively ripping up the schedule and starting from scratch to include places like Road America, Watkins Glen and Kentucky work? Probably. But, how many different races can you have in the Midwest and East Coast before the market is oversaturated and all races suffer? That’s the problem IndyCar needs to solve with its scheduling.

IndyCar is no longer a mainstream sport enjoyed by millions. All the mainstream interest went away when the series split in 1996, and it isn’t coming back. So now IndyCar is a niche sport, and if that’s the case, why do you care if you’re competing against the NFL? I get TV ratings are important, but if you’re getting 1.1 ratings in July, then why do you care if you 1.1 in September? Same rating; different month.

If this place is good enough for Formula 1, it's good enough for IndyCar. FORGET TMS.

Lastly, IndyCar should race in Austin. Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage will have a heart attack, and will threaten to pull his race.

Thanks, Eddie, it’s been real.

What’s that mean? He is either going to pull his race or he won’t, and if he does it’s no big loss compared to what IndyCar can gain by racing at the Circuit of the America’s. Texas’ attendance has been down year-over-year, and Houston proved that circuit racing works in Texas, just not in the heat.

Go to Austin, and if you lose Texas in the process then it looks like you have a built in date.

What do you think? Send feedback to me on Twitter at @damiEnbowman or via e-mail at damien@morethanafan.net. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday. Maybe.

Circuit of the Americas photo is courtesy of Circuit of the Americas.

NASCAR And its Newly Opened Pandora’s Box

Interestingly enough, after last week’s restart complaints I thought this week would be a relatively quiet one for NASCAR considering the Chase starts this week. Obviously, that didn’t happen. In my opinion, NASCAR made two decisions this week and they were both wrong. I won’t go into the detail of those decisions, but I’ll tell you what I think they should have done instead of opening Pandora’s box today with the addition of Jeff Gordon into the Chase. Isley: What NASCAR Should Have Done About What Happened at Richmond

NASCAR could should have done one of two things. The first, is do nothing, which is basically ignore all the crap that happened last Saturday at Richmond, even though I don’t think it was that terrible, and should have let the Chase standings as they were. Here’s my problem with appointing Ryan Newman a spot in the Chase, it’s just that, an appointment. I’m not taking anything away from Newman, because he’s certainly a good driver, but let’s be real, when that final caution came out there were seven laps left. Anything could have happened. Had there been two or three laps, maybe I’d be more onboard with giving him a spot. In reality though, as much as NASCAR doesn’t want teams manipulating the outcome of races and its championship, it did so by inserting Newman, who if you remember, pretty much needed to win in order to be eligible for the Chase.

Last I checked, Newman didn’t win Saturday.

The second choice is the most obvious choice, and one that any other sport worth their salt would have done: remove the “cheaters” and go with fewer competitors. I get it, NASCAR wants to have 12 drivers, but remember when they had 10 and few complained? Sure, a lot of the traditional fans hate the chase anyway, but what’s the point of the first 26 races if NASCAR can just willy-nilly add and remove drivers after all the qualifying rounds are over? It makes no sense.

Geico 400 - Practice

None of you care, but I referee track & field, and before you ask why they let a guy like me have guns around children, consider this: if two athletes false start both are disqualified. On some levels you get a false start, but for the most part it’s over for most athletes. I, as a starter, cannot say after the race is over, that one of those two athletes should advance to the next round because they were unfairly disqualified. Once you’re out, you are out.

And that’s where I was with Ryan Newman, and am now Jeff Gordon. Neither athlete earned their right to participate in the finals, even if the other competitors cheated. NASCAR makes itself look especially stupid, because in all essence the Chase has started. The competitors have done the media tour, practices, and now qualifying. Ask Tony Stewart and he’ll say you do things a lot differently if you think you’re competing for a championship or if you’re just competing for wins and losses.

Many of you will disagree, but NASCAR’s two best options were to do either do nothing at all or remove the “cheaters” and go with two fewer athletes. Changing the athletes after the qualifying rounds were over has done nothing but alienate fans and sponsors this week with the back and forth about who is in and out of the Chase.

Green: Moving on From NASCAR Penalties

What do you think? Are you OK with the penalties NASCAR handed out this week? Did your driver make the Chase or is he or she out?

Leave me a comment or send me an email to damien@morethanafan.net.

NASCAR Owes Fans an Apology After Poor Restart Officiating

Now that I kind of run this Wheels site I have to pay a lot more attention to what happens in the entire world of racing. I admit, I watch 80% of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series races, but maybe only watch about 20% of the Nationwide Series, and yeah it’s even less for the Truck Series. What I saw this weekend at Richmond in both series’ was an embarrassment to officiating. So embarrassing, that even the NFL’s replacement referees thought NASCAR did a poor job this weekend. https://twitter.com/damiEnbowman/status/376539915439185920

The rules on restarts are simple, and well known, so well known that once I explain it you won’t misunderstand the rule. Essentially, it is black and white.

In all but very special circumstances, the leader needs to get to the start/finish line before the car in second place.

Let that sink in.

Still need help? The guy in second, cannot beat the guy in first to the stripe on a restart.

More? If you’re in front of me on the restart, I shouldn’t get to the start/finish line before you do.

That’s three definitions of the same rule, and I’ll go ahead and assume that you got the point after the second explanation. The third was really for the four-year-old sitting in the room with me right now.

On Friday and then again on Saturday the second-place car beat the first place car to the stripe. As noted above, that’s illegal. In any other form of motorsports, this would have been penalized immediately.

NASCAR apparently thinks it’s legal.

Here’s the final restart from Friday. ESPN, NASCAR’s broadcast partner, says Brian Scott spun his tires. You can judge that for yourself.

Go ahead and watch that again, and let me know if you think he spun his tires.

Exactly.

On Saturday in its drivers meeting, NASCAR issued a warning to its drivers about restarts. Here is a quote from NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton in a story USA Today columnist Jeff Gluck wrote:

“But NASCAR has repeatedly said it does not want to get into the business of judging restarts by inches, instead urging drivers just to do it the right way.

"I just want to remind everybody: Do not put us in that position where we have to make the call," Pemberton said Saturday. "Because more times than not, it isn't going to be in your favor – and we don't want to do that, OK?"

So, one would think if it were to happen during the Cup race it would be easy to spot and easy to enforce, right? Well, it didn’t happen that way. I went to ESPN’s site to get the video highlights of the race, and after sitting through four minutes of video I noticed ESPN didn’t make a single mention of the final restart, or show any video of it.

You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about, huh? Thankfully, NASCAR, for now, has video of the final laps available on its YouTube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q86Mdzf_08M

If you’re wondering, the car on the inside, in yellow, is the leader. Which car got to the stripe first?

I point all that out to say, I understand that Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are going to do everything they can to win, and while some of you might call that cheating, I won’t. NASCAR’s officials blatantly ignored two drivers jumping restarts even though it said it would enforce the rule.

Yes, Keselowski’s restart was a little but closer to legal than Edwards’ was, but do you think NASCAR intentions of ruling either illegal? I’ll guess not, because it certainly had an opportunity to man-up Saturday evening and finally enforce a rule it called out, and it failed its drivers, but more importantly failed its fans.

For the sake of integrity of the sport itself, and its championship, I hope NASCAR is willing to enforce this rule over the last 10 races this season.

Handicapping the NASCAR 2013 Silly Season

The NASCAR Silly Season is in full effect. Yeah, we were off to a slow start, but with Monday’s announcement that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing won’t be renewing its Sprint Cup contract with Juan Pablo Montoya, it seems as though the season has finally started. Compared to last year’s events with AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth, Silly Season 2013 has been very quiet. Sure, the announcement that Ryan Newman wouldn’t return to Stewart-Haas is “big” news, and it seems as though Kurt Busch is always looking for a new job, but come on, we can all admit it has been quiet.

Monday, Michael Waltrip Racing announced it signed both driver Brian Vickers and sponsor Aaron’s to a two-year full sponsorship deal. I admit that I was surprised. I really like Brian Vickers, and I think he’s a good driver, but my surprise comes with Aaron’s and their commitment to Michael Waltrip. They could have easily taken all of their sponsorship dollars and spent it with Hendrick Motorsports.

Scuttlebutt had been suggesting that Hendrick was trying to get Aaron’s to give more of their sponsorship dollars to Chase Elliot, who just happens to be the son of NASCAR great Bill Elliot.

I personally think Aaron’s made the right choice. Admittedly, that could just be my bias for Waltrip and Vickers, because at this point it is too early to consider placing MWR into NASCAR’s top racing tier.

Obviously it’s too early to tell because MWR doesn’t have a lot of wins under their belt nor will they be able to compete with the likes of Penske, Hendrick, or Roush right away. But let’s be real, MWR is immediately better than EGR, who at this point is a second- or third-tier NASCAR team.

So, let’s talk about who is available:

Ryan Newman

Newman could easily replace Kevin Harvick (heading for Newman’s old ride at Stewart-Hass) at Richard Childress Racing, and he’s a good fit for most sponsors. He’s intelligent, a good racer, and generally doesn’t cause many problems (except the occasional whining). The question is, as always, sponsorship. I would imagine Quicken Loans would be willing to move its sponsorship with Newman almost anywhere he goes, and if they commit to him, it makes the decision about hiring him that much easier for any team. Especially for RCR which will have several driver options.

Let them Race: Ryan's analysis of Stewart's injury; responsibility

Newman could attempt a return to Penske, but that also seems unlikely with Penske looking to find something for Sam Hornish, Jr. The move to three teams will be hard enough, but four seems nearly impossible.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Again, I was just as surprised as you were that Montoya has been let go. Could he end up somewhere else in NASCAR? Of course. Do I see it happening? Nope. Unless he’s willing to take another step backwards. He was getting excellent support and resources at EGR, and at this point, I’m not sure who’d be willing to take a chance on him full time.

Montoya is known mostly for crashing into a jet dryer, and only has two wins in his eight years of Cup experience. The novelty of him being an Indianapolis 500 winner has long since worn off. He could stay with Ganassi and return to either IndyCar (not likely) or he could move to sports cars (much more likely).

The only other place I can see him end up: Furniture Row[1. When Josh was reading this, he really was hoping Damien meant Montoya would be a furniture salesman.]. Details on that later.

A.J. Allmendinger

There are really only two options for Allmendinger: JTG Daugherty or Penske. The options remain the same for Penske. The thought of expanding by two cars in one offseason is daunting, but if anyone can do it, Penske Racing can. Although Penske has shown a commitment to AJ Allmendinger, it’s honestly tough to pass up Sam Hornish. Hornish has earned progressing to the next step.

The other option for Allmendinger would be JTG Daugherty, but only if they’re willing to part ways with Bobbie Labonte. Obviously, Labonte is a Cup Champion, but he’s getting long in the tooth. He’s certainly a fan and sponsor favorite, but he hasn’t performed well lately. Honestly though, he hasn’t had awesome equipment or resources.

The good for Allmendinger is JTG co-owner Tad Geschickter seems to like him. If JTG doesn’t work then there is Nationwide, Furniture Row, and of course IndyCar.

Kurt Busch

At this point, he appears to be the best driver available on the market. He could decide to stay at Furniture Row Motorsports, or he could try for options at any of the other seats that may come available. I’m going to go all optimistic and go bizarre and guess that he does something no one has really considered.

IndyCar…mixed in with NASCAR. If you remember, he famously did a test for Andretti Autosport this past May and drove wonderfully. Therefore, here’s how this could potentially play out:

Michael Andretti could start a NASCAR team and have Kurt Busch be his first full time driver, and recruit a second part time driver, or Andretti could expand his IndyCar team, and have Busch run “full time” in IndyCar and compete regularly in the Sprint Cup.

This rumor is nothing new, but if Andretti were going to try to make the leap, it’s now or never. He has plenty of cash to pay Busch and has the resources to either team up with another team or get enough sponsorship dollars to go it alone.

If you’re wondering about which manufacturer, it will no doubt be Chevrolet, and they would take him and his racing heritage in a minute.

So, there you have it. That’s my breakdown of the 2013 NASCAR Silly Season. How do you think this all ends up? Is my Andretti prediction as crazy as it sounds?

Send me an e-mail to damien@morethanafan.net or leave a comment here.


[tl;dr] Green White Checkered is bad Racing

Last weekend I attended the Indianapolis 500 like I do every Memorial Day weekend. To say the race was exciting is an understatement. There were 68 lead changes in over 200 laps, which is a record and nearly double the amount of last year’s record setting amount of lead changes. In short, IndyCar racing is getting better. Finally. The end of the race was anticlimactic for some, but for those whom appreciate motorsports going to scheduled distance ending a race behind the pace car isn’t a big deal. NASCAR uses a gimmick they call “Green White Checkered” finishes, from David Newton:

A green-white-checkered finish signifies two laps will be run. NASCAR throws a green flag and the cars race a lap until the white flag -- signifying the final lap of a race -- is shown and then the drivers race that final lap to the checkered-flag finish.

You might ask how do I know this is a gimmick? Well, even one of NASCAR’s worse beat reporters admits it’s a gimmick:

https://twitter.com/jeff_gluck/status/338734187899129857

This is a novel idea, except for the fact that you’re extending the race. You have the potential to turn the Daytona 500 into the Daytona 507.5. Doesn’t have quite the same connotation, does it?

I understand racing isn’t generally the most exciting way to spend your Sunday afternoons, but sports should only go into overtime if at the end of regulation there’s a tie. In any form of racing (human, horse, auto) no such possibility exists. One racer will always finish before another.

So, why does NASCAR have G/W/C and why does everyone feel this year’s Indy 500 could benefit from it? No clue. Some say IndyCar needs to change its tradition to keep up with the times. Well, based on the television ratings no one was watching the race anyway, so adding a G/W/C won’t do much to improve viewership.

And to be honest, NASCAR’s ratings have been down or flat over the past few years, so it seems like people in general are just about tuned out of watching racing on television.

Here’s a few facts people rarely bring up or remember, Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 Daytona 500 win was won under caution and no one says it isn’t legitimate, and few complained at the time that he won under caution. Secondly, each of Dario Franchitti’s three Indianapolis 500 wins came under caution, and again, no one questions the legitimacy of those wins.

The other suggestion that’s been bandied about is utilizing the red flag to stop the race and running the remaining scheduled laps. I’m not entirely on board with that strategy, but that seems a far better procedure than modifying the race. Crew chiefs and engineers measure fuel mileage for every lap, and changing the length of races throws the entire race and pit strategy out the window.

So, I leave you with these two options: red flag and finish scheduled laps under green or finish under caution. G/W/C is a gimmick employed to keep casual fans interested in racing. Neither drivers nor real motorsport fans are crying if races end under caution.

tl; dr is a tech nerd term for too long; didn’t read. the purpose of these posts is to provide a quick summary and analysis of something interesting in the sports world.

//

Green White Checkered is bad Racing

Last weekend I attended the Indianapolis 500 like I do every Memorial Day weekend. To say the race was exciting is an understatement. There were 68 lead changes in over 200 laps, which is a record and nearly double the amount of last year’s record setting amount of lead changes. In short, IndyCar racing is getting better. Finally. The end of the race was anticlimactic for some, but for those whom appreciate motorsports going to scheduled distance ending a race behind the pace car isn’t a big deal. NASCAR uses a gimmick they call “Green White Checkered” finishes, from David Newton:

A green-white-checkered finish signifies two laps will be run. NASCAR throws a green flag and the cars race a lap until the white flag -- signifying the final lap of a race -- is shown and then the drivers race that final lap to the checkered-flag finish.

You might ask how do I know this is a gimmick? Well, even one of NASCAR’s worse beat reporters admits it’s a gimmick:

https://twitter.com/jeff_gluck/status/338734187899129857

This is a novel idea, except for the fact that you’re extending the race. You have the potential to turn the Daytona 500 into the Daytona 507.5. Doesn’t have quite the same connotation, does it?

I understand racing isn’t generally the most exciting way to spend your Sunday afternoons, but sports should only go into overtime if at the end of regulation there’s a tie. In any form of racing (human, horse, auto) no such possibility exists. One racer will always finish before another.

So, why does NASCAR have G/W/C and why does everyone feel this year’s Indy 500 could benefit from it? No clue. Some say IndyCar needs to change its tradition to keep up with the times. Well, based on the television ratings no one was watching the race anyway, so adding a G/W/C won’t do much to improve viewership.

And to be honest, NASCAR’s ratings have been down or flat over the past few years, so it seems like people in general are just about tuned out of watching racing on television.

Here’s a few facts people rarely bring up or remember, Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 Daytona 500 win was won under caution and no one says it isn’t legitimate, and few complained at the time that he won under caution. Secondly, each of Dario Franchitti’s three Indianapolis 500 wins came under caution, and again, no one questions the legitimacy of those wins.

The other suggestion that’s been bandied about is utilizing the red flag to stop the race and running the remaining scheduled laps. I’m not entirely on board with that strategy, but that seems a far better procedure than modifying the race. Crew chiefs and engineers measure fuel mileage for every lap, and changing the length of races throws the entire race and pit strategy out the window.

So, I leave you with these two options: red flag and finish scheduled laps under green or finish under caution. G/W/C is a gimmick employed to keep casual fans interested in racing. Neither drivers nor real motorsport fans are crying if races end under caution.

tl; dr is a tech nerd term for too long; didn’t read. the purpose of these posts is to provide a quick summary and analysis of something interesting in the sports world.

//

What I learned about NASCAR Last Week

Well, we all have to admit this past week was an interesting way to kick off the season for NASCAR fans. After everything that happened Saturday with the last lap accident involved the 28 injured spectators, the comments that Jeremy Clements made there was still a race on Sunday to be watched, and a Daytona 500 that made up for what it lacked in excitement for providing information on how the Generation Six cars would fare on a super speedway. Let's start with Saturday and the Nationwide race that ended in a terrible incident in which a tire, an engine, and many other parts went into the grandstand and injured several people, some seriously. I'm not sure how NASCAR plans to work its way out of this situation without paying lots of money, but they will pay. Yes, I know the legal mumbo-jumbo on the ticket basically says fans cannot sue, but in reality that is to prevent frivolous lawsuits. The cases that some or all of the 28 injured will not be frivolous. If you think that going to a race includes having a 200 pound tire and 5,000 pound engine land on you and you don't think you would sue, you are lying.

Here's the thing, NASCAR has done a great job of protecting its drivers, but as many have said this week it's time to protect their fans. I've never been to Daytona, but I have been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway multiple times. When I go to IMS I know that there is a wide gap between the fence and the seating around most of the track. Take a look at the picture below. That's the amount of space between the track and the first row of seats.

Michigan on the other hand, virtually every seat is close to the catch fence in a similar setup to that of Daytona. NASCAR and the owners of the tracks need to move fans away to protect them. Them, in this case are the fans, but also the tracks themselves. No, it won't prevent all incidences from happening, but it would certainly mitigate the chances of something horrific like what happened at Daytona, and also what happened at Talladega after Carl Edwards' crash.

For those who have never been to a race, the seats closest to the fence are the worst. Track owners need to do everyone, including themselves, a favor and remove those seats. I don't have a solution for fixing the fence, but reports indicate that parts of the cars last weekend went through an access gate. The next day the gate was no longer there. Don't put it back, and eliminate these types of gates at as many tracks as possible. Make it inconvenient for people to get on the track.

NASCAR needs to make the fans that were injured whole, and by that I don't mean lifetime seats and paying for medical expenses. That is a great start, but really NASCAR, you couldn't have found a way for Whitney Turner to get home other than riding in the back of a Silverado? She has a shattered fibula and torn Achilles and her father also has health problems. Taking care of these two might cost you now, but you'll gain a lot of public support.

Do the right thing and settle with these people out of court, because I cannot imagine a jury in litigation happy Florida that won't find NASCAR at fault for part of this entire debacle.

After the Nationwide race, Jeremy Clements was speaking with a reporter from MTV in the presence of a NASCAR employee and Clements used a racial slur that NASCAR deemed was worthy of an indefinite suspension. Fine. As much as I disagree with this punishment, it is what it is.

My issue is the way NASCAR handled the situation. It refused to tell anyone what Clements said, who the NASCAR employee was, or who the reporter was. Also the conversation that Clements had was off the record. At this point I don't know who reported the language use to NASCAR brass, but that's information that NASCAR should make available to everyone. Simple reason, if it was the reporter and the conversation was off the record, then how can drivers or other team personnel know what can be said and kept in confidence? If it was the NASCAR employee, then it is a little more excusable because that employee is likely just doing their job by reporting the language up the line.

The indefinite ban though is terrible on many fronts; if a driver on probation threatens a reporter and receives a one-race suspension, how can an off the record conversation lead to an indefinite suspension.

For the record, I don't condone what Clements said, but I also don't know the context so I cannot say I'm offended. No, the use of one word does not offend me. I'm 30, the things people say to me no longer offend me.

Also, for his part in the matter Clements took full responsibility and apologized for the comment. Cool story. My beef is still with NASCAR and its unwillingness to be open and honest about what transpired and how it came into the information. The sport has an image problem, and many believe the sport is fixed. If Jimmie Johnson or Kurt Busch had said these words would they be facing an indefinite suspension? Of course not, so why is Clements?

As far as I'm concerned, NASCAR as a sanctioning body was 0-2 last weekend at Daytona.

Oh, Sunday there was a race. Crazy, they actually did some racing last weekend after all the drama. No jet dryers exploded and no drivers were tweeting from their cars, and overall the race was not the most exciting race I had ever seen.

I'm not surprised, and you shouldn't be either, when the only drive I talk about is Danica Patrick. She is the only driver that was on everyone's minds last week. I know this because she was on television the most, and many credit her for the ratings bump FOX received after last weekend.

Face it, Danica had an excellent race. She finished in the top-10, didn't wreck anyone and no one threw their helmet at her car. She ran up front most of the day and likely earned a lot of respect from many other drivers.

Danica definitely made some rookie mistakes, but I'm sure she will apply those lessons to tracks like Talladega and Atlanta, which are similar in many ways to Daytona.

I'm primarily an IndyCar fan, so I have gone through many years of watching Danica race and she's had good and bad races, but one thing I know for certain is that given the right equipment and the right managers she can succeed. Her definition of success is likely a Cup championship, and while Ryan thinks she might have a chance to make the Chase this year I don't see it. For her sake, I hope I'm wrong.

For her she will have a successful season if she wins a Cup race. Any Cup race. It doesn't matter where it is or how it comes; even if it's a fuel mileage race. Dale Earnhardt supporters cannot discount flue mileage wins considering that's how many of his wins have come.

If Danica wins one race and is consistently in the top-25 weekly she'll certainly have earned her paycheck this season. Time and patience are the keys to her success. She's a good driver that has bright future. She doesn't have to impress anyone. She has more experience racing in different types of cars than 80% of the drivers in NASCAR. She's already won.

So, to conclude NASCAR had a terrible week with a crash it better handle the right way and a suspension it handled in a completely wrong way, and Danica Patrick had an awesome weekend and needs to build upon that.