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Nascar's Big Response
September 10, 2013 - Al Stephenson
I've never been a big fan of the chase in Nascar. If it's not broken, don't fix it was my feeling. The last race before the chase was contested Saturday night at Richmond, and I must admit all the chase scenarios made for an interesting evening. I watched as drivers were in, then they weren't. It was compelling.
Ryan Newman raced to the front of the field in the late going and he needed to win to be eligible for Nascar's top prize that can only be claimed by the 12 chase drivers. Then Clint Bowyer spun his car around bringing out the caution that seemed to undo Newman's chance to make the postseason. At the time it never occurred to me that the spin might have been intentional. Carl Edwards restarted in second place and clearly beat leader Paul Menard to the start-finish line (a Nascar no-no) and went on to win the race. Newman was left out in the cold, or so it seemed.
Yesterday Nascar handed down penalties to Michael Waltrip Racing's three teams (15 Bowyer, 55 Brian Vickers and 56 Martin Truex) docking each 50 points and fining MWR $300,000. Newman was in and MWR's Martin Truex was out of the chase. Truex seemed to be the beneficiary of Bowyer's spin, but Nascar decided otherwise. The decision has rocked the Nascar world. Did Nascar get it right? Let's take a look.
Many will argue that Nascar is writing the rule book as it goes and there is some truth to that. When you have in the rule book a provision that allows Nascar to penalize actions that are detrimental to stock car racing, then you allow them to seemingly punish whomever, however. I can live with that if Nascar gets it right. I think in this case that they did indeed get it right.
Nascar had warned the teams that they did not want anyone deliberately affecting the outcome of the race and radio communications certainly suggested that Bowyer' spin and Vickers unexplained pit stop were orchestrated to help Truex get in the chase. They punished all three drivers for the offense (no proof that Truex was involved was forthcoming) and Newman became the beneficiary. I have no quarrel with the decision. Actually my problem was Edwards not getting the black flag on the last restart.
Nascar gave an explanation but I wasn't buying it. Menard spun his tires and Edwards was supposed to allow him to get the position back. Drivers have been black flagged for this "crime" on more than one occasion this year. Ask Jimmy Johnson about it. Instead Nascar decided Edwards was allowed to keep going and many race fans are shaking their heads about the decision today.
The view from my seat suggests that the chase is going to be compelling and retaliation can be expected for some drivers. I would suggest to Nascar that they make a change involving starts and restarts. Let the green flag drop and let the front row take off. Start them as One and One-A if necessary. The leader has lane choice and that's the only advantage he gets. After that may the best man lead!
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