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NASCAR Mailbox: The Lack of Negativity Surrounding Tony Stewart’s Return Was Refreshing
(Credit: CIA)

NASCAR Mailbox: The Lack of Negativity Surrounding Tony Stewart’s Return Was Refreshing

Tony Stewart’s return to NASCAR was a story that wasn’t just a big deal to the NASCAR community. It was a big deal to a lot of people who rarely pay attention to the sport, if ever. Mainstream news organizations were present at Atlanta Motor Speedway, from Friday afternoon when Stewart made his first public statement since the tragic accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, all the way through until Sunday night when Stewart’s race ended in the garage area.

Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

Tony Stewart’s return was met with positivity from the majority of people. Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

While I may have made a concerted effort to block it out, I was shocked about the lack of negativity there was surrounding Stewart’s return. Oh, sure, there were a few people tweeting / writing / speaking about how Stewart shouldn’t be back in the car or how NASCAR shouldn’t allow him back. However, those people were in the minority, with a very large majority showing support and were surprisingly very welcoming and excited to have Stewart back. At no point was it more evident than during driver introductions, when Stewart walked across the stage to a deafening roar of the crowd. Now, Stewart is a popular driver in the sport, of course, but it stands to reason that many of those cheering in the stands were simply happy to see him back and expressed no ill will toward him whatsoever.

I often feel – and am not shy about saying – that the negativity from within this sport is oftentimes overwhelming. It seems that the opportunity to complain, gripe, or express rage is never lost on the NASCAR community. I thought this instance would be no different and that Stewart would be stepping into a land-mine when he came back.

Except he wasn’t. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Stewart’s return was so well-received, I now think it’s the best thing he could have ever done. In hiding, the mainstream media took every opportunity to over-analyze and pick apart the driver’s past career and why he’s such a horrible person. It was pretty hard to keep up that narrative when all of NASCAR’s regular fans and participants in the sport had nothing but good things to say.

Why can’t it be like that all the time?

Now onto the mailbox:

“Why do we have to see the start and all restarts of every race begin at an arbitrary mark on the race track deemed fair by NASCAR when there already is a start/finish line? Shouldn’t everything be determined by the OFFICIAL LINE?? The race concludes there so why not the beginning and all restarts?? Arthur

So, historically, the green flag is what has always started the race, but that didn’t necessarily mean they waved the green flag as soon as the cars got to the start / finish line. Realistically, the flagman controlled the race. The green flag means go. It is actually a fairly recent innovation for there to be such a thing as “restart zones”.

However, as technology improved (two-way radios, “traffic lights” at varying locations around the track, etc.), additions were made to the restart rules. A restart zone was enacted so that certain drivers (particularly the leaders) couldn’t gain an advantage by anticipating the green flag or a spotter telling the driver to go before it was time. If they went before the restart zone, they were (and are) penalized.

The additions to the rule have basically been to make it fair for everyone. While that is the case most of the time, the additional rules have complicated matters too. I would still be of the mindset that the flagman (or the “green light”) should start the race rather than a somewhat subjective restart zone, but NASCAR will likely stick with the restart zones. Setting the start or restarts of the race right at the start / finish line sounds simple, but historically, drivers have always been able to accelerate before then. It’s just the specific rules surrounding the start and restarts that have changed over time.

”So how likely is this to save Kahne’s career? I mean, if you hear the commentators talk, it’s the biggest win of his career and everything is going to be all unicorns and rainbows here on out. I’m sure he’s thrilled and all and that; Hendrick is happy but that doesn’t mean Chase Elliott won’t eventually chase him out like everyone keeps saying he will.” Kenya

I think Kasey Kahne’s best hope of keeping his seat safe from Chase Elliott is Jeff Gordon retiring before Elliott is ready to move up full-time (unlikely). Short of a Jimmie Johnson-esque performance by Kahne in that time frame, I don’t see anything else saving him.

Considering that Rick Hendrick recently said that Elliott will likely run a few Sprint Cup Series races next season, and that Kahne’s contract expires at the end of next year, it looks like the timeframe for Kahne to make that run is between now and the end of 2015. After that, if things are lining up properly, Elliott might be a Rookie of the Year contender in 2016 and Kahne might have a seat elsewhere.

It’s possible that Elliott could find a ride at another team or that HMS decides that Elliott needs more experience, but I find both of those scenarios wholly unlikely, especially since he has already done so well in the Nationwide Series in his rookie season.

Bottom line is that Kahne is probably going to be doing some ride-searching in 2015, no matter how well he does before then. It’s kind of an unfair reality but it’s also just the nature of a business like this one.

“I need some help on the clinching scenarios this weekend. I’m sure it’s not as simple where it used to be where a pre-designated finish would guarantee a spot in the Chase.” Caleb

No, and I admit that I’m having to borrow heavily from NASCAR’s release regarding clinching scenarios. Even I’m confused by some of it and having the points scrolling at the top of the screen on Saturday won’t help any because it’s not as simple as “the top ____ advances” anymore.

I’m going to start with the simplest, most understandable clinching scenarios before getting into the more complex variables. The following drivers can clinch a Chase with a win—and only a win—provided they are in the top 30 in points at the end of the night: Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Martin Truex, Jr., TonyStewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, David Gilliland, David Ragan, and Cole Whitt.

Again, those are the drivers that cannot make the Chase without a win.

Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and Kyle Larson are mathematically able to make the Chase without a victory, but their ability to do so hinges on where they finish and who wins the race.

Newman has to only finish 41st or better if there is a repeat winner or if Matt Kenseth wins the race. However, if a driver other than Kenseth wins their first race of the season, Newman then has to finish 18th or better.

For Biffle, if there is a repeat winner – or Kenseth or Newman wins the race – Biffle has to finish 22nd or better. If there is a new winner and it is not Kenseth or Newman, Biffle needs to have 19 more points than Newman at the end of the race (equivalent to about 19 positions on the track) and he needs to finish ahead of Bowyer and Larson.

The reason these additional facets are present is because of the “win and you’re in” system, so it makes sense that the winner of the race would determine who makes the Chase and who doesn’t. What happened here, though, is that there are 16 spots in the Chase but there were less than 16 winners, meaning that there is a chance for a handful of drivers to make it in on points. So far, there have only been 13 different winners, so even if there is a new winner on Saturday night, that still leaves room for two drivers to make it in on points.

I really do like the new Chase system, but this part is by far the biggest downside. It’s one thing to read all of it in text and understand it. It’s going to be quite another when positions are changing hands at the end of the race and you have no idea where everyone stands. Richmond is going to be a fun race to watch – especially if someone who hasn’t won yet this year is at the front towards the end – but I think it’s safer to just wait until the race is over to look and see where everyone stands. Following the Chase standings throughout the Richmond race used to be easy, but now there is more at work than just points. That’s a good thing but it adds challenge to the viewers.

About Summer Bedgood

Summer Bedgood
Promoted to editor in 2013, Summer is one of Frontstretch’s fast-rising young talents. While contributing to social media efforts, she anchors the site’s breaking news coverage while writing NASCAR Mailbox, a fan question & answer column (Wednesdays). A Kansas native, Summer goes to school full-time while also contributing to other racing outlets such as Popular Speed.

11 comments

  1. Here’s a plan… HMS Lite can send Danica Patrick back to Indy car where she belongs and Kasey Kahne can move over and take her place. Then Chase Elliott comes up to take KK’s place at HMS Regular, and everyone is happy

  2. If Gordon doesn’t win number 5 this year ,which is possible but not probable, he’ll stick around a few more years to try for that 5th provided the back problems stay manageable. Kahne’s contract can be renewed and still have room for Elliott. So here’s a scenario.2016 JR Motorsports jumps to Cup under the HMS umbrella with Elliott driving and getting some seat time until a spot opens at HMS. Just the way Kahne got to HMS. After all Dale SR drove for Childress while having his own team on the track. Why not JR.
    Boy wouldn’t that just get some folks all riled up? Not mentioning any names though. That darn HMS! Always one step ahead. :)

  3. Summer, Never pass up an opportunity to take that shot at the fans. Writer negativity, not a problem, but those fans! Anyone not raised in a hippie commune knows that fan negativity is a part of the overall experience. Ever listen to sports talk radio? For as long as anyone can remember the “I can’t believe those idiots traded Joe” rants have been a way for people to harmlessly blow off steam. Lighten up, it’s fun. Also glad to see that you admit to writing from the NASCAR releases, though we all know that anyway. Want some positivity? Not particularly talented, not very knowledgable, yet smug and condescending and still you have a job. Sweet!

    • Right away I found her comments about Tony’s return naïve. Seems she is thrilled for the beloved Tony that fans welcomed him back, while in the meantime those nasty outside mainstream media people just picked apart Sainted Tony’s past behavior, the nerve! Yeehaw..circle them wagons boys and gals!!!!!

  4. If it had been Kyle Busch instead of Tony Stewart, Kyle’s career would be over. Even if it were proven that he was innocent.

    • Very true, a pass is always given to a athlete as long as he/she appears to be the fan favorite. And often times that brings the fans sanity into question..:)

  5. Well I am glad you saw the conquering hero’s parade a good thing Summer, a lot of us saw it a little different. Most fans will stick with any athlete no matter what. Fanatics. Kasey’s win was/is a little to late, his team getting that win is one of the lucky teams to get into The Chase. He hasn’t been good all year to warrant it, but a win gets you in as the saying goes. So he and others are considered “contenders” when they haven’t “contended” all year. Yes, Kasey has had some bad luck, but all 24 races were not bad luck. This playoff is a bad idea.