Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: New Schedule, Same Ol’ NASCAR

I always look forward to the date when NASCAR releases its schedule for the upcoming season. What will they do this time that makes no sense whatsoever to us lay folks? Well, that day came yesterday when the 2008 Sprint Cup schedule was made public – and not surprisingly, things didn’t make sense.

Needless to say, you’d think NASCAR would have learned by the near-miss rainout of the Michigan event just over one month ago to change some of its dates around. That race in August did not get completed until the Tuesday after its scheduled Sunday start. Talk was such at the time that if, indeed, the event was a total washout not shoe-horned in before the circuit hit Bristol on Thursday, the sanctioning body would be forced to make Michigan the final date on the schedule.

As a result, NASCAR would essentially bump all the other events, both regular season and playoff, up one week from their regularly scheduled dates.

Can you imagine the residual effects of that happening? Richmond International Raceway – along with race sponsor Chevrolet – is suddenly ticked because they aren’t the transfer race into the Chase? Meanwhile, the one and only thing Loudon has going for it is that it boasts to being the first Chase date; but Mr. Bahre, not under this scenario. Homestead-Miami Speedway, which plays host to “Ford Championship Week” can throw away that marketing campaign. Worst off, as always, are the fans – they pay money to see a specific race at a chosen venue because of its significance. How PO’d are they gonna be?

So, I expected to see an off-week after Richmond when I opened the new schedule, perhaps with these types of fixes – and instead found that NASCAR slated its first off date for the mid-March Easter weekend, five races into the season. It then moved the second off-date to mid-April, just three races after the first vacation. Huh? Three weeks later? That is followed by 12 straight weeks (counting the All-Star weekend) of racing till off date No. 3, which is followed by the lunacy of 17 weeks straight to end the year.

Who’s making this schedule? A monkey with some ping pong balls?

I guess it will take an actual cancellation followed by a rescheduling at the end of the season, and subsequent lawsuits, to get an off-date sandwiched between Richmond and New Hampshire. I’ve never accused NASCAR of using common sense or logical thinking on any matter, but it has once again managed to surprise me in its apparent lack of foresight or without regard to the ticket-buying fan.

Alright, let’s hit the questions.

Q: I’ve been a NASCAR fan for a few years and I have never heard this topic addressed: If a team blows a motor during the race, can they replace it with a backup? If so, is the reason we do not see it – because it would take too much time? – Calico6

A: You must be a Kenseth fan, Calico. Actually, no, teams are not allowed to change engines during a race. There are parts and pieces within the engine that can are OK to repair/replace (valve springs, rocker arms, etc.), but the practice of replacing the entire engine was outlawed in the 1980s.

And a point of clarification while I’m on the subject: Stock cars run engines, not motors. Engines are combustion-driven, motors electric-driven, regardless of what we hear on Sundays.

Darwin is in for a second week in a row:

Q: OK, one more question about David Reutimann. He got a contract offer from Michael Waltrip to drive next year. Do you think Reutimann will be back at MWR, or could he still go to RCR like you said last week after this change of events?Darwin12

A: I honestly don’t know, bud. Waltrip had said Reutimann’s status was based largely on securing sponsorship for the ride. Seems to me that if Reutimann was handed a contract extension, which they claim he has, it signals Waltrip, at the very least, has a handshake deal with a sponsor. Still, I stand by what I said last week that I’ve heard Reutimann is looking around and that the current sponsors aren’t happy. So, here’s a thought: Put David in the No. 55, where he could thrive and NAPA would get more bang for the buck.

As for RCR, I think it would be a great fit for driver and owner alike, but I’m not the one signing checks or laying it on the line behind the wheel each week.

And finally, our weekly Dale Earnhardt Jr. question:

Q: Am I the only Dale Jr. fan who thinks he’s a sellout? His daddy would never have made the punk moves Junior has made… signing to be rival Jeff Gordon‘s teammate and getting dropped as Budweiser’s designated driver. The A-Rod of racing is no longer Gordon… it’s his new best non-alcoholic Bud behind the wheel of the No. 88 car.Rush Rocket

A: Whooo, that’s scathing right there! Earnhardt’s move is certainly a polarizing issue for the citizens of Junior Nation. I’ve seen those that would stand by their man even if he’d gone to the No. 37 Front Row Motorsports Dodge, and others that just cannot accept Junior’s defection to the Evil Empire (since we’re using Yankee-isms).

If you want my thoughts on the situation (and keep in mind this is coming from someone who does not call Junior, or any driver, his favorite, so I have no dog in the fight) I believe in the end he felt he did what was best for Dale Earnhardt Jr. The family thing at DEI had obviously hit its breaking point and, as the divorce became messier and messier, it was apparent that a clean start would benefit all involved.

After years of uncertainty, all Junior now has to focus on starting with Preseason Thunder in ’08 is driving a racecar. He’s not burdened with thoughts of driving for the family name; he’ll feel no pressure to keep DEI, with his name on the marquee, competitive based on his results week in and week out. One reason I believe he passed on a Childress ride (or Childress passed on him) was that a totally blank slate is what’s best for him at this point in his career. He’ll show up at the track each weekend with a singular focus on driving the best machinery on tour and making his own legacy.

And no, Dale Earnhardt Sr. would never have made the moves Junior is making now. But keep in mind that Junior would not be making them either were his father still with us.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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