Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? Red Flag Means Work, Tires Need Work & No Work for Patrick Carpentier

Did You Notice? Officials appeared to be taking debris off certain cars on the track during the first red-flag period? I wasn’t at the track this weekend, so maybe my eyes were seeing things on television. But I could have sworn that officials appeared to be removing some metal from the front grills of a couple of cars stopped on the track.

Combine that with whispers I’ve heard that teams were allowed to work on their cars during the second red-flag period (for the big Carl EdwardsGreg Biffle wreck), and that’s somewhat concerning – especially since it’s not the first time this year I’ve heard of such a problem. Is it just me, or does it seem NASCAR is getting lax on that rule? And since rules are such a big source of controversy this week, let’s revisit what the red flag means:

“Repairs or service of any nature or refueling will not be permitted when the race is halted due to a red flag. All work must stop on any car in the pits and/or garage area when the red flag is displayed during the race, unless the car has withdrawn from the event. Work must not be resumed until the red flag is withdrawn.”

Now, unlike the yellow-line rule, that seems pretty cut and dry to me (out of Section 10-5 of the NASCAR rulebook). With red flags becoming more common to clean up messes, I’d hope officials become a little more vigilant to ensure teams in the garage area aren’t trying to do a little sneak sneak repair behind someone’s back. It’s an important rule to watch for places like Martinsville coming up, where getting out of the garage one or two laps earlier could mean a 6-9 point difference in the final results.

Did You Notice? A quote from Robin Pemberton that reminded me how this Goodyear tire issue is not going to be an easy fix? Here’s what struck me from what he said at the Indianapolis tire test:

“One of the things that we had done on a test a couple weeks ago was take some of the bits [from the Car of Tomorrow] that the teams have used early in the year that have changed and became more fashionable, whether it’s the rear steer of the cars or anything like that, and then to go in there and try to make sure that is not what has added to the extra wear and tear [on tires]. So, we’ve put a check in a box of a lot of those bits and pieces that the teams have used to improve the handling of their cars.

“As the car evolves, and it will continue to evolve just like all racecars do over the years, it will be a moving target for Goodyear and everybody involved.”

The key words in that statement were “evolves” and “moving target.” Here’s the thing: nearing the end of the Car of Tomorrow’s first full season, we still go to places where Goodyear struggles to match the initial technology of this new vehicle. And with the offseason looming, the configuration of the CoT is about to change again.

Don’t believe me? I have a hard time stomaching that after all the complaints we’ve seen from car owners, crew chiefs, and drivers, NASCAR won’t make at least a few minor tweaks to this thing between 2008 and 2009. And when that happens, Goodyear’s going to have to take a step back all over again and re-evaluate the compounds that they’re using.

Sigh. It’s hard to catch up when you already start so far behind and the very vehicle you’re trying to figure out keeps changing every offseason. I almost feel like we’re faced with a difficult choice. Either we wait another year to make changes on the CoT and hope the tires catch up and fix the problems, or we make aerodynamic changes to the CoT knowing full well we’re going to have five or six races next year where the Goodyears flat don’t work. Neither choice seems appealing to me, but judging by how far behind Goodyear is with this car I wonder if it’s the only one we have.

Did You Notice? Talladega’s blown tires are being labeled “punctures” by the Goodyear faithful? According to Grant, “At this point, the indications are those are punctures from the racetrack or something off the car.”

See also
Tires at Talladega: What Caused the Failures?

Why does that bother me? Because the level of punctures at NASCAR’s fastest track on the circuit was never this high. Why is it that every time these cars touch now it leads to a cut tire? Remember the old days where people used to beat and bang and nothing bad would come of it? I’m not saying I want people slamming into each other all the way around the track at 190 mph – we saw what happened when Edwards and Biffle did that – but the amount of punctures seems like an awfully strong coincidence to me.

Did You Notice? In the wake of Patrick Carpentier’s firing, Reed Sorenson didn’t move over to the No. 10 car before the end of the ’08 season? Even though he’s hired to drive the car full-time in ’09, GEM has hired a combination of Mike Wallace and AJ Allmendinger to finish out the year instead.

While this is a big boost to Allmendinger’s chances to get a ride for next year – the equipment’s top-10 capable at certain tracks – why isn’t Sorenson getting a head start on ’09? This could be a sign of some of the bitterness remaining between Sorenson and Chip Ganassi. Think Chip and Felix Sabates are going to let Reed out of his contract early – benefiting a rival Dodge team – after the bad blood between the two boiled over midsummer?

That sucks, because releasing Sorenson and putting a Jeremy Mayfield in the car for the final five races would make perfect sense for both sides. While Mayfield would have his shot to prove he’s the right guy to drive the No. 41 car, Sorenson could get a head start on his career with GEM.

Here’s another thing: what if Allmendinger has an A+ performance in the No. 10 car over the final five races? Could he be signed by GEM to drive a fourth car if they don’t merge with someone? All very interesting stuff. Oh, and about that GEM to Toyota rumor… what do both Wallace and Allmendinger drive (or used to drive) on a regular basis? I’ll give you a hint… it ain’t Chevys.

Did You Notice? In the wake of Carpentier’s firing, only two rookies are left with a full-time job… Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish is also the only open-wheel convert left of the four that applied for ROTY to start the season: Carpentier, Dario Franchitti and Jacques Villeneuve were the other three.

Is there any more evidence needed to show the open-wheel craze is over? Let’s put it this way: enjoy Scott Speed, because he’s the last one coming up the pipe for a long time to come. Unless, that is, someone’s willing to write Danica Patrick a check she simply can’t refuse.

Did You Notice? Three years after leaving DEI to start his own team – a move deadpanned by many – Michael Waltrip may have more fully-funded cars in 2009 than the team he left behind?

You gotta wonder what Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s thinking from the grave.

Did You Notice? Smith got robbed? Nah, NASCAR didn’t seem to either.

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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