Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Trucks, Catch Cans & Racing in Kentucky

A few random thoughts while running through the DVR’d version of last Sunday’s LifeLock 400 from Michigan just prior to jumping up and down like a maniac on the white-flag lap:

  • A “Through the Field” segment is not a “through the field” segment when you only run through the top 10, TNT. I’m just clarifying.
  • To its credit, though, it was refreshing to see TNT recognize the fact that start ‘n’ parkers actually exist and they’re not just some figment like unicorns, garden gnomes and reliable Goodyears. Yes, there is an elephant in the room… do you guys see it, too?
  • People wonder why the media (and the fanbase itself) complain about the entertainment value at tracks like Chicago, California and the like but not at venues like Michigan, which share many characteristics. For the answer, I call three- and four-wide racing to the stand. I guess the double-file restarts don’t hurt, either, although I do not find myself 100% sold on the effectiveness of the new procedure at every track. We’ll see soon enough, right?
  • The No. 12 car provided the event’s only accident? And it was a single-car spin? “Paging Justin Allgaier. Allgaier to Mr. Penske’s office.”
  • Whatever happened to letting the tires cool off while in a heated battle for the lead? It used to be a utilized method for making that one final run.
  • If the No. 48 team is already clicking on all cylinders – if their notes are already this close to spot-on – they’re going to be even nastier come Chase time than usual.
  • Funny how you don’t hear people talking about a “fluke win” – or even complaining about the fact we watched a fuel-mileage duel – when it’s a veteran like Mark Martin that plays the game correctly and cashes in as a result.
  • And finally, when it shows up, that Wood Brothers Motorcraft Ford is still the best-looking car on the track. Clean. Classy. It’s what a racecar should look like.

Q: Because of the Pocono rain delay, SPEED is replaying the Truck race at Dover. Ron Hornaday blew a right front early, and the team went to work and got the truck back out and gathered an 11th-place finish. Dover was a tripleheader weekend with all three series competing. The Truck Series has a new rule in place this year how many team members can come to the racetrack.

Last year at Phoenix, Hornaday spun his truck on the first lap of the race and was in the hunt for the championship. Jack Roush freed some of his team members to help the KHI Chevy get back in the race. The last thing Jack wanted to see was Toyota get a free shot at the championship (which they won anyways).

KHI had the No. 33 Nationwide team compete earlier in the day at Dover. Could KHI’s Nationwide team help the CWTS team in getting that truck turned around and back on track? Or would that be seen as a violation of the CWTS rules? – Doug Scholl, Ramona, Calif.

A: The rule amended by NASCAR for the Truck Series just before the start of the season stated that only five over-the-wall crewmen would be allowed to service the truck during pit stops. It also stated that each team would only be allowed a maximum of 12 team members at the track (including the crew chief, driver and spotter). These steps (among others) were taken to control costs.

The unintended consequence of the rule is that Truck teams must now have members who are multi-functional. There is no longer a guy that’s just the hauler driver or just a mechanic. It’s now a matter of one man (or woman) filling the role of hauler driver, engine tuner and spotter at the track.

As to your question, which basically refers to Team A coming to Team B’s aid in the garage area, I think technically it’s against the rules. However, we’ve seen since the birth of this sport that a buddy is always willing to lend a helping hand. Will NASCAR slap you on the wrist for it? Maybe, but it would be more of a, “Hey, you can’t help him with this,” –type thing.

Q: Why does the catch can man shake the empty gas can during a pit stop? I was watching last weekend, suddenly realized that it had never been explained on the broadcasts and, honestly, I couldn’t figure out why. Thanks! – Chris Baughman, Simpsonville, Ky.

A: I think he’s just trying to get some TV time.

Seriously, the catch can man is simply telling the jackman (and the crew chief who typically sits atop the war wagon) that the gas tank is full. Once the tires are changed and the tank is stuffed, the jackman can drop the jack and she squeals away.

Q: There has been talk lately – and especially since Bruton [Smith] bought Kentucky [Speedway] – that it will get a Cup date. It doesn’t seem like it will happen next year, but what Bruton wants, he usually gets.

Is Bruton sure we need another 1.5-mile track? Wouldn’t Iowa [Speedway] be better? It certainly would add more diversity! And where do you think the Kentucky date will come from? Thank you, Matt! – Linda Wells

A: I’d love to see Iowa awarded a Cup date. It’s as close to Richmond – a track widely considered to be damn near perfect – as anything we’ve seen in the past… wow, I don’t know, two decades? Three?

Problem is, Bruton Smith bought Kentucky, not Iowa, and Bruton doesn’t buy racetracks to stage Nationwide and Truck races. If he’s forking out the cash, he’s getting his Cup race.

See also
Full Throttle: Kentucky Speedway Acquisition Just Doesn’t Add Up

Kentucky sits 66,000 in the grandstand and Smith says he’s ready to expand that by 50 Gs. And at the end of the day, I don’t know that Bruton particularly cares what the configuration of a race course is – he’s a businessman that sees potential in a product. Of course, Bruton also knows how to do it up right, so when (not if) Kentucky gets that date, I’m sure he’ll have plenty of surprises up his sleeve – think “Neon Garage” at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

And as to where Kentucky’s date will come from? Bruton says unequivocally that he’ll transfer a race from an existing SMI venue… unless ISC would like to donate. My guess? Loudon. But that’s only a guess; there’s going to be a schedule shakeup this year, which may or may not determine which SMI date gets clubbed over the head and drug out of town.

By the way, Marcos Ambrose shocks the world this weekend. Book it.

About the author

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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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