Race Weekend Central

Side by Side: Should Jimmie Johnson’s 2008 Indy Win Have an Asterisk?

Editor’s Note: The following is a special edition of Frontstretch’s Side by Side. Occasionally throughout the season, two of your favorite Frontstretch writers will duke it out in a debate concerning one of NASCAR’s biggest stories. Don’t let us be the only ones to speak our minds, though… be sure to read both sides and let us know what you think about the situation in the comment section below!

Today’s Question: Given NASCAR’s tire debacle in last year’s Brickyard 400, should Jimmie Johnson‘s win have an asterisk by it in the record book?

Asterisk, My… Uh, Foot

The asterisk. It’s a pretty symbol, sitting there on the computer keyboard, just above the 8. It looks like a little flower, or maybe a star, or an x doing cartwheels because it’s so happy. It’s all girly and dreamy and stuff.

Insidious little bastard.

The asterisk isn’t quite the innocent little symbol that it looks like. It is defined as “a small starlike symbol (*), used in writing and printing as a reference mark or to indicate omission, doubtful matter, etc.” It is occasionally used in the sports record books – Roger Maris had one next to his home run total for years after he surpassed Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record because Maris enjoyed a longer season than Ruth had. That asterisk was the subject of a hot debate for years – a warning of just how much controversy a symbol can create.

NASCAR has managed to avoid the asterisk over the years, but now some would like to see one added to the 2008 version of one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The reason The Symbol has been suggested is that the finishing order rundown doesn’t exactly tell the story of the race – a debacle where NASCAR threw a caution flag about every 10 laps as tires failed left and right.

See also
Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2008 Brickyard 400 Race Recap

Everybody had to pit under every caution because the tires were so bad. There was little, if any passing on the racetrack because nobody could push the cars to their limits as the tires met their limit much sooner. Johnson took the checkers and kissed the bricks by virtue of a great last pit stop and dash to the finish.

Enter the asterisk. Some would like to see one beside Johnson’s name from here to eternity because of the tire debacle. The race wasn’t a real contest, nobody could race on the tires, it wasn’t fair. So toss an asterisk in the record books!

That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Johnson won the race, under circumstances every team was facing, by getting off pit road first on the last caution. How many times a year does a team win by getting off pit road first at the right time? More than that one. The team made the situation work better for them than anyone else that day, making it pretty much just like… every other NASCAR race without a weird tire issue.

The bigger problem is, that if NASCAR puts an asterisk next to that race because of unusual circumstances, how many other races will need one, too, because the drivers didn’t get to race for it, or there were circumstances surrounding the win. What about situations like Las Vegas in 2008, where the race winner failed post-race inspection for an infraction that could well have given a significant competitive advantage? If anything, those races are more deserving of an asterisk, because they were won by less than legal tactics. But there has been little call for this.

And what of the situations that can arise every week that can mean the drivers can’t really race for the win – rain-shortened races and races that end under caution? It’s not really different than what-happened at Indianapolis last year. Should David Reutimann and Joey Logano forever have an asterisk beside their first Cup wins because of circumstances completely beyond their control, and where their pit strategy grabbed wins they would not likely have otherwise seen?

Should Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona 500 victory be marked by The Symbol because the final laps were run under caution, and well, those other guys never had a chance to race him for the win?

Be careful what you wish for.

With the asterisk comes the connotation that the win was “not as good” as a race won the old-fashioned way; under green. A win is a win and doesn’t deserve The Symbol unless it was gained by illegal means. This was not the case at Indianapolis last summer. While most race fans will agree that Goodyear’s lack of preparation should have been a crime, it wasn’t. No team had a competitive advantage, and the race winner had the best pit stop when it counted.

Sure, it was an incredibly disappointing race – frankly, it sucked. But that wasn’t the race winner’s fault. He simply raced under the same conditions as everybody else and crossed the finish line first. You can’t throw The Symbol on the results page simply because it was a crappy race. If you did, every winner at Fontana would have to have one.

An asterisk next to a winner’s name shouldn’t ever happen because the race was terrible and drivers couldn’t race to the checkers like we all want to see every week. With it’s negative connotation, it should be reserved for those who take the win by less-than-legal means, not for those who take honest advantage of a less-than-ideal situation and grab a win. Anyone could have won Indy by winning the race off pit road last year. Johnson did.

Crappy race? Yes. But an asterisk? Nope. Not by a long shot, because it opens up a can of worms that not even NASCAR wants (or needs) to touch and has the potential to leave the record books dotted with that rotten little symbol – and that wouldn’t be pretty at all. – Amy Henderson

YES! There Should Be an Asterisk Next to Johnson’s ’08 Brickyard Win

Amy, you ignorant sl……nah, just kidding! What I meant to say is, Amy is a huge Johnson fan; of course she doesn’t want an asterisk by his win! All kidding aside, in most instances I would agree with Amy. This, however, is a special case.

To set the record straight, I am not a huge fan of the asterisk for a couple of reasons. First of all, when you see an asterisk, you then have to break your train of thought and search for the second asterisk, hopefully at the bottom of the page you are reading (if the editors remembered to put it in at all to find the meaning of the first one).

The second reason is that, if you put an asterisk by one race for something, people will be clamoring for asterisks for all sorts of things such as “* race was run on the second Monday of the month which is traditionally (insert winner’s name here) best day to race according to his horoscope.” Last year’s debacle at Indy is a special case, however. The short and simple reason that I believe there SHOULD be an asterisk is because NASCAR controlled the ENTIRE race.

Before all you folks out there start whining about rain-shortened races and whatnot, let me assure you, I do not think an asterisk should be attached to those. Rain-shortened races are just as legitimate a win as a race run the full length. Last year’s Brickyard race COULD have been a legitimate race IF NASCAR had handled the situation differently. Unfortunately, they did not, thus warranting an asterisk. What NASCAR should have done with that race is simple – as I will explain.

First of all, NASCAR officials knew going in that the tires were going to be a problem, thus the reason for the first scheduled “competition” caution. So far so good, and being the gracious chap that I am, I will even go so far as to give NASCAR the second scheduled stop, but that is as far as I am willing to go. From the second competition caution on out, NASCAR dropped the ball, BIG TIME!

After the second scheduled stop, NASCAR had all the information that it needed. It was obvious that the tires would only last so many laps! How many times did they need to know that? After the second NASCAR scheduled caution, the officials should have told all the teams – “well, there ya have it. You’ve ALL had a chance to see how the tires are reacting, now it is up to you to deal with it!”

If NASCAR had done that, all the teams would have been on equal ground, much the same as they are when there is approaching weather that threatens to shorten a race after the halfway point. Does NASCAR stop the race every 10 minutes to make sure all the teams are aware that rain is approaching? No, they do not.

In this case, NASCAR chose to act as an overprotective mother and assume that the teams were unable to make their own call as to when to get tires, even after NASCAR demonstrated the limitations of said tires in no uncertain terms.

If NASCAR is going to schedule the cautions during an entire race, taking the decision making process away from the teams, where is the competition in that? At least with a rain-shortened race, EVERY team is on the same level and can decide if they want to gamble or not. They could have done the same with tires.

Before y’all start yelling about safety and how we are talking about tires that could blow out and kill someone, let me remind you – these guys are professionals, they make that decision all the time! Think about it; with the product that Goodyear has been bringing to the game the last couple of years, it’s not often that a tire will outlast a tank of gas anyway!

Yes, there should be an asterisk by Johnson’s win last year at the Brickyard that reads *

*NASCAR-sanctioned tire testing event.

It sure as heck wasn’t a “race!!!” – Jeff Meyer

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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