Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: Looking Back at Talladega

First off this week, let me voice my thanks to all those who had comments on
last week’s column, which dealt mostly with the accident which took Dan
’s life. All of them were appreciated and it is important to hear everyone’s opinion on this kind of situation.

I was particularly glad to hear from Kyle Eaton, who I remember as a member of one of the best medical and rescue teams I’ve ever worked with at Indianapolis
Raceway Park. Eaton was also pretty good at race control on the road course.

I replied by email to one of last week’s comments, by John Culbert Jr., and he said by return email,

“Well y’know, it just seems bizarre to me that NASCAR simply won’t ‘go there.’ In any other form of racing, when the cars get ‘too fast’ they take power away through a rules package. Only rarely are plates used (and when they are, it’s in road racing, where it doesn’t really affect how the car drives). When the Truck class I race in was getting close to Super Stock lap times (the next division up at the track), they made it simple … more weight, lower rev limiter, smaller cam.”

John, as I told you, I feel like you’re right. That kind of resolution leads to more work on the part of the engine builders, not just slapping a plate on the manifold. I’ve always felt like that’s what the top level of racing in any form is about, getting the most speed possible under the rules as they exist at the time.

The restrictor plate has led to pack racing and now to what looks like the chain racing done on short tracks. It’s more fun there, with the engine and transmission taken out of the trailing car, and the brakes disabled on the lead car.

Let’s face it, any type of “spec” racing leads to more tightly packed fields. And that’s usually the intent of it. As far as NASCAR is concerned, a friend of mine and longtime observer of all types of racing, Frank Scott of Louisville, states, “They’ve neutered the sport.”

Donnie Krejci of Houston wants to know, “Is there going to be a Nationwide race at Rockingham, or just the trucks?”

Donnie, there’s no race at Rockingham on the Nationwide schedule, which was just released.

Jean W. in southern California says,

“We are curious about the race just finished at Talladega. From beginning to end, the car No. 55, driven by JJ Yeley, was able to run in next to last place after starting from 28th spot, at least according to the running bar at the top of our screen that lists positions of each car during the race. How is it possible to not change one’s position, when accidents, pit stops, etc., happen? I know it isn’t an important, Chase-involved question, but we would really like to know its answer.”

That one had me for a minute, Jean, until I looked at the final result sheets. Kevin Conway was the first car out of the race after two laps and Yeley was the second car out, after three laps. From then on, no amount of accidents, pit stops, etc. was going to change those spots. I think it’s extremely probable that both were start-and-parkers.

For the record, I don’t like the start-and-park philosophy either, but as long as they’re paying enough for the last positions to make it profitable to do so, people are going to do it. I recall Jeff Green saying he didn’t want to do it, but it pays well.

I can remember back in the early 1960s at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in
Louisville when a couple of friends of mine used to bring out a non-competitive car and qualify for the late model feature, run until they got lapped and pull off. When they stopped bringing it, I asked one of them why, and he said, “They started getting more than 24 cars and they don’t pay tow money.”

At that time, last place in the feature paid about $50, but in those days that was extra beer money for these guys who had hardly anything invested, didn’t buy
tires and probably ran on the same tank of fuel all the time they were doing it.

Al Morris wants to know,

“What was the deal with Fords only being able to run with Fords [at Talladega]? It cost the No. 24 several spots, but I am sure he was not the only one. Is NASCAR turning into Formula 1 where you are told where to finish within your team? Jack Roush was very adamant about his drivers not running with other teams. This seems to defeat the purpose of racing … you race to win and race with anyone that can help you do that.

I would hate to see NASCAR ruin what little real racing we have left. Guess I can always quit watching and attending if they do!”

There’s not much you can do about this, Al, and in the middle of this week, Jack Roush denied that he had given any such orders. He admitted that as a team
owner he’d like to have all his cars help each other, but said the drivers were on their own.

My understanding from the beginning of the telecast on Sunday (Oct. 23) was that the order (or a strongly worded suggestion) came from Ford Racing, not from Roush.

To be frank, I’ve been wondering how long it was going to take for something
like this to surface for some time – like all the way back to the Daytona 500 when Jeff Gordon pushed Trevor Bayne to the checkered flag. It seems that the favor wasn’t returned.

I know Bayne apologized to Jeff on the radio, but he could always say that he was apologizing because he found a better dance partner and took advantage of it.

Speaking of dancing (or drafting) partners, I recall Darel Dieringer, in an orientation meeting for ARCA drivers at Daytona in the middle ’60s, saying, “If you get behind somebody who is up the banking, then down the banking and all over the place, drop him and go find somebody else.”

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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