Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Treat the Disease, Bayne’s Bad Luck & What Busch Did/Didn’t Do

ONE: Appeals Are the Wrong Target for Discussion

Even after Smoke exorcised his Las Vegas demons this past Sunday (March 11), it’s the 2010 champion rather than the defending title holder that’s making all the headlines. After all, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team’s appeal of their C-post penalty from Speedweeks gets heard today.

As you might expect, speculation is running wild as to what precedent says; will the penalty get reduced or a suspension repealed? Most people in the know aren’t betting on it. Kyle Petty laid down a scathing review of the NASCAR appeals process prior to the green flag Sunday, while owner Rick Hendrick emphatically said, “I don’t agree with any of it.”

But these criticisms are all wasted ink and an unnecessary storyline for both the sport and the sanctioning body. Why? It’s simple, really … the offending car never took to the track. It never took a position, it never won a race, it never even turned a lap. Yet the No. 48 team stands to lose multiple personnel, points and cash all over NASCAR’s constricting templates not being able to constrain the automotive know-how of stock car racing’s brightest.

Enough with appeals processes, enough with precedents, enough with trying to apply the rule of law to a sport that was built on and thrived on lawbreaking. Here’s a simple fix for you. If it’s caught before taking to the track, it fails inspection. If it gets caught after qualifying, DNQ the team responsible. And if it gets caught after racing, take away the points and say better luck next week.

Should a team be able to find a place, like the C-post, that NASCAR didn’t write a rule to regulate, they’ve won the weekend. Amend the rulebook before the next race, and take the lickings like the sport did the night of the T-Rex.* It’s like arguing about a specific Congressional policy instead of changing an overall culture of overreaching and overindulging one’s own whims. Stop fretting over the symptoms and treat the disease.

*New fan? Google Jeff Gordon, T-Rex, 1997. That’ll get you started.

TWO: Why Isn’t Bayne in a Front Row Machine?

By now, the news is out … Trevor Bayne is not on the weekend’s entry list for the Nationwide race at Bristol, and with the Wood Brothers on the sideline for Sunday, this race weekend will be devoid of one of the home state’s biggest stars.

The issue of Bayne being parked by Roush Fenway Racing for lack of sponsorship despite there being plenty of Nationwide Series teams managing to race without dollars, week after week, has been discussed in yesterday’s Pace Laps feature.

See also
Pace Laps: Bayne's Bad Break, Sin City Sins & From Mobile to Morris

But there’s another angle to this story. With Bayne being one of Ford’s future stars, a driver they ran unsponsored through the end of the 2010 NNS just to be able to steal him from Michael Waltrip Racing’s stable, why isn’t he being pushed into the third seat at Front Row Motorsports?

David Ragan fan or not, he was not head and shoulders above all the available drivers for FRM’s No. 34 machine in 2012 … there was Ford and by extension, Roush, involvement in that signing. So now, with the No. 26 car having already traded drivers between Tony Raines and Josh Wise this year, how is it that RFR can’t find money to buy some scuffs and keep the No. 26 on track for a race instead of having Wise start-and-park?

There’s one of two things at work here. One, the Roush camp, or Bayne, are in denial about the reality of their situation and refusing to enter into an arrangement that would put seat time ahead of results. Not many drivers out there have continued their development by staying off the track.

The other? Bayne, even with his 500 win a year ago, is no longer a needed piece of the puzzle. Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards have the team’s Cup seats locked down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is now the lead prospect for the team’s development program after a stellar title win in 2011, and with Penske Racing coming on board in 2013 with both Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger, the Blue Oval’s got no shortage of youthful talent to tap.

Home for Bayne may well be somewhere else before 2012 is out.

THREE: Hey Dodge, Define “Overwhelming”

Without a single team committed to their new redesigned car for 2013, Dodge nonetheless unveiled its new Sprint Cup entry this past weekend at Las Vegas. And listening to Dodge president Roger Gilles, there’s overwhelming interest in taking over for Penske Racing as the flagship operation for the brand.

Surely, there are plenty of teams out there that are likely expressing interest. What small-time team wouldn’t like the idea of becoming the sole recipient of factory support from one of the Big Three? Problem is, none of them have an engine program, which leaves Dodge with a major hole to fill before Speedweeks 2013.

Richard Petty Motorsports has the No. 43 and would make perfect sense if speculation is any guide, but there are no powerplants coming with that deal. And if recent events are any indication, Dodge isn’t exactly looking like the place to start calling home.

For one, the major Cup player that helped build the 2013 Charger is leaving for greener pastures before ever once taking the green in it. What’s more, Dodge’s apparent inaction to support Robby Gordon’s quest for a decent engine prior to the Daytona 500 is hardly something that will go unnoticed, especially amongst the small teams that, while not Dodge’s future flagship, will be amongst the stable of rides that Dodge will have to choose from to replenish their numbers.

“Overwhelming” interest sounds a whole lot like PR at this point. Because while the Charger looks great and exclusive factory support sounds good on paper, the facts don’t line up with the potential of this deal.

FOUR: The Phantom Meltdown in Sin City

There was a quiet little rumor that made the rounds Sunday night (mentioned by our own Matt McLaughlin and on SPEED’s Wind Tunnel program) that the same Kurt Busch forced out at Penske Racing just five months ago for blowing up at a media member did the same thing following his late-race crash.

See also
Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: 2012 Las Vegas Race Recap

The details are sketchy: Dave Moody tweeted that nothing happened; Jeff Gluck said Kurt Busch threw a water bottle; Jim Utter went as far as to tweet that the infield care center folks at LVMS will not soon forget the tirade. On the other side of the media/competitor line, Busch’s girlfriend was quick to take to Twitter as well, adamantly denying any accounts of Busch’s “meltdown.”

Here’s what to take from all of this speculation, besides seeing firsthand just how Twitter and a world of 140 character snippets can make even grown men sound like first graders screaming “did not, did too” at each other. Anybody see SB Nation publish anything around the supposed meltdown? Anybody see anything published on ThatsRacin.com? Anybody see anything published in the Charlotte Observer? Hell, outside of Twitter, anyone see this incident published anywhere?

The story of Busch seemingly losing it only three races into 2012 in the same manner that cost him a big-time ride would be huge … even if he just threw a water bottle in the care center. That none of the few that bothered to Tweet about the incident in any detail or that claimed to speak to witnesses actually wrote the story says more than the tweets ever could about its significance.

FIVE: Amazing What Softer Tires Can Do

Sure, the reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway has had a couple of years of desert heat to weather the asphalt, and that does wonders to any track. But Goodyear brought a softer tire to Vegas than they had in years … and the on-track product reaped the rewards. Gone was the wreck-fest and in was a working second groove, plenty of side-by-side racing and a compelling finish.

I’m still not persuaded there’s no way to pave a track that results in asphalt which would resemble a weathered surface. But until that reality sets in, Goodyear would do well to watch the races they rely on for advertising, realize that rubber that actually gives up something makes said product better and act accordingly.

About the author

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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