Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Probation, Penalties & the New Old Bristol

What was the point of the penalty in the first place?

I’m not going to spend too much time on this because, (1) I’ve already spent too much time on it in the last two columns and (2) the topic has been covered by several on the site already. However, the overturning of almost all of the penalties issued against the No. 48 team is a big story and one that deserves at least one more mention.

After all, if Jimmie Johnson wins the championship by 20 points at the end of the season, you know exactly what everyone is going to be thinking back to.

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this column, you know I believed wholeheartedly that the penalties would stand. If anything were reduced, it would be the suspension or the fines and not the points. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, as Chad Knaus’s penalty was the only thing that did stand and the rest was overturned.

I’m not going to harp on how shady the whole thing seemed because my colleague Matt McLaughlin already went over all that, but what I do want to know is this; if what they did wasn’t deserving of a points penalty (yet somehow deserving of the fine), then why did the penalties stand when they were appealed on Tuesday (March 20)?

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After all, if literally every single official the No. 48 team ran across said the parts weren’t within NASCAR’s allowances, what did John Middlebrook see and hear that the others didn’t? I’m sure there is more to this story, but it doesn’t really matter now. NASCAR has a tendency of letting questions go unanswered, and it looks like this is going to be another one of those circumstances.

Was Bristol really boring enough for them to reverse everything by August?

I’m two for two for topics I brought up last week that wound up blowing up in my face. Last week, I talked about how fans seemed happier—or at the very least, quieter—than in years past. No one was complaining about the quality of the races, TV ratings, or attendance, though admittedly they had never had a reason to.

Then comes Bristol, a track that has lofty expectations for its races and, up until recently, was meeting them. However, a repave and reconfiguration of the track back in 2007 has left fans irritated and bored to tears by the quality of racing. One-lane racing has turned into a multi-grooved track, where the beating and banging that the Tennessee short track was known for was suddenly a thing of the past.

It wasn’t that bad though, right? Sure the new Bristol has had its snooze-inducing races, but let’s be honest; not every race on the old configuration was a classic, either.

Well according to Bruton Smith, 75% of the fans disagree and yes the racing really is that terrible. So terrible, in fact, that Smith is vowing to change the track back to the way it was before the repave in time for the series to return to the track in August.

Aren’t we being just a bit over-dramatic here? After all, I guarantee if the repave goes as planned, fans will complain if the track goes back to single-file racing. Sure, it can be that way now, but if a driver wants to attempt to make a pass, he has multiple lanes to do it. If you think passing is difficult now, wait until there is only one groove to race on. Most seem to be under the impression that they will just knock the other guy out of the way and bring back “old-school” racing.

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Are you kidding me?! You think anywhere between lap 1 and lap 495 that drivers are going to risk damaging their car or wrecking another driver for one point on the racetrack? Yes, every point counts, which means they’ll be content to ride where they are instead of risking losing five more because of a stupid move. Additionally, they aren’t going to want to piss someone off early on in the race, if at all.

Add in to the fact that the drivers are saying the tires are the issue and not the track and passing on a multi-grooved track is a challenge. There is just too much at stake and with passing at a premium now, limiting the racing groove might not be the solution that fixes everything. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m thinking this will end up being an overreaction many fans will end up regretting.

Should NASCAR have stepped in for the John Wes Townley incident?

Though it was a rather delayed reaction, NASCAR announced Thursday afternoon that Camping World Truck Series driver John Wes Townley has been placed on probation for his DUI arrest back in February. Shortly after, many wondered if NASCAR would step in since Townley was scheduled to compete for RAB Racing this season.

However, though the team suspended him, NASCAR itself never reacted and that seemed to be the end of it. Until Thursday, that is, when it was released that he was not only on probation (whatever that means), but that he would also be seeing a substance abuse specialist and subject to random alcohol and drug screening.

I’m not sure what the point of this was. First of all, anyone who has been following NASCAR long enough to see penalties issued knows that probation means virtually nothing. Plus, competitors are subject to random drug screenings anyway. The fact that he’s seeing a specialist is of little significance either since he likely would have needed to go through some sort of program before anyone even thought about letting him drive their car (or truck) anyway.

I would say that NASCAR had no reason to step in in the first place, but they really didn’t do anything at all. I guess they thought it was a slow news week?

Will Fontana continue the trend for Nationwide Series only drivers?

Though James Buescher isn’t eligible for points in the Nationwide Series, none of the four winners in the Nationwide Series this year were Cup Series drivers. The last time series-specific drivers won the first four races was back in 1995, which seems like an eternity ago with drivers like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards dominating the series for the last several seasons.

Now that it looks like these guys are finally regaining their series back, predicting the races and acting like I know a damn thing about what will happen is more fun. Aside from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler, I have three other drivers I think you need to keep an eye on: Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier and Austin Dillon.

Why? If he can get enough funding, Bayne will be strong all season long just as he would have been last year; Allgaier has proven time and again he’s capable of contending with and beating the Cup Series regulars, let alone his fellow competitors; and Dillon has enough raw talent to pick up on these cars well before the end of the season.

Hang on, folks! This could be a great season.

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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