Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: How to Flag the Leader & Possible Short-Track Expansion?

A reader named Willis wants to know what my take is on the Matt Kenseth/Brad Keselowski restart situation at Bristol. “As a former flagman, what do you think, and what would you have done?” he asks.

This issue is actually a pretty common one on short tracks. What I mean is, a leader will try to hold the pace-lap speed as long as possible, figuring he or she has a better chance to pull away on the restart. As a matter of fact, it was a bone of contention for a while in sprint car racing in the early ’60s.

The just-arrived, small block Chevy-powered cars had better, low-end acceleration. I can remember on the banked half-mile paved tracks, if a Chevy was on the pole, he’d come off slow. If it was an Offy, look for a fast start.

Personally, I liked relatively fast starts. I think they’re usually safer, without the varying degrees of acceleration involved. That frequently causes some contact, which often leads to some hairy situations in the first turn.

In driver meetings, I would usually tell them I wanted a smooth, accelerating field, and it was up to both front-row drivers to keep it even. I didn’t want the pole car pulling out too far in front and I didn’t want the outside car jumping the pole car.

I’d give them two shots at it, going with the green and then turning the yellow light on as they came out of the second turn to call it off and try again. After that, I was usually going with the attitude that I’d given them two chances to protect their position, and the next time we were going racing unless it was a really bad lineup.

I realize this kind of thing probably won’t work with NASCAR, where they just decide on their own whether to invoke a penalty. But I still liked my way.

Andy asks, “What was the last “stock-bodied” car, with the correct drive wheels, to win a Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup race?” The Luminas were front-wheel drive, so I’m thinking it had to be a Thunderbird.

I was at a bit of a loss, so I called on our panel of experts here at Frontstretch. Our own Vito Pugliese chimed in on the topic and provided some history. In his response below, he says there are varying degrees as to what would constitute a “stock-bodied” car in the modern era.

The Luminas and Thunderbirds of the early 1990s you mentioned had to use a stock hood, deck lid and rearview mirror – the later was relaxed in the early ’90s, however, due to safety considerations. The cars themselves had been essentially custom pieces since the advent of the smaller-generation cars in 1981, but even the land yachts of the late 1970s had a lot of work done and were not using stock suspensions.

The last batch of true stock cars were the “body-in-white” cars that teams purchased from the factories in the 1960s and early ’70s to make racecars out of for NASCAR, NHRA and the SCCA Trans-Am series. The last car to have any real “stock” pieces on it were the 1986-1987 model year Monte Carlo SS Aero Coupe and Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2s, which NASCAR mandated a minimum run of 200 examples each for their nose and rear window caps to be used.

That was similar to the 500 unit requirement for the winged 1969 Dodge Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Superbird, as well as Ford’s BOSS 429 semi-hemi engine offered for public consumption in 1969 and 1970.

A couple of weeks back, my colleague Mike Neff voiced the opinion that NASCAR should consider expanding the schedule to include more tracks, running some on weeknights during the spring and summer. He admitted it was something of a pipe dream, telling me, “NASCAR would have to actually spend some of their own money to make it happen, and they never will. It is great to dream, though.”

See also
Full Throttle: Unintended Primetime Test Could Open Up the Schedule

I felt it could take us back to the days when they ran 50 races a year, the realization of Driven to the Past.

I happened to think of something ironic. They went to the smaller schedule after Winston became the sponsor. If I recall correctly, at first Winston only wanted to sponsor races over a certain distance, then they later eliminated the dirt tracks and shortened the schedule.

Maybe now that they’ve become shorter on sponsors, going back to the bigger schedule might make sense … and I’m not sure they’d have to spend too much of their own money. Short tracks with enough seating capacity to make it work would probably be happy to try it.

For example, it wouldn’t work for us at Corbin Speedway because we don’t have enough seats. Oh, we could try, but to pay the sanctioning fee and the purse we’d have to charge something like $3,000 a seat.

NASCAR is popular, but not that popular. Also, I believe on the really short tracks you’d have to shorten the field. Mike also pointed out that if they were going to award the same points, they’d have to have the same size field.

And, like he said, this idea is all hypothetical, anyway.

I can remember at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, when we had 36 cars out there. It started as a quarter-mile and was expanded to a one-third mile track. If we had an early caution flag, I didn’t have a whole lot of room between the last car in line and the leader to drop the flag when we went back to green. I told everybody in the drivers’ meeting to keep an eye on the lights if they weren’t up near the front and to be ready when the yellow went out.

Also, when the yellow first came out for an early caution, it was sometimes a real adventure for the pace car driver to get between the last car and the leader.

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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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