Race Weekend Central

Mirror Driving: NASCAR Stuck In A Box… Have We Reached Maximum Speed?

Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Wednesday, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news, rumors, and controversy. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This Week’s Participants:

Amy Henderson (Mondays / The Big Six & Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel & Frontstretch Co-Managing Editor)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)

NASCAR has announced the penalties for three teams following last week’s pre- and post-race failures. Martin Truex Jr. was fined six points and crew chief Chad Johnston was $25,000 and placed on probation until June 5th. Meanwhile, Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were each docked 25 points and both of their crew chiefs were suspended for the next six races, though they will be in Kansas as Penske Racing is appealing. Are these penalties fair? Why or why not?

Amy: The Truex penalty was fair, provided they couldn’t prove something broke. If the rear ends on the 2 and 22 were illegal, the penalty is fine.  But NASCAR has not said what was illegal, or how it was discovered, so we’ll never really know.
Summer: I guess all the penalties were “fair”, though I think it’s ridiculous how sensitive NASCAR is with these cars. Let me put it this way. I thought the points penalty and fine were OK, but the fact that they suspended as many people as they did with Penske seemed excessive.
Phil: For what Truex’s crew did, I suppose it’s OK.  Breakage does happen.  However, there isn’t much of a track record of being able to get penalties dropped due to breakage. As for the Penske penalties; no, I’m not surprised.  They said on RaceHub Tuesday that they would be severe.  They’re every bit of that. I always assumed that they were going to police the Gen-6 to the same level as the COT.  As a result, I’m not surprised.
Summer: I’m not surprised either, Phil, but it’s rather ridiculous. Some things will be wrong with the car and some teams will try and find an advantage. It’s not an insult to their hard work or money. While it’s an insult to other teams that they tried to cheat, I just don’t think that all of the suspensions were necessary. Oh, and by the way, they won’t win that appeal. No freaking way.
Amy: If it goes to Middlebrook, I’m not so sure. Here’s the thing with this penalty; the rules on the rear end housing and how it’s to be mounted and attached are very specific. As a result, those parts are required to be presented for approval before they’re used. If Penske didn’t do that, then well, it’s their fault.
Phil: Yes, I wouldn’t press my luck on running anything that the R&D Center hasn’t looked at.
Summer: I’m more interested in the fact that the HMS guys ratted them out.
Phil: Did they really rat them out?  If so, it’s probably sour grapes from last year.  Bunch of sore losers.
Amy: That’s the biggest non-story in the whole thing, Summer.  If anyone thinks other teams haven’t scrutinized and called NASCAR’s attention to other teams since the dawn of time has their head in…um, the sand. It happens all the time, and always has.
Summer: I agree with Amy. I can’t imagine that doesn’t happen regularly.
Phil: Yeah, we just don’t hear about it because it never results in anything like this.
Amy: Usually, it comes in the form of one team asking an official, “hey, that piece, we’re allowed to do that?”
Summer: Well, I think you also have the fact that these are two popular and championship caliber teams. Though, even then, I have a hard time believing this isn’t more commonplace. I don’t get why it was breaking news, to be honest.
Amy: And you know what?  That’s good for the sport.  It makes it self-policing… someone is going to see if you try to pull something.
Summer: I guess I don’t see it as a bad thing, though being a snitch isn’t exactly a positive. Anyway, as far as the penalties…. I guess they are consistent with past ones, though I feel like NASCAR is taking this stuff personally when they shouldn’t.
Phil: True.  But, they’ll always take it personally.  Ever since 2007, NASCAR has taken more ownership of the cars than ever before.  There is so more more control on NASCAR’s part than when we still had the “Gen4”.
Amy: If the pieces were illegal, everyone got what they deserve.  And it’s pretty hypocritical to call one team out for doing something and then turn around and do it yourself.
Summer: Ooh yeah, I forgot about that Amy. Keselowski was complaining about them … was it last year?
Amy: Yes, Kes was VERY vocal about teams skewing the rear end, even though, at the time, it was legal what they were doing.  Basically, the suspension would reseat in the turns.  That’s why the new rules were created in the first place. I will say this much on Penske’s behalf; I’d really like to know exactly how the parts were in violation and the advantage they gained.

This weekend, fans attending Kansas Speedway will notice tighter security as aresult of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Is this necessary and how long should it last?

Summer: I guess I “get it”, but gosh …. I can’t imagine lightning striking twice in one week.
Amy: I think it is necessary, to be honest.  And it needs to last indefinitely. Security at some tracks is pretty lax; anyone could walk in with a gun in the pocket, or a backpack and shoot people.
Summer: I don’t know, Amy. Do we really need to be scouring every fannypack with a fine-toothed comb for every fan, media member, etc.? There has to be a better way.
Phil: Kansas Speedway describes the changes as pretty minor.  I guess they’ll be looking through coolers more.
Amy: Or with an explosive or whatever. The checks aren’t as thorough as they were post-9/11.

Phil: It won’t be anywhere near as bad as the Prudential Center when it opened in 2007.  They made you empty your pockets, wanded you and (if you had one), searched your purse.

Summer: Like I said … I get it, it’s just hard to imagine a bombing happening like that again. Should they be more thorough? Well, yeah, but telling fans to expect longer lines or wait times doesn’t seem like it makes much sense either.
Amy: Can you prevent everything?  No.  But could you be better about security in general?  Yes.
Summer: Well, I definitely think security should be generally better. But when you’re telling people to expect delays while simultaneously saying the changes are minimal, you’re sending mixed messages.
Amy: It makes perfect sense, Summer.  If people know about it, they can plan accordingly.  And if they don’t, well, they shouldn’t complain. It does make sense, though.  It’s a minimal change to actually inspect bags thoroughly since they purport to check bags already.  I’ve had security people who were supposed to check bags ask me what was in it and never even look inside. But doing it right would take more time.
Summer: I guess I have mixed feelings on it. More than anything, I hate that it has to be done at all. I hate that 99% of people have to be inconvenienced for the actions of a very tiny percentage.
Phil: It’s beyond stupid that there are people out there that do anything to require this stuff.  Do they wand people at races?  It’s been three years since I’ve been in the grandstands at a major race and don’t recall ever seeing it.
Summer: Yeah, I watch people go into the track anytime I’m in a press box. I’ve never seen that and I hope I never do. I’d hate to see racetracks and other sporting venues become like airports. If you think attendance is bad now…
Amy: I’d hate to think that real fans wouldn’t come out because of a few minutes’ inconvenience.
Phil: In New York, it’s a requirement to enter any arena or stadium and has been since 2001.  They don’t make you empty your pockets anymore, though.  Bag checks are mandatory.
Summer: That seems a little excessive, though I guess if it makes people safe.
Amy: Some venues I’ve been to have metal detectors.  Not sure if I think they’re necessary or not.  Maybe dogs, though.
Summer: Gosh, it’s kind of a hard topic. You don’t want to make things harder than they need to be, but you don’t want to be a target either.
Phil: It is, and you can’t do anything about it.  You object, you can’t get in. Also, these security dudes are typically not very friendly.
Amy: I will say this much.  I lived in Boston.  I walked all around the city, at just about any hour the T was still running, and I never once felt unsafe. Now, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that way there again.  And that makes me so sad and so angry.  Given that, if a few extra minutes can prevent people from feeling that way at their favorite track, then it would be worth it
Phil: Haven’t been to Boston since 2000.  Was going next month to audition for a game show, but the audition just got cancelled. You know, it’s sad that we have to discuss this.
Summer: I agree Phil. I hate that it’s even an issue at all. We should feel safe when going to sporting events, or anywhere for that matter.

Kansas should experience record speeds as a result of the Gen-6 car. But, as we saw at Texas more speed doesn’t always mean more success. Should NASCAR do something to slow the cars down at these higher speed, intermediate ovals?

Amy: Yes, they certainly should.  Why? Because if it was done right, the racing would be better.
Summer: I agree. Slower speeds generally mean better racing. And safer, since we’re on the subject of safety.
Amy: There are safety issues with the higher speeds as well, but slowing them by taking away downforce and stability would make the racing better.
Summer: Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to hear “New track record!” every week, but it’s not good for anything other than qualifying. I’d rather watch racing for the quality than the speed. I think even casual fans would go with that.
Phil: I don’t even think slower speeds would do anything.  You’d just have a slower version of what we already.
Amy: It’s all in how you slow them, Phil.  Simply cutting power wouldn’t do anything, but take away grip and downforce… it would make for better racing.
Phil: Wouldn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of the Gen-6 car?  We’re only seven races in.
Summer: I guess we can give it a year, but I don’t think NASCAR should be close-minded to improvements.
Amy: Again, depends on how you do it.  Lose the front valence/splitter.  Cars look more like street cars. NASCAR is always closed-minded to improvements unless the improvements line their pockets.
Summer: Yep. Just ask Denny Hamlin. Though his suggestions technically did line their pockets.
Phil: Heck, high performance versions of street cars actually have something resembling splitters now.  However, they’re not typically like what the Cup cars have.
Summer: Here’s a suggestion. Let us break all these track records and then slow them down. You get the publicity and then we can get the racing. For in the long run, slower speeds is better. I do hope this is something they are looking at.
Phil: It almost depends on the track as to what kind of racing you’re going to see with the Gen-6. Seems to like older tracks better.
Amy: Everyone likes older tracks better. Drivers were raving about Rockingham this weekend. And that track is bumpy as heck. I rode around in the pace car with James Buescher, and he was saying how slick and old it is… and how much he likes that.

Hornaday Jr.’s move at Rockingham Speedway was controversial, to say the least, and the same move got Kyle Busch suspended a few years ago … when he did the same thing to Hornaday! While Hornaday was docked 25 points and fined $25,000, his penalty wasn’t nearly as severe as it was for Busch. Which one was the right call?

Phil: Hornaday’s move was bush league. Even he admitted that it was stupid afterwards.
Summer: I think they were both the right call. Sometimes you have to do things like that on a case-by-case basis.
Amy: I totally disagree, Summer. Since precedent has been set, Hornaday should have been immediately parked. They were the exact same move.
Phil: Parked and docked 25 points, or just parked?
Amy: Parked for the rest of that race and this week’s. That would be the same as Kyle Busch got… and Kevin Harvick.
Summer: It was the same move. But Busch had been erratic up to that point in past races. Hornaday hadn’t.
Amy: And you can’t say it’s because Busch couldn’t earn points, because when Harvick was parked, he could. Hornaday can dish stuff out but can’t always take it.
Phil: Harvick actually got a warning before he spun out Coy Gibbs. Then, he got the aforementioned punishment. I don’t recall Hornaday getting a warning.
Amy: NASCAR made absolutely the right call with Kyle Busch and absolutely the worng one with Hornaday.
Summer: That’s what I’m saying. They kind of set themselves up for it.
Amy: You can’t argue championship implications, either. This could have them, too, or at least ROTY implications.
Summer: I’m not arguing championship implications. I don’t care about that either.
Phil: Yeah, Darrell Wallace, Jr. was doing great on Sunday before he got dumped. The penalty dropped Hornaday right out of the top 10, but it’s still early.
Amy: There is no excuse, ever, to deliberate wreck someone under caution. It should be penalized the same regardless of who does it and who’s on the receiving end. NASCAR shouldn’t have to warn drivers not to wreck each other under caution any more than you should have to be told not to use a blow dryer in the bathtub.
Phil: Yeah, but we still have warnings attached to cords.
Summer: No, they shouldn’t but sometimes heat of the moment stuff happens.
Amy: And if it does, they should be parked, Summer. If you ignore common sense, or prior incidents in NASCAR, you deserve what you get.
Summer: Not if it’s not a normal thing with the driver. For Busch and Harvick, it was.
Amy: Hornaday isn’t exactly a perfect citizen.
Summer: No, but it’s not like he dumps people regularly anyway. Not recently, especially. No. No way. Sometimes, you have to send a message to drivers who are out of control. Even Hornaday said he was stupid to do it.
Phil: Yeah, but I can’t remember him having a track record of dumping people under yellow.
Amy: If it was someone who went to great pains to drive clean every lap of every race, say a Dale Jr. or a Mark Martin, it wouldn’t matter if they lost their head…they should still be parked. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done in the past…intentionally wrecking someone under caution by turning them into the wall is stupid and dangerous and there is no place for it in the sport. You can send a message without putting a guy in the wall.
Summer: I think the penalty was more than fair. If it happens again, then park him.
Phil: I don’t even think Wallace did anything wrong. Hornaday needed to keep his underwear unbunched and just talk it out with Wallace after the race. But no, he had to be a moron. Now, NASCAR had to get involved.

Predictions for Kansas?

Summer: I think Kyle Busch wins two in a row.
Amy: Jimmie Johnson.
Phil: I’m going with Martin Truex, Jr. This schnide can’t last forever.

Connect with Amy!

Contact Amy Henderson

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

Connect with Phil!

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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