Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Bubbles and Troubles and Brouhahas
What a week this has been in NASCAR. In New Hampshire, Jeff Gordon was crowned the sport's new Iron Man, breaking Ricky Rudd's old record with 789 consecutive starts. NASCAR talks frequently of amazing stats and there really are a lot of them but 789 consecutive starts is one of the most amazing. That's never missing a race in his entire career....for tragedy, injury, illness, babies or anything else. Being far less dedicated, I can't even think how many days I've had off in the same period of time. And look what he's accomplished in those 789 starts - in-freaking-credible!
This is Jeff's last year before retirement and we've spent the entire season honoring him and now it appears we will do the same in 2016 as Tony Stewart has announced that he'll hang up his helmet. So that's two of our most beloved heroes in two years. There are other great drivers, and I think some of the kids coming up will join them, but these two will stand out as special no matter how many years go by.
The talk is that Clint Bowyer will boot Justin Allgaier out of his ride in the 51 car in 2016, then take Tony's place in 2017 at Stewart-Haas. Poor Justin, I think he's given that car a good run and I hate to see him kicked to the curb especially for a one-year place holder. Can't blame Clint. I'd do it too but....
In the Chase, there were some surprising developments in what turned out to be a fuel mileage race. Some people hate races that end this way but no one can deny that they add suspense. We held our breath wondering if Kevin would make those last laps without running out of gas. He didn't and that left last year's champion in a huge hole that only a win next week can pull him out of. Kyle is in much the same boat. After all the triumph of coming back after his injury to win four races and make the Chase, he's now fallen back out so he needs a really good result. At least, one of them is probably going to be disappointed. If I had to choose, I'd choose Kyle because Kevin has his championship and Kyle had to overcome a lot to have the opportunity to try for his. (Not to mention that Kevin pissed me off last week). Junior didn't do himself any favors in the points running out of gas either. He's now the Bubble Boy.
Jimmie and Brad could have found themselves staring at disaster as well Jimmie cut a tire and Brad got penalized for jumping a restart but both both teams fought their way back to a decent finish to keep themselves in contention.
Speaking of the restart, it's caused a typical NASCAR brouhaha, hasn't it? The very same people who were pissing and moaning the last few weeks because NASCAR needed to Do Something about restarts are now pissing and moaning because NASCAR said, "okay, folks, if that's what you really want, instead of using some judicious decision-making, we'll penalize every infraction, no matter how small." It's the old be-careful-what-you-wish-for-because-you-might-get-it scenario.
Roger Penske was one of the biggest complainers but ironically, it was Brad who paid the price. Karma is a bitch sometimes.
Myself, I'd rather see NASCAR ease up on the rules and regulations, not only for restarts but in other areas as well, I'd like to see more flexibility, not less. They've got teams and drivers strapped down so tight, they can barely move. I think its more fun when everyone has a little more leeway for creativity and ingenuity. I'm not so hung up on that perfectly level playing field as some.
Needless to say, I loved the Kentucky Xfinity race. Kentucky is a great track and seeing the kids duke it out with each other without Cup drivers there makes it more enjoyable for me. Congratulations, Ryan Blaney.
Austen Dillon won the Truck race but I was fine with that because he wasn't driving for his grandfather's powerhouse team but rather he delivered the first victory in the series to Maurice Gallagher, owner of GMS Racing and to crew chief Shane Huffmann. So that balances it out. I don't mind Cup drivers racing for young teams or major teams giving young drivers a chance but not Cup teams and drivers together.
I often hear it said that fans want to see Cup drivers but wouldn't it be more interesting to see what they can do with a slightly sub-par car rather than dominating the race with
So next week four drivers will be cut from the Chase. Who will they be? Will either Kyle or Kevin race their way back into this thing? Will another top team have a disastrous night? Will a bubble driver win or maybe even a driver who isn't in the Chase? The Monster will decide.