At Daytona, Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
I bid you welcome gentle readers. Our long winter’s nap is over and Speedweeks is here at last! There was a grand amount of noise at Daytona this past weekend as the big V8 engines roared back to life, with practices for both the Clash and Daytona 500 qualifying. Saturday evening fell strangely quiet as Mother Nature exercised her ability to halt racing, forcing both events to share the Sunday spotlight. I liked that. I’d run the Clash in the sunshine from now on… if it were that I was making the decisions.
You don’t need yet another complete replay of Sunday’s activities, especially in a Friday column, so let me just say that Joey Logano won practice and also won the Clash by default when Denny Hamlin attempted to throw a block on Brad Keselowski, with the expected result. Hamlin led the most laps by far, but lost it when the Team Penske boys came calling. Following Joey were Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick. Then came qualifying for the 500 and it will be an all Hendrick Motor Sports front row on Sunday, with Chase Elliott nipping Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his second consecutive pole in the Great American Race. At this writing, the rest of the field waits to be set by Thursday night’s duals.
While we all waited for nothing on Saturday night, one of my girlfriends on Twitter dropped in to ask my thoughts on all the changes for the upcoming season. Up to then, I’ve been fairly silent on all of that, preferring to provide some light entertainment rather than rant after rant. We started chatting away and soon maybe a half-dozen or more others joined in the conversation. For the benefit of my gentle readers, here are some of the thoughts I voiced then, and agree or disagree, conversation here is always welcomed and encouraged.
First off, all the panic and uncertainty about the segments or “stages” if you will, is unwarranted and much ado about nothing. If you look closer, all you’ll see is just another adjustment to the point system. Aside from perhaps making a too-long race even longer, it does nothing to change the “product” on the track… merely the way it is rewarded. I would have preferred to see more effort put into making a Ford look more like a Ford, a Toyota look more like a Toyota and a Chevy look more like… well, you get the idea. Different noses, different tails, up off the track and who knows? We might stop hearing the term “Aero-push.” Alas, none of that happened; all we got is a different way to score the same old cars. Bravo… NOT!
One of the best things I’ve heard in years is the addition… finally, of a Traveling Medical Response team that will be at every Monster Energy Cup race on the schedule, courtesy of a new partnership with American Medical Response. Most other top Series have enjoyed this feature for years. Along with AMR, NASCAR also announced an expanded concussion protocol…
- As part of the new rule regarding damaged vehicles, a driver whose car sustains damage from an accident or contact of any kind and goes behind the pit wall or to the garage is required to visit the Infield Care Center to be evaluated.
- The medical portion of NASCAR’s Event Standards now require that Infield Care Center physicians incorporate the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool in screening for head injuries.
- AMR will provide on-site neurological consultative support at select NASCAR events during the 2017 season and will work directly with NASCAR in the continued development of concussion protocol.
Your scribe sees that as “Awesome-sauce” and hails the medical additions as long overdue. However, there is a term within that description that we should look at very closely; that being “The new rule regarding damaged vehicles.”
That one seems to be about as convoluted as it gets and has far-reaching tentacles as well. NASCAR claims it’s for “safety” reasons but this scribe sees fallacy lurking in that assessment. If I’m another driver on the track, I dare say I’d feel safer from debris with a car on track that had been properly repaired than with one that had time for only a Band-Aid and is back out there spewing trash and parts in its wake. It can’t be just the time element, as mechanical repairs can take as long as needed and the car may return to the track without comment or consequence. To date, I’ve heard no sensible justification for the difference.
Another concern for that 5-minute rule is that damage to a splitter will put a car automatically out of the race, as it cannot conceivably be replaced in 5 minutes on pit road. Before that could begin to be fair to all concerned, every blade of grass at every track ought to be removed in favor of asphalt. We’ve all seen what even a lazy slide in the grass can do to that thing. Either lose the grass or lose the splitter. I’d opt for the latter, as I’ve yet to see one on any “stock” car on the planet. In so many cases, the slide was caused by a driver seeking to avoid someone else’s mess or mistake. To be out of the race entirely seems like Draconian punishment for avoiding a wreck.
Then there is yet another tiny sentence tucked within that “rule” that states that too many men over the wall will result in the car being removed from competition. Ouch! Whiplash! Out of the race is a l-o-n-g way from end of the longest line. Maybe penalize a lap or even two; that would be understandable; one does not cut off a child’s arm for reaching for the salt shaker. In Sunday morning’s Clash, Kyle Larson’s car was summarily parked for too many men over the wall, therefore missing the final 10 laps of the Clash. In that exhibition race, it’s probably not the end of the world, but I can see that nonsensical rule affecting the outcome of the “Playoffs” down the line. Penalty is one thing; parking is quite another, and this scribe thinks it overkill of the highest degree.
At this time, before racing has even begun, that’s just a glossary of things, both good and bad, that have crossed my aged mind as change after change was announced during the off-season. Now race fans, we all get to sit back and wait for that other shoe to drop… the one we know as “The law of unintended consequences”, and there will be many; I promise!
Please note the distinct lack of the word “enhanced” throughout this or any other column arising from this keyboard. That one grew old and trite before that big “announcement” on January 23 was half over. When you put ketchup on a hot dog, that hot dog in not then “enhanced.” In my view, it’s ruined, as this lady prefers mustard, onions chili and slaw… THAT’s “Enhanced!”
Oh, and Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa… I gave you two segments of a trilogy on the Golden Era of Racing and completely forgot to add the third and final part last week. Here then, long overdue but still wonderful to watch, is Volume 3. Please, let me know if you enjoy things such as this, that you can watch at your leisure and at your own pace.
The little banjo signals that it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout. At one time, not so many years ago, I thought I was the only one still walking that remembered much about Classic Country, but God bless YouTube and all the good folks that share so much with us there. This is a wonderful collection of Hall of Fame singers, players and songs of the Grand Ole Opry that just recently debuted on YouTube. It’s a star-studded cast performing a plethora of sweet memories just for those of us that love Classic Country. Please enjoy:
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!