What It Wasn't, Was A Restart
I bid you welcome gentle readers, with a sincere hope that you all survived Talladega this past weekend. Welcome as well to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR. I had thought of making your job easier today by skipping over Talladega and going straight to Martinsville, but my readers expect to hear the truth, even when it’s ugly, so Talladega it shall be.
We’ll skip the part about my feelings on plate racing, as I’ve used up all the synonyms I know for “phony.” The first thing we all should be doing is thanking Talladega for making the supreme effort and protecting every wall at the track, inside and out, with SAFER barriers. Here is a statement from Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch on safety initiatives:
“Working closely with NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC), Talladega Superspeedway performed an extensive review of its facility and outlined significant safety enhancements that will be in place prior to our NASCAR weekend, Oct. 23-25. Working with Cheaha Construction, we have installed more than 8,000 linear feet of Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) Barrier in 2015. We are covering the entire outside and interior retaining walls of the 2.66-mile facility. Safety of our competitors and fans is our top priority and we will continue to review the facility and provide updates as circumstances warrant.
Mr. Lynch and all concerned with this accomplishment, we, the fans that care, send you our heartfelt thanks for caring enough about the safety of both drivers and fans to keep updates on the front burner. Our prayer is that all others will follow the lead taken by Daytona, Talladega and Michigan to date.
Next we have the overnight TV ratings. Please read them for what they are, not what you think they are. The overnight rating for Talladega was a 2.5, which sounds a lot better than some of those 1.whatevers we’ve seen for Chase races. However, it is still down 7% from the 2.9 rating on ESPN the two previous years. It IS tied for second highest race on CABLE this year, with the August Pocono race and the March race at Martinsville. Holding down first place, though I cannot imagine why, is the race at the Brickyard, which brought home a 2.9 overnight on NBCSN. Talladega’s rating is the highest for any NASCAR race since Darlington on Labor Day weekend, which turned in a 3.4 on NBC.
Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, NBC gave NASCAR the cable network and gave the Mother Ship NBC channel to the F1 race… U.S. Grand Prix. The two ran head to head on Sunday afternoon. F1 scored an overnight rating of 0.7, less than a third of NASCAR’s 2.5. So… is that good? Is that bad? Any way you twist the numbers, it is still down from last year, in a direct comparison between cable and cable. NASCAR, you have work to do!
Alright gentle readers, now let’s get to the 900-pound gorilla seated on the sofa, shall we? It was Talladega, and for the most part, we were spared the Big One this time. There were no anxious moments, waiting to see if all of the drivers were able to escape the tangled mass of torn metal and shattered carbon fiber that only a few seconds before had been a very expensive racecar, traveling in excess of 200 mph.
NASCAR, in its wisdom, (Catch the oxymoron there) had decreed only a couple of days before the race that there would be only a single green/white/checker finish… for the sake of safety, it was said. Funny, but thinking back to Daytona in July, it seems to me that when Austin Dillon attempted to join the throngs of race fans in the stands, still in his Chevy, that it was on the FIRST green/white/checker restart of the race.
With that in mind, I fail to see what difference it might make whether there is one, three or thirty. Common sense, something seldom employed in NASCAR circles, would dictate that there be NO green/white/checker restarts at a plate track. They have plenty of time to wreck in 400 or 500 miles, and they seldom disappoint the blood-thirsty bunch that claims to LUV that sort of racing.
We know there have been hours and days of water-cooler talk and Monday morning quarterbacking concerning the ending of Sunday’s race, when one green/white/checker seemingly turned into two and the whole thing ended in a mess anyway. That would be quite normal for the giant track, but it’s also an eliminator race for that Chase thing, and do you know where that matters most? At the pay window when the points fund is divided up at the end of the year. That’s what it’s all about, you know… the money. It is always about the money, and if you follow the money trail, you’ll eventually find or trip over the truth.
Your scribe is going to try to explain something here, as simply as I can. First, I really see no problem with calling off what turned out to be an aborted start. About a month ago I offered you a piece called “Getting Started Word Games and Playoffs.” In that one we discussed the position and duties of the NASCAR Starter, or Flagman as many call him. Well, on Sunday, we saw the Starter do what is regularly seen in other racing series, but in NASCAR, seldom if ever. He called off a start!
If you’ve ever been Saturday night racing at your local track, especially if the cars are of the sprint, midget or Silver Crown varieties, you’ve seen many starts aborted because the field was out of shape and the Starter refused to start them. That is essentially what happened on Sunday. As they were coming to take the green, but still well away from the official Start/Finish line, some three cars spun out behind the leaders… Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and another that I do not recall at this moment. That offers the starter a really messy field and the chance of more wrecks to come, so he immediately waved the yellow flag at the leaders as they were coming to the line. So far, so good. Though seldom seen in NASCAR, it is a perfectly legitimate move for the Starter to call a “no start” and bring ‘em around to try it again until they get it right.
However… and I have seen no one anywhere pick up on this overlooked fact, the booth crew from NBCSN didn’t overlook it. In fact, they called attention to it as the cars were coming to the “other” first attempt, but they didn’t explain it clearly, so here is the explanation in words you can understand. On the aborted attempt at a restart, since it was never officially “green”, then that field was under yellow the whole time. It couldn’t have been anything else. According to one of NASCAR’s simplest and always enforced rules, cars may not change positions under the yellow flag.
Well, we did realign three cars from their original positions, as they were the ones that spun out and lost their positions. BUT… according to the booth crew, Kyle Busch was out [of the Chase] and then he was in, all under that caution. I believe they noted that he made up 8 spots, which put him one point into the Chase at the restart. Call me stupid, but how does one make up 8 spots under caution when only 3 cars fell back? They also mentioned that other passing had also occurred, but didn’t go into detail, as they probably weren’t affected by that Chase factor.
No, gentle readers, I am not suggesting that NASCAR somehow “rigged” the outcome of the race. Quite frankly, I don’t know which among them would be bright enough to accomplish that feat. I love Kyle Busch, and I’m happy that he’s in, but it wouldn’t have spoiled my supper if he weren’t. Remember, the season ended for me and for “Patty’s Kids” at Richmond and Kevin Harvick is our Champion on the basis of leading the points at the end of 26 races… before anyone began monkeying with them.
Speaking of Kevin, which I suppose I must, no, I don’t think he wrecked, crashed, hit or took out Trevor Bayne on purpose. Did we learn anything from what you read here last week about crashes at that dang track? The cars are set up to crash because the format promotes crashing. Can anyone reading this do anything… anything at all, for three solid hours with no break and traveling at over 200 miles per hour all the while, and do it perfectly and mistake free? Heck, forget the speed. Could any of you jump rope for that length of time without missing?
This is the “pack racing” that Brian Z. France wants at every track on the circuit. The drivers have proven over and over again that they are incapable of driving even two laps without wrecking when the pressure is on and all that money is at stake. Still they tell us that these are the best drivers in the world. My friends, in my unsolicited and sometimes unwelcome opinion… that doesn’t say much for the world.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, but today, it’s not music, but what I guess you might call a recitation that I’ve chosen for your enjoyment. Quite honestly, the title on this article made me think of the title of this recording. Please enjoy Andy Griffith as he recites his smash comedy recording of, “What is Was, Was Football.”
Staying in the Country comedy venue, how many remember this man? He is Justin Wilson, not the racer, but the Cajun Chef. He was a remarkable chef, but with his mannerisms and his Cajun colloquialisms, he was one of the funniest people on TV. On this recording, he tells us a tale about squirrel hunting. C’mon, share a laugh with me!
Country humor would never be complete without a selection from Ray Stevens, and as long as we’re talking about squirrels, here is Ray giving us his massive hit, “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival.”
Your last laugh for today comes from Jerry Reed [Snowman] of Smokey and the Bandit fame. When not being serious, Jerry was one of the funniest men to ever grace the halls of the Grand Ol’ Opry. This has always been one of many favorites I’ve heard Jerry sing. This tender little ditty is called, “She Got the Gold Mine; I Got the Shaft!” Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!