Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's hard to argue against racing for a win

I just wanted to expand a little bit on something I wrote in my postrace "Observations" from the race Sunday at New Hampshire.

NASCAR must have been thrilled to hear Denny Hamlin and his crew chief, Mike Ford, talk after their victory about how they've decided to take gambles to get wins between now and the start of the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

That's precisely the attitude NASCAR wanted to foster with the changes it made to the format this year. They wanted drivers who're comfortably in position to qualify for the 10-race playoff to have something to shoot for in the run-up to the Chase, and that's what it appears they've done.

Hamlin and Ford went on and on about how they wanted to get the 10 bonus points for a win that they'll be awarded once the Chase begins. They want to get more, too, over the next nine weeks. They know that if the Chase started today (which it doesn't), Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon would each have 5,040 points while Hamlin would have only 5,010.

That's 30 points to make up in the Chase, and 30 points is 30 points. If Hamlin can win a couple of more races, he'd chop away at that deficit.

I still don't agree with making the first 26 races worth, in effect, 10 points more than the playoff races are worth. I still strongly believe that if you win in the final 10 you ought to get MORE for that than you do in the first 26.

But if the new format has Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson and anybody else thinking about taking more chances to win rather than believing a second- or third-place finish is just as good as a victory, then I am all for that.

To penalize or not to penalize ...

There will be a lot of talk this week about what penalties Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter should get for failing inspections after competing this week.

Vickers failed inspection after Friday's qualifying and his time was disallowed. That knocked him out of Sunday's race, and I don't expect his team to get any more of a penalty than that.

NASCAR actually said as much Friday.

Busch and Sauter had their cars chosen, at random, for postrace inspection Sunday. NASCAR also picked Robby Gordon's car and it passed, but Busch and Sauter were too low on the left-front corner.

Some fans will want them to face the same 100-point, $100,000 and six-week suspensions that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson got. If you're going to crack down on car of tomorrow violations, shouldn't the penalties at least be the same, especially since Busch and Sauter actually competed in the race with their cars out of compliance when the other three didn't?

That's an interesting point, and quite frankly it's hard for me to argue against that. But that's not likely to be what NASCAR is going to do. It's likely going to say that these violations were the result of any "tampering" or other attempts at manipulation, but rather came from wear and tear on the cars in the event. The cars were high enough in pre-race inspections, but too low after the race. Unless some kind of intentional manipulation is found, which doesn't seem likely, what NASCAR does in this case, I think, will provide the precedent for future "unintentional" violations of this nature.

Remember, I'm not saying I necessarily agree with that. I am just telling you that's likely to be what happens.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its a good think that this first look at such unintentional, mechanical failure violations comes on the 5 and the 70. When their penalties come down moderate and reasonable -- as appropriate for in-race mechanical failures -- there can't be any sensible accusations of Nascar favoritism.

It would be hard to think of 2 drivers currently in Cup who Nascar would be less likely to go easy on than Kyle Busch, who embarrassed them by slamming the COT in Victory Lane, and Johnny "Slaughter", who didn't earn that nickname without giving Nascar officials plenty of headaches over the years.

Vettedrmr said...

"But if the new format has Gordon, Hamlin, Johnson and anybody else thinking about taking more chances to win rather than believing a second- or third-place finish is just as good as a victory, then I am all for that."

And that is why Johnson and Gordon tweaked the fenders on their cars last week. Best I know, it fit NASCAR's objective template, but didn't pass the subjective judgement call of NASCAR's officials. They thought they found something, and they were right: NASCAR's wrath.

Nascar and the Canadian Curmudgeon said...

I agree anything to foster a winning desire is good but more points for a win in the chase would be even better...Johnson's and Gordon's penalties weren't strong enough they should have been sent home as Vickers was.. The hogwash line they were working in a grey area is truly hogwash.. all teams were given cad programs covering every inch of the body with tolerances so there was no excuse....Busch and Sauter unless they find something obvious will be put down to wear and tear...

Monkeesfan said...

While Hamlin and Mike Ford talked about gambling for the win, overall I'm not seeing any change in the points-racing mentality that permeates the sport. The incentive to go for the win still isn't there, and now that they've got that win, I'm not sure Hamlin and company will be so anxious to take risks for the win the rest of the year.

The only sign that the drivers really are going for the win is when 45 lead changes a race is the norm, never the exception.

Tim said...

I have to agree with you David, I would be very shocked to see NASCAR give these teams the same penalties as the three teams that had more serious violations. I can't remember who it was but earlier in the season we had cars that were too low in post race inspection and I don't believe they got their butts handed to them then.

Anonymous said...

I am concerned on why Vickers, Sauter and Kyle Busch did not receive the same penalties as Gordon and Johnson. Did Vickers even receive the same penalty as Sauter and Busch?

Either the car passes inspection or it does not pass inspection. NASCAR told us they are not going to be in the business to determine what is intentional and what is not intentional. I guess they changed their mind again.

JHD said...

NASCAR must have been thrilled to hear Denny Hamlin and his crew chief, Mike Ford, talk after their victory about how they've decided to take gambles to get wins between now and the start of the Chase for the Nextel Cup.

That's precisely the attitude NASCAR wanted to foster with the changes it made to the format this year.


Then it's unfortunate, isn't it, that Mike Ford made disparaging comments about Casey Mears' win in Charlotte? If I recall correctly, Ford said that because the 25 gambled on fuel, it shouldn't be considered a real win.

Aside from the fact Mears realistically isn't likely to make the Chase and doesn't need the 10 bonus points, I guess Ford believes that only the 11 team is allowed to gamble in any capacity for it to be considered a "real" win.

Monkeesfan said...

jhd, there's a key difference between Mears' fuel-mileage win and the tire gamble Mike Ford took - Mears didn't have to race anyone; all he did was stay out and stretch his fuel. Hamlin had to stay ahead of a fast-closing Jeff Gordon.

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