Friday, February 22, 2008

It never rains in Southern California

FONTANA, Calif. - Maybe this will come off as me being a "homer" for Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track in Charlotte where I am from, but so be it.

In 1998, water was seeping up through the surface at Texas Motor Speedway on qualifying day. The late Bill France Jr., who was still running NASCAR with dictatorial power in those days, flew in Sunday morning and stood behind the hauler as long as anybody wanted to talk to him.

He told people that instead of worrying about getting a second Cup race, Bruton Smith had better worry about getting his track fixed lest he lose the date he had.

So what happened Friday when water stated seeping through cracks in the track here? Well, nobody threatened to take away the track's races, for starters. But, then again, Bruton Smith doesn't own this track, either.

The Associated Press and NASCAR have made the right decision and will go back to including money earned by each driver as part of the results that are sent to the AP's member newspapers after Cup, Nationwide and Truck series races.

The results, known in newspaper jargon as "agate" for the size of type such information usually runs in, will now include both the money and the driver rating that NASCAR lobbied to have included.

The original plan was to leave out the money and just use driver rating. Fans don't know what the driver rating is or what the numbers even mean, and some papers will take the rating out before publishing results.

Maybe the number will grow on people and the rating will become a relevant statistic, but money is and always has been a part of the story in a NASCAR race. Including both money and the rating certainly is a reasonable compromise.

Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott both got into Sunday's Sprint Cup race because when the rulebook is used to set a field any former champion who is entered and not in the top 35 in owner points gets in.

When qualifying is held, only one former champion's spot is provided. But in a rainout, all former champions who need a slot get one. And they don't count against the maximum of six each former champion is allowed each year.

Kurt Busch technically made this race not as a former champion, but as a 2007 race winner.

After the top 35, the next available spots go to any driver who won a race last year not included in that top 35.

The confusing thing is that when there's rain this early in the year, points from LAST year are used to determine the top 35. But after you put in all the race winners and former champions, the rest of the field is determined by THIS year's owner points.

That's why John Andretti and Joe Nemecheck made the race and AJ Allmendinger and the 49 and 10 cars (driven now by Ken Schrader and Patrick Carpentier) didn't. Andretti is 39th and Nemechek 41st in owner points after one race this year. The 84, 49 and 10 didn't make the Daytona field and are lower in THIS year's standings.

Somebody was going around Friday. asking drivers who they'd like to have play them in a movie about their lives.

Someone suggested Tom Cruise to Mark Martin. Martin laughed and said Jon Heder, who played Napoleon Dynamite, might be a better idea.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked the same question.

"I don't think it would be a tough job," he said. "Why couldn't I play myself?"


Tony M said...

I have been a longtime follower of NASCAR and generally feel as though they do a good job in creating fairness to the competitors involved in the series. However, for the life of me I can't understand how NASCAR can justify not running qualifying the next day. Is it because of TV? Hell, Speed TV is doing it anyway. You don't have any real requirments until the start of the truck series race. You have teams such as A.J. Allmindinger who will go home for the second week in a row. This is a team that plans to attempt every single race! They now sit in a hole so deep they cannot possible recover. If you are going to have this assinine top 35 rule, then by golly give the non top 35 qualifiers a chance. Run qualifying Saturday. You cannot tell me that they could not somehow run it tomorrow! Cmon NASCAR quit screwing these teams. Tony in Delaware

Anonymous said...

Poole! Why doesn't NASCAR use the points from the Daytona 500? Too many teams got left out for the 500 and now we are compounding the problems with using the owner's points. I HATE this!

Another pet peeve is when lazy journalists (of which you are NOT lazy, you are great!) gush about drivers having 7 poles when 3 were due to rain-outs.

Why do we prop up the most talented with owner's points, and throw the others under the bus. IMO, the guys should have to qualify for real. It is just wrong having "welfare" drivers getting to race while other deserving drivers are SOL.

- rant off, for now -


Anonymous said...

I don't see the revelance of including money earned in the newspaper box scores. It is confusing to most fans when the driver finishing 43rd earns more than a driver finishing in the top 25. Actual purse earned is such a small part of the whole economic equation when you factor in sponsorship monies, t-shirt sales and the umpteen number of different endorsement/appearnce deals going on. We all know that drivers run for a percentage of purse earned plus salary, personal contracts, t-shirts etc. What we don't know is what those numbers are. Save the newspaper space for something more relevant.

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