Double Secret Probation

There have been lots of great rivalries, even feuds, in NASCAR over the years. Richard Petty and David Pearson; Richard Petty and Bobby Allison; and the Intimidator vs. Wonder Boy (Dale Earnhardt Sr. and a young Jeff Gordon, for those of you who are new to the sport).

And of course the racing press has attempted to foment even more feuds, because it sells newspapers and TV ads. However, like a storm cloud on the horizon that just might blow up into a hurricane, we have the current situation involving Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. They are the two drivers with the most wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series this season, and the two most likely to win the Chase for the Championship.

Things between them came to a head at Bristol last Saturday night when Edwards, who had been patient up until that point, put a bump and run move on Busch in the waning laps of the race. Busch retaliated with a bump of his own, but it wasn't enough to move Edwards out of the way, and the Roush Ford driver went on to take the victory.

To make matters more interesting, Busch slammed into the side of Edwards' car after the checker, and Edwards retaliated by spinning Busch's Toyota out. To listen to Busch's interview after the race, you would have thought he was a WWE "good guy" who had been savagely brutalized by the "black hat" while the ref's back was turned.

Unfortunately for him, a poll taken mid-week last week showed that support for Edwards in the matter was 78 percent, with only 22 percent of fans polled expressing sympathy for the Shrub. NASCAR weighed in with a six-race probation for both drivers, which is basically a nothing penalty.

I mean, when is the last time you saw a driver on NASCAR probation receive any worse punishment during the probation period, no matter what he did? Maybe if NASCAR used "double secret probation" like Dean Wermer in the movie "Animal House," we might see some consequences to anti-social activity on the track.

There are changes coming up in 2009 in a couple of different racing series. NASCAR announced last week that the qualifiers for next year's Budweiser shootout at Daytona will not be this season's pole winners, but will instead consist of the top six points-scoring cars from each manufacturer participating in the series: Chevy, Dodge, Ford, and Toyota.

Starting positions will be determined by a blind draw and the race will consist of two segments, one of 25 laps and the other 50 laps, with a 10-minute pit stop separating the two. The press release didn't mention the reason for the change, but I suspect that since Coors is sponsoring the pole awards this season, Budweiser didn't want to have a rival beer company's pole winners in its race.

Formula One will also undergo some fairly drastic changes next season. These will have nothing to do with race format, rather with technical specifications. The biggest change will be the return to slick (non-treaded) tires, which are expected to provide greater mechanical grip for the cars. The mechanical grip will be needed, because the aerodynamic downforce will be drastically reduced on the 2009-spec cars. Coupled with this year's ban on traction control systems, next season should feature even better racing than we are seeing this year, with much more of the competition in the drivers' hands.

With just two races left, only two drivers can mathematically win the Indy Car championship. Helio Castroneves' win at Infineon last Sunday moved him to within 43 points of leader Scott Dixon. Watching the race, I concluded that the current Indy car may be OK for ovals, but they trundle around a road course like garbage trucks.

Unfortunately, we will have to wait until 2011 for the new spec chassis and engine, because they want to tie it in with the 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500. The good news is that the new engine will be a turbo, and there will be multiple manufacturers involved. Gee, road and street courses, turbos . . . Indy car may have won the open wheel war with Champ Car, but as Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."


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