Roger Diez: Rule tweaks don’t make a difference
For the Nevada Appeal
It appears that the rule tweaks that NASCAR put into place to eliminate the “two-car tango” at Talladega had approximately zero effect. Cars ran in pairs all day long, and those who lost their drafting partners were in big trouble. Jeff Gordon looked like he might have a chance when he hooked up with Trevor Bayne late in the race, but when Bayne abandoned him for a fellow Ford driver Gordon went backward fast, fading to 27th at the finish.
It looked as though Jeff Burton was finally going to put one in the win column as he and teammate Clint Bowyer left the field in the dust on the final restart, but Bowyer made the slingshot move and took the checker, giving the team its 100th Cup victory. Bowyer will join Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012, and it was great to see Mikey back in a car and getting a top 10 finish at Talladega.
Unfortunately an illegal windshield configuration cost MWR’s other teams (#00, #47, and #56) $50,000 fines, 25 owner and driver points, and four-race suspensions for the crew chiefs and car chiefs involved.
If Talladega was considered a “wild card” in the Chase for the Championship, so is this weekend’s race at Martinsville. From the biggest and fastest track on the schedule to one of the smallest and slowest, Chase drivers will have to make 1,000 left turns and avoid the inevitable crashing and banging that is a part of short-track racing. None of the three top points scorers in the Chase (Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski) have scored a win at Martinsville, nor has Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
With just four races left to go, Jimmie Johnson is looking very iffy for a sixth championship. He is in seventh place, 50 points back. That’s more than a race win’s worth of points, and at this stage of the season it’s a deficit that is almost insurmountable. Kyle Busch is sixth (40 points back) and will need a lot of luck to have a shot at the title. Kevin Harvick dropped three spots at Talladega and is 26 points behind leader Edwards. But he won the spring race at Martinsville, so he’s a good bet to finish well this weekend and stay in contention. Edwards has a 14 point lead over second-place Kenseth, with Keselowski and Stewart very much in the hunt at 18 and 19 points back respectively.
Formula One is at a brand-new venue this weekend in India. I watched Friday practice, and by the end of the session drivers had already reached the predicted terminal speeds for the weekend. The track will only get faster as it continues to rubber in. Drivers and teams alike have been very complimentary of the track layout and the race organization. As has been the case in most forms of motorsport, all the drivers are displaying some sort of memorial to Dan Wheldon; as well as to motorcycle racer Marco Simoncelli, who lost his life in an accident last weekend. The impact of Wheldon’s death was particularly heavy for Jensen Button, who had raced with Dan in karts and Formula Fords when they were both youngsters. The broadcast showed some very poignant photographs of both young drivers in cars and on podiums together.
There also was an announcement last week of a second F1 race in the U.S. beginning in 2013. New Jersey will host a street race along the Hudson River waterfront in a 10-year agreement with Bernie Ecclestone. The 3.2 mile course will feature high-speed straights and tight turns, and SPEED F1 commentator Steve Matchett likened the layout to Monte Carlo.
Crowds of 100,000 for each of the three days of racing are expected, and I plan to be among them. I’ve already called my brother in New Jersey to inform him that he will have house guests that weekend.
Finally, a happy Nevada Day to one and all. I’ll be announcing the parade this morning from the announcing stand at Fourth and Carson streets. So come by and say hello.