Inmates are running the asylum |

Inmates are running the asylum

Roger Diez

Well, it’s official. The inmates are running the asylum. NASCAR on Thursday caved into fans’ demands and instituted a “green-white-checkered” finish format for Nextel Cup and Busch Grand National races beginning next weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The new procedure will consist of a restart of two laps – green flag for the first lap of the restart and the white flag signaling the final lap leading to the checkered flag. All additional laps will be counted and scored (the Daytona 505)? However, only one restart under the new format will be attempted. If a caution comes out during that two-lap dash, the race will finish under yellow, presumably also under a shower of beer cans, chicken bones, coolers, and other trash.

NASCAR has lost control of its sport, folks. The sanctioning body noted that the new procedure will eliminate the need for a red flag in the final laps to immediately stop the race in an attempt to finish under green-flag conditions. Excuse me, but isn’t the red flag procedure a fairly recent innovation itself? Is my memory failing, or wasn’t NASCAR successful for almost 50 years without tweaking the rules to set up fan expectations of a green flag finish?

I can’t express my disgust any better than a member of NASCAR’s royal family, Kyle Petty. Here are a few excerpts from an interview Kyle gave shortly after the new rule was announced:

“The inmates are running the asylum,” declared Petty. “The inmates are on the other side of the fence over there. By throwing crap on the racetrack, by voicing their opinion, you weigh the balance. Are we going to race, or are we going to put on a show? It used to be we raced. Now they want to be part of the race. . . . So it’s a different kind of racing. It’s the inmates’ show.

“The difference in the trucks is that only a couple of guys have a shot at it. Here, it’s totally different. There’s a lot of things in minor-league baseball that they don’t do in professional baseball. It’s a different level. You shouldn’t have to go back and do bush-league things in the major leagues. . . .If they go to green-white-checkers, they might as well open up pit road speed. It’s the same thing, far as the fans are concerned.

“You go back 10 or 15 years, nobody cared (about finishes under yellow). People maybe bitched if a race ended under caution, but it just ended under caution, and everybody went home happy. They messed in their mess kit when they started throwing the red flag at the end of the race and stopping it. When they did that, that precipitated (the fan reaction).” Amen, Kyle.

In other NASCAR news, rumors of Michael Waltrip’s departure from DEI have been laid to rest. NAPA Auto Parts has confirmed it will continue its sponsorship of the No. 15 Chevy Monte Carlo for the 2005 season, with Michael in the driver’s seat. Personally, I think that Michael’s NAPA commercials are some of the funniest on the tube. I don’t know how many parts they sell, but they always give me a chuckle.

I don’t know how many of you are aware of the new form of Motorsports called Drifting. They’re finally starting to show some events on SPEED TV, and it’s pretty interesting. The idea is to get your car into a wild drift and negotiate a course totally sideways. The sport started, like so many forms of Motorsports, on public roads late at night.

It has now progressed to the point where sanctioned races take place at real race tracks, like Irwindale Speedway and Infineon (Sears Point). The Formula Drift Series event at Infineon last weekend was won by Samuel Hubinette, sliding a Dodge Viper around the road course. Personally, I can’t imagine doing that. I’ve been pretty sideways at Sears Point a few times, but never on purpose! Anyway, I think I’ll talk to Les Kynett and Rich Cable, and see if we can’t get a drifting event set up in this area, either on Champion’s asphalt oval or the Reno-Fernley road course. Anybody interested?

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist. Contact him at