Monday, October 6, 2008

Tire Problems, Bad Decisions Mar Exciting Talladega Race

Photo by AP.

Tony Stewart was scored his first victory of the 2008 season on Sunday, after crossing the finish line in second place at the Amp Energy 500 at Talladega, Alabama. The picture above speaks for itself.

Regan Smith, driver of the 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet passed Stewart just before crossing the finish line. There was one problem though. Part of that pass occurred while Smith was below the yellow line, which is considered a no-no by NASCAR. It would appear that Stewart, driver of the 20 Home Depot Chevrolet had actually forced Smith below the yellow line. NASCAR, in it's infinite wisdom, said it didn't matter. Tony Stewart went to Victory Lane and Regan Smith was penalized and finished a very disappointing 18th.

Yellow line passes on restrictor plate tracks have been controversial in the past, but none is likely to be as controversial as the one that occurred in Sunday's race. NASCAR seemingly changes the rules from incident to incident, and that makes for a lot of angry drivers, crew chiefs, owners, and especially fans. Right or wrong, Tony Stewart was awarded the trophy, and as always, what NASCAR says goes. Only NASCAR makes the rules in NASCAR, and if they want to change them, it's their option. I personally feel it makes the sport look bad, and gives it a certain WWE feel. If that's what NASCAR wants to do, neither you, nor I, not Regan Smith can change that. There will be no asterisk in the record book.

Goodyear tires once again led to some unnecessary danger in Sunday's race. Blown tires caused at least what could have been one very serious injury when Denny Hamlin blew a right front tire while leading the race, shooting him hard into the wall. Denny was taken to an ambulance on a stretcher and transported to a nearby hospital and kept overnight for observation. Brian Vickers, Mike Wallace were among others who experienced catastrophic tire failures as well. Talladega, even with restrictor plates produces speeds of up to and even exceeding 200 mph. This track is dangerous enough without Goodyear once again providing an inferior and unsafe product. Harsh words, you say? I think perhaps not harsh enough. Several of the drivers expressed their concerns about their safety after Sunday's race. Talladega is nerve racking enough for the drivers without having to wonder if the next blown tire could end their race. Permanently.

Another bad decision was made by Carl Edwards, driver of the 99 Office Depot Ford, who in attempting to push teammate Greg Biffle to the lead, caused a spectacular wreck, not only taking himself out, but also teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was caught up in that crash, which ended his day as well. Edwards did take responsibility for his mistake, but that was small consolation to the drivers who's championship runs were effectively ended by one bone headed mistake. Aggressive is one thing, but stupid is another.

One true high point of the race, from this fan's perspective, was the 13th place finish by Kenny Wallace, who apparently drove a one race deal in the Michael Waltrip owned 00 Toyota. Kenny was penalized a lap early in the competition for speeding in excess of 100 mph on pit road, but was able to recover for a very good finish. Kenny, who is a well liked personality, showed yesterday that he's also a pretty good race car driver. I hope to see this open up the opportunity for Kenny Wallace to drive more Cup races in the near future.

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