Monday, February 19, 2007

NASCAR: A thin line between love and hate

As I've said in the past, I'm a NASCAR fan. And the Daytona 500 was a prime example as to why I'm a fan of stock car racing, and why it also makes me want to pull my hair out.

Hey y'all, look at this!

Even if you didn't watch the race, I'm sure you all have seen the finish, as it's the lead story everywhere today. It was exciting as all Hell, maybe the best Daytona finish since Richard Petty and David Pearson crashed in the final stretch of the 1976 500. Good Lord, armageddon broke loose on the final lap. Cars spinning everywhere, Clint Bowyer sliding across the start/finish line on fire while on his roof, and an amazingly close finish between the sentimental favorite, Mark Martin, and Kevin Harvick, who literally came out of nowhere to win.

Even the GF, who had been napping through the majority of the race, and as far from being a NASCAR fan as there is, watched the final laps on the edge of couch. When she is making comments asking, "What is Kyle Busch thinking?!" and "Why did Matt Kenseth push Harvick to the front like that?!", you know it was an exciting race. Just what NASCAR wants...

But, the finish was exactly why critics, and fans who are not blindly devoted to all things Earnhardt and NASCAR, think stock car racing is nothing more than a sideshow on "Real" sports landscape.

First off, you had both analysts calling the race, Larry McReynolds (Who should know better) and Darrell Waltrip (Who doesn't know any better, and needs to just clam up), openly rooting for Mark Martin. It was Waltrip at his overly verbose worst, and McReynolds was sucked in along for the ride. Hardly the impartiality you would expect from the announcers of what is supposed to be a marquee sports event. Even one broadcast on FOX.

Then you had the finish of the race. Thrilling as it was, if you watch any stock car racing at all, you got the feeling that NASCAR bent their own rules. Again.

Great finish, but was it fair?

As there was a big wreck with 6 laps to go, the race was red flagged. For those who don't follow racing, in other words, the race was stopped so the track could be cleaned up and after a couple of warm up laps under caution, the race could end as the "Rules" of NASCAR states. That being, the race ended on what is known as a "Green/White/Checker," which is basically a 2 lap sprint to the finish. The "Rules" also state that in that scenario, if there is a caution before the checkered flag is thrown, the field is frozen at the moment the caution comes out, and the race is over. Waltrip, McReynolds, and Mike Joy continually said as much during the final laps.

When the huge melee broke out on the final lap behind Martin and Harvick, Martin was still in the lead. Not by much, but he WAS leading. I expected the yellow caution flag to come out, ending the race. The GF, who as a non-fan could only go by what I, and the announcers as well, had been saying over and over, that the race would end at that exact moment, expected the yellow. (She immediately brought up the issue, by the way. She's a sharp cookie, that one)

You have to think that everyone watching expected the yellow. Joy, doing the play by play, was expecting the yellow. Mark Martin, being interviewed after the race, said he was expecting the yellow. Yet the yellow was NOT thrown till Martin and Harvick crossed the finish.

That's not enough carnage for a yellow flag? Only in NASCAR...

NASCAR decided to ignore their own rules, and the safety of the racers back in the pack, for that matter, to allow FOX to televise a photo finish.

It made for high drama, but what about their rule book? That same rule book that earlier in the week allowed the NASCAR France family powers that be the leverage to punish Michael Waltrip's Toyota team for cheating with a huge amount of malice.

Yet, when the rules expressly state, for reasons of safety, that the race ends when the yellow is thrown, NASCAR decides to be extremely slow on the trigger and wait for the 2 lead cars to race to the line before issuing a caution? That's NASCAR at its "We change/bend/ignore our own rules as we see fit" worst.

It's the equivalent of MLB allowing umpires to each have their own version of the strike zone. Whoops, bad example! But you get my drift. You wouldn't see the NFL literally change their rules in the middle of a game. But with NASCAR, it's their well known M.O.

I'm sure we'll get some lame ass excuse from NASCAR as to why the yellow wasn't thrown. And not to disappoint, NASCAR did come up with some outright vague BS to give the appearance that they follow their own rules...

"When the 07 [Clint Bowyer] went sideways on the track, the yellow came out," said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston. "At that time, the 29 [Harvick] was ahead of the 01 [Martin] and was declared the winner. The vehicles that were involved earlier in the incident [the wreck that preceded Bowyer's] were already off the track and on the apron" and therefore didn't merit a caution.

I guess NASCAR wasn't watching the same race the rest of the WORLD was watching. If you believe that, then you probably also thought that the Worldwide Leader's film of Dale Earnhardt's life, "3," was a masterpiece of film making.

Unfortunately, there are enough those blindly devoted fans of all things NASCAR who don't care that the ruling organization of their favorite sport makes decisions based on what would be more dramatic, rather than what's in black and white in their own damn rule book! That's also why I'm just a tad balder today...


  1. Nice explaination. I listened to the finish of the race on the radio, and although I do remember the rule change now that you mention it, had forgotten about it. I feel bad for Mark Martin, he ran a great race, I wish he could have won. Also - nice throw in on the MLB umpires. I hate that rule, which is why I think the "smart ball" would be a great addition to MLB to eliminate that situation. See for more.

  2. NASCAR is like basketball to me, the last quarter is the best part to watch. Except for the wrecks.

    Anyhow, I wanted to clear up a few things, things I was quoted as saying. I would never question anything Kenseth does, because I have not a clue what car he is in. So that statement, I fear, was just wishful thinking on Big Al's part.

    I did, however, comment on Kyle Busch and his little girl attempt to keep Harvick from passing up top. The way the announcers talked, Kyle Busch was hungry and wanted to challenge Martin for the win. Sure didn't look that way to me, not when Harvick showed up on his right. He moved up and right back down so quickly I was half expecting to see him give Harvick a wave of apology and a "my bad" over the radio.

    Oh season is upon us....THANK GOD!!!