Odds and Ends: Formula One with Fenders and Kyle Rules Edition
Formula One with Fenders
I am a big fan of just about every kind of racing but stock car racing has always been my favorite. The reason is simple I enjoy the hard charging style of racing that made NASCAR famous back in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up. The drivers were also no nonsense guys who were tough compared to the stylish daredevils in Formula One. But over the last 10 years NASCAR seems to have an inferiority complex concerning technology when it comes to other styles of racing. Now the NASCAR garage has more computer analytic professionals and engineers than grease monkeys. There is nothing wrong with technology but lately I wonder if NASCAR went too far on the aero package on these cars. Turn back the clock 10 years ago and if a driver hit the wall or spun in the grass he could come back from that accident to win even at a speedway. Now if you put a crease on the right front corner of the car you go from being a top ten car to barely hanging on to the lead lap. If you spin in the grass and damage your splitter your chances to win are over. Look at what happened with tires versus track position last week at the All Star Race. If you took two tires and got out front you could stay up front but if you got a bad restart and ended up in traffic the turbulent air killed your chances and you dropped back through the field. Look at drivers that could slice and dice their way through the field but then they couldn’t pass the leader even on less worn tires. Auto racing intrigued me as a kid because I was a science wonk. There have always been two main factors causing grip for a stock car on the track. Aero grip and mechanical grip. Mechanical grip was always more prevalent in NASCAR while aero grip was always more important in Formula One and Indy Car. Now NASCAR has become more dependent on aero grip and this year they also took throttle control away from the drivers with the tapered spacer. This has led to worse racing by any statistical comparison. NASCAR has turned into “Formula One with Fenders” with the restarts the only time we are likely to see great racing action.
Kyle Busch Rules
NASCAR made the right decision concerning Kyle Busch. Kyle missed 11 races this season due to severe injuries suffered during an Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway in February. It seems very obvious that the right call for NASCAR was to grant Kyle Busch a medical waiver for the races missed and let him qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship if he wins a race and finishes in the top 30 in points per the NASCAR rule book. Since the incident NASCAR has sounded like they are taking the blame for this wreck by not being more proactive on the addition of SAFER barriers at race tracks hosting events. I was worried this might have led NASCAR to waiving the top 30 requirement for Kyle Busch and that would have been a huge mistake. If a driver misses so many races that they are unable to finish in the top 30 in points, how can that driver be declared the best during the season? NASCAR also had to make sure they did not give special treatment to Kyle Busch because of how popular he is or because his sponsor is the Official Chocolate of NASCAR. The good news for NASCAR and for Kyle Busch fans is that if he can race in the remaining 15 races before the Chase Kyle has a great chance of scoring enough points to make the top 30. Right now he is 179 points behind 30th place Tony Stewart. Kyle Busch would have to outperform Stewart by an average of 12 positions per race which compared to Stewart’s results so far would mean an average finish of 15th place. Assuming Stewart picks up the pace there are two other struggling drivers less than 30 points ahead of Stewart at this time. I am glad NASCAR didn’t invoke some sort of special “Kyle Busch Rule” to give him a waiver on the top 30 because they are feeling guilty for causing his injury.
The NASCAR driver colony seldom agrees on anything. If there is a wreck on the track it is rare that the two drivers involved agree on why it happened. If one team is having a great year that team thinks the rule package is perfect while twenty other guys are unhappy. But this year we are seeing something very rare in the NASCAR garage. The last time we saw drivers this unified about anything was back in 1969 at Talladega Super Speedway’s grand opening when the Professional Drivers Association managed to have a unified boycott of the event. Back then drivers were concerned about living through the race but today’s unified cause is more concerned about the fans staying awake during races. Have you heard any driver say something nice about the tapered spacer yet? Through the first fifty plus years of NASCAR’s history there were always two or three drivers who spoke for the garage area and could get changes made based on their pull with NASCAR. But in today’s NASCAR there isn’t a single driver with either the gravitas or resume to get NASCAR officials concerned enough to listen. The NASCAR drivers know this and that is why at Kansas Speedway you saw so many drivers voice the same concerns during their mandatory media appearances. They know the only way NASCAR might listen is if they are tired of hearing it in the media sessions as the drivers unite to attempt to get a better rule package for next season.
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