"A lot of people say NASCAR is boring. Personally, I fail to see how playing bumper cars at 200mph while drifting a 650hp vehicle is boring." - Travis Pastrana
Welcome back race fans , I'm Jen and I will be joined by Eric (gearhead
), Debi (JrCanuckFan
), and Scott
. let's get right to this weeks discussion.
The first races of the season are in the books.
Johnny Sauter won the Camping World Truck Series.
Tony Stewart crossed the finish line as a wreck unfolded behind him. Ragan driving the #7 blocked a move by Brad Keselowski in the #22. Kyle Larson whose car was sheared in half walked away. His front end and engine ended up in the catch fence and the grandstands.Racing is a dangerous sport. As a fan watching the scene unfold, I held my breath. I was taken back to 2001, when Dale Sr., seemingly just bumped the wall, waiting for the net to come down, letting everyone know he was OK. Surely Larson was not going to just get out of the car and walk away. But he did. The safety measures that have been implemented allowed him to drop that net. All the drivers involved, "walked away". Michael Annett, who was involved in an earlier wreck, required an overnight stay in the hospital.
Fastest in practice does not usually translate into a win at Daytona. In practice you are not jockying for position with 42 other guys trying to make history. Whether it is a "first" time or a third time, winning the first race of the season is special. You go into the record books, your car gets impounded and put on display for a year, and you have that extra "oomph" walking around. Ask any seasoned driver, and Daytona is usually on the top of the list of races they would like to win, or holds a special place in their memories when they did win.
Jimmie Johnson takes the win in the 55th running of the Daytona 500. His second 500 win. Did you catch the ear to ear grins? Yes! Daytona is special. The Premier race of the Year.
Back to the Nationwide race:
How does this happen? What can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again?
What does Nascar need to do now?
Debi: I think NASCAR needs to take the time to let the experts determine if there is anything that can be done. They need to look at the cars, seats, fence, track, everything, them make an informed decision based on what is found in the analysis.
Eric:The exact solution probably isn't known yet, and it's probably going to take years of research for a solution to be found. What's frustrating though is that said research hasn't started yet. It's not exactly a secret that there's a risk of fan injury from debris if a car ends up in the catch fence, given that catch fences (and the car's design) cause the cars to break up and debris to go all over the place. Fan injuries and deaths happened before. Despite all that, motorsports has ignored the risk until now. I remember IndyCar drivers calling for a look at catch fencing after Dan Wheldon died, and they were basically laughed at and called whiners by Eddie Gossage.
Scott: I'm not really sure you can do anything more safety wise when it comes to the fences. There is no fence that can be built that can prevent a 3000 pound stock car flying through the air at 200 mph to not disintegrate upon impact. That said, it's obvious Nascar has itself a problem on tracks like Daytona and Talladega because like Eric said, pack racing + speeds reaching 200 mph are a dangerous mix. Unfortunately, I don't see the owner of Daytona and Talladega doing something drastic to alter the track to try and reduce speed. That means the only realistic thing would be for Nascar to implement a new smaller engine package for these super speedways. A smaller engine would produce less horsepower and in theory, slow the cars down. Teams would have to focus more on handling and driving skills instead of drafting and pack racing to get around the track.
Jen: I honestly don't know.
What kind of safety precautions would you like to see implemented?
Eric: Also, I'll say it again, but NASCAR has to look at the safety of pack racing. Running that close together and having double digit car wrecks is not safe. I don't care that these cars have roofs and all the safety features, it is playing with fire, and this time they got burned. Get rid of the packs, and while you can't eliminate the risk of a car in the fence (just like you can never eliminate the risk of fan injury), you can mitigate a lot of that risk and sharply reduce it. This whole thing stems from a failure to assess and mitigate risk. Just like IndyCar with Wheldon, NASCAR ignored the risk and as a result have a disaster on their hands. We'll see what they and the tracks do about it.
This is only sort of related, but I must say I was really disappointed by NASCAR's response. While I get they couldn't talk about the injured's condition at that press conference, it was still very off-putting, antiseptic, and lawyerly. It reeked of CYA. That, plus the flap over getting homemade YouTube videos deleted, plus FOX predictably trying to sweep it under the rug by barely mentioning it during the Daytona 500, plus Keslowski getting called to the principal's office for speaking his mind in USA Today, and well, the whole thing put a sour taste in my mouth. For Start Your Engines, I pretty much have to pay some attention to NASCAR this year. While I can see myself enjoying the on track stock car racing product, this weekend just reminded me why I can not stand the sanctioning body of NASCAR.
Do you think driving in the other series, ie: Truck/Nationwide gives a driver an advantage in the Cup race?
Eric: Determining if there is any benefit to Cup drivers also driving Nationwide or Trucks that weekend sounds like a fascinating research project. Unfortunately I do not have the time nor the patience to do the requisite data mining and interpretation.
Debi: No. Different vehicles drive different ways against different competitors
Scott: I think any time a driver can get into a car and drive laps, especially in a competing race where the other drivers are going all out to to try and win, it gives them an advantage. Does it mean they will win the Sprint Cup race? Usually not. To take it a step further, I'm a firm believer that the Nationwide Series should be for Nationwide drivers and the Sprint Cup Series should be for Sprint Cup drivers. I didn't like it a couple of years ago when Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards were driving for titles in both series' and I don't like it now when the Sprint Cup drivers use the Nationwide race as "practice". The Nationwide series needs to a tool for the next generation of racers to get experience, nothing else.
Jen: I think anytime you can get in the car, you should. Advantage, I don't know.
Looking forward to Phoenix. What can we expect to see?
Eric: I look to wistfully sigh and wish Indy Car still raced at Phoenix. Some day, some day...
Scott: I realize that races at Daytona and Talladega are an anomaly compared to the rest of the tracks on the schedule but the Daytona 500 really came across to me as some what of a "boring" race. Hopefully Phoenix brings some more excitement and a better chance for fans to gauge on what to expect for the rest of the season.
Debi: I'm looking for an entertaining, safe race, nothing more at this point. The drivers will keep on learning what their cars can do and we get to sit back and watch that happen.
Jen: Just another chance to get a look at the new cars.
Do you see any front runners for Champion yet?
Eric: As I mentioned last week, plate racing is so different than anything else that trying to extrapolate the results from those races to everything else is probably not a good idea. That said, we should probably give a close look to that Johnson guy.
Scott: Even if he hadn't won the race, Jimmie Johnson is always a contender to win the title. Other then that, I don't really think Daytona offers us a realistic look at which drivers are going to be front runners this season. The race is a crap shoot where usually the winning car is not the dominant one, but the lucky one that is able to survive. In the long run though, I still think the Toyota trio of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are going to be a force this season.
Jen: Not just yet.
Are there any "new" drivers or drivers that maybe you had not noticed before that caught your eye?
Eric: Travis Pastrana was more impressive in the Nationwide race than I thought he would be, but other than that, no. As cool as it was to see guys like Michael McDowell and JJ Yeley in the top 10 at the 500, they're not exactly up and comers anymore.
Scott: Again, any race that has Regan Smith, JJ Yeley and Michael McDowell finishing in the top 10 should really be taken with a grain of salt. I think the jury will be out on Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse for a bit until I get a chance to see them compete in the major leagues on a weekly basis.
Debi: . I am really impressed with Travis Pastrana but other than him, no one else really made me sit up and take notice. He should have wrecked many, many times in the last laps of the Nationwide race, yet didn't. He got beat on and banged against, and saved the car again and again. He has gained my respect already.
Jen: lol, I have been watching Travis Pastrana since his motocross days. I am thrilled he made his way to Nascar.
Bonus Question: Danica Patrick chose to go straight to the garage instead of her pit. Ignition failure, there are 2 switches. She could have switched the other. What are your thoughts about this? Did she Quit? Does this change your idea that she really is serious about racing in Cup competition?
Eric: I'm not touching this with a ten foot pole. All I have to say is breathe in and breathe out. You will all soon learn to take the Danica talk in one ear and out the other. I swear. ;)
Scott: This, added to the whole start and park request at the duel, really makes me wonder just how serious all parties involved are about Danica not just racing, but actually competing, with the big boys. If Patrick, Stewart and Haas are serious, they need her to get out on the track as much as possible and get laps, regardless of where Patrick finishes. You have to earn respect from the other drivers and the only way you do that is get into the mix and show the guys that you can do it. Obviously Daytona really wasn't the place for her to do that because the majority of the race was single file racing. The next couple of weeks, especially Bristol, will really show us a lot about whether Patrick can compete with the big boys.
Debi: Rookie mistake. No she shouldn't be making them. IMO she should have stayed in Nationwide another year so she'll probably make a lot more mistakes before she earns my respect, regardless of her finish Sunday.
Jen: I am not convinced she is serious. Any other driver would have flipped that switch and gone racing.
Racing with the big boys?
Scott: To me, "racing with the big boys" is just a metaphor to Danica bypassing another year in the Nationwide Series and racing in the Sprint Cup Series, where she will have to face the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and company on a weekly basis. No disrespect to any body that drives in the Nationwide or ARCA series but IMO, that is the minor leagues while the Sprint Cup Series is the big leagues. There is zero correlation from where I sit between the Sprint Cup Series and IndyCar. Both are two totally different styles of racing. What Danica accomplished in IndyCar has zero impact on how I see her as a Sprint Cup Series driver.
Eric: The hype is so great that it's going to be basically impossible for her to meet it. I've said all along that given a year or two, she'll be a consistent top 20 driver, similar to her IndyCar career. She's a good driver, not great. The attention will always be outsized compared to her results. It's inevitable and it's not 100% her own doing. For the record, I have a problem with this "racing with the big boys" phrase. To me, it implies that Danica's IndyCar competition weren't "big boys." I know that's probably not want you all mean, and that I'm over sensitive about this, but it still bother me. I know that attitude that IndyCar and its drivers are inferior is out there, and you can guess how much that rankles me.
Debi: I use "Racing with the Big Boys" any time I refer to a driver who has moved up into the Sprint Cup from the minor leagues, or even one who moves from minor open wheel to IndyCar or Formula 1. It isn't unique to her in any way! Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is also "Racing with the Big Boys" this year. And I say again. I believe she should have stayed in Nationwide another year, minimum.
Jen: Yeah, her Indy career was then, this is now. I only grade her on Nascar. I will try not to do it anymore. For me the phrase goes back to moonshine and stock cars...
In NHRA News:
Tony Schumacher won Top-Fuel at the Arizona Nationals
Ron Capps won Funny Car
Erica Enders-Stevens won Pro Stock