Joining me for Start Your Engines is Debi (JrCanuckFan), Scott, and Jen (JenX63). In this week's edition, we discuss the penalties, the action at Kansas, and have a surprisingly robust debate over the merits of Takuma Sato.
Matt Kenseth won at Kansas, but then got hammered by NASCAR for an illegal engine. Was the penalty too harsh?
Scott: You do the crime, you do the time. Nascar is obviously not holding back on laying down the law. Now, can they be consistent and drop the hammer on everybody who isn't playing by the rules.
Jen: This is absolutely ridiculous. I love how Nascar deems this or that detrimental or not approved or non conforming, as they see it, with really no explanation. Its all based on perceptions. Did the car get inspected by the same exact "officials" before & after. What may be ok for one official, might not pass for another. Nascar, and I'm talking Helms, Pemberton, and all those others that hide under the hood, are not promoting racing. They are it seems, determined to alienate every fan they can, plus future generations.
Eric: I'm not qualifed to talk about fan alienation, nor am I qualified to judge how much of an advantage the 20 car got from the violation. However, 50 points and suspensions all over over a few inches and a manufacturer's error? That seems very harsh. I've never understood NASCAR's penalties anyway, but as long as they become consistent, then teams will adapt.
What exactly happened this week with the Penske cars and these penalties, and was it the right call?
Jen: Penske didn't show Nascar the parts, so they were fined. Nascar...I am so sick of their twisted view of what is and isn't detrimental to racing. It was NOT the right call at all.
Debi: The penalties were ridiculous. As Jen reiterated, NASCAR got pissy because Penske didn't ask for permission to use the parts. I hope the Appeal Board, which is not made up of NASCAR employees, completely overturns all the penalties.
Scott: It sounds to me like Nascar is accusing Penske racing of modifying parts that had already been approved by Nascar. What doesn't help is Roger Penske basically admitting that his teams were working in a "gray area" of the rule book. Do I think they were cheating? Yes. Am I surprised? Not at all. Teams are doing whatever they can to continue to be competitive. Where Nascar looks foolish is their willingness to look away in some instances but drop the hammer some other times. Oh, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Nascar was tipped off by other drivers in the garage. These cars are parked very close to one another and it's not out of the question that other drivers check out the competition.
Eric: Yeah, consistency in penalizing teams seems to be lacking. It feels like they might going to harsher penalties if the car is illegal.
The racing at the cookie cutter tracks is key to the performance of the new car. What did you think of the racing at Kansas?
Eric: With the full disclosure that I didn't watch as much of this race as I intended, it seemed to me like the restarts were absolute chaos, with up to four wide action, for a few laps, then they spread out after a while. I wholeheartedly admit I could be wrong in that assessment.
Jen: Best Kansas race ever!
Debi: Racing at Kansas was pretty damn good, for racing at Kansas. Lots of passing, which is key to a good race.
Scott: Race was pretty good. It certainly seems a bit less now that Kenseth has been found to have an illegal engine. I continue to be impressed with some teams really getting a handle on the new car while others continue to struggle.
Eric: OK, I guess I was wrong and just kept catching the race at the wrong time.
It still feels early, but there's almost a third of the "regular season" in the books. For those still well back, is it already wild card or bust in terms of the Chase?
Eric: Obviously it will be for Hamlin, but it's getting close to that point for others like Logano, Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Montoya (yes, I'm still dreaming). All of these guys are at least a full race behind in points or close to it. The exception of the big names on the outside is Gordon at 22 points back.
Jen: I am worried about quite a few drivers. There is a point where you have to say, OK, not going to happen this year and for Tony and Kevin, I think we have hit that point.
Scott: I'm with Jen on Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. Both teams are missing something this year and really have not been competitive. I do think Denny Hamlin can come back and drive right back into the chase because Joe Gibbs racing has shown to really have a good idea on the new car.
NASCAR has introduced "group qualifying" for the road courses. What are your thoughts?
Eric: It'll be more interesting than single car qualifying, which is boring everywhere in any form except at the Indianapolis 500. More cars on the track at once introduces variables and makes getting a clean lap a priority, thus adding to strategy. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a bridge to a knockout qualifying format at some point.
Scott: I'm always open for something different. I like what IndyCar has done with their qualifying format for street races and IMO, this can only make qualifying better for Nascar.
We move to IndyCar on the next page with talk of this past weekend's race at Long Beach.