By admin | November 1, 2009
By Richard Allen
Perhaps NASCAR had forgotten that the Talladega race was coming up. Maybe they just didn’t think about what might happen when cars bump each other at Talladega. Or, just maybe it was yet another example of NASCAR reacting at the wrong time.
I believe the last option is likely the best choice. In Sunday’s drivers’ meeting for the Amp Energy 500 the sanctioning body announced that drivers would not be allowed push each other through the turns.
Unfortunately for teams and fans, this last minute rule change, or rule enforcement, made for a terrible race. Cars simply lined up and paraded around the track that more often than not has provided some of the most intense action in NASCAR. Two and three wide racing is usually the norm for Talladega, but this time around, it was single-file, follow-the-leader boredom that carried much of the day.
“It’s like the NFL going from tackle to two-hand touch,” declared Dale Earnhardt, Jr. during his pace lap television interview.
Once again, NASCAR has found a way to open themselves up for controversy and second guessing unnecessarily. This race has been on the schedule for quite some time and the dangers of racing on this track have been known since the track opened.
Had NASCAR announced this change right after the spring race on this track in which Carl Edwards’ car went flying toward the grandstand on the last lap they would have looked proactive and truly concerned about the welfare of drivers and fans. Instead, they chose to make the announcement one hour before the drop of the green flag which made them look reactive and arbitrary.
And more, had NASCAR announced this change before teams arrived at the track, the cars could have been set up with that change in mind. Crews had prepared their cars with the anticipation that drivers would be allowed to bump draft as usual and push each other all the way around the track. With that ability removed from over half the racing surface, there was little else drivers could do but log miles and wait for the final few laps to race.
Drivers were no doubt afraid to test the limits of the new rule because of the hap hazard way in which the sanctioning body doles out punishments, so they refused to take any chances. Who could blame them?
NASCAR attendance and television ratings have been down virtually all season. There were so many empty seats in Talladega that the painted pattern on the grandstand seats could be distinguished. Thanks to today’s horrible showing and the certainty that Jimmie Johnson will win the Sprint Cup title, it will be somewhat of a miracle if more than a scant few attend or watch the final three events.
I do not like writing columns so laced with negativity. I wish I could write about the excitement generated by Jamie McMurray’s surprise win or the historic nature of what Jimmie Johnson is about to accomplish. But instead, NASCAR just continues to step from one mine field to another.
How some of these media lackeys for NASCAR can trot out on television, radio and print every week and boast of the great competition and the positive direction of the sport is utterly amazing to me. (More on that subject later in the week.) This week the sport of NASCAR racing may have reached a new low.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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