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Minter: Is A Thirst For Action Good or Bad

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 1 2009
Mark Martin got caught up in the action at Talladega. Is it good or bad? (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mark Martin got caught up in the action at Talladega. Is it good or bad? (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

When NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow, the primary reason for implementing the new vehicle was to make racing safer. Another goal was to standardize the chassis and therefore make racing cheaper for car owners.

But the way it’s been playing out lately, the relative safety of the new car seems to be creating an atmosphere that it is making the racing cheaper, but not in a good way.

More and more, drivers are running races on superspeedways like kids drive bumper cars at the county fair. So far, it’s been relatively harmless, even though there were some fans injured at Talladega Superspeedway when Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards wrecked on the frontstretch at the end of the Aaron’s 499.

The changes come at a time when racing with the COT, at many tracks, hasn’t lived up to expectations and fans aren’t attending races or tuning in to broadcasts as much as before.

NASCAR responded in mid-season by instituting double-file restarts, which lead to some hair-raising moments for a lap or two. And there seems to be more tolerance of reckless driving, even on the faster tracks, as evidenced by the lack of serious penalties to those involved.

There also seems to be more focus on promoting wrecks, as indicated by the fact that teasers for recent TV broadcasts are centered around clips of the Edwards-Keselowsk crash, and of Ryan Newman flipping down the backstretch, also at Talladega but in the fall race.

Some in the sport think there are benefits to the aggressiveness like that shown in recent races between Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart at Homestead, and between Denny Hamlin and Keselowski in a string of Nationwide Series races..

“I think having Montoya and Stewart go at it, you know, or Denny and Brad go at it, I think that’s kind of good,” Rick Hendrick said on last week’s NASCAR teleconference. “I think it stimulates a lot of interest.”

But Hendrick qualified that by saying he doesn’t want to see it get out of hand and doesn’t want his drivers involved.

“You don’t want to see guys out there wrecking each other, but rubbing and gouging a little bit and trash talking, I think that’s pretty good,” he said. “I may be kind of by myself on that, but as long as it’s not one of my guys, I kind of enjoy it.”

With thinking like that, the 2010 season likely will see more crashing and spinning, and it will be glorified. That is until someone gets hurt, and then the unwritten rules will change, and it will no longer be tolerated.

The question for fans – and for those who run NASCAR – is what kind of sport do you really want? Do you want to see bumper cars at 200 miles per hour? Or do you want to see cars and fellow drivers treated with respect, and races determined by driver skill and crew strategy? Had you rather see highlight clips of Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch rubbing fenders on the way to the checkered flag at Darlington or what we have now – Carl Edwards flying into the catch fence and Ryan Newman hitting the pavement so hard that he had to have the top cut from his crumpled car before he could get out?

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 1 2009
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