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Minter: New Rules Will Be A Total Wreck

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 14 2010
Mark Martin says proposed changes at plate tracks will not change a whole lot when it comes to wrecks like the one he had at Talladega last fall.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mark Martin says proposed changes at plate tracks will not change a whole lot when it comes to wrecks like the one he had at Talladega last fall. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Some Thursday observations:

Hampton, Ga. – Sitting in the media center at Atlanta Motor Speedway this week, listening to drivers answer questions about proposed rules changes for races at Daytona and Talladega, the foregone conclusion was that no matter how the rules are written, the Sprint Cup races at Talladega will once again be known for spectacular wrecks.

Two of the drivers doing the talking, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards, know all about that. Last year, they both finished races at Talladega with their cars flying through the air.

The discussion at AMS, like hundreds of others in the months and years past, focused on changing the cars and the rules; not the race track which has been a problem since the first laps were turned there back in 1969.

There’s widespread speculation that NASCAR will relax its ban on bump drafting and possibly modify the rules prohibiting racing below the yellow line.

Away from the microphones, most any driver will say that the only true fix for the two mammoth tracks on the circuits, tracks engineered and constructed with the goal of facilitating maximum speeds, is to make radical changes to the tracks.

But few will say it publicly, so the discussion continues to focus on tinkering with the rules.

As in the past, the talk of rules changes followed races that were labeled boring by fans and some in the media. More and more it seems that the definition of a boring race is one without several bone-jarring crashes. The race promoters and many in the media have hyped the crashes, making it more difficult to come up with a fix because then the sport then would have to sell races at Talladega by focusing on aspects of the race other than wrecks.

But it seems that those who prefer crashes over other racing drama need not worry.

Mark Martin’s comments indicate that he sees nothing in the proposed changes that will change the wreck-filled nature of Talladega races.

“Based on the way we wrecked there last time, I don’t see how much worse it could be allowing bump drafting,” he said. “Certainly it will lend itself to creating more accidents, but it will be hard to have more there than last time.”

Martin also said changes to the yellow-line rule could produce something worse than complaints of boredom from fans.

“Jeff Burton had a great statement to me on that and it was that when you go in the corner five-wide and someone is on the flat, the driver on the way to the hospital is going to say they shouldn’t have changed that line,” he said.

Edwards said wrecks are inevitable and a part of the allure of the sport.

“I think one of things that’s exciting about auto racing is the potential for something to happen,” he said. “That’s what makes this the most exciting sport in the world. As long as we’re racing we’re going to crash. As long as NASCAR keeps on making safety advances like they have, then it’s just part of it.”

But wrecks don’t have to be such a big part of it. Big league auto racing shouldn’t be looked upon like a demolition derby. It should be about pit strategies and driver skills and innovations by engineers and mechanics. And a great finish shouldn’t mean cars flying through the air and into the catchfence.

Instead, how about a photo-finish between two drivers beating and banging but still running on four wheels, like Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson at AMS, or Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington?

That’s racing. Wrecking is not.

NASCAR fans who long for a return to the good ‘ol days may want to be more specific in their wishes, especially in light of news this week that ESPN-ABC’s portion of the schedule will air mostly on cable TV this year. All but three ESPN-ABC races, including nine of the 10 in the Chase, will be on ESPN.

This represents a major shift from 2001 when the announcement of a new TV package boasted about Cup races being shown on “free TV.” Last year, ABC showed 11 of its races on network TV. This year there will be three, all at night, at Charlotte, Bristol and Richmond.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 14 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • RAEckart says:

    It’s good to see the drivers standing up and taking credit/blame for their driving on these large tracks. Ohhh, wait a minute. They didn’t do that at all.

    The dirty little secret is not that the cars or the tracks cause these wrecks. It’s that we have much, much younger drivers behind the wheel than we did twenty years ago.

    The blame for wreckfests starts with the drivers making foolish, inexperienced moves at inappropriate times during races. It’s comical to see them hop out and blame the car or the track.

    They’re only human, for sure. And human nature is to blame something else. It’s hard for me to admit when I pick a wrong stock in the stock market, and it’s hard to admit you were to blame for a wreck.

    But some of these guys can wreck any car at any track at any time. Experience would help them out a lot.

  • Carol says:

    Bump drafting in any turn is disasterous and the rule should remain. Eliminating the yellow line rule simply means Jeff Gordon can go back to winning races on the last lap by using the apron. And while the double file restarts are exciting and fun, if they want to implement a rule that makes sense, fall back to the standards of many Saturday night short tracks and do not allow the double file restart if there are 10 laps or less to go in the race. As I said, the restarts are fun, but they are catastrophic during the final ten laps of a Cup race.

  • David says:

    I,m glad the new rules have came down! I was a crew member for a Nascar Goodys dash team and understand the safty on pit raod deal but we all go out there knowing the risk which is part of the rush. Racing is illegal on the roads of are towns which is kind of the unhiden rush of professional racing and all the policing rules had me not caring if I watched the race or not! No speeding on pit road, Don’t go below the yellow line, No bump drafting, No fighting on pit road or the garages, The older races are much more exciting then to days. You got your moneys worth, Racing and the boxing match or shuv feast at the end. It was AWSOME!!! I have been in some of them at are local track back in the day, no more now though, Everybody wants free money know. {Thay will sue you, Sissies} I just miss all the excitment!!! Bring it back!!!! No more speeding on pit road fines.

  • dman says:

    Maybe I’m just too old school. Leave the superspeedways alone. Un-restrict the cars and let them separate, if necessary. I, for one, do enjoy the three wide racing of the superspeedway racing as it is. I do not particularly enjoy seeing huge multi-car pile-ups, but face it…danger is a large part of the excitement of auto racing. How long do you think motorcycle racing would last if they put training wheels on the bikes to make them safer? Next point: there should be no racing below the line at ANY track. NASCAR is the only sport where the lines delineating the playing surface are a “suggestion”. The local tracks I race at all have rules along the lines of “one tire minimum must remain of the racing surface at all times.”