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Minter: Tongues Were Racing Over The Weekend

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 13 2011

The world's most famous race track may not be the world's best race track for the Nationwide Series. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

There’s been news aplenty in the NASCAR world the past few days. Most of it has tended to be on the negative side, although the sport’s spin doctors have tried to make it appear otherwise.

One of the most fun weekends of the year, the truck and Nationwide races at Lucas Oil Raceway, is being shut down after this year in an attempt to boost interest in the Brickyard 400 weekend. The Nationwide Series race is moving to the Brickyard, transforming it from a truly unique event into another installment of Cup Lite.

Fans have been vocal in their disappointment over the change, but drivers have been largely silent.

It seems that these days many drivers had rather keep their opinions to themselves rather than deal with the consequences of saying what they really think.

Fortunately there are a few who still speak out.

Kyle Busch came as close as any to saying what people really think about the Nationwide Series race being moved from Clermont to Speedway.

Kyle Busch does not give a hearty thumbs up to the NNS racing at IMS. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

“I think it’s good, and I think it’s bad,” he said. “There are certainly two sides to every story, I guess, and sometimes more. There are a lot of people that only go to the short track and wouldn’t really care to go the big track, and now that the race is at the big track you might lose some of those fans, but you might gain more fans because they like the big track, so who knows?”

Tony Stewart had the nerve to point out that Kentucky Speedway had safety issues.

“They don’t have enough SAFER barriers yet, not near enough SAFER barriers for what we’re doing here and how close the wall is to the race track,” he said. “Hopefully, none of us will have to test that out and see anything.”

Talladega’s Grant Lynch had his own motives, but he spoke the truth in a press release issued in response to the traffic disaster and lackluster racing at Kentucky.

“After hearing how rough the fans had it at Kentucky this weekend, I wanted to let them know that we’re ready to show how a race weekend is supposed to run,” said Lynch. “We put fan experience at the forefront of everything we do. That’s why we allow coolers in our grandstands and provide hundreds of acres of free camping. It’s why we created a $49 two-day ticket and allow kids 12 and under to sit free in the Allison Grandstands on Saturday and Sunday. It’s also why we work closely with the Alabama State Troopers and other organizations to ensure our fans arrive on time to see the race.”

Lynch also addressed the on-track side of it.

“You know when you come to Talladega Superspeedway you’re going to get a show,” Lynch said. “This has been one of the most competitive years ever in NASCAR and Talladega Superspeedway still stands alone as the most competitive track on the circuit.”

The term “aero push” appears to have disappeared from the NASCAR drivers’ vocabulary, replaced by talk of “track position” and “clean air.”

But the bottom line remains the same: The leader has a huge speed advantage, and passing is difficult at most places, especially the intermediate tracks.

Here’s how Dale Earnhardt Jr., another who has a reputation of giving

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says passing was tough at Kentucky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

straightforward, honest answers, described his night at Kentucky.

“We were as fast as everybody in front of me and behind me, too,” he said. “I’d move around and try to find speed and it would just go slower. So I had this one line that I just ran over and over and over; and I didn’t catch anybody, and if I was lucky, nobody caught me. And that was pretty much how it went.”

He also acknowledged that the flat tire that led to his 30th-place finish was his own fault.

“I slid the left front tire real bad coming on to pit road,” he said. “It was all my fault.”

And Jeff Gordon, who can always be counted on to tell the truth, summed up the Kentucky experience as honestly as anyone could.

“I think the only thing that made this a great race was the green-white-checkered and the excitement and energy of the fans,” he said. “I think when Bruton (Smith) is looking at how to get the traffic in here he’s going to have to look at the race track as well. It’s rough. It’s really hard to pass. The layout needs a little help; but the surface most importantly, to give these fans what they really deserve.”

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 13 2011
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