Minter: Has Re-Start Rule Ushered In Era Of Anarchy?
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
* NASCAR’s double-file restart rules have added drama – and crashes – to races, and most fans and drivers are supportive of the new rules so far.
But there’s still no solution to the lack of action at the front of the pack once the field sets sail after a restart.
For most of last week’s Lifelock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the leader of the race was basically unchallenged. Eventual winner Mark Martin led 195 of 267 laps.
Jimmie Johnson said aerodynamics, which weren’t supposed to be as big an issue with the Car of Tomorrow as they were with the old conventional car, are “a big part of it.”
Others say the dominance of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevys like Johnson’s is responsible too.
“Well it looks like to me that Mark (Martin) and Jimmie (Johnson) were just that much better than everybody,” Jeff Burton said after Saturday’s race at Chicagoland. “I could run with about everybody else, but I couldn’t run with them at all. They’ve just got the deal covered.”
Hendrick or Hendrick-affiliated drivers have won 10 of the past 14 races, and two of the times they were beaten, rain ended races while unlikely leaders were atop the scoreboard – David Reutimann at Charlotte and Joey Logano at New Hampshire.
The double-file rules also are starting to have their critics, who say they’re simply causing wrecks.
“Everybody just started running into each other, and it’s just stupid,” said Kurt Busch’s crew chief Pat Tryson. “That’s what everybody wants to see, and they got what they wanted.”
Here’s a prediction: Drivers, emboldened by the safety of the COT, likely will continue to get more aggressive on restarts until NASCAR will have to start looking at another rule change or some more policing of existing rules.
* Just about the time it looked like a good old-fashioned feud was going to break out in NASCAR, it’s already starting to fizzle.
After bumping together several times on the track at Chicagoland Speedway last Saturday, Kurt Busch was sharply critical of Jimmie Johnson, saying he was losing confidence in Johnson’s ability to be a three-time champion on the track. He also had a run-in with Johnson earlier at Infineon Raceway.
But by Tuesday, Busch seemed ready to put the whole thing behind him.
“We’re on totally opposite ends, and need more time to go by,” Busch said during a break in a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “At Indy I’ll reach out to him.”
* Way back at Martinsville, Humpy Wheeler was in Marcos Ambrose’s garage stall, telling passers-by that the Australian driver would be one to watch this year even though his JTG-Daugherty Racing team wasn’t one of the most formidable in NASCAR by any stretch.
It seems Wheeler was right, as he often is in racing matters.
A week after posting a sixth-place finish at Daytona, the rookie Ambrose finished 11th at Chicagoland.
“We had a good night. We fought hard,” he said. “We had some troubles and went a couple laps down. Pit strategy got us back on track. We got some track position and made the most of it – just a great night for our team.
“We just don’t give up. It’s our first year on most of these tracks and our first time here in a Cup car. It’s very hard to expect solid results, but we’re really doing it.
“We’re doing it week in and week out and we’re excited about that.”
Ambrose heads into an off-weekend for the Cup series 18th in points, with two top-five and five top-10 finishes.
* There’s almost always an upside to any unfortunate turn of events, if you look hard enough. Nationwide Series driver Brendan Gaughan said he’s encouraged heading into this weekend’s race at Gateway International Raceway because of the work his crew chief Bryan Berry did during a suspension from NASCAR over an alleged racial slur after a race at Nashville Superspeedway.
“While he was gone, he spent a lot of time on the flat track program, spent basically like probably a week doing so me engineering stuff, what I always call a Bryan Berry science project,” Gaughan said on this week’s NASCAR teleconference. “Usually when he does a science project, it works out well for me. He’s basically coming with some new geometry that he wants to try for us at Gateway, similar to what we did at Phoenix where we had a top-10 run, and change a few things around because of how tight Gateway’s (Turn) one and two is.
– Rick Minter can be reached at email@example.comOne Comment