NASCAR officials pump up new car
NASCAR officials are pleased with the new generation Cup car. Did you expect them to say anything different, considering they have been pitching it as the greatest invention since the wheel and decided to take $25,000 from Denny Hamlin as penalty for speaking ill of it after a less than exciting race at Phoenix.
The racing has picked up since then, with increases in lead changes and passing over last year, better racing at the 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas and a wild ending at California in which the driver that got the lead on the final restart didn’t waltz away.
The next true test will be in two weeks at Texas, the next 1.5-mile track.
“But I have to tell you, I don’t know if I could be much happier right now with the first five races that we’ve rolled out,” Cup series director John Darby said. “The competition has been phenomenal. The races are just fun to watch. I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it.
“And I know my role in the sport, but I’ve got to tell you, there’s a lot of race fan in me, as well, and you know, I would already be buying tickets for the next race if I had seen the first five that I have this year.”
If there are many more race endings similar to the one Sunday at California, NASCAR and the track owners won’t have to worry about selling tickets.
The last-lap crash and dustup on pit road were a promoters dream. The downside to the whole situation was the injury that will keep Denny Hamlin sidelined for six weeks or so. Hamlin hit a concrete wall, again pointing out the need to cover all concrete walls with the energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.
NASCAR has been lucky it has gone without a fatality in its top series since Dale Earnhardt’s death and narrowly avoided it in Hamlin’s case. But that wreck, the two Nationwide crashes at Daytona (the one that left Michael Annett injured and the one that sent car parts into the stands) showed again the sanctioning body can’t be complacent when it comes to safety.
“Now, the part of the wall that Denny hit in California, obviously that wall has been there since the racetrack was built,” Darby said. “But one of the points that they look at is what frequency of impacts are, and where the more prevalent points of impact are, and those are addressed first.
“Now, as we go to each racetrack and that same evaluation happens, there’s a constant growth of SAFER barriers and closing gates and redesigning gates and wheel fences and the whole project. But it’s, like I said, it’s an evolution. In light of Denny’s accident, I’m sure that there will be more investigations done in that area of the racetrack. I also feel very positive about the fact that if a recommendation is made, that the Speedway will be very proactive in helping getting that resolved.”
Hamlin crashed after contact with Joey Logano. Darby said no penalty was levied because it was viewed as a crash that was the result of hard racing on the last lap.
The sanctioning body also declined to penalize Tony Stewart or Logano in the wake of their brief scuffle on pit road started by Stewart when he confronted Logano about blocking on the final restart.
“If two guys get in a hell of a fight, yeah, we’ll have to react,” Darby said. “But a couple guys blowing off some steam and slapping at the air isn’t going to get anybody in a whole lot of trouble.”
Burt Myers’ win at Southern National Motorsports Park last Saturday was his first on the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour since the final race of the 2010 season.
“I haven’t felt this good about a win in a long, long time,” Myers said. “We’ve been in such a slump.”
Myers took the lead from Ryan Preece on lap 81 and led the rest of the 150-lapper. Preece finished second with Tim Brown third after getting past George Brunnhoelzl III on the final lap.
Defending series champ Brunnhoelzl holds the lead in stanings by four points over Jason Myers. Kyle Ebersole is another point back. Brown and Burt Myers are tied for sixth, nine points off the top.
The Southern Modified Tour is off until an April 13 event at Hickory Speedway.
AROUND THE AREA
Racing at Caraway Speedway was called off because of cold and rainy weather Saturday night. The track returns to action on Saturday with a Late Model Stock race as the feature. ... Travis Swaim’s efforts to win a second straight UARA-STARS championship took a rocky turn on Saturday at Hickory Speedway. Swaim suffered a cut tire in a late collision with Dillon Basset, finished 17th and dropped 55 points behind leader Ronnie Bassett Jr., who won in a close finish with Garrett Campbell. ... The PASS South Series for Super Late Models visits Hickory on Saturday.