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A Weekend Of Racing At Daytona: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A big wreck unfolds in turn 3 of the Daytona 500, with Jimmie Johnson spinning at the front of the pack. [Kim Kemperman Photo]

A big wreck unfolds in turn 3 of the Daytona 500, with Jimmie Johnson spinning at the front of the pack. [Kim Kemperman Photo]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

By Gene Turk

February 25th and 26th found me spending many hours in front of the T.V. while I watched both the Xfinity race and the Daytona 500. The racing over the weekend left me considering if the racing could be broken down into three groupings – the good,the bad, and the ugly just like the title of Clint Eastwood’s movie.

First the good.

I always enjoy watching the first Xfinity series race of the season. I like to see who just might be the next Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart. From what I saw, I think that the future of NASCAR looks bright with many talented drivers coming up through the ranks.The other thing that I thought about was how the new point system would affect the championship outcome.

I looked at the new three segment race with points being rewarded per segment as multiple paths to winning a championship. As an example, It just might be possible to become a champion by winning a lot of segment one and two races like Elliot Sadler did on Saturday. Another option may be to just win many segment three races or how about finishing in the top five in almost every race. The other aspect that I liked about the new format is that one or two bad bad races would not dash your hopes of winning the championship. I looked at the new format as not 36 races on the schedule, but 108 shorter races that were just grouped together. In theory, a few 39th place finishes should not be as harmful to the point chase as the same situation in only 36 races. Only time will tell how this will shake out.

Now for the bad.

NASCAR has stated that many of the rule changes for this year were made to make the race more entertaining for the fans. At times the races were exciting. But I find nothing exciting about sitting through multiple 20 minute red flag incidents or caution flag periods that seem to come every few laps. In the Xfinity race, many people will blame the crashes on the rookies in the field. Now this may be true, but veterans in the field also caused crashes. An in car camera showed Brad Keslowski bump drafting the car in front of him and then causing that car to crash. Jeff Gordon stated that Brad was off by only six inches when his bumper touched the car in front of him. Other crashes happened when the cars had a mis-match in bumper height that caused the front car to have it’s rear wheels lifted off the ground. If bump drafting has be used on high speed tracks to win a race, why can’t the car builders be allowed to modify the front and rear bumpers so that ALL car’s bumpers are at a uniform height. I believe that Elliot Sadler may just have won the final segment on Saturday if that change was made.

Now for the ugly.

Let me start off this segment by saying that I do not watch racing to see crashes. To me, racing is exciting when you have multiple lead changes every other lap with side by side racing. I do not want to see any driver hurt during a race or have a career ending injury. The worst thing is to have a driver lose his life in a race. Many years ago, I attended a race where a driver lost his life. I hope never to go through that again and I hope that none of you race fans do either. What I did not like at Daytona over the weekend was all of the multi-car crashes that took out many cars that had a chance to win the race. Late in the Xfinity race, it was announced that only five cars were left that had not been in an accident. Even as the checker flag was waving, cars were crashing. The Daytona 500 wasn’t any better with it’s crash fest.

Let’s take another look at the effect of all of the crashes at Daytona. Put yourself in the shoes of a car owner or the sponsor. You have just invested hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars to build a fine work of art you call a race car. You take it to the track and in not too much time it is reduced to a pile of twisted metal. Your hope was have your creation have a life expectancy that would be measured in weeks or months, not minutes. The longer your car can compete, the better are your chances of getting a return on your investment. If this was your money, how long do you think you would consider this sport as the best place to invest your hard earned money? In my mind, the number one way that NASCAR can keep the cost of racing under control is to find a way to reduce all of these multi-car crashes on the restrictor plate race tracks. Racing accidents will happen, but it’s hard to accept when only 12% of the starting field will end the race with four fenders in the same condition as when the race began.

Until next time when I talk about the a new rising star in racing.

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Gene Turk
Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering. While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License. Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500. He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”