Daytona – More Junk Cars And Another Yellow-Flag Finish

Charlotte, NC – Another NASCAR restrictor plate race, another garage area full of junk cars. What a surprise.

So it was Saturday evening as the Sprint Cup Series visited Daytona International Speedway for the third of four restrictor plate demo derbies this season. A quick count indicates that in those three events, nearly 35 cars ? or almost an entire NASCAR race starting field ? have been destroyed in ?Big One? crashes.

What a shame.

?Racing is rubbing? is a time honored NASCAR phrase. Racing is not wrecking, however, unless you are at Daytona and Talladega where six of the last Cup 10 races (three of the last four at Talladega) have been completed under caution.

For the price of our ticket, we?d rather see the race decided at the checkered flag, not by a review of the loop scoring or the video tape.

Restrictor plates have been a pox on NASCAR since they were implemented in the late 1980?s. The no throttle response rule, now combined with substandard tires and a new car that has totally unpredictable handling characteristics, has formed the perfect storm. It?s no longer will a restrictor plate race have the ?Big One? but when will it happen?

Look for more of the same when the Cup Series heads to Talladega in early October. Sadly, one of these days, someone isn?t going to walk away from one of these mega wrecks. It?s only a matter of time.

Top 35 Rule A Joke ?

NASCAR?s Top-35 rule ? where those drivers currently in the Top-35 in the championship standings are automatically guaranteed a spot in the race ? is a total joke. In addition to cheating the fans by not putting the best 43 cars on the track for that event, the rule has now created a subculture of falsehood in qualifying for the races.

Now, the ?go or go home? racers ? those outside the Top-35 ? massage their cars with special qualifying adjustments so they can get in the race. Meanwhile, cars with a guaranteed spot blow off qualifying and work on race set-up.

The result is the practice sheets are a total non-reflection of who is fast and who isn?t. Later, qualifying gets artificially skewed with the ?go or go home? racers taking the top spots. The worst of it is none of those cars have a snowball?s chance in hell of doing well in the race because they qualified with trick shocks, springs, lighter weight oil and no alternator belt. Shortly after the start of the race, most of them come to pit road, many going behind the wall for multiple laps to switch the car back to ?race trim? so it can finish the event.

How is this fair to anyone? Rules like this one cheat fans, racers and sponsors alike.

It?s way past time to dump the guaranteed starting position rules in all NASCAR divisions and return to the spirit of racing by having all cars post a qualifying time to determine their starting position.

Wide Open Commercialism ?

We loved almost everything about TNT?s ?Wide Open? coverage of Saturday?s 400-miler from Daytona. Almost.

While we applaud being able to view more live action of the event, turning lead announcer Bill Weber into little more than a promo man for each commercial run during the telecast was demeaning to the veteran announcer and totally annoying to listen to.

Thank goodness for MRN Radio.

Also, breaking away for local commercials kind of takes away from the whole ?Wide Open? concept, doesn?t it? Maybe they should call it ?Half Throttle? coverage instead. It would certainly be consistent with the restrictor plate racing on the track.

Finally, we think Kyle Petty adds a lot to the TNT telecasts. His insights are usually right on and unbiased. Now, if somebody would just show him how to use the telestrator.

Pit Road Roulette ?

By our count, Jimmie Johnson wrecked at least three times on pit road Saturday evening. Spotted out of his pit box by crew chief Chad Knaus, Johnson charged to the outer lane next to the grass on pit road ? regardless if there was another car there or not – every time he left his pit stall.

Note to Chad ? there is a middle lane on pit road where you can still maintain your position and not run into another competitor or force them into the grass. Maybe NASCAR needs to review pit road rules with Jimmie and Chad prior to the next race.

Last Call ?

This weekend?s less than satisfying events at Daytona closed out a long week for this writer. On Monday, my sister, Donna Kortens, passed away in Manitowoc, WI after a long illness. She was 66.

While never a part of the racing business, Donna was a life-long race fan. It was almost inevitable after growing up in a household where our father, Lou, built racecars for 15 years after World War II.

Like this writer, Donna was a captive in the back of the family car as we made countless trips over two-lane roads towing our stock cars to races all over Wisconsin in the 1950?s. Donna is pictured at far left in the enclosed 1959 photo – along with me, my sister-in-law Bette, and our 1937 Chevy stock car.

Donna only attended races sporadically since the 1960?s after she married Dan Kortens and set out on raising a family of three children.

Through it all, Donna kept up with racing thanks to television and had a rekindled interest in the sport in the past 15 years when I started spotting NASCAR events. Numerous friends of hers who attended her last rites this past Thursday told me she never missed a race. Now, she?s got the best seat in the house.

Rest in peace, honey.

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