Last two weeks shows clear regression of sport
Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
Joey Logano leads the Sprint Cup field at Martinsville Speedway.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
NASCAR’s Steve O’ Donnell stated that in the case of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR would only make one attempt instead of three at Talladega Superspeedway citing safety.
In a press release O’ Donnell stated “In the event the race goes beyond the advertised distance due to a caution, we will use a single attempt at a green-white-checker finish. We take very seriously the responsibility of balancing exciting finishes and safety. We're confident that this is a positive direction for both.”
Oh boy, was it ever “positive.”
Enter in the Chase for the Cup narrative, Talladega was an elimination race for the second round of the Chase, cutting the field down from twelve drives to eight. After a late race caution, the field was set for the one green-white-checkered. Soon after the front row began to accelerate, not far back was Jimmie Johnson who got plowed in the back, spinning along with others.
That was the one green-white-checkered.
Oh wait, it wasn’t?
Photos by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
Kevin Harvick leads Kyle Busch at Talladega Superspeedway.
Supposedly, drivers hadn’t taken the green flag yet. Okay, fair enough. Alright NASCAR, line them up and have them “really” race for the victory.
About 15 seconds into the second first attempt, Kevin Harvick brings out the caution with a precarious move to the top of the track with a hampered engine, clipping Trevor Bayne and effectively ending the race.
Harvick was on the brink of elimination, and make it to the next round based off of where the finished computed by electronic scoring loops around the track. As for his competitor Dale Earnhardt Jr battling for the win? He was eliminated.
So in order to make the sport more safe when we've improved the cars and tracks to the safest ever humanly constructed, we're going to completely alter a rule just one week before an elimination race in the name of “safety”, to then watch a driver so worried about his Championship hopes possibly intentionally wreck a competitor to ensure he moves on?
Okay. Well that doesn’t sound exactly safe, but it was talked about a lot in the days after. Yeah, Ryan Newman did nearly the same thing last year to move on in the Chase, but he also didn’t do it at a track where you can go 200 plus mph. But I’ll digress.
The third round of the Chase opened up at Martinsville. Danica Patrick, who is by far the keenest driver on making sound decisions, decided that after David Gilliland moved her out of the way earlier, she would drive him into a corner, pile drive him, and end his day. Except she didn’t, and she spun out, and then caught back up to him only to be brake checked and completely destroy her car ending her day.
No penalty during the race, slight reprimand by NASCAR with some point deduction (as if that matters for her) and fine, and overall pretty embarrassing on Patrick’s end.
But, this is a dangerous situation, what she did (or didn’t do…attempted to do) is just like a pitcher throwing at the head, or a goon in hockey throwing elbows to the jaw. It was meant to cause a dangerous situation for another competitor, it should not have been taken lightly.
Surely NASCAR under the name of the “safety” they are promoting would be awfully troubled by this intentional wrecking, making sure the record is clear they don’t approve of this.
Talladega was ended prematurely in the name of safety after a breaking a rule only revised a week ago all for not as a driver may have intentionally wrecked his competition to advance in the hopes for a championship.
And one driver who could have intentionally wrecked another driver and caused harm but couldn’t because they aren’t talented enough was hardly reprimanded, but another driver successfully carried out intentionally wrecking competition is reprimanded and subsequently given multi-race suspension?
And the kicker is, out of all of this, NASCAR states that they are “taking very seriously the responsibility of balancing exciting finishes and safety,” but yet promote the wrongdoings that are the antithesis of safety on social media as a way of garnering attention?
Make no mistake, the actions that unfolded Sunday is exactly what NASCAR wanted to see. In a fall sports season competing with the World Series, NFL regular season, NHL regular season, MLS playoffs, and more, NASCAR needs traction in the form of controversy to try to gain attention. It is working, but so far it requires not regarding safety to get there.
What is NASCAR going to ultimately decide is more important? Ratings or safety? Because this toting of the middle line is hypocritical, and the reprimand for the same crime is inconsistent.
This needs to stop.