NASCAR at Dover: Who Will the Monster Attack this Time?

Rusty NormanThere’s a reason why they call it the Monster Mile (although to some it has remained relatively tame) and the track at Dover is one that some drivers love to hate. It is definitely a Monster Mile with high banks and speeds to go along with it. One misstep at the right time (uh, some would say the wrong time) and usually more than one car suffers the consequences.

Now before we get too far into what’s going on at Dover, I do need to revisit Loudon for a minute. I know it’s not new news what happened to the #33 RCR team after winning the race on Sunday, but it does deserve some comment.

As everyone knows, Clint Bowyer’s car did not meet NASCAR specs and was determined to be illegal. He has gone from being twelfth in points at the start of the first Chase race, to second in points after winning on Sunday, to twelfth place after the penalties were assessed, (some would call that a pretty up and down week…)

No matter how you look at it, it definitely makes their quest for Clint’s first Cup Championship much more difficult. Emotion is extremely high, in particular at the fan level, and NASCAR is being looked at once again as trying to fix the outcome of the Chase. Although I do understand some of that emotion, there comes a time a rule is a rule or it isn’t. I think that statement fairly well covers the situation for the #33 team and, in the end, it remains to be seen what the end result will be pending the RCR appeal to the decision.

For just for a minute, I would like to share a real-life experience with you from when I raced at our local short tracks. I had a similar experience as have many that race and win when it comes to post race inspections and tear-downs. It all concerned the engine tear down after winning the feature race on a Saturday night. Even though our engine had been torn down more than once before and passed, this particular night, it didn’t pass. We had changed nothing and did nothing illegal according to the rules except for one thing… in the rule book there was a statement that read as follows, “Just because this rule book doesn’t say you can’t do it, doesn’t mean you can.” That is a statement very similar to the NASCAR’s, “… actions deemed detrimental to Stock Car Racing.”

In this fan’s opinion (and as a former car builder and driver), it is a broad rule to let everyone involved know there may be consequences to pushing the envelope and possibly gaining an advantage that could not be foreseen at the time the rule book was written. In Clint Bowyer and RCR’s case, they did receive a warning (much as others have) that they were very close to being declared illegal in a very recent inspection performed a week or two earlier. Hey, I’m just a fan, but, that tells me NASCAR would definitely be looking closer at the area in question in a future inspection especially since they had previously informed the team about the situation. Unfortunately, winning the race at Loudon almost guaranteed the tear down and inspection.

In my case, we did something to improve oil flow from the top of the engine to the bottom by grinding the oil passages smooth. As is usually the case, it didn’t have much, if anything to do with improving performance on the track, but it was supposed to make our engine last longer. To make a long story short, they declared us to be in violation and we had to pay the price of points loss and money won for the night, even though they had found our engine acceptable in at least one previous tear down. On this particular night, (and whether or not we thought it was right or wrong), we fell under the broadness of the rule I mentioned earlier. (It’s okay though, I think we still won the Championship that year. If not, I know it was one of the several years we finished in the top three.)

At least in Bowyer’s case, they do have an appeals process, but the damage is probably already done for their efforts in this Chase. I guess we’ll see what happens from here on out and how things look after the appeal.

Oh well, that’s enough on that for now, it’s time to get back to the Monster Mile at Dover…

Jimmie Johnson qualified on the pole for this weekend’s AAA 400 and he is hopeful it is his opportunity to begin his “drive for five in” earnest. After the way things have been going for the #48 team, starting on the pole and having the number one pit stall has to breathe a little more hope into the team everyone says is the one to beat at Chase time, (and yet just hasn’t shown the consistency and strength of previous years.)

With all of those plus-es, the #48 team isn’t the only one with improved performance and they’re not the only ones with a chance to win on Sunday afternoon. Carl Edwards has been the one being the most consistent for the last ten or so races (even though he hasn’t won yet) and it is possible he could take his first victory in a long time at Dover this weekend. I’m not saying he will, I’m just saying he’s one to watch along with his team-mate Greg Biffle. If Roush/Fenway is going to show themselves as contenders for the 2010 Cup Championship, they’re going to have to start this weekend at Dover.

Taking a quick look at where the Chasers start makes this another week we could see a new face in Victory Lane. AJ Allmendinger for Richard Petty Motorsports looked very strong in practice and in qualifying. Martin Truex Jr looked as confident as I’ve seen him look in a while and it’s possible he, or his teammate, David Reutimann, could surprise everyone with a victory for Michael Waltrip Racing. (Hey, long-shot I know, but definitely possible.)

There’s going to be a lot going on this weekend and with the addition of the Hamlin/RCR conflict, I think it is going to be a very interesting weekend. Not only will the weather be a lot different when the teams take the track on Sunday afternoon, but the intensity of the top twelve teams is reaching a peak as they seek to either separate themselves from the rest or to make up ground on those ahead of them. From this fan’s view, looking at the miniscule differences in qualifying times tells me this is going to be a very close race and, considering we’re at Dover, just about anything can and will happen. As to who will win, well, Jimmie Johnson almost won there earlier this year and has some of the stronger statistics going in… but… when did that ever make a difference when we look at winners on race day in NASCAR?

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© September 25, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

(All audio productions by and