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Racing at the Monster Mile in Dover was just as interesting as I thought it was going to be and, if you asked the drivers, it was definitely a challenge to their abilities as race car drivers. The concrete has always been a bit of a different challenge and if you add the circumstances of practice but no qualifying, you get exactly what we all expected… that’s right… the unexpected.
Matt Kenseth and his crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, made the call on on the final yellow to go for two tires and fuel and that put them out front with Mark Martin who decided not to stop. Between the two of them, the others just couldn’t catch and pass them so they finished first and second on the day.
Once again, strategy and track position played the most important parts in who finished where by the end of the FedEx 400 and the word gamble was mentioned more than once, (and the race wasn’t even in Vegas.) From this fans view, it appears gambling is playing a bigger and bigger part in the races these days, especially near and at the end of them.
Now it’s just my view, but from just listening to some friends and to some comments from others, some were disappointed there were no mix-ups among the drivers this weekend. As I stated in the earlier article, many were expecting a lot paint-trading to go on, especially between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush, but there was nothing going on between them at all. Harvick did have a few choice words for the officials and the pace car driver though. He didn’t like all the trash down at the bottom of the track and made his feelings known through his in car communications and, as has been the case lately, was his “not-so-happy” self.
To be fair, he wasn’t the only one unhappy with the track racing conditions. I’m not sure, but it seemed at least forty of the forty-three drivers had more negative than positive to say about the rubber buildup in the bottom groove; (those other three dropped out relatively early in the competition.) The complaint I heard most often was the inconsistency they were facing. If they missed the line by a couple of inches they had to let up until they could catch their cars as the drifted up out of the groove towards the wall. Also to be fair, Kevin Harvick wasn’t the only one complaining about the lack of cleaning of the track near the bottom… there were a number either during or after the race joining in that complaint.
From this fans view, it was a toss up between the track and tires that brought the most conversation from the drivers during the race. They liked the fact the tires lasted and the track was taking rubber, but many complained it was taking too much rubber and that was where the problem was. It was easy to see most of the drivers were taking the low groove and that may have contributed to the buildup of rubber down low. I don’t know but maybe it would have been a little better all round if there had been two grooves to race in, or at least one and a half.
This may be a bit hard for some to swallow, but, from this fans’ view, I don’t see what the big deal was. We all know NASCAR sells its drivers as the best in the world (and I’m not disagreeing) but if that is the case, perhaps they should quit griping about track conditions so much and do what they do best – drive! (Uh, perhaps another way of saying that would be, “Shut-up and drive…”) After all, what they get paid the big bucks for is to do just that. If they are the best, they should enjoy the challenge that every situation throws at them (and honestly, I think they do), but there is something that has changed about the racing, and more noticeable this year, than in the past. There seems to be more pressure on them to perform than ever before and in their frustration to do just that, the pressure is showing through more this year than usual.
Now that I’ve said that, this fan thinks there are several factors causing that frustration to be so evident. The largest factor in my opinion is how close the competition is. Some would call it “parity” and I can’t really disagree. Competition has never been tighter than in the last year and it seems all of the teams are figuring out just how to make their cars as fast as the other guys. In fact, (also from my view), lap times are getting closer and closer for all involved. Until someone consistently gets an advantage, the outcomes of the individual races is going to be a matter of strategy and track position and depend on a team and driver making no mistakes in the pits or on the track.
Uh, from this fans view, the other big factor would probably be the statement of, “Boys, have at it…” It is my firm opinion that will always be affected by temperament and, either fortunately or unfortunately, fatigue. For the most part, I think rivalries are fun and good for the sport, at least as long as no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, 3400 pound cars traveling at high speeds, or slow speeds for that matter, don’t leave much room for error if things do get a little too out of control, and, though we all like the excitement and the raised adrenaline levels, none of us wants anyone to get hurt… but like I said last time, “Boys have at it… just don’t be stupid.”
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 18, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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