A Hot Texas Night

Texas Motor Speedway President, Eddie Gossage, promised that the races at the Texas Motor Speedway would light up the night. He said that Texas would do night racing bigger and better than it had ever been done. After all everything in Texas is bigger. But the results of the two first night races of the season met with mixed reviews.

[media-credit name=”(c) CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”279″][/media-credit]The weekend began as most of the ‘new schedule’ weekends do,  with the Nationwide Series taking the track first. Race fans quickly realized to follow the practice sessions at Texas they would have to do so on-line via Nascar.com or Twitter, because Speed TV,  who usually broadcasts practice sessions had devoted the entire weekend to the Barrett-Jackson Auto Action. This added an element of confusion to the weekend. And a sense of disconnection to the races that would follow.

Qualifying lacked the anticipation that one would expect on Friday, and offered very few surprises. With Carl Edwards taking the pole and Brad Keselowski making up the front row in the Nationwide Series.

The first night race at Texas went off without a hitch and not a lot of excitement either. Long green flag runs lead to monotony and the appearance of follow the leader. The only surprise was the unfortunate elimination of Kyle Busch who appeared to be the only hope of catching and passing race winner Carl Edwards. The incident occurred as Busch was closing in on the rear bumper of Edwards when a lapped car driven by Tim Schendel blew a tire and went up the track leaving Busch no where to go,  destroying the front end of the Z Line Toyota Camry. Although Busch was an unfortunate victim of circumstances, it ended any possibility of an actual race.

Carl Edwards dominated from green flag to checkers leading all but 31 laps. It was Edwards sixth win from the pole and gave Mustang its first victory. The win made Edwards 5th in the all team win column for the series.

Edwards was followed to the line by defending series champion Brad Keselowski who scored his best finish of the 2011 season. Keselowski was .482 seconds behind Edwards at the line.

The highest finishing series regular was Elliott Sadler in the One Main Financial Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick Inc. Sadler finished in 5th place after struggling early on.

As the season goes on in the Nationwide series it becomes more and more apparent that the possibility of crowning a winless series champion is highly likely. Keeping the Cup drivers from scoring points only skewed the appearances of the competition it did not change it. The cup drivers are winning the races. The cup drivers are dominating the races. The Nationwide regulars are getting the points and not challenging for the win.

Can we truly have a series champion without a win? It would appear so. Even though NASCAR has said that the new points system places an emphasis on winning it only does so in the upper tier Sprint Cup series.The points for the positions not taken by the visitors are not awarded, which skews the system even more.

When you add the new COT for the series into the picture and you take into consideration the decrease in the amount of the purse money for the series it is amazing that many of the teams can continue to compete. Kenny Wallace sited a minimum of 100,000 dollars per race without a driver’s salary on Twitter. Many team representatives including Greg Wallace of Rusty Wallace Inc. disagreed with the amount stating it was too low. “On what planet can you race every week for that?” The younger Wallace commented.

It’s once again time for NASCAR to look at their system and make some changes. Not only is the car more expensive. The teams are being paid less and to crown a winless champion is a humiliation to the series it’s sponsors and the drivers who compete as professionals every week.

Sunset on Saturday brought the anticipation of the Sprint Cup race. The favorites were Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Dale Jr. and Greg Biffle. The winner would be a surprise to all.

Again we saw long green flag runs with a follow the leader appearance. Although there was obviously side by side racing in the pack little of that was shown to the TV viewer. The car leading the race consistently would end up being the 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion of Matt Kenseth. He would ultimately be the race winner.

For a second week in a row, Martin Truex Jr suffered a hard crash taking with him Mark Martin and Regan Smith. Though all walked away, Martin was obviously shaken saying, “I need to sit down here guys.” Truex attributed the wreck to an ill handling race car once again. This gave rise to social media rumors of a crew chief change coming at Michael Waltrip Racing. Although the team did not confirm that rumor it would seem to follow reason with the season that Truex has endured thus far.

Tony Stewart would stay out to lead for a significant period of time playing the card that he could go 58 laps on a tank of fuel and with his stop there were 58 laps left. The anticipation built and Smoke was calm and confident on the radio. Until the last lap when the fuel light came on. The 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet sputtered and ran out of gas on the back stretch. Stewart would coast around to finish 12th. A very disappointed Stewart delayed his post race interview and it was not shown with the post race coverage.

Roush Fenway Racing dominated the night with 4 cars in the top 10. Kenseth snapped a 76 race losing streak. Greg Biffle turned in his best performance of the season with a 4th place finish. Carl Edwards turned in 3rd place finish although he was suffering from a severe upset stomach early in the race. David Ragan turned in a 7th place finish which placed all 4 Roush cars in the top 10.

Dale Earnhardt Jr turned in another consistent finish after a poor qualifying effort. His 9th place finish moved him to 6th in the points standings and although extending his losing streak to 100 races, the 4 laps he lead by staying out during green flag stops encouraged the anticipation and confidence of the JR Nation as the series heads into Talladega.

The biggest topic of the race was the fact that NASCAR allowed TV coverage of the computer system that monitors the pit road speed. The first appearance of the monitor featured Larry McReynolds standing in front of the monitor and explaining how the speeds were gathered and that there were no human hands involved. Behind him the lines of drivers was being highlighted one at a time and deleted from the screen, making it somewhat hard to believe that no human hands are involved in the system. The next appearance came when Tony Stewart was caught speeding on pit road. The TV camera showed the monitor which showed no red areas. Larry Mac said you can see the red area there that shows he was speeding in the first timing zone. When the camera panned back to the monitor indeed it was red. Stewart admitted to speeding on pit road, unfortunately NASCAR’s attempt to prove to fans that everything was above board only added more clouds and questions.

The question remains and has been asked by many, if you already use the transponder to determine what position the car is running on the track, if you already use it to determine a winner in a photo finish situation, why are you not using it to time the pit road speed? Fox can tell us exactly how fast the car is going on the track why can’t they tell us exactly how fast they are going on pit road?

Transparency eliminates questions and doubt. Defensiveness by NASCAR over the situation only leads to more suspicions. Jimmie Johnson stated he was mistaken and had incorrect information. It should have stopped there. He apologized to NASCAR and the fans. Leave it there. Instead NASCAR went over board trying to prove their point and trying to prove they were innocent of manipulation. The old saying of Thou doest protest too much applies here.

Once again, as with the NNS points system and the COT, NASCAR shot themselves in the foot. This is the greatest racing series in the world. Why not just raise the window shades and let the light shine on the situation as it is. Not paint a picture that you can’t defend in the end.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * * * * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Congratulations to Carl Edwards and Jack Roush Racing on their Nationwide Series Victory, and Congratulations to Ford Motorsports on the Mustangs first series victory. Congratulations also to Matt Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing on their Sprint Cup Victory. Welcome back to Victory Lane Matt! You are only as old as you think you are.

That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


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