Independent Tribune – Intimidators get hot at right timeAuto Racing, Mike Mulhern Journal Readers Rant: On safety, Indy tires, the car-of-tomorrow, Ford, Toyota…and NASCAR!

Journal Readers Rant: On safety, Indy tires, the car-of-tomorrow, Ford, Toyota…and NASCAR!


If NASCAR is “Safety First,” then how to explain forcing drivers to race under conditions like this? NASCAR executives shouldn’t have backed themselves in a corner with Montreal and Pocono the same weekend. And the fans get cheated too.  (Stanton Barrett drives in the rain during the Montreal 200.) (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Mulhern
[email protected]

Let’s open up the NASCAR mailbag and see what The Journal’s NASCAR readers are ranting about, in the wake of the Indianapolis Brickyard 400 tire debacle.
And we can’t wait to see what they have to say this week about Saturday’s rainy race in Montreal…..
…and what rebuttals NASCAR officials will surely have for each of these comments.

JL is really hot about the Indy fiasco:
“I spent $360 to take my family to this sham of a race. Never again.
“If Tony George and NASCAR had any guts, they would demand that Goodyear Corporation pay for refunds that should be given to every paying customer of this fraudulent event. There is precedent here. Refunds were issued after the Formula One race here a few years ago, and it’s the same situation now.
“Time to get your credibility back, NASCAR and IMS, and do what’s right.”

F5 says he’s had it:
“Someone’s head has got to roll for this one.  Robin “Mr. Sensitivity” Pemberton (NASCAR vice president for competition) would be my choice. 
“Sorry, but to me a disappointing race is one where your favorite is knocked out early, like Matt Kenseth for instance, or the race is weather delayed or shortened or where one team dominates to the exclusion of all others. 
“This race was beyond disappointing– it was incompetence and pigheadedness masquerading as sound racing judgment on the part of NASCAR. 
“The folks in Stand C where I was sitting were openly mocking NASCAR and Goodyear and many walked out with half the race left.
“I drove 400 miles round trip to see a race, but instead I watched an event run like a circus, but run (by) the escaped inmates from the local insane asylum.
“Robin, this probably isn’t the first or last time you will hear this today but I am giving up my 6 tickets to the Brickyard.  I won’t be back to watch mediocre racing, sanctioned by incompetent officials and offered at premium prices.”

C, in North Carolina, is upset with NASCAR’s excuses:
“Don’t mean to sound so negative, but in the end it was NASCAR’s fault!
“No excuse for this type of problem. I could understand it if it was the first race at Indy, but running there since 1994!
“Main issue is their public relations with the fans. Mike Helton (NASCAR president) should, when he was on TV, give a full apology to the fans. Probably the ones in the stands had no clue what was going on!
“Their main concern was with teams, the egg on their face!
“They should at least give money or free tickets to the paying fans!
“There is no excuse for this. They had practiced before the event, and then had a week off; no mention about ‘big tire issues!’
“Maybe this would be a good time for NASCAR to fix its own problems, and get new competition directors! With debris cautions, COT, tire issues, horsepower restrictions, closing of tracks, green-white-yellow finishes, scoring loops finishes, etc, this group is the problem!”

M suggests the NASCAR competition department has some problems to deal with:
“The Pocono tires were at the Indy race track on Saturday night. If NASCAR officials were interested in avoiding problems they merely had to have every team switch to the Pocono tires before the race began.
“Only in NASCAR do you allow competitors to pit right before a competition yellow comes out, realize racers were taking advantage of it, and begin closing the pits so the rest of the competitors couldn’t get the same advantage that NASCAR already gave the others. Fair? NO. But another example (one of many) that there is a very serious lack of skill and knowledge in the competition department at NASCAR.”

Nothing wrong with racing in light rain, if you’ve got a good game plan and everyone is ready for it…but Saturday’s Montreal race looks like it was an international faux pas for NASCAR. Did NASCAR just use rain tires as a convenient excuse to get out of town? If NASCAR wants to race in the rain, it needs a serious rain plan.  (A view of the Senna curves at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide race in Montreal. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

S in Florida says NASCAR should stop messing with Toyota: “NASCAR is making the biggest mistake they could ever make by cutting horsepower in the Toyota. Kyle Busch has brought more fans to the races and to their TV screens. If not for Kyle, I for sure would not be watching any races. Everywhere you go people are talking about ‘What a driver,’ and how mad some of the fans get when he wins…so they go to the next race to see if anyone can beat Kyle. He is the Big Ticket for NASCAR.”

B in Salt Lake City says the car-of-tomorrow needs serious review by NASCAR, and points out the new car has so much less downforce than the old car that it has created major tire problems:
“These tires are supposed to be harder than the 2001-2002 tire. That competition package was running 1400-pounds of downforce; the COT is running in the neighborhood of 600 pounds.
So we have added mechanical pressure to the right sides, increased the thrust load because of the flat track and removed the downforce that sets the tire and holds the car to the track.
This causes “skate.”
“The COT is also severely lacking in rear downforce, and this would induce wheel-spin.
“Between increased mechanical grip, skate and wheel-spin on the diamond-ground (Indianapolis) track, the tires were simply ground to dust.
“They could have had a quality control issue, but skate and wheel-spin were going to kill Indy.
“There may not be a solution for the COT. If you add downforce back, they might not be able to get sidewall strength to handle it…and even if they did, the bump-stops (on shocks, which keep a car from bottoming out) would prevent the car from turning.
“John Darby (NASCAR’s Cup tour director) is responsible for this mess and needs to be fired immediately. The COT needs to be abandoned, and Bridgestone needs to be the new tire supplier.”

S agrees that the car-of-tomorrow has some significant issues:
“So NASCAR has finally admitted that a big part of the problem is with the vaunted COT. 
“How much safer can a car really be if you can’t make it turn in a high-speed corner? 
“Every team in the garage has said the data from the ‘old’ car doesn’t apply to the new one…yet NASCAR depended on ‘what has happened before’ to assume things would be just fine at Indy? 
“I don’t know where NASCAR has their collective heads stuck, but it’s time to pull them out and do something to make the cars able to turn.  If that means changing the cars, or finally admitting they need wider/taller tires, then they need to do it. 
“It does make me wonder if Goodyear has ever said something to NASCAR that trying to make the same tire work for the Nationwide and Cup cars (the two types of cars have much different downforce characteristics) was a pipe dream to begin with.”

Another NASCAR fiasco? Racing in the rain in Montreal—NASCAR needs to go back to the drawing board. (A member of the CitiFinancial Ford team wheels tires back to the trailer in the rain following the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 Montreal presented by Dodge on August 2, 2008 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.) (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images for NASCAR)

D in Indiana has been following racing for years and worries now that NASCAR is on a downward slope:
“I have had the experience to witness racing up close and personal for nearly 5 decades.  I’ve seen open-wheel racing rise and fall and beginning to rise again.  I’ve seen Indiana, the once proudly and aptly named the “Capitol of Auto Racing” reduced to basically name only.  I have a brother-in-law who is a 3-time Indianapolis winner and pole winner at the Daytona 500.  I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of CART. 
“When I was involved with ESPN at all of their Cup races, and it was apparent that television was bringing NASCAR to greater awareness with the viewing public and the fans, the TV ratings moved rapidly upward and thus brought corporate dollars to the equation, I said to Benny Parsons at that time that “GREED” would possibly overcome NASCAR and the sport would suffer accordingly. 
“This same situation happened with CART. 
“As it now begins to appear, NASCAR is following the same footsteps as CART. 
“Huge money has “lined” the pockets of all.  The entire community of NASCAR is basking in this luxury, and there has become an attitude that this will continue, regardless of what they do or do not do to keep focused on what got them there.
“Ratings, fan approval, expense for fans to attend races, parity versus “run what you brung”, corporate appetite or apathy will definitely control the future for NASCAR. 
“Sunday’s debacle at IMS will surely speed up the downward spiral presently within NASCAR.
“Oh, if further evidence is needed to illustrate the point above, look at the number of major corporate sponsors for the Cup Series next year.  Look at the number of legend teams gone or going from NASCAR.  When the “roots” are gone, there is nothing left to hold up the plant.
“So it goes for the long-time real fans of NASCAR, versus the fly-by-night social fans of the present.
“ Finally, go, Morgan Shepherd; you have figured it out. NASCAR hasn’t been able to fill the fields in the Nationwide Series, so Morgan and Cope have seen that it’s an easy buck to show up and collect. Keep skating Morgan.  Maybe Cale, Darrell, A.J. and Rutherford will join you.  Still better money for last place than when they won races!!!???!!!  Could be the reason the NASCAR drivers, owners and crews are keeping quiet.  Yah, think??????”

C, in North Carolina worries that Ford Motor Company is losing interest in NASCAR:
“It seems to me that Ford has been scaling back on NASCAR for years. Back in the 1990s they had as many or more than GM!
“They at one time had Roger Penske, Bill Elliott, the Stavola Bros, Bud Moore, Harry Melling, Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Travis Carter, Alan Kulwicki.
“Now just Jack Roush, Doug Yates and the Woods!
“So they have been reducing support for years!”

W says he’s worried that NASCAR is taking sponsorship dollars away from race teams, to the detrement of the sport overall. And he worries about sponsor conflicts that hurt the teams:
“As much as Detroit might end up being a serious issue for NASCAR and the teams, I see one other major sponsorship issue that no one seems to want to talk about. How many teams have been affected by the insane series sponsor edicts where NASCAR gets the series sponsor for big bucks but the teams lose several high dollar sponsors?
“Look, having the Nationwide series is great, but why can’t a team still have GEICO on a car? The same with Sprint.
“The teams lose, and only due to the greed of NASCAR.
“NASCAR needs to give up the exclusive deals, stick to the series, and let the teams have the whole gamut of available sponsorships.
“NASCAR loves to say “don’t mess up our show.” Without the teams there is no show.
“The series sponsorship only promises the fan a race date and a track…and the track doesn’t provide much of a show if there are no teams.
“None of the teams can survive on a NASCAR payout-purse.
“They are stinking up their own show with their greed, and that sure isn’t anything new.”

And M says he liked our story about Tony George’s push to bring soft walls into racing…but with a caveat: “Great column concerning one of the major turning points in racing safety.
“How sad that NASCAR had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the use of the Safer Barrier.
“How many NASCAR drivers would have been saved from injury and death if (NASCAR CEO Brian) France and (NASCAR president Mike) Helton could have just swallowed their pride and admitted that another racing organization had a better idea.”

Thanks for the comments and ideas, and keep ‘em coming. NASCAR executives do listen to what you have to say…so say it right here.

Agree? Disagree? Don’t just brood. Express yourself here, and make your voice heard clearly in NASCAR headquarters in Daytona and Charlotte and in NASCAR race shops throughout North Carolina and the rest of the country.
We want your reaction, so please comment on this story and offer your own opinions and insight, on this topic, on our NASCAR videos, and anything about NASCAR. Any questions, just ask Mike at [email protected]. And bookmark this page for continually updated NASCAR reports:

The post-race NASCAR report from Montreal could be controversial: did NASCAR try to sandwich too much into one weekend, with Pocono and Montreal? Rain at both tracks, and NASCAR’s schedules leave no wiggle room.
(Jacques Villeneuve, driver of the L’Equipeur/Ganotec Toyota, drives down pit lane after a wreck during the NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 Montreal presented by Dodge on August 2, 2008 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.) (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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