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Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Nov. 25, 2015
Volume IX, Edition CCXIV
So on this special day we wish you HAPPY THANKSGIVING and hope you've spent it in the comfort of family and friends. We wouldn't want it any other way as we celebate another successful year in the books. :) -Tom Bowles, Owner/Editor-In-Chief
- Phil Allaway, Newsletter Manager
by the Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday, INDYCAR announced a series of technical changes in the name of safety. Additional tethers, most notably in the nosecone will be required at superspeedways. A new program in the ECU will prevent the car from moving in gear while the fuel hose is engaged. Rear wing flaps and a domed skid plate will also be employed to prevent cars from getting airborne. Read more
Kyle Busch to Scale Back XFINITY Series Schedule in 2016
During the champion's teleconference Tuesday afternoon Kyle Busch stated he intends to drop the number of XFINITY Series events he competes in during the 2016 season. Busch's plan currently includes 15-18 XFINITY races with a new sponsor to be announced. Monster Energy, Busch's sponsor for several years has left Joe Gibbs Racing in order to serve as a co-primary sponsor (with Haas Automation) on brother Kurt's Sprint Cup car beginning next year. Read more
Drew Carey to Host Sprint Cup Awards Banquet
Today's Featured Commentary
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
The 2015 NASCAR season provided quite an educational experience. At the small Midwestern college where I teach we preach the gospel of "lifelong learning" but it's safe to say the last ten months of racing alone have explored a variety of thought-provoking perspectives regarding human potential.
NASCAR circa 2015 was both frustrating and humbling; that opinion comes from someone who observed the sport from afar. I had no personal stake in what went on this year other than it provided me with material about which to write each week.
And was there ever a diverse assortment of topics about which to write!
The adventures of Kyle Busch provided us with several lessons that bookended the 2015 racing season. His horrific wreck during the XFINITY race on the eve of the Daytona 500 set the tone for the year. Busch's accident could have been interpreted in any number of ways based on what your personal opinions were at the time: was this "just desserts" for a Cup driver carpetbagging in the XFINITY Series, was it a reminder that turf has noplace near the edge of a racing groove, or was it an example of how race cars and unprotected walls possess significant design flaws?
Such a judgment call was entirely up to the individual but such a call also tended to speak volumes about how the remainder of the 2015 season progressed.
Case in point: when Kyle Busch took the checkered flag last Sunday to win both the Ford EcoBoost 400 and the Sprint Cup championship were his accomplishments a testament to medical science, personal courage, and professional determination? Or was it just another example of how NASCAR caters to drivers who attract both sponsors and fans by granting waivers?
I guess it depends on whichever lesson you took away from the 2015 season….
This year taught us how change is a necessity in the world of professional sports. After endless complaints about lousy competition because of "aero push" and a lack of passing in "dirty air" NASCAR responded by listening to drivers and introducing the low-downforce aerodynamics package that will be standard at every Cup race next year. Making this decision wasn't automatic, as the midsummer "high drag" debacles at Indianapolis and Michigan demonstrated, but success of the low-downforce design at the Southern 500 sealed the deal for 2016.
The 2015 NASCAR season did, however, teach us the merits of carrying oneself with dignity, as we witnessed during Jeff Gordon's farewell tour. The measure of a person's life can be determined by how highly regarded they are by their peers and few drivers have ever been held in higher regard than Gordon. He soldiered on after winning the pole at Daytona in February to secure a place in the Chase on points; his postseason win at Martinsville November 1st was punctuated by his sincere outpouring of joy, the likes of which we experienced another 92 times during his 23 years behind the wheel.
And all this nostalgia unfolded during a season when Gordon never, as in not once, ever cried "Woe is me!" When he and crew chief Alan Gustafson argued during a heated radio exchange at Pocono in June, not once did Jeff accuse another driver of being the bane of his problems. Gordon hasn't always kept his emotions in check (remember Phoenix in 2012? How about Texas in 2014?) but he managed to do so during his final year as a driver.
What we got with Jeff Gordon in 2015, then was something we sadly missed with Dale Earnhardt: the opportunity to celebrate a legendary driver during his final season before retirement. It was no secret that Earnhardt was, in 2001, thinking about his eventual retreat from driving. His fatal wreck at Daytona robbed NASCAR Nation of the chance to properly say its goodbyes, to say thank you for "The Intimidator's" long and storied career.
Others who showed us how to say "goodbye" in 2015 were the dedicated employees of Michael Waltrip Racing, over 200 of whom are now looking for new positions in motorsports. It was sad enough to hear a few months ago that Clint Bowyer was looking for a 2016 Cup ride but now? We all know where his future lies. For the folks who worked in the shop and pit crew members left in the lurch, there are only so many positions available. It's another lesson to learn from NASCAR: to recognize the precarious nature of high-stakes team ownership. Racing is a business and businesses are always changing -- just not always for the better.
Yet here we are, looking ahead to 2016 and innumerable other shifts. Not only will we have a new aero package next year but we'll see Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Chevrolet, Martin Truex, Jr. in a Toyota and Danica Patrick with a politically correct primary sponsor in Nature's Bakery. Jeff Gordon will begin a career in broadcasting while Tony Stewart will begin his own "farewell tour" before bequeathing the No. 14 Chevrolet to Clint Bowyer in 2017. Will the racing be better? Will the fans be satisfied? We'll learn the answers to many of these questions as NASCAR 2016 commences at the new-and-improved Daytona International Speedway.
Until then, as we say at the college where I teach: you need to keep learning at the center of everything you do….
Well, I didn't start out that way. However, as I watched him mature a bit over the past couple of seasons, I came to respect Busch's ability. The boy can flat drive a race car; no doubt about that. I started paying more attention to him after he came back from that devastating accident in the XFINITY race at Daytona and after NASCAR granted a "medical waiver." Incidentally, on that subject, I think they did the right thing.
One thing is for sure, it made for a pretty exciting season after Busch got back. There was no doubt this team and driver was going to put everything they had into working their way up through the points and qualifying for the Chase.
Personally, I didn't think they could do it, and they proved me wrong.
I became a believer on Brickyard Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when I spent most of the race listening to his team's radio transmissions in the IMS Media Center. If you don't recall, I wrote about how well Busch and Adam Stevens, his crew chief, worked together.
At one point before the last caution (if you don't mind reading it again), when Busch was about fourth or fifth, the conversation went:
Kyle: "You want me to run up there and start racing for the win?"
Adam: "If you do that, Kyle, there won't be any win because you're gonna run out of gas. We're waiting for the caution."
Turned out the crew chief was right, and it paid off.
Whatever your opinion about the Chase (I personally don't like it), it certainly builds up the excitement in what NASCAR likes to call their "playoffs." And there's no doubt that, from the twelfth race of the season on, Kyle Busch earned this championship.
Why do I not like it? Well, it's entirely possible that a driver could have a good season and then find himself not eligible for the last round. Or even the last two rounds. Cases in point – Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. It's even possible for a driver to lead the point standings all season long and then not be eligible for the last couple of rounds because of a couple of bad races. That ain't right.
- - - - - - - - -
For those complaining that Kyle shouldn't have been eligible after missing all those races, I say it's no different than if he finished 43rd in all of those events. There would be just 11 points difference in the final tally.
I think that's a new rule. There are precedents. Both David Pearson and Richard Petty won championships without making all the races. True, they didn't miss that many, but if the rule had been in effect at that time it may have been applied unless NASCAR could have found a way out.
- - - - - - - -
I was pulling for Jeff Gordon Sunday until I realized that team had obviously missed the setup, especially since the race started so late. Gordon even acknowledged this fact after the race, saying they weren't really ready for the track to change so much in the direction it did. After Gordon was out of the battle, I was pulling for Harvick, but they just didn't have the steam to run down Busch.
I'm just happy I was able to be there to see Gordon's first big win, held in the Night Before the 500 midget race at Indianapolis Raceway Park on May 27, 1989. Gordon's first time in a midget set a new track record as well as winning the main. All these victories came a few days before Gordon graduated from high school.
The following year, Gordon did it again, following it up at the next IRP race for his first sprint car win on that oval.
Thanks for the ride, Jeff.
TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:
Faceoff: What Kind of Champ Will Busch Be?
by the Frontstretch Staff
Beyond the Cockpit: John Hunter Nemechek on Motivation, Variation & Determination
Tweet N Greet: Do You Wanna Build A Snowdale?
Q: In the same 1995 Australian Grand Prix, attrition resulted in Gianni Morbidelli scoring a third-place finish for Footwork. What was notable about this accomplishment?
COMING ON THE WEEKEND:
We'll have breaking news from the previous few days. In addition, Phil Allaway will return with his thoughts on NBCSN's Hot Pass coverage from Homestead.
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