Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Truex Penalized, New Stricter Post-Race Rules

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Sep. 15, 2016
Volume X, Edition CLXI
What to Watch: Thursday
- Today, the race weekend gets underway in Joilet with the Scott 150 for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.  The Camping World Truck Series will also be on-track for practice sessions.

- Today is also Chase Media Day.  All 16 Chasers will gather in Chicago to talk about the upcoming ten-race playoff.

- Finally, there is on-track action at Circuit of the Americas for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Continental SportsCar Challenge.  The WeatherTech teams have two practice sessions, while the Conti teams have their second practice session (session No. 1 was yesterday) and qualifying later this afternoon.

Thursday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

NASCAR Announces Rule Changes Prior to Chase

Heading into the playoffs, NASCAR has announced rule changes designed to further deter cheating.  Having more than two missing lugnuts at the end of a race is now a three-race suspension for a crew chief, paired with a $65,000 fine.  Flunking the laser by a significant amount post-race can also cause a win to be "encumbered."  Read more

Furniture Row Racing Penalized Following Richmond

Wednesday, NASCAR released the penalty report from Richmond.  At the top of the list is Martin Truex, Jr. who was given a P2 penalty after flunking post-race laser inspection.  However, those consequences apply before the points cutoff.  Read more

Have news for the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Editor's Note: Potts' Shots will return soon.
The Critic's Annex: Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington
by Phil Allaway

A couple of weeks ago, NBCSN premiered a new one-hour show, Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington.  As many of you know, I'm a history buff, so this type of show was a natural fit for me to critique.

Here, we learn a bit about Harold Brasington, the creator/founder of Darlington Raceway.  Brasington was a big fan of stock cars, a guy who would go to events dating back to the board racing era.  The idea for Darlington came from a trip to Indianapolis, spurring what Brasington referred to as an unalienable right: daydreaming.  I've never heard that described as such before, but I'm willing to buy in.

The first Southern 500 race in 1950 was a scrum with 75 cars starting, driven by all the stars of the day.  Hershel McGriff, as an example drove his race car all the way from Oregon to compete.  A man that raced as recently as 2012, McGriff was on hand for this TV special to describe that first race.  The now 89-year-old McGriff detailed the start as essentially a free-for-all, one that Johnny Mantz won with his truck tires.  McGriff described the agony of waiting on tire changes while Mantz kept right on truckin'.  He finished ninth, 26 laps down while Mantz won the race by nine laps over Fireball Roberts.

Cale Yarborough was also part of the special, talking about the idea of having Darlington Raceway right in his backyard (he grew up within 15 miles of the track).  Today, he has a lot of respect for the facility and claims that winning the 1968 Southern 500 for the Wood Brothers was the biggest win of his career.  Remember that he captured consecutive Daytona 500s later on.

Naturally, the story of Darlington Raceway is not all syrupy sweet, especially in recent years.  There was time dedicated to Darlington's floundering in the series schedule, cutting back from two dates to one.  In 2004, Mike Helton described the moving of the Southern 500 away from Labor Day weekend as "Modernizing Tradition."

It screamed of a slap in the face.  Tom Higgins, the retired former columnist for the Charlotte Observer, recalled his reaction as something along the lines of "what the heck are you talking about?"  Today, the idea of Darlington Raceway shutting down is unlikely at best, but back in the mid-2000s, it was in play.  For the past few seasons, Darlington has no other major race weekends outside of the Bojangles' Southern 500 and has made that their primary focus.  Without that, the track would likely cease to exist and eliminate a major reason for anyone from outside the Pee Dee region to visit the area.

Overall, I did like watching the special.  It was an interesting look at the history of an iconic venue.  Someone who didn't have detailed knowledge of Darlington would take away quite a bit from it, in particular the real community aspect to the event.  Having "A"-list (or close to it at the time) celebrities in a place like Darlington seems pretty crazy, but Darlington Raceway (and likely, the city of Darlington as well) helped to get chaps like Clint Eastwood coming to town.

Darlington, S.C. today is actually a little smaller population-wise than it was when the track opened in 1950.  It's not the smallest place that hosts a Cup race (Watkins Glen has about one-third the population of Darlington) but it is one of them.  They've tried to recapture the community aspect since the Southern 500 returned to Labor Day weekend with varying levels of success.  The throwback aspect of the weekend has been a huge hit, one in which other racing entities are actively copying.  For example, this weekend's Sandown 500 for the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is a Throwback weekend.

One criticism: while this show was fairly comprehensive, the special did not really talk much about the modernization of Darlington Raceway that took place in the 1980s and '90s.  That saw the removal of the box suites (I'm honestly not really sure what to call them, but we're talking about partitioned covered seating here) that were above the backstretch grandstands.  There was also the removal of most of the overhangs on the frontstretch.  Finally, the straightaways were flipped in 1997 along with the start/finish line.  At the time, it was viewed as a necessity in order for expansion to take place because the frontstretch is all but right up against Routes 34 and 151.  Most of said expansion never really took place other than the addition of one grandstand in what is now turn 1.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at
Frontstretch Line of the Week
From Beyond The Cockpit: Richmond's Dennis Bickmeier Implementing Fresh Ideas

"I think they'll handle it equally as well as Sprint – well, Nextel – did when it came into the sport, or as we've seen with Nationwide and now XFINITY. I think it's a great opportunity for a new sponsor when they come into the sport to bring in new ideas and innovation as well. A lot of it will go back to what are their strategic goals, like what do they want to get out of a partnership with NASCAR and racetracks to drive business?

They have to make the determination as to what the interactions will be. From the racetrack side, this is that meeting point between the sport and the fans. This is where things happen." - Bickmeier on the potential new title sponsor

by Phil Allaway and Sean Fesko

by Huston Ladner

by Joseph Wolkin

by Bryan Gable

by Dustin Albino

by Toni Montgomery

Q: When Circuit of the Americas opened in 2012, it was the first track in the United States to have Tec-Pro barriers, a new system that has the benefits of a soft wall and a setup that allows for easy realignment.  This came in handy after Tim Bell had an off.  What happened to cause this incident?

Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Wednesday's Answer:

Q:  In 2012, Josef Newgarden was a rookie racing for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in an Angie's List-sponsored entry.  At Sonoma, Newgarden was running well until his day suddenly ended in the Esses.  What happened?

A: Newgarden was battling Sebastien Bourdais for position when Bourdais ran off course in a left-hander.  He rejoined directly in front of Newgarden, forcing the No. 67 off course and hard into the tires.  The crash can be seen here.

Both drivers were out on the spot.  Bourdais was OK but Newgarden suffered an injury to his left index finger when he hit the tires.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll preview the Sprint Cup Series' Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles 400 from Chicagoland Speedway while also providing news from Thursday.

We'll have Four Burning Questions for you to think about heading into this weekend's action in Chicagoland.
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