Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was always going to be different. NASCAR announced well over a month ago that during the first round of qualifying the cars would be split into two separate groups with 12 cars moving on from each to the second round. Some teams overthought their strategy such that two higher level full time teams did not qualify and will therefore miss the race.

In the first group of the first round of qualifying, the drivers waited most of the round to go out and make their laps. The thought was that the first cars out did not have a chance of posting a fast lap as the cars behind would get the benefit of the draft and post a much faster time. As they say, it looks good on paper.

Denny Hamlin didn’t buy into it and went out by himself. He posted a slow lap but eventually got some benefit of the draft in order to improve but still paid the price for going it alone and was the slowest of that group.

In the second group of the first round of qualifying, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorensen did exactly what Denny Hamlin did in the first group. They went out alone and also paid the price by posting the slowest laps of the cars that were up to speed. The rest of the drivers did exactly the same as the first group, except they waited too long. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not make it to the line in time to take the flag on their up to speed lap. The official time for those drivers was that taken during a warm up lap.

So what exactly happened? There are six spots in the field reserved for those cars highest in owners points that have not qualified for the race on their speed (time). The 43rd and final spot is reserved for the most current champion that has not qualified for the race on their speed (time).  With so many great cars not posting a competitive time and so many cars that needed to make the race actually posting a time there was in a sense “No room at the Inn”. Justin Allgaier, 29th in points; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 27th in points, were out.

Jeff Gordon will start last as he was the slowest of the drivers who are in the race by owner points. Although it would look like he used his past champion provisional, he did not need it since it was his spot if he didn’t use it.

In the end Reed Sorenson was the last to make it into the field on time since Joe Nemecheck was disqualified due to unapproved openings around the oil tank. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—the drivers who were the slowest of those who actually took full speed laps—took the first three provisionals. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Jeff Gordon took the last four provisionals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Joe Nemecheck will miss the race.

Shame on these teams “gaming” the system in order to get an edge in qualifying. We as fans wanted to see cars running around the track nose to tail trying to get a fast speed to make the race. Instead we saw cars sitting on pit road waiting for the last two minutes then going on the track. It was stupid and looked even more so.

The silly part is if it takes about two minutes to get up to speed and make a fast lap why wait for the last two minutes? If all the drivers had gone right at the beginning and run nose to tail only the truly slow cars would have gone home.

Oh and by the way, Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award—not that qualifying at a superspeedway is important; unless of course you don’t.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302428 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Pos Car Driver Team Speed
1 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 196.129
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 195.732
3 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 195.496
4 12 Ryan Blaney(i) SKF Ford 194.015
5 2 Brad Keselowski Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale Ford 194.007
6 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 193.693
7 33 Travis Kvapil Little Joe’s Autos Chevrolet 193.603
8 5 Kasey Kahne Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet 193.498
9 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 193.431
10 7 Michael Annett # Golden Corral Chevrolet 193.162
11 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 191.302
12 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 190.981
13 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Toyota 193.415
14 23 Alex Bowman # Dustless Blasting Toyota 193.376
15 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 193.291
16 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 192.401
17 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 192.278
18 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 192.096
19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 191.908
20 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 191.773
21 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford 190.985
22 26 Cole Whitt # Bad Boy Mowers Toyota 190.97
23 49 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 184.729
24 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 191.577
25 34 David Ragan Dockside Logistics Ford 191.42
26 9 Marcos Ambrose Black & Decker Ford 191.214
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet 191.149
28 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 191.134
29 40 Landon Cassill(i) Carsforsale.com Chevrolet 191.13
30 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 191.027
31 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 190.818
32 83 JJ Yeley(i) Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota 190.689
33 15 Clint Bowyer PinkLemonade5HrEnergybnftLBBC Toyota 190.681
34 66 Michael Waltrip MyAFibStory.com Toyota 190.586
35 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 190.507
36 36 Reed Sorenson Zing Zang Chevrolet 189.305
37 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
38 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota
39 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
40 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
41 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Halloween Toyota
42 42 Kyle Larson # Energizer Chevrolet
43 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet
DNQ 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DNQ 51 Justin Allgaier #
DNQ 29 Joe Nemechek(i).

 

NASCAR Driver Brad Keselowski Takes Have At It to a New Level

Gentlemen Have At It

The Elimination component of the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup has been let loose. Three Chase contending teams were put into a very tough spot at Kansas Speedway leading to more drama than we have seen in a long time at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past week. Tensions are high and tempers are flaring, so what can we expect this week at Talladega Superspeedway.

All in all the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway was pretty much like it has been there and many other 1.5 mile speedways. Nothing really spectacular except after the checkered flag was waved the drama started. Since almost all of the drama revolved around Brad Keselowski we will circle around and try to make some sense of it.

Denny Hamlin:

On the final restart of the race Denny Hamlin was in front of Keselowski and Keselowski ran into the back of him. This caused Hamlin to lose six spots while trying to recover. Hamlin finished ninth.

On the cool down lap Hamlin admitted he brake checked Keselowski then Keselowski tried and failed to spin Hamlin out. All of this happened on the track.

After the race when they were out of the car Hamlin tried to fight? or confront Keselowski over the incident.

Matt Kenseth:

On the second to last restart Brad Keselowski was leading the race and Matt Kenseth got to his rear bumper. Kenseth swung out to pass on the outside and Keselowski moved up to block catching the left front corner of Kenseth’s car in the process. He blocked Kenseth all the way up the track to the wall. Kenseth hit the wall pretty much ending his chances for a good finish. He finished the race 19th the last car on the lead lap.

On the next restart Kenseth got his lap back and on his wave around swung wide and hit Keselowski’s car damaging the left front. This hurt the car and Keselowski’s day. He finished 16th and did not make up any ground in the points to remain in the Chase.

Brad Keselowski showed his displeasure with Kenseth by hitting him in the driver’s side door at the entrance to pit road after Kenseth had already removed his HANS and seat belts. In the process of all this Keselowski ran into the back of Tony Stewart.

After the cars were parked Matt Kenseth jumped Keselowski between the haulers and a fight ensued.

Tony Stewart:

Tony Stewart after getting hit by Keselowski on pit road, stopped, put his car in reverse and rammed him. Since Keselowski didn’t really have a beef with Stewart it ended there.

Fines:

NASCAR fined Brad Keselowski $50,000.00 and Tony Stewart $25,000.00 for actions detrimental to stock car racing and a behavioral penalty for being involved in post-race incidents. They are also on probation for the next four events.

NASCAR was in a tough spot. They created the new Chase Format to create drama and they got exactly what they wanted.

NASCAR got the fines and penalties right!. Everything that happened on the track was simply “Boys have at it”. Wrecking cars or driving recklessly at the entrance to and on pit road or the garage area is not acceptable. There simply is too many people who are not protected that are being put into danger.

This week at Talladega don’t expect any payback from the events of last week but will we see some more aggressive driving from Brad Keselowski? Will be see some blocking which almost always leads to the “Big One” that wrecks the field? Will some of the other driver be more aggressive? This is exactly why NASCAR changed the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is a must watch event.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th. 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 291439 NASCAR via Getty Images

I Don't Think I Like the New Chase For the Sprint Cup Anymore?

I Don’t Think I Like the New Chase For the Sprint Cup Anymore?

The first race of the second elimination round of the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is over. Three of the drivers who have won races and been on the top of the standings the whole season had issues at Kansas Speedway and are now at the bottom of the standings. They are in serious trouble of being out of contention and eliminated during this, The Contender Round, of the Chase.

This has many fans upset, especially fans of Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. How can this be? How can drivers who have won races including Keselowski who won a Chase race be on the outside hoping to get back in? It is upsetting.

It is not a foregone conclusion that these three drivers will not make it to the next round but another unfortunate circumstance or bad race and they will not. Any one of them could win this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway or next week at Talladega Superspeedway and they would move forward. They could also have good runs and some of the other drivers suffer a similar fate as they did at Kansas.

Does this mean the new Chase format is bad. No! It means the new Chase format is doing exactly what it was supposed to.

The new Chase Format was supposed to create drama and excitement for the fans. It is certainly doing that. In the Chicago area rarely do I hear people talking about NASCAR. Just the other day I overheard two people talking about these same drivers possibly missing the Chase. If this shows up in the TV ratings as this progresses then the new format will have done it’s job.

In years past many fans lamented that the Championship was settled long before the last race of the season. This year it is not and cannot be settled until the last race at Homestead Miami Speedway.

I don’t wish any ill will on Keselowski, Earnhardt Jr. or Johnson but the next two races will be events to watch to see if they can win and get to the next round. It will also be exciting to see if other drivers can win or have issues to drop out. This is far from over, We will start the drama and excitement again with an even smaller set of drivers when the Elimination Round begins.

If you cannot get to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank Of America 500 it will be broadcast live on ABC, Saturday, October 11th 2014 at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302109 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

 

Thoughts before the NASCAR Chase Contender Round Begins

Thoughts before the NASCAR Chase Contender Round Begins

The Challenger round for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup has ended the first of three rounds of elimination for four drivers and teams prior to the finale at Homestead Miami Speedway. Since this was the first round we have not seen how it works or the strategy either used by the teams on purpose or by necessity. Here are some thoughts on the next two rounds.

It was amazing that at the bottom of the 16 drivers there were so many drivers so close in points at the last of the three races. This made the race for the twelfth and final spot interesting. Well as interesting as it can be watching drivers a lap or more down racing to make the next round of the Chase. Have you ever seen a race where being a lap or two down makes such a difference? The good thing is that as the number of Chase drivers gets smaller this will probably not be the case. If you’re a lap down you’re done.

In the race at Dover, the hype was that desperate drivers would take desperate measures to keep alive in the Chase. That was the whole point of the Chase, to give drivers hope to continue forward if they had a bad race. We didn’t see it, not at all. Could this mean that these drivers have been racing 100% regardless of the Chase format and they didn’t need a new Chase to encourage better racing?

The show that Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon put on during the first round begs the question why don’t they get three bonus points that carry over to the next and subsequent round. Sure you get a pass on the round you won in but not any of them needed it. This just might be more important in this round because anything can happen at Talladega, but then again Jeff Gordon had anything happen at New Hampshire. It only seems fair to reward wins reset them equal for the last race only.

Now begins the second of the three elimination rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Will we see more of the same as we dwindle down twelve drivers to eight? What about the Talladega Super Speedway race, anything can happen there? Will we see the Chase drivers racing harder than ever for a win during the first two races in order to be safe come Talladega?

It appears to me that the risk in racing outweighs the reward such that it is more a game of Chess. If you do everything right you put yourself into a position to capitalize and perhaps get a win. If you don’t then you go on defense trying to minimize the damage to stay playing the game as long as possible.  Either way as the players dwindle there will be less to defend and more to go take. The next three weeks will tell the story.

The first race of the Contender Round begins at Kansas Speedway. If you cannot to the Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400, it will be shown on ESPN on Sunday, Oct. 5 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Gregg Ellman/HHP for Chevy Racing

 

 

Brad Keselowski and his Team have a Championship Effort at Chicagoland

Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe Put Together a Championship Effort at Chicagoland

Brad Keselowski wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway the first race of the Challenger Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Keselowski will automatically move on to the next Round, the Contender Round, in the Chase because of this win.

Kyle Busch led the field to the green flag in the MyAFibStory.com 400.  He led 46 laps and looked to be a factor in the race until green flag pit stops at lap 148 put him back to tenth.

We were superfast early, superfast when the track was green and we were out front and we could run second or third and didn’t have a gaggle of cars around you.”  Busch added, “But anytime I got in aero situations, man it just kills me.  I don’t know what I have to do to get there.  Each restart, the farther back you get there, it hurts you. He was not able to drive back to the front after that but was able to salvage a sixth place finish.

Brad Keselowski started the race 25th due to the rain out of qualifying. They worked on the car during the two practices Saturday and got it better but when the race started it just took off.  By lap 64 he made it up to tenth and during the caution on lap 66 they took two tires to get to fifth.

Another caution flag and round of pit stops on lap 98 and Brad Keselowski was in second. He was able to take the lead from there only to have potential disaster strike during another pit stop under caution for debris on lap 181.

The rear tire changer stood up and informed crew chief Paul Wolfe that he felt he didn’t get a lug nut tight leaving the potential for a loose wheel. Wolfe calmly called Keselowski back to pit road under caution opting not to risk disaster.

We had the issue on pit road.  Got us a little bit behind.  But it was good that the issue we had, we came down and fixed it before we went back green.  The changer felt like he didn’t get ‘em tight.” Wolfe added, “I think that was key, that he stood up and said, I feel like we’re going to have a loose wheel here.  To come in and fix that under yellow was much less of a penalty than if we got going green and had a vibration.  That was key there to being able to overcome that loose wheel. From there, we saw we had pretty good speed in our car all day.

The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was so fast that Keselowski was able to not only recover but drive back to the top five. There was another caution on lap 244. Keselowski restarted fourth behind Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon the other cars that were the class of the field. Keselowski was able to pass Gordon but wasn’t able to catch Larson and Harvick.

Larson and Harvick were battling side by side for several laps allowing Keselowski to drive up to them. Keselowski made the most impossible looking move by driving right between them to the lead. He then survived a late restart to win the race.

Keselowski said, “We were able to take advantage with that on the restarts, get up to third. I just saw a hole and I went for it.  The 4 and the 42 were racing really hard, doing all the things they needed to do.  It just opened a hole.  I didn’t know if my car would stick or not, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try it.  I tried it, it did.  That got us into the lead. Even that was going to be close.  I think the 42 was quite a bit faster as the long run went.  We got that yellow.  Things evened out.  We were able to take advantage from there.

Brad Keselowski, Paul Wolfe and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team showed the type of effort that it will take to win a Championship. They let the whole garage know they mean business and that it is no gimmick. To keep their heads and stay on their game in spite of potential problems is what it takes.

Roger Penske explained how important the team effort was best. “Today, as Paul said, the real winner today is the young man that changes the rear tire, put his hand up and said, Hey, I screwed up, the wheel might be loose.  Paul had the guts to say on the radio, We’re not going to go out and run to find out, we’re coming in now.

Jeff Gordon was second followed by Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick. Kyle Larson was the highest finishing rookie.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 301568 Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

%d bloggers like this: