Phoenix International Raceway was the scene of this weekend’s events for all three of the NASCAR national touring series races. There was a large amount of action on track all weekend long as the racing surface wreaked havoc for many of the racers.
The point battles in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series saw major upheaval and the Camping World Truck Series saw their battle for the title shrink by a few points. More important than that was the on track excitement that has been a bit lacking at times this season.
Many times over the three races one might have thought that a crash o’ rama had snuck into the speedway and displaced the drivers of the upper tier series. The most noteworthy events of the weekend probably occurred during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
Point leader and the favorite to become a six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson; blew a tire and pounded the wall to thrust Brad Keselowski into the point lead. Several times Keselowski had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the carnage around him. This includes the already widely replayed incident between Jeff Gordon and championship contender, Clint Bowyer.
Gordon and Bowyer made slight contact down the backstretch late in the race, and Gordon appeared to try to spin Bowyer going into turn three; ending up glancing off the wall. The original contact between the two seemed pretty incidental, just a racing deal; but Mr. Gordon apparently saw it differently.
A few laps later with just a couple of laps to go, Gordon motored slowly into the third turn awaiting Bowyer to attempt to pass him. When Bowyer went low to get by Gordon, Gordon turned down into him and started a melee that would destroy his car, Bowyer’s and a couple of others as well.
What started to unfold from here looked exactly like something I’d expect to see at one of my local short tracks. Members of Bowyers’ crew went after Gordon in the garage area, and in the words of the great Ken Squier; “we have a fight.”
The crews started to go at it, basically a brawl in process, eventually Bowyer would jump from his car and take off running towards the ruckus. The aftermath included armed security outside of Gordon’s hauler and members from both teams being called to the NASCAR trailer.
All of this adds to a lot of press for NASCAR and the excitement was much needed. However, I have taken offense to some drivers making statements such as; “he races people too hard”. Brad Keselowski has drawn a lot of ire for just these reasons.
What in the world is racing too hard? Is this not what every driver should be doing? As fans are we paying to watch most drivers cruise around for 90% of the race, then starting running each other over for the remainder of the race? I don’t get how you can ever say that someone races someone else too hard.
Now I’m not talking crashing people out of races, because that is not racing; but battling as hard as you can from green flag to checkered flag is what these drivers get paid for. Mr. Keselowski went on a profanity laced tirade during the post race press conference yesterday, and I would have to think that everything he said was spot on.
One other thing that got my blood boiling this weekend was NASCAR’s inconsistencies of race calling.
Think back to Talladega just a few weeks ago when a big wreck happened in turns three and four on the final lap, and instantly they flew the caution effectively ending the race. By the time they had thrown the caution, all the racers had either already piled into the wreck or had slowed and avoided it. So why cut the race short by approximately ¾ of the front stretch when those that made it through the wreck had ¾ of the track to slow down in?
At Phoenix on Sunday, Danica Patrick spun and clipped the wall as the field was coming to the WHITE flag, and they left the green out for the final lap, just to have half of the field spinning and crashing when they came BACK down to the checkered (including into the back of Danica’s injured racer).
NASCAR needs to figure out whether they are racing back to the checkered or not, they can’t do it both ways. I understand the safety side of things fully, but if the white flag has been waved the next flag must be a checkered flag; not a caution.
Please, powers to be at NASCAR; figure out how you want the rules to be.
I’ll get off my soapbox now, until next week keep the shiny side up!
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