Reviewing and previewing the 2012 Sprint Cup season
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has hit the all-star break this week, with no fantasy racing on the schedule. With the brief break in action, now is a great time to assess your year up to this point in the season, examine a few trends through the first 11 races and look ahead to next week's Coca-Cola 600.
While this year has seen a number of surprises, it’s also been somewhat predictable.
Confusion in Richmond, Debris Cautions, Changes at Bristol and Pastrana’s Impact
Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart at Richmond. (ASP, Inc.)
Confusion in Richmond, Changes at Bristol and Pastrana’s Impact
NASCAR officiating, Bristol’s changes and the debut of Travis Pastrana. It was quite a week for the sport and created a lot of topics for members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council to debate.
With so much to discuss, no need to delay things. Here’s a look at how NASCAR fans saw these issues:
WAS THE DEBRIS CAUTION LEGITIMATE LATE IN THE RICHMOND RACE? NASCAR called a debris caution with 13 laps left in Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond with Tony Stewart leading. Stewart said the debris was a water bottle. MRN announcer Dave Moody tweeted that he saw a “big hunka metal” on the track. TV did not show the debris. Fan Council members were asked if they thought the caution was legitimate.
65.7 percent said Yes 34.3 percent said No
What Fan Council members said:
• Well I can’t say it was legitimate, but I did see them pick something up. It was right in front of where my seats were.
• I have listened to the NASCAR Officials Channel on SiriusXM enough to know that they do not throw phantom cautions and they are legit. If there is something out there, and especially if they cannot identify it, they will throw a caution.
• Absolutely not! Evidently NASCAR has brought in Vince McMahon as a consultant, and decided to add artificial drama to race(s) that needed none. It turned a great race, that Tony Stewart had earned the win of, into a tire-changing contest. Let the racers race!
• I have to trust NASCAR, but this is easily avoidable — SHOW THE DEBRIS. We don't have to trust officials in other sports because foul balls are shown to be foul, touchdowns are shown to be touchdowns. Just show the debris, and all is solved.
• Since the fans have been complaining and the press has picked it up about no drama we had plenty of it at RIR. Jeff Burton tweeted “it looked like a can to me. It was on the exit of 2 it was about 1/3 up the track.” And Matt (Yocum of FOX) tweeted “robin p told me on the plane last pm that it was a can not water bottle. Mid turn 2 like u said MkJ” And from what others said it had been there for a bit and Carl was the one screaming about it the loudest.
• NASCAR has been VERY good about not tossing out phantom cautions this season — I think that there is no reason to not believe them.
• Phantom cautions are a problem in NASCAR. There is no reason why the reason for the caution can’t be shown to us. It should be mandatory.
• This is unbelievable. One week fans are complaining about lack of cautions and NASCAR needs to do something. This week they are calling the caution bogus.
• With all of the HDTV cameras, why can't the race producer show us the debris for every caution? They could show us the GEICO roof camera during the GEICO side-by-side commercial and the 5-Hour roof camera during that side-by-side commercial. They show us the replays for a wreck from these roof cameras, why can’t they try to help NASCAR be legitimate and show the debris?
• If David Hoots says "Put it out,” it's legitimate enough for me.
DID NASCAR MAKE THE RIGHT CALL IN PENALIZING EDWARDS FOR HIS RESTART? With less than 100 laps left in Saturday’s race, NASCAR penalized Carl Edwards for jumping the restart and passing leader Tony Stewart too soon. It happened as there was some confusion with Edwards’ team if he was the leader or not. Fan Council members were asked if NASCAR made the right call to penalize Edwards for jumping the restart.
75.0 percent said Yes 25.0 percent said No
What Fan Council members said:
• I really don’t see the debate here. From the replay it showed that Carl jumped the restart before the restart box. Even IF he was the leader, he still jumped the restart. NASCAR made the right call. I don't see why everybody is so up in arms about it, because that's always been the rule, regardless. End of story.
• If he jumped the restart, and there is a penalty for the infraction, then YES. Having said that, I think a black flag is a stupid penalty for that infraction. Just wave it off and make them do it again. That is WAY too harsh.
• Absolutely not!!!! I was at the race and listening to his channel, his spotter came over the radio and told Carl NASCAR said 99 is the leader, and the scoring tower called him the leader. There was obviously confusion so why didn't NASCAR call off the (re)start and get it fixed like they have done a million times before? Tony spun the tires bad, and Carl simply got a great restart like he had done all night. I think NASCAR just made themselves look terrible Saturday with two bad calls, and the only explanation was basically “sorry bout your luck.”
• Once again, I believe in NASCAR and its integrity … though I will say that in that particular situation it would have made sense to go one more lap under yellow to make sure there was no confusion.
• Clear as day. He jumped the start.
• Tony clearly spun his tires on the restart. That was a bad call.
• It was blatant. Props to NASCAR for having restart lines visible on the wall, this was a black and white call to me, no gray area.
GRADING SATURDAY NIGHT’S CUP RACE AT RICHMOND
55.6 percent called it Good 23.0 percent called it Great 16.7 percent called it Fair 4.8 percent called it Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• Loved it. I’m so glad I blew off my Saturday night plans to stay home and watch TV.
• NASCAR has a HUGE problem on their hands. I’ve been critical all year of the boring (nature) of the racing, and after seeing this race in person I gotta say it’s not the drivers being too cautious, it’s the fact that they don't get a chance to be aggressive. There is not much passing, there is nobody charging up through the field, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all in the car. The dictatorship of NASCAR has to loosen up the rules a bit. Every car is the same, therefore they just get strung out and basically run a fast-paced parade. If NASCAR doesn’t make some changes real quick, they are going to dig a hole that will take years to recover from.
• The Jimmie Johnson pit crew penalty, Carl Edwards jumping the restart and Tony Stewart’s debris caution added needed drama to this race. Without these three events, it would have been a rather dull race overall. Short track racing is always better than the 1.5- and 2-miles tracks. This Richmond race did have some long green-flag runs, but short tracks always have active racing because 43 cards don’t get spread out well at a 3/4 mile track. The restarts were some of the best moments of the race, including the last restart with about 10 laps to go.
• I saw more passing this week; some interesting pit road incidents (!) and penalties that spiced up the situation.
• For all the people that say it is boring, these past few weeks have been for the most part about how well the teams can make the best changes and compete in mostly green-flag racing. THAT is what racing is all about to me.
• Boring. I was there and it was boring. Restarts were the only exciting parts and I'm only giving a “good” rating for them.
• Another solid good race, not spectacular but kept my attention throughout.
YOU GOING TO BUY BRISTOL TICKETS AFTER THE CHANGES TO THE TRACK? Last week Bruton Smith announced plans to grind Bristol’s top groove to take away the advantage of that line. He said it also will narrow the groove, forcing the cars to run closer together, which could lead to the beating and banging often associated with racing there. The move was made after a decline in attendance for the spring race. Fan council members were asked if this was enough to make them want to buy tickets to the August night race there.
81.6 percent said No 18.4 percent said Yes
What Fan Council member said:
• I am going regardless.
• Hoping it makes a difference … Will wait to get tickets again though until next season though.
• Actually, I’m skipping the Bristol race this year. I really didn’t find anything wrong with the racing as it was but with the economy as it is right now I’m just going to see what happens with this one.
• I like the progressive-banked Bristol because I’d rather see guys run side-by-side for 75 laps without hitting each other instead of just plowing in the back of someone to pass. Not a fan of Keselowski or Kenseth but their battle in March was epic.
• Hey Mr. Smith, instead of grinding the top groove to “help” bring fans to Bristol. How about giving $50 gas cards to those that purchase a ticket from the BMS ticket office. In addition, the hotels that increase their rates race weekend, how about pay the difference so the race fans pay the normal rates? Because the bottom line, Mr. Smith, (is) “we the race fans DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY” with the increased cost of living.
• BMS was on my bucket list, so I am going no matter what — I am very anxious to see what happens under the lights in August!
• This is going to help bring back the racing we all love so much there! Can't wait to see Bristol back to being the special place that it's always known to be! Go Bruton!
• The racing at Bristol was fine as it was. I’m not going to get more interested in any particular race because of a gimmick.
Travis Pastrana (ASP, Inc.)
WERE YOU INTERESTED IN TRAVIS PASTRANA’S NATIONWIDE DEBUT FRIDAY AT RICHMOND?
54.6 percent said No 45.4 percent said Yes
What Fan Council members said:
• He seems like a genuinely nice guy, but I really don't care that he is here. I don't think our sport needs the X-Games fans anyway. We don't need to let A-D-D generation take over. They'll be gone tomorrow anyway. I was much more interested in Ryan Blaney’s debut. That kid is a wheelman!
• I love Travis Pastrana because he is a fun personality. I hope he does well and was excited to see him be solid.
• He seems to have a very genuine interest in the sport. He certainly is knowledgeable and appears to want to learn. I think he's good for the sport.
• I read on Twitter that after the race, Travis Pastrana went into the grandstands to sign autographs, mingle with the fans and even gave his shoes away to a fan. He returned to the infield in his socks.
• I am interested in drivers who have proven themselves and earned their opportunities. He is a male version of Danica, and, although they bring attention to a sport I love, right now they are nothing but field fillers. I do not or go to races to see field fillers.
• I couldn't have cared less. Until NASCAR people started talking about him, I didn't even know who he was. I despise when people from other forms of racing come to NASCAR. They need to just go back to where they came from.
• NICE To see new faces coming into our sport.
• I met up with a friend on Saturday afternoon and he asked, “How’d Travis Pastrana do in that race last night?” My friend doesn't follow NASCAR, so at least he was interested. I was no more interested than I would be in any other NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
• Really aggravated me when he kept making mention of “beating the girls.” Shows still what a long way we have to go when comments such as his (and a couple other male racers) were made. Why can't we just focus on driver and not gender?
• Not really interested in him or DP. More “cult of personality” courtesy of ESPN and NASCAR. I was much more interested in Johanna Long and Ryan Blaney, two real racers with under-funded teams finishing ahead of the much-ballyhooed TP and DP.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.