Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:03 pm
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Posted on: February 16, 2011 9:04 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 9:34 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone
DAYTONA BEACH Fla. - A rainy Wednesday at Daytona turned into quite the controversy.
And I'm not talking about Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashing in practice, NASCAR mandating a smaller restrictor plate for the Sprint Cup cars or the Nationwide Series machines topping 202 mph in their practice sessions.
The biggest uproar came over noted radio personality and ESPN commentator Tony Kornheiser's comments about NASCAR.
During Tuesday's edition of Kornhesier's "Pardon the Interruption" program on ESPN, the credibility of NASCAR was questioned when the topic of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pole-winning run last Sunday came up.
Kornhesier and guest co-host Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald wondered if Earnhardt winning the top spot for the Daytona 500 was a little too good to be true.
"If he wins it's good for NASCAR because he is the most popular guy out there," Kornheiser said. NASCAR wants to get the ratings back up. Someone I talked to who covered auto racing for a lot of years said there is a 60 percent chance that Junior qualified with a car that was not quite up to code and people looked the other way."
The person Kornheiser "talked to" turned out to be veteran sports reporter Liz Clarke of The Washington Post, who earlier in the day was a guest on his Washington-area radio show.
Clarke was a guest on Wednesday's edition of "The Morning Drive" on Sirius NASCAR Radio and admitted she made a mistake putting the 60 percent figure out there.
"I was trying to make the point that there is a certain mystique about NASCAR and it's fans about cheating and what's legal and what's not," said Clarke. "That's been a part of the sport for years and if I had a regret it would be that I assigned a percentage and a number to my comments."
While the perception of cheating has been a part of the NASCAR landscape since the days of running moonshine through the hills of the southeast and racing on the beach in Daytona before the 2.5-mile speedway was born in 1959 as Clarke referred to it's insulting to accuse the sanctioning body of turning it's head to bend the rules for any competitor whether his name were Dale Earnhardt Jr. or John Smith.
"I'm pissed," said former Daytona 500 winner and Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett when told of the comments by his ESPN colleague. "I can guarantee you there's no way such a scenario could possibly take place in this sport and that NASCAR would never look the other way or encourage the rules to help someone succeed."
Throwing the credibility of the sport under the bus is the crime Kornheiser committed. The opinion by a mostly stick and ball journalist that NASCAR isn't quite their cup of tea isn't surprising. In fact it's perfectly within the right of Kornheiser or any other reporter to not like NASCAR or believe that the sport isn't on par with the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball.
However it's interesting that these comments come from a guy who works for a network that spent billions of dollars for the rights to telecast NASCAR events. I wonder how well the remarks would have gone over with network officials if Kornheiser accused the NFL of tweaking the rules to favor certain teams to win or that NBA refs (all of them not just Tim Donaghy) were crooked. Since both leagues are ESPN properties my guess is Kornheiser would have been taken to task.
But NASCAR cracks don't seem to matter at "The Worldwide Leader." And Kornheiser, who admittedly has absolutely no knowledge of NASCAR, can sit in front of a camera and alledge that the sport is one lug nut this side of professional wrestling.
That's the problem I have with whole story. A national sports reporter or commentator should have the decency to try and learn something about any sport they care to comment on before launching a grenade the way Kornheiser did. As Jarrett said, it's insulting to NASCAR, its competitors and racing fans.
There's plenty of room in the garage or the media center to come down to Daytona and cover the sport as well as the biggest race of the year. But apparently Kornheiser is too busy no doubt dusting off the latest Alex Rodriguez-Cameron Diaz scandal news or diving head first into the saga of Tiger Woods.
If anyone owes anyone a pardon it's Tony Kornheiser to the NASCAR world.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 8:18 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 8:47 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - You need a slide rule and a calculator to figure out who makes the Daytona 500 these days.
What used to be a relatively simple formula has ben convoluted by the Top 35 rule and NASCAR's new math has hit its most popular driver pretty hard this "Speedweeks."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole for Sunday's 53rd running of the Daytona 500 when he topped last Sunday's qualifying session. That run as well as the second fastest speed of time trials turned in by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon locked the duo into the front row for "The Great American Race."
But not so fast.
Earnhardt crashed in Wednesday's first Sprint Cup Series practice session and was forced to pull out a back-up car for the 500. By NASCAR rules that means he'll have to start from the rear of the field.
Like everyone else who took a qualifying lap on Sunday, Earnhardt will take part in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona twin 150 mile qualifying races. But unlike everyone else, Earnhardt's finish in his qualifying race will have no bearing on where he takes the green flag for the 500.
Basically because of the unique rules that govern the sport's biggest race, the top qualifiers are locked into the starting line-up field for better or for worse.
So no matter where Earnhardt finishes Thursday he'll be forced to start "The Great American race" from the 43rd position.
The quirk exposes just how antiquated the qualifying procedure is for the Daytona 500. The procedures are completely different than how NASCAR determines the starting line-up for the other 35 points races of the regular season, which is a bit like Major League Baseball using batting practice home runs to give a team a run in the first inning of the World Series.
Why not just use the regular qualifying plan of the fastest drivers plus the Top 35 to set the field for the most prestigious event on the calendar?
Since the Top 35 rule had all but sucked the drama out of Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races the mystique of using time trials as the first wave and then the finishing positions in the twin 150s to determine the starting positions in the 500 are gone.
Basically winning the pole like Earnhardt did is detrimental since the front row qualifiers are locked into a set of rules that isn't in play for the balance of the field.
"It is what it is," said Earnhardt's crew chief Steve Letarte . "We feel good about things even though we lost our primary car in that crash. In turh starting at the back of the field in the Daytona 500 with all the drafting that goes on and the length of the race isn;t as much of a hinderance as it would be if you had to start from the back at some of the other races on the schedule."
Letarte's optimistic attitude isn't surprising but it doesn't erase the oddness that surrounds this year's Daytona 500 before the green flag has even flown on the race.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 4:23 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 8:38 pm
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – Pole Winner involved in accident, will go to back-up car and start at the rear of the field in both the Gatorade Duel Qualifying Race and the Daytona 500:
NOTE: The No. 88 team just unloaded Chassis 88-576. Jeff Gordon last raced this chassis at Talladega in October to an eighth-place finish. The Budweiser Shootout car will now be the backup. Previously a brand-new chassis, it’s currently back at Hendrick Motorsports in the paint booth about to make its way back to Daytona. Chassis 88-576 has been refurbished to meet the nose and other 2011 requirements but hadn’t been tested this season.
WE WERE REALLY IMPRESSED BY THE WAY YOUR CREW CHIEF, STEVE LETARTE, AFTER THE FACT WAS VERY ENCOURAGING AND TOLD YOU NOT TO WORRY ABOUT IT, AND THAT THE TEAM WOULD JUST GET THE BACK-UP READY
“Well, yeah. That’s his job as a crew chief. I just really don’t know what was going on there. The guys on the inside looked like they were going to stay low and then they started kind of creeping up and giving Jimmie (Johnson), and they gave me the impression they were going to be closing the hole on the outside. So Jimmie lifted. And he about wrecked and I got off the gas and there were a couple of guys coming behind me (Martin) Truex, and a couple other guys and just didn’t have a chance.
“You got to pay attention out there, man. I mean if you’re going to come out here and race, you need to pay attention.”
YOU TALKED THE OTHER DAY AFTER YOU WON THE POLE POSITION AND SAID YEAH, THAT’S GOOD BUT IT’S JUST KIND OF A BABY STEP. SO THIS IS JUST GOING TO MAKE YOUR JOB A LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT. WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN NOW AND THE 150’S TOMORROW?
“Well, we’ve got plenty of race cars. And I ain’t worried about how fast we’ll be or whether we’ll be as good. We’ll be fine. But you know, it never feels good tearing them up. I’m just disappointed in myself. I didn’t feel good about getting out there and practicing and didn’t think I needed to be out there practicing. I just had a bad feeling about it. And we come running up on some guys that didn’t have their heads on straight and got in an accident.”
WE SAW YOU AND MARTIN TRUEX JR. PATTING EACH OTHER ON THE BACK AND TALKING. WHAT DID MARTIN SAY TO YOU?
“That he was sorry for running into the back of me. And he didn’t have anywhere to go; and I’m sure he didn’t. We were all off the gas pretty hard right there for those guys to pull up the race track there. I don’t even know if we would have room. We might have had room on the outside to get through, but it was real tight. They moved up off the bottom into the middle of the race track at least, from what I could tell and what I can remember, and just give us the impression we were going to need to check-up. They keep slowing the cars down and it makes a car drafting normally much slower, and now the closing rate on the two-car pack is even faster; and I mean it’s just hard. It’s just real hard. Hopefully there’s no more accidents this rest of the week. We can all; we’re all kind of getting the hang of it, but the guys that aren’t, in a two-car pack, need to be aware that those guys are going to come flying up on them faster than they think. And you’ve just got to keep that in mind and hold your line.”
WHAT HAPPENED? "We were coming around the corner and there were three guys on the inside and they moved up off the bottom and me and Jimmie (Johnson) had to checkup and I got hit from behind there."
IS IT REALLY HARD TO SEE? IT LOOKED DIFFICULT OUT THERE: "That is just restrictor plate, we see wrecks here all the time. It wasn't anything different than anything we've seen in the past. Out there practicing; not everybody on the same page."
WERE YOU SPEWING WATER OUT BEFORE THE CRASH? "It was after. We were all overheating. 220 degress is what we usually run, the temperature was fine. We were actually testing to see when that pressure valve went off. We were probably about a lap or so from being done."
WHAT IS THE BACKUP CAR YOU WILL USE NOW? "The backup car is fine, just as good as the other ones. They are all kit cars any ways. The bodies are all the same. Good motors. We'll have plenty of speed, but we have this car; the third car, the fourth car is just as good. I mean, they are all good."
ARE YOU FRUSTRATED? "Just getting caught up in wrecks. Just feeling a little snake-bit right now, because, I don't feel like I was really at fault in any of them but we just keep getting in them."
WAS THE AIR MOVED OFF OF YOUR CAR BECAUSE OF IT? "No. They just moved up in front of us and we lifted and the guys behind us didn't know what was going on. That is all that happened."
YOU SAID YOU WERE NERVOUS ABOUT PRACTICE, WHY? "Well we have the pole sitting race car, don't need to practice."
ANY MORE REASON THAT THAT? "Well, I hadn't been out there, we hadn't practiced together, so no. I don't know who is paying attention and who ain't. I had a fast car and didn't want to practice it."
WHAT IS YOUR EMOTION RIGHT NOW? "Get the next one ready."
Posted on: February 16, 2011 3:46 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 4:13 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone
From News Release
Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 4:11 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As expected NASCAR reduced the size of the restrictor plate that will be used in Sunday's Daytona 500.
After speeds reached in excess of 206 mph in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout NASCAR decided to bring the plate size down 1/64th of an inch which should lower horsepower by 14-15 horsepower and in turn brings speeds down about five to six mph.
NASCAR vice president of communications Robin Pemberton knew after the speeds reached Saturday night the sanctioning body needed to act.
"As I was watching the race and saw the speeds climb the way they did I knew we were going to have to go to work," said Pemberton. "But this is not a knee jerk reaction. It's something we've talked about and had as an option once we saw things develop down here after cars practiced and then raced on Saturday night."
Teams were given a bulletin after Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session that addressed new policies for cooling and radiators in response to the two car drafting packs that were so prevalent on Saturday night. That gave teams two days to get ready for Wednesday's practice sessions with the new parameters in place.
But now the addition of a smaller plate has been put on their plates however there doesn't seem to much immediate concern from crew chiefs.
"Not really," said Steve Addington who saw his driver Kurt Busch take the checkered flag in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. "It will knock down horsepower some for sure but in terms of overall performance I don't see it having that much of an impact."
"We're not expecting too much of a difference once we get out there," said Kevin Harvick's crew chief Gil Martin as he sat out the rain that has kept cars off track for Wednesday's practice session."The speeds will come down but the handling will really not change and I'm pretty sure the drivers won't feel that much of a difference once they get out there."
Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2011 4:48 pm
Posted By Pete Pistone
From News Release
Posted on: February 13, 2011 6:02 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 9:09 pm
Listen to the post-qualifying news conferences of Daytona 500 front-row starters Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte (23 minutes, 28 seconds)
Second-place qualifier Jeff Gordon (18 minutes, 41 seconds)