There’s a wise old saying that goes “What comes around, goes around,” but whomever came up with said saying probably didn’t have NASCAR racing and/or potholes in mind. So why did I bring it up? I guess I think it’s an amusing coincidence (as long as you’re not Jamie McMurray or someone at Chip Ganassi Racing) that Jamie McMurray’s car was damaged when a pothole-causing piece of concrete damaged his car this past Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Remember, it was McMurray who won the pothole-plagued Daytona 500 in 2010. Live by the pothole; die by the pothole, I guess. Okay, so I couldn’t resist.
Anyway, the reason I really brought up the subject of Sunday’s pohthole at Dover was to initiate a discussion, and that discussion is this: should teams be allowed to work on cars during red flags, if the cause of the red flag and the damage to the car(s) was a result of a track issue, i.e. flying chunks of concreate that leave potholes behind?
I understand and agree with the rule that prevents work to cars during red flags when cars are damaged because of racing incidents, either by drivers’ own doing or the doing of their fellow competitors, and mechanical failures. I also agree in the case of cars already damaged or suffering some kind of malfunction and teams being required to stop work when races are red-flagged for rain.
But potholes? I mean, what teams, drivers prepare themselves on a regular basis for potholes? Granted, potholes have formed during NASCAR races before — there was the aforementioned Daytona 500 in 2010, and I also recall a race in which a pothole formed in a concrete corner at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway a few years ago. Even so, it’s not something teams are prepared for or expect.
Should an incident like Sunday’s be treated any differently than any other “racing incident” when it comes to red-flag protocol?
I admit, at first, I thought, yes, this situation is entirely different, and therefore, should be an exception to the rule, but you know, after reading NASCAR’s explanation as to why it isn’t treated differently, I can at least kind of see where the sanctioning body is coming from with its decision.
“What starts out as a splitter (the part damaged by the concrete chuink at Dover) today winds up being a changed lower control arm the next day,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton told the Sporting News.
I have to admit, the guy has a point.
It’s hard to determine exactly what was damaged by the track and what wasn’t so that work may be limited to track-induced damage only. And where would NASCAR draw the line? What a can of worms that would be opened if NASCAR started making exceptions. Other examples the Sporting News story mentioned that crew chiefs might try to get exceptions for included the wall not doing its job correctly and marbles (small pieces of tire rubber) on the track that could cause a wreck. Give a crew chief an inch, and he’ll try his best to take a mile.
At the risk of sounding heartless, I’ve changed my position and think that the right call was made, after all. Sure, it wasn’t fair to McMurray, but remember, life isn’t always fair. I mean, when you get down to it, a lot of damage from more normal racing incidents isn’t always the fault of the driver/team sustaining the most damage. Is that fair? So should teams in that situation work on their cars if there’s a red flag? Again, where would you draw the line?
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