So much for flag-to-flag coverage of the chase races huh? For all that NASCAR has done building up this new Chase format- building it to be more like traditional playoffs like you see in other series, did they ever have an epic televised coverage fail on Saturday. Did you tune in on Saturday expecting to see the 5th race of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint cup? So did I. Were you disappointed to see college football instead? ME TOO!
When I tuned into the pre-race show and found college football on my TV- I was NOT that upset. Lately I have only been halfway listening to the pre-race show- especially since Tony isn’t in the Chase this season. I was completely horrified and dare say pissy to find that when I tuned back in at race time to find that college football game still on instead of the NASCAR. ABC decided to just not cover the start and first 26 laps of a professional sporting series playoff race instead choosing a college football game. I don’t know if the football game started late or what happened there- but really? College football over the midway chase (playoff) race? I can not even fathom who thought THAT would be a good thing to do. And then- to tease people by first saying they were going to move it to ESPNNews- which was in the middle of a basketball game and thus was also a no go but then to move it to ESPN3? We don’t have ESPN3. Does anyone?
By the time the Baylor football game was over and ABC decided (after much extraneous footage of cheering football fans, onfiled interviews and then a lengthy string of commercials) to finally switch on the race- the NASCAR race was already well into the scheduled competition caution (lap 26). NASCAR fans didn’t get to see anything before lap 26: no national anthem, no invocation, no command to start engines, no green flag- absolutely none of that was shown. I view this as a major FAIL on ABC/ESPN and NASCAR. There was just no excuse for that.
So now onto the race. I am unsure what I can say about Tony’s run that is positive. I hate to say it but it seems whenever they qualify well (and thus I get my hopes up) the 14 car ends up having terrible handling problems. After the competition caution it all went down hill and the more the team worked on the car the worse the handling got and the understandably more frustrated Tony got. It seemed that whatever Chad changed made it worse.
Remember me? I was the one who was saying weeks ago- hey let’s all give Chad Johnston a chance- after all it’s been a really weird season for the team between dealing with Tony being hurt and unable to get in the car until speedweeks and then with Tony out of the car for 3 weeks after the sprint car accident in NY- it’s just been odd. But I am really starting to shake my head at the crew chief. I don’t know if it’s Chad or this year’s rules package or a combination…but something HAS to give.
Tony started 4th and raced his way into 3rd for awhile (oh what- you didn’t see that? It was because this was all before the competition caution) but ended finishing the race 21st and a lap down while the team chased the gremlins monkeying up the handling of the car through out the race. Race winner was Kevin Harvick, who along with Joey Logano has definitely locked in a berth in the next round of the chase, heading into what could easily be the toughest to call race of the chase: Talladega.
Notes About Charlotte:
1. First off- I said this on twitter and I will say it here: I think Matt Kenseth has every right to be upset with Brad Keselowski for slamming into him at the entrance to pit road- he (Matt Kenseth) was already unbuckled and de-HANSed. That is not cool and could have caused serious injury. I do NOT blame Matt for being fighting mad. That would make me mad too.
2. I also think that as a result of this there will very soon be a rule that drivers must keep their belts and HANS and Helmets ON until they are parked on pit road. Cars will then need to be pushed back to the haulers. Call me psychic.
3. It sure looked to me like it was Brad Keselowski that hit into the back of Tony Stewart and not Matt Kenseth- so I don’t know why Brad thought that it was Matt that hit Stewart (which he stated during his post race interview). But so nice of Brad to understand Tony’s frustration but not Denny’s or Matt’s. Wow. I don’t know why Keselowski is so frustrated. Or maybe I do- maybe it has a little something to do with the pressures that the new chase format are putting on the drivers.
4. Penalties? I think Brad should be penalized for causing the ruckus on pit road and into the garage area- he could have injured someone- especially if what Denny Hamlin said was true about Brad burning out in the garage area post race. Denny and Matt should NOT be penalized for fighting- I really do NOT see that as anything more than “have at it boys” mixed with a little Chase pressure. Fighting isn’t going to put anyone in danger except those throwing punches.
5. Speaking of the chase format breeding pressure- did you all hear the bickering between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus? Jimmie was frustrated and giving Chad grief over the radio. I think that Knaus handled it quite well actually by being very firm and alpha about getting Jimmie to calm the heck down and give Chad the information he needed to try to make the car better. Hey Jimmie- wanna trade Chad’s with Tony Stewart? Yeah didn’t think so.
6. Why did Kevin Harvick’s crew not have a spare air wrench? That seems like something the teams should have at least three or four with them at the track at a time. Each team. Yikes. Might be time to reconsider what you bring extra’s of to the track. This seems like common sense to me. Are you telling me they don’t have a spare jack either? What if the one they are using gets broken? I realize that these are likely expense tools but are they THAT expensive that they can’t have spares?
7. As a complete side note to everything- why on earth does it take 20 minutes to play 5 minutes of football? Just wondering.
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
Next weekend it is the last race of the contender round of the chase. It’s the race I always watch through my fingers- Talladega.
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