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Wow…what a bizarre race Richmond ended up being!  I guess the three major issues ended up being clashing crew members in the pits (between Menard and Johnson who were pitted side-by-side), Carl being black flagged for jumping the restart, and that last debris caution. And I have opinions on ALL of it of course. The problem is where to start.

So Tony didn’t have such a great qualifying effort and started the race from 22nd position.  Despite what Tony said about the pit crew issues during the race? I think having a crappy pit box may have been part of his pit road issues. Not that there weren’t other issues- I am sure there were. But the crappy pit box that comes with a mediocre qualifying run can damper your race on/off of pit road.  However, I think it speaks volumes about the car and the team (and of course our smokin’ driver Tony) that the car seemed to be able to slowly work up the field despite the pit road issues- whatever they may have been.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, makes a pitstop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

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A Softer Side Of Smoke- Charlie Leffler for The Mechanicsville Local

Kyle Petty Not Concerned About Direction Of Victory Junction Gang Camp After Removal of Wife Patti- Bob Pockrass for Sporting News

Jimmie Johnson Repeats As ‘America’s Most Influential Athlete”- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

NASCAR Needs More Wrecks and Here’s How It Can Do It- Jeff Owens for SportingNews.com

Birds Of A Feather- Joe Menzer for NASCAR.com

12 Questions with Martin Truex Jr- Jeff Gluck for SBNation.com

Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:

The expression says it all:

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, stands in the garage are during practice for the NASACAR Sprint Cup Series 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images North America)

Tony Stewart changing a fan's oil in Texas. (Photo Credit: Mobil 1 Facebook Page)

Short and sweet this week…just like me (ok…I am short but not usually sweet).

Time and Place (One Week Later Jimmie Johnson Is Still Not Pleased With Ryan Newman)-  David Caraviello for NASCAR.com

Kyle Busch Interview: A Closer At Joe Gibbs Racing’s Rowdy Driver- Jeff Gluck for SBNation

Carl Edwards Responds To Memior- Terry Blount for ESPN

SBNation Video: MSNBC Anchor Thinks NASCAR Cars Go 500 MPH- by Jeff Gluck for SBNation

Your gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks directly to Nascar Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart during a visit by the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to the White House on April 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Obama hosted the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart to honor his championship season. (Photo Credit: Ned Dishman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Well…it seems with Texas just days away it is time to face reality and finally accept that the 4/1/12 Martinsville race was no April Fool’s joke, despite the number of fools that crowded the race stage in the final laps. What could have been Hendrick Motorsports 200th Sprint Cup win, either from the race lap leader and dominant 24 car, or by 5-time Champ, Jimmie Johnson, turned into madness and disaster for the HMS team when a caution was called for Fool of the Day, Reutimann, who had been circling the track for several laps seemingly without rhyme or reason. I won’t bother to recap the rest, it is done and over and as much as I had hoped that NASCAR was playing a grand practical joke, sadly for Jeff Gordon and his fans that was not the case.

Martinsville- what can I say except Tony Stewart lucked into a 7th place finish by attrition thanks to that big wreck at the end there that took out several of the front runners.

Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, sits in his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

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Far and away the most amazing thing about Race 3 in Las Vegas was Jimmie Johnson’s runner-up finish after crashing in Happy Hour Saturday and having to start from the rear of the field in a backup car.  Within minutes of Jimmie losing control and hitting the wall Saturday afternoon, Chad and the 48 team were unloading the backup car. Amy and I had the privilege of witnessing much of the hardwork that went into getting the car race ready – I am sure it was a long night for the 48 team, but it paid off with that awesome finish.

Where There's a Chad , There's a Way (Photo Credit: Misty Bethany)

Now, the messy moment of the race for me probably didn’t even make it into the TV coverage, but it was a moment that brought out my potty mouth and made me bite my nails literally.  I think I may even have embarrassed Amy by my exclamation!  About 80 laps in, my driver was racing mid pack for P15 (I think) and a certain driver that I have had issues with before decided to go three wide into turn 1, causing my far more sensible driver to fall back a few places, where he then seemed to struggle the remainder of the day!   I wish that someone would pass out my “space bubble memo” at the next Driver’s Meeting, so that my driver can maintain a safe space bubble in which he can freely race however he wants and the heck with the other 42 cars.  :)

On February 17th (seems like ages ago doesn’t it?) the 48 car entered in the Daytona 500 field failed it’s initial race entry inspection because of illegal C-posts.  The C-Posts were confiscated by NASCAR and the team was allowed to repair the 48 car and go back through inspection and then into practice.  First thought is where the heck is the C-Post…well I found and stole this graphic from an old article on NASCAR.com:

Click graphic to be taken to the story on NASCAR.com that it was borrowed from.

Anyway- today NASCAR announced the “punishment” for the illegal parts. They were found to be in violation of three sections of the NASCAR rulebook*:

Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications)

Chad Knaus, crew chief of the 48, was fined $100,000 and suspended for 6 weeks. Car chief of the 48, Ron Malec, was also suspended for 6 weeks.  Jimmie Johnson was fined 25 driver points. Jeff Gordon was fined 25 owner points.

Wow…is it me or is that a little heavy handed? I posted a sentiment like that on my facebook and I guess it might just be me. But never the less I stand by my initial reaction that it’s a harsh penalty…too harsh.  I have several reasons why I think the fines are a bit much:

  1. It’s my understanding that this particular car had been used several times last season. If that is the case- why did it not fail any of those numerous inspections? (Initial inspection, post qualifying inspection, post race inspection). I mean sure I suppose the car could have been completely changed during the off season- but really?
  2. NASCAR needs to be more consistant with it’s fines.  What do I mean by this? Consider this- Clint Bowyer’s car failed post-qualifying inspection.  Yet NASCAR did not offer any fines whatsoever there- not even a mention of possible fines the whole week between qualifying and race day. Yet as soon as the 48 failed inspection on Friday- it was news and talk of heavy fines floated around the team ALL week long.  While the parts that failed inspection are apples and oranges- the end result is this- the cars were both non-standard and thus failed inspection. Yet one team was heavily penalized and the other was let go without even a slap on the wrist.  This is unfair and unequal treatment between teams. NASCAR needs to decide whether or not they are going to be heavy handed rulebook thumpers or the nice “give a team the benefit of the doubt” kind of sanctioning body. It can’t be both.
  3. Since it was the initial inspection and the team never practiced or qualified with the offending parts on the car, I don’t think it should be fined at all. Technically the team gained nothing from the offending parts because they did not USE said parts- the car never touched track.  They removed them and I assume that the car that Jimmie raced in the 500 this past Monday had no technical issues (with the exception of the big technical issue of being crashed in lap two). This, going back to the Clint Bowyer senario mentioned in 2, is really unfair because if there was something unstandard on Bowyer’s car he practiced and qualified the offending part- having gained some possible benefit from it.

Now I am sure some people will argue with “But Chad has done this before- remember when he was suspended and Darian Grubb took the helm as crew chief?” Yes, I have not forgotten this.  My thought in this- Chad and the 48 team have already paid for those mistakes…Chad was removed and fined for those issues. That issue is closed. This is a separate issue. To that arguement doesn’t make any sense. It’s like a tardy student getting expelled instead of suspended this year because they had an unexcused absence and and an additional unexcused absence five years ago, that they already served a detention for five years ago.

So there you have my three reasons I think NASCAR was heavy handed with the fines.  Misty, while agreeing with me in general that the NASCAR punishment is too harsh, also has some good albeit different points about the situation and I highly suggest that you read her post about it as well: The 48 Smackdown: Overkill.

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* I want a rulebook. Just because.

Pushing limits to be the best in any other field is called innovation and leads to better competition and tremendous advancements, but not in NASCAR. NASCAR says how much and how far and if the teams don’t heed there is hell to pay, or at least there is this time for the 48 team. Somehow throughout the years NASCAR has tightened its “rulebook” and standards to a point that no longer leaves room for anyone or any team to “push” the limits.

But, even worse that that, NASCAR does not seem to have consistent or predictable fines or penalties for infractions. The 48′s supposed rule violation before the Daytona 500 resulted in a dramatic penalty for the team that if not reversed through appeal by Hendrick Motorsports will make it virtually impossible for Jimmie Johnson to win a 6th championship in 2012.

Knaus’ last major violation was 5 years ago, so why issue such a steep penalty? Perhaps because of his comment last season to Jimmie at Talladega hinting at something? Well that car was inspected post race and passed. Perhaps past violations from Knaus? Did he not already serve his punishment for these? I say today’s extreme penalties were overkill by NASCAR. The car did not race – the problem with the c-post was found during pre-race inspection. Isn’t that what pre-race inspection is for?

So what should NASCAR have done? A probation for Knaus and Malec- sure, maybe even all season. Suspension for crew chief and car chief, too much for the first offense of season. Monetary fine- OK, heck double it even. Points penalty for driver and owner? Too much! Jimmie will go into Phoenix negative 23 points. As good as he can be, and like him or not, he can be good, that is a deep hole to dig out from especially without Knaus and Malec for six races.

Too often it seems NASCAR selects certain teams and incidents to use as “examples” and yet others skate by with hardly a slap.

I will say this for NASCAR’s decision, it has got some press and brought some attention to the sport (Chad Knaus was a trending topic on twitter today). So perhaps the only good that will come out of penalizing Five Time so steeply is some added attention to the sport from those that otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention at all.