Competition Changes

After talking about it for years, NASCAR finally announced a plan this week to make rules clearer and help put an end to the controversy surrounding the many gray areas in the rule book. For all of the innovative and forward-looking initiatives the sport has instituted, they’re still giving teams a rule book that is solely paper based and contains 2D drawings, making it near impossible for teams to get a good look at particular parts of the car that often cause concerns in inspection. The new plans will put the rule book online for manufacturers and teams to see, with 3D views of specific areas on the car, and a clearer distinction of which sections of the car teams can work on without fear of penalties. Furthermore, teams will be able to quickly and easily suggest changes to rules that could be reviewed and implemented by NASCAR.

The plan is a fantastic one, albeit one that should have happened ages ago. This year we’ve seen a rash of inspection failures, from the rear-end housing debacle that set off Brad Keselowski in April, to 16 Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams being caught with illegal roof flaps at Daytona, to just last week at New Hampshire, when Jimmie Johnson’s car failed inspections multiple times for being too low. Some of these were probably intentional attempts by teams to gain an advantage, but many were honest makes precipitated by a rule book that is too often indecipherable and seemingly operated ad hoc by NASCAR officials. By giving teams online models of the cars and a clear definition of what they can and cannot do, we should hopefully see inspection failures go down, and if they don’t, it might gives us an inkling as to which teams really are trying to bend the edges of what’s acceptable.

The most exciting thing for fans about this announcement is that there’s talk of eventually making the rule book available for fans to download. It’s something I hope happens sooner rather than later. On the surface, NASCAR is a simple sport, and for many fans, they don’t need more than to watch their favorite driver go in a circle and try to complete the allotted number of laps before anyone else. But much of the fanbase is rabidly devoted to even the most minor technical details, and at the moment, there aren’t a whole lot of places to get deeper info. Television broadcasts are maddeningly simple, which is great for casual fans, but can leave diehards wanting more. By letting fans download and keep a copy of the rulebook, they can more quickly understand reports about teams failing inspections and feel closer to the sport.

NASCAR hopes to have the rule book changes, and a few other plans, implemented by 2015. One such item is a revamp of its appeals process so that current board members who are track owners aren’t tasked with making rulings on technical details that they may have little to no knowledge about. Once again, a great idea, but one that should already be in place.

The Ogre vs. The Dimwit

For as much as we talk about it each and every year, Kyle Busch is never going to grow up. Many have commented on his maturity level in 2013, despite the fact he’s shown himself to be a sore loser who can’t accept anything less than first. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when you stick out that lower lip and pout after every single race you don’t win, it gets old. We got a glimpse of the filter-less Busch of old after Sunday’s race in New Hampshire. A strictly racing incident late in the event took out Kyle’s brother Kurt, who dove low into turn three under Matt Kenseth, and got clipped when he slid in front of the driver of the #20, in turn getting into Ryan Newman and ruining his day. Kyle, with no knowledge of the incident other than that his brother was involved, went off in an interview: “Ryan Newman’s the biggest stupid idiot out here and he’s a big ogre and can do whatever he wants ‘cause he can probably kick anybody’s butts. But glad he’s out of a job.”

Busch is referring to the announcement earlier in the week that Newman won’t be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Newman retaliated Monday in an interview with Sirius XM’s NASCAR station, saying “I’m just afraid if I re-arranged his face, I might fix it. We all know he’s not very bright.” It’s a soap opera situation that leaves me desperately wanting Newman to back up that talk and pop Kyle in the mouth. His comments are amusingly spot-on, especially considering Kyle was sporting a half-grown puberty beard last weekend at New Hampshire. The fact of the matter is that in actuality, Busch is a better driver than Newman, hands down. But Busch is incapable of being anything less than a punk, an adjective fans often use to describe drivers they dislike. In Busch’s case, it’s true. His comments were misguided and inflammatory, and truly drive home that point that no matter how many good months he has, he’ll always be the angry, whiny little kid he was when he started in the sport. It’s a shame, because that lack of discipline will probably prevent him from ever winning a Sprint Cup championship, something he clearly has the talent to do.

I don’t think we’ll see Newman retaliate when the series returns in two weeks, either on or off the track, but I, and I’m sure many other fans, really wish he would.

UPDATE: I’m adding this separately because I had already written the above, but late Tuesday Busch tweeted that he wasn’t referencing the wreck that took out Kurt and instead was referring to how Newman had raced him all day. And of course, he then admitted his comments about Newman’s “livelihood went too far.” Either way, my comments above still stand. The statement was dumb, and if Kyle still felt the need to insult Newman after a second place finish, then it shows how poorly he truly handles a situation in which he doesn’t win.

When will Stenica end?

After another run-in between NASCAR’s most talked about couple Sunday in New Hampshire ended in crumpled sheet metal, I can’t help but wonder when Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will finally end a relationship that is all but doomed. Patrick, in her own words, “misjudged the braking point” entering the corner and went barrelling into the cars ahead of her, taking out boyfriend Stenhouse in the process. It puts the couple’s count at 2-1 in favor of Patrick, who also caused a crash involving Stenhouse at Charlotte in May. Each time, they say they talked about it on the drive home and made up, but we’ll see. Honestly, I couldn’t care less, but everybody feels the need to talk about the couple, so I thought I’d jump on. Plus, including Danica Patrick in an article is an SEO haven.