User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: April 2014


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NASCAR qualifying rules confound me

Being a Ryan Newman fan has taught me so much about the inner workings of NASCAR. More than not, Newman is affected by a rule here, a policy there, or an arbitrary action by the sanctioning body. More often than not, it is detrimental to him.

The latest question I have, is in regards to qualifying at Richmond. In particular, since qualifying was rained out, how did it happen that Kyle Larson earned the top starting spot for Saturday night's race. Per NASCAR's rule book, "Section 9-5 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book (in 2013, if qualifying was cancelled, the rule was to set the field by the practice speeds in the first practice)," according to Jayski's Silly Season Site. 

I wonder why that is. Wouldn't it make more sense to set the field according to the fastest speed in the final practice--the one closest to when qualifying would have taken place? That is where Ryan Newman comes in, since he drove the fastest lap in that session. When I heard that he was fastest in Happy Hour, I wrongly assumed he would be on the pole for the race. I was stunned to see he started, what 18th!

Wouldn't it make more sense for the starting position to more closely approximate actual qualifying? After all, a fast car right off the truck is a great luxury, but should that rare happenstance be rewarded over the work done by crews and drivers to perfect their times? Shouldn't the time closest to when qualifying actually take place be the time to be rewarded in case of a rainout?

Using the practice speeds in the first practice makes no sense to me. It would even make more sense to use a cumulative speed, awarding the pole to the fastest average speed. 

NASCAR has completely revamped its qualifying format, which gives teams a chance to better themselves during the course of the qualifying session. NASCAR seems to reward consistency, except in this case. Their own rule to set the running order by the first practice is simply not consistent with teams bettering themselves. I think a change is in order. What do you think?

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ryan Newman finally interviewed by Fox Sunday during rain delay

Ryan Newman
Ryan Newman (Photo credit: purduenila)

The best part of the Texas weekend for me was the rain delay video of Ryan Newman on Fox Sports I, a rare occasion, prompted I'm sure, by the need to kill some time while the rain fell.

Rarely is Ryan interviewed. It is not uncommon for Newman to be completely ignored by race 'reporters' even when drivers before him and after him get TV time. I've seen so many instances over the years when it would be appropriate to interview Newman, but instead, he is ignored.

I can only speculate as to why that is. 

I think I get why Michael Waltrip doesn't interview Ryan. In my mind, it is a case of Ryan talking over Michael's head. I don't know if Michael is really as dumb as he lets on or if that is just an act, but clearly, Ryan is intellectually superior.

Also, the two plainly don't like one another. There have been past on-track incidents where Michael's driving abilities have cost Newman a good finish or completely ruined his day. Also, their dislike for one another is just obvious. For example, just recently when Waltrip was walking through the pit road crowd pretending to be a reporter, he happened to come up to Ryan. From a slight distance, Michael made some remark about having to go, in an effort to acknowledge but not confront Newman but rather to explain his quick exit. Newman simply smiled and told him something to the effect of, the bathrooms are that way, Michael. 

Now I'm sure Waltrip doesn't know how to take that kind of humor.

I admit that I have never met Ryan Newman; I've never even seen him in person. But, I've watched him and read about him enough to know that he isn't mean-spirited; he's just quick-witted and painfully honest. His dry sense of humor reminds me of my father who used to make me laugh over the silliest things. 

Newman is also generally much smarter than the guys asking him questions. They don't interact with him well because without meaning to, he talks over their heads. Now that I think about it, perhaps much of the viewing audience who doesn't follow Newman as closely as his fans do, probably don't get him either.

There didn't seem to be hard feelings between the two, even after what transpired after the last race of the 2013 season. Newman was on his way to winning at Richmond to cinch a spot in the Chase for the Championship when Clint Bowyer spun out in what has been alleged to be, team orders, putting Bowyer's teammate Martin Truex, Jr. into the chase instead. Bowyer and Truex drove for Michael Waltrip Racing. The incident changed the face of the Chase, NASCAR put Newman in, took Truex out, and huge fines were levied against Waltrip's entire race team. 

This interview was also epic because John Roberts, Michael and Darrell Waltrip seemed to hang on Newman's every word. He provided good information about racing conditions, the car, its behavior, and the track. It interested them. He was sharing information with them in a way that they could relate to. It was a very good interview. 

Interestingly, Newman has had a reputation, dating way back to his Penske Racing days, of not sharing information with his team mate, Rusty Wallace. Yet, Ryan shared information without reservation in this interview. He responded honestly to all the questions, without hesitation. Perhaps this will lay to rest in the minds of some of the old school NASCAR drivers-turned-analyst who have long held the wrong-headed notion that all the problems back then were of Newman's doing. 

I've always found Newman's interviews to be informative and light-hearted. Even when a microphone is stuck into his face after an emotional incident, he is thoughtful as he speaks the unvarnished truth.

I'll never forget when NASCAR fined Newman for his critical remarks about the unsafe racing at Talladega, just after his car came to rest on its hood following several barrel rolls. The momentum was broken when he landed on the front end of Kevin Harvick's racecar. Had Harvick not been there, who knows what the impact would have been, since the roll cage that was designed to protect the driver was compromised. Newman merely stated that NASCAR had to keep the cars from going airborne. Newman paid a huge fine for what NASCAR deemed dissing the brand. I lost all respect for them at that point. That was the scariest crash I'd ever seen, holding my breath until we heard Ryan was OK.

Interestingly, I attempted to post a link to this interview. But I can't seem to find it, on Fox Sports I or Fox Sports, or The only place I've found it is on Ryan Newman's facebook page, and my own of course, since I was happy to share it.

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