Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

NASCAR making up rules as it goes

April 1, 2004


Based on what we saw during the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR is working so hard to manage what's happening on the track this year that it doesn't have time to worry about next year.

With this year's trip to Texas Motor Speedway now atop the sport's appointment book, we can all look ahead to a week filled with speculation about what might or might not be on the 2005 schedule.

Talk is rampant about a possible settlement in a lawsuit filed by Speedway Motorsports Inc. stockholders that would result in a second Cup date for Texas in 2005, and could trigger a significant reshuffling of the circuit's calendar next season.

That's a big story, and there will be much more conjecture. But there's a long way to go yet before it can be authoritatively written.

Right now, the people running NASCAR's show have enough to do just trying to get through a given race.

In Saturday's Busch Series race, officials were so intent on getting a green-flag finish they ignored two incidents that should have brought out the yellow flag in the final laps before throwing it after a third.

By that point, the event was largely in disarray. Mike Bliss didn't realize he still had another quarter of a lap to run to complete the event, so he pulled on pit road and went from a second to 17th.

Sunday's Nextel Cup race was no Tupperware party, either.

Kasey Kahne was promising to avenge his early ouster after a wreck with Jamie McMurray put him behind the wall. Later, McMurray tried to exact instant revenge on Matt Kenseth following their late-race duel for position. Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted to spinning himself out on purpose to get a caution.

NASCAR, meanwhile, once again thought about keeping the yellow flag in its official pocket as the laps wound down. When Dale Jarrett hit the Turn 1 wall on Lap 493, it took nearly a full lap for officials to decide that the caution needed to come out.

As had been the case on Saturday, its desire to give fans a green-flag finish was admirable. But just as a foul should be a foul in basketball no matter how much time is left, a wreck is a wreck.

If NASCAR can't enforce all the rules and procedures it has on the books, then it needs to streamline those procedures so fans and competitors have a reasonable understanding of what should and will happen in certain circumstances. Right now, it looks like NASCAR is making things up as it goes along.

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