Tag: Casey Mears

I’m Back!

It’s crazy to think back and realize it’s been about two years since I’ve been fully invested into this site. Life has a way of just taking priority over something that’s a hobby and certainly does not pay anything. But that’s ok, because it’s given me time to get my life in order and re-prioritize things, including this blog.

I started this with a friend in 2010 and have been able to do some amazing things during that time. Now it’s time to get back to what the original core value of the site was, and that’s providing opinions and stats of the Cup Series. With all of that said, let me get caught up with some commentary about what has taken place this off season.

Driver Retirements

Every sport goes through a spell where there’s a changing of the guard. Outside of Carl Edwards’ surprise announcement, it was time for Tony Stewart to leave and no one cares about Brian Scott or Ryan Ellis hanging up their helmets. I always love to play the what if game, and Edwards will leave me guessing what else he could have done. I say good for him to make that decision to walk away now with his health, as long as he’s content with his career. Don’t let fans fool you, they’re selfish and would rather a driver run way too long than walk away with dignity.

While not officially retirements, Greg Biffle and Casey Mears have been left out in the cold this off season, and that’s a good thing. Biffle is a lot older than most realize and there’s nothing he can add to an organization that isn’t a top tier team. It’s like how Clint Bowyer struggled last year going to HScott Motorsports, he’s likely to rebound in a big way because he’s with a top team. Mears always confused me how he kept getting rides. Sure he has a fuel mileage win with Hendrick Motorsports, when they were winning everything, but beyond that he’s been below average. I also enjoyed how suddenly everyone was a Mears fan when he got dumped, but before then most probably thought he just stared in GEICO commercials and didn’t race.

New Series Sponsor

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or MENCS does not have a great ring to it, but it might over time. I hate the abbreviation because I feel like it’s a men’s club or something, but Monster might kick some much needed life into the series. Sprint did a good job of at track activation, but Monster could take it a whole new level. That is if they don’t go bankrupt first, but hey they’re only paying about half of what Sprint did for only two years, so they don’t have much to lose. I think NASCAR realized that by positioning the series as the <insert sponsor> NASCAR Cup Series. Side note, I’ll be calling it the Cup Series wherever I can because I don’t want to get too attached like I did with Winston.

New Race Format

Has anyone ever mentioned that NASCAR fans don’t like change? Naturally, they will not like this, but what I’ve gotten through my head is after 26 years of being a fan, I’m too invested to walk away. That said, this new format has promise, but I will have to see it in action before getting sold 100% on it. The strategy that will play out to “win” a segment should be intriguing. Removing the term “chase” from the dialogue of NASCAR was a plus as well, it is now simply referred to as playoffs.

Something that was added and not popularized during the press conference is a team cannot add body panels onto their cars if in an accident. Which will basically means: if you crash, you’re done. No more patchwork to get a car out there to run 15 mph off the pace and drop debris. While it’s a noble cause for teams to try and repair their cars to earn points, since there’s very little attrition during races there’s no real reason for it. Years ago engine/parts failures were common, now engines are near bullet proof.

The biggest con from all of this is the constant comparison of racing to stick and ball sports, oh and the word “moments” being used in everyone’s responses when talking about the formats. My guess is that NASCAR suggested that and we’ll see the new marketing campaign for this based around “moments.” Shoot me now.

Teams Folding/Merging

The charter system was a step in the right direction to make NASCAR ownership more cut and dry. Instead it seems to have hindered smaller teams even more, since if they’re not a charter they receive less money. And even having a charter wasn’t the cure all for teams as teams downsized or folded regardless of having a charter. The benefit is someone like Tommy Baldwin can walk away from ownership with something rather than getting taken to the cleaners. But the endgame shouldn’t be about the cash out, it should be about keeping these teams a float. When you have a system where Go FAS Racing decides it’s better long term to lease their charter to the Wood Brothers, then lease a charter from Richard Petty Motorsports in the meantime, something is broken.

NASCAR In An Interesting Box

Hindsight is always 20/20, so looking back at NASCAR’s decision of an emphasis on winning it shouldn’t be surprising that tempers are flaring at every turn. With time running out before the season finale, another flare up at the Texas Motor Speedway has again put NASCAR in an interesting box.

Post-race fisticuffs have demonstrated that NASCAR handles it as a crap shoot. For the most part financial penalties are used. Precedence for this year includes the famous Ambrose v. Mears situation from Richmond in May, and then there was Charlotte just last month.

In that instance, at Charlotte, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Brad Keselowski were involved in post-race shoving matches. On the track, Keselowski and Tony Stewart used their cars to point out their frustrations. Keselowski and Stewart got fines and probation for the use of their cars. Hamlin and Kenseth on the other hand, walked away without any penalty. This seems to fit into how NASCAR has made on track safety a priority after the death of a sprint car driver in August during an altercation with Stewart.

On Sunday there was no on track altercation, minus the contact between Jeff Gordon and Keselowski that led to Gordon losing a tire late in the race and his temper after the race. The race was over and once the cars were parked on pit road, Gordon came down to talk to Keselowski about what happened. While Gordon was yelling at Keselowski and being held back by crew members, Kevin Harvick shoved Keselowski close to Gordon, close enough for Gordon to grab onto Keselowski’s uniform and then it was chaos as crew members all piled on top of the drivers. Once it was broken up Gordon had a fat lip and Keselowski had blood on him, presumably not his own.

So what to do this time around? No drivers used their cars to settle scores, so the fine and probation route that was seen at Charlotte is null. Even though both Gordon and Keselowski were left bloodied, neither landed a punch on each other. In fact, it was a crew member of Gordon’s who landed a punch on Keselowski. This then makes the Ambrose/Mears precedent null because no drivers struck one another. That time around Ambrose landed a right hook on Mears’ face, which led to NASCAR having to act.

Then there is the Kevin Harvick variable in all of this. Harvick threw no punches, but was the clear catalyst for the whole scene. His shove of Keselowski got him close enough for Gordon to act and then all Hell broke loose. How should he be penalized and should he be penalized for his part?

The answer to what should happen is simple, no penalties. Add to it that Keselowski’s probation from Charlotte should have no bearing since he did nothing but be a punching bag on pit road. On the track his move that drew the ire of Gordon was a racing moving, he went for a hole between Gordon and eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, and the hole closed up. There’s nothing that NASCAR can or should do to penalize that, it’s just racing. Based on what we saw from Charlotte, tackling a competitor is ok in NASCAR’s mind, so that will clear both Keselowski and Gordon in all of this. Looking at Harvick, I can’t imagine he’ll be penalized based on that as well, especially because all he did was shove Keselowski then get the heck out of there.

While NASCAR is likely to come out and condone the actions of Sunday night, in private they will be loving this. This “boys have at it” type feuding has brought a buzz and excitement to the sport it hasn’t seen in a long time. If the temperature keeps rising, one can only imagine what the scene will be at Homestead in two weeks for the finale.

That kind of unknown anticipation should bring a lot of people either to the track to see it or on TV to watch what might happen. Should everything go well, you know there will be clips from this Chase that NASCAR will make into commercials to promote the new Chase.

If not NASCAR, then Texas Motor Speedway will jump at the chance to promote these antics. Jimmie Johnson ran away with the race on Sunday, one of the more boring races of the season, but no one will remember that. The new Chase is here along with a new era of NASCAR racing, where winning is everything.

The Double Standard Of Sports

Brad_Keselowski_Atlanta_Flip

NASCAR is no different than any other sports organizations when it comes to handing out punishments, yet exploiting it at the same time. This will happen again as Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears were fined and put on probation. In time the footage that got them in trouble will be used for marketing purposes by NASCAR.

In the NFL, highlight reels are handed out of players hitting other players. Some of those hits cause concussions, which the NFL is trying to eliminate while using it to promote the hard hitting action each Sunday. The NHL plays hard open ice hits over and over that leave players bruised, battered, or worse.

This happens time after time in NASCAR.  There was outrage when Kevin Harvick confronted Greg Biffle after a 2002 Nationwide Series Bristol race. Now you can’t see a promo for Bristol without seeing that footage. Go back to 1979 when Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison, and Cale Yarborough’s fisticuffs at the end of the Daytona 500 have gone down NASCAR history lore.

I’m of the opinion that if NASCAR finds the need to fine drivers for “actions detrimental to stock car racing,” then NASCAR should not be allowed to exploit the footage. If they see an opportunity to use it in a promotion, then no disciplinary action should be taken, like when Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski tangled in the “Boys Have At It” era.

I am not saying that fines and probation should not be used, because like Edwards and Keselowski proved, if left unchecked drivers will continue to push the  boundaries until it is painfully obvious NASCAR needs to step in.

What I am saying is NASCAR needs set the example, not condone actions while secretly hoping or pushing for conflict on the track. There also needs to be a clearer line of what is tolerated and what will not be tolerated. While Mears/Ambrose drew fines and penalties, Brad Keselowski’s brake checking and damaging Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and others was acceptable.