Tag: Tony Stewart

NASCAR’s Biggest Threat? NASCAR

In a season where the on track entertainment has been on unparalleled levels, off the track NASCAR has not missed an opportunity to shoot itself in the foot.

Killing the momentum of the great start to the season was NASCAR president (and public face) Brian France endorsing, with present and former NASCAR drivers, Donald Trump for President. Their personal opinions are fine to have, but you can’t do something as the president of NASCAR and not have media and fans associate NASCAR with it. The move led Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, to publicly call France an idiot for making an uniformed decision; and that’s from a company that gives money to NASCAR as a series sponsor.

Then there was the invocation debacle at Texas where a character (Phil Robertson) on the TV show Duck Dynasty thought it was a great platform to preach about what the country needs, all while alienating half its audience. Again, fine that he has that opinion, but in that forum it is unacceptable and something NASCAR should have seen coming. While they do not run the Texas Motor Speedway (who has a history of making bad decisions on controversial issues), they could have had some say in how the invocation should be done. Mainly, don’t talk guns and having a “Jesus man” in the oval office.

Then we go to last week during the media obligation for Ryan Blaney that has again brought NASCAR into the spotlight for not a good reason. Blaney did nothing like pledge his vote for Trump or swearing loudly into the microphone, instead he said the word “velvet” over…and over…and over. Did Blaney watch Super Troops recently and think it’d be fun to do this? Of course not! NASCAR instructed Blaney to do so.

While I’ve been in on some media sessions where the conversations with drivers have gone to silly areas, they at least were not staged conversations. Had Blaney thought of this on his own, it would be one thing, but specific instructions from the sanctioning body on what to do during his session is eye-rollingly appalling to those trying to write actual stories.

Such tactics shouldn’t be so surprising. FOX has nearly daily pieces on Danica Patrick’s yoga poses, so I guess NASCAR is just pandering to its supposed audience. Oddly there are some journalists out there who are actually journalists (not that I claim to be one) and for NASCAR to try to be “catchy” or all the buzz on social media is just sad.

Once you think that three strikes would be enough for NASCAR to wake up, this week happens. The sport welcomed back three time champion and star Tony Stewart, who has recovered from a broken back, for his final season. Prior to that announcement, Stewart “told it like it is” about the sport’s lug nut policy, and after his announcement NASCAR welcomed him back: with a $35,000 fine for speaking out against the sport. Let’s look past Greg Biffle saying the same thing earlier in the week, but really? You’re going to shadow over a big story like Stewart returning with some B.S. fine because you don’t like what he had to say (when it was the truth).

To add more layers on to this delicious cake of stupidity, was NASCAR Competition VP Scott Miller announcing yesterday the sport would look into their lug nut rules. What? So what Stewart said resonated so much with the higher ups in NASCAR that they both fined him and now realize their rule needs to be changed? They need to walk a fine line on this one, as we’ve seen the NASCAR driver council speak up and defend Stewart. How many more times will it take before drivers say “enough is enough” and stage some sort of strike? (Highly unlikely, but drivers and owners seem to be growing bigger balls when it comes to telling NASCAR what they’re doing isn’t right).

The easiest thing NASCAR can do is not another snap chat or dub smash, but let the racing do the talking. If they did that, there would be nothing but great things to be said.

Pushing It To The Limit Is On Crews, Not NASCAR To Police

The sport of auto racing is built on the idea of men pushing machines to the extreme in order to achieve victory. In the world of NASCAR it is no different that teams will do everything in their power to become faster in all aspects, including pit stops by not tightening all five lug nuts on a tire.

New for 2016 was NASCAR no longer mandating that a team needs five lug nuts before a car exits the pits. The justification was with new equipment to monitor pit road, there was no need for the extra officials to be there counting lug nuts. This was also coupled with the idea that if not all were tight, the driver would either have to come back in or would crash, thus the incentive would not be there for teams to push the envelope. It would be self-policing, should you pit or crash, any gains by making the move would be wiped out and then some.

Apparently, the risk of additional pit stops or bodily harm to drivers is not enough for some teams not to try and short their pit stops. That was the focus of Tony Stewart’s complaints this past week, where he urged NASCAR to step in and go back to the old rule because “someone will get hurt or worse.”

This is a very valid point by Stewart, but the blame should not be on NASCAR failure to enforce the rule anymore, the blame should be on the crew chiefs and tire changers. Stewart’s lecture should have been saved for his crew, not for NASCAR, they are the ones making the decision during pit stops.

To me, it is baffling the idea that teams need NASCAR save them from themselves. We see rules like that all the time, minimum roll bar thickness and minimum tire pressures come to mind. If left in the hands of some crews, drivers would be strapped inside nothing more than tin cans with seat belts and engine because it would go fast.

In this instance, it should be the teams stepping up and doing the right thing. If you cheat on a tire change and it works, suddenly you’re the hero. If it bites you, then you’re the goat, but that is your choice as a tire changer or crew chief to roll the dice. This isn’t on NASCAR to be the angel on your shoulder saying “you shouldn’t do that.”

That is out of the driver’s hand during a pit stop, but they should have dialogue to be on the same page. Should a driver not feel comfortable about rolling the dice in this fashion, as Kurt Busch told media members earlier today when he suggested that media members wouldn’t like having their passenger car with only a few lug nuts on it, he should voice that and let it be known. Same for it they are willing to risk it all for some spots on pit road, they should explain that and own that they are will to do that.

I understand that someone could get hurt or worse, as Stewart suggested, but that is part of the game when it’s pushing a stock car to the limit. If all parties are alright pushing it that far in pursuit of glory, then that is on them to reap what they sow.

Who Will NOT Be Filling In For Tony Stewart

News came out earlier this week Tony Stewart was involved in a “non-racing” accident (because that makes it better for us to take? Weird emphasis on “non-racing” on nearly every press release) and will miss significant time after sustaining a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra. This will take a substantial amount of time to heal, thus opening the door for a replacement driver in the #14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

And with any opening in NASCAR, fans go crazy with off the wall suggestions for who should take over. With those in mind, here is a list of drivers who will NOT be driving for Tony Stewart in 2016.

Jeff Gordon: Recently retired and signed up to call races on FOX, Gordon WILL NOT drive for Stewart. Not it’s not really the FOX deal, as they would love for someone to call a race in a race, it’s the fact Gordon owns half of the #48 and part of the #24 cars for Hendrick Motorsports. NASCAR rules prohibit someone from owning part of a team that has four cars to then drive for another organization, never mind the Hendrick to Stewart-Haas connection. This is the same reason why JR Motorsports will never go to Cup nor Kyle Busch Motorsports. That is unless Dale Earnhardt Jr or Kyle Busch drive for their own teams. That aside, there is no way Gordon is selling his stake in Hendrick Motorsports to drive half a year or even just the Daytona 500.

Mark Martin: Martin already has filled in for Stewart before, but he WILL NOT drive for Stewart in 2016. He has retired and has no desire to drive anymore, saying as much on Twitter earlier this week. Poor Martin, he has bombarded with so many fan inquiries I would blame him from never logging on Twitter ever again.

Jeff Burton: Burton, like Martin has filled in for Stewart before. And like Gordon, has a TV deal that he’s currently working on. Like Martin again, he took to Twitter to tell fans he WILL NOT drive for Stewart.

John Hunter Nemechek: Not sure where this originated from, but John Hunter Nemechek WILL NOT drive for Stewart. Nemechek just turned 18 last season, which means he can finally run on large tracks, and I’m pretty sure there’s a large one to start the season. I can’t imagine SHR would want to rotate through a handful of drivers while Stewart recovers. And given Nemechek’s lack of experience, even in the Truck Series, and that is not a winning recipe.

Jeremy Mayfield: Even weirder than the Nemechek push has been the one for Jeremy Mayfield. Sorry folks, but Mayfield WILL NOT drive for Stewart. The driver who is better known for meth and burglary has been a heartwarming story of redemption trying to fight his way back into racing. That said, never mind “meth” and “burglary” being synonymous with his name (right or wrong), he hasn’t driven in the Cup Series since they had the Car of Tomorrow. Too much of a learning curve for him to try and make up for, plus that and still being suspended by NASCAR will hold him back.

Brian Vickers: Vickers is an interesting case because he when given good equipment, he can excel. That being said, Vickers WILL NOT drive for Stewart. One year removed having to stop racing while on blood thinners, not much has been heard from Vickers outside some studio time at NBC. Given his name came up exactly zero times this offseason as a driver who could go into an empty ride, I believe his racing career has come and gone. Add to that the unknown of if he has to step away again due to the blood clots and we’re back to SHR not wanting to flip-flop drivers every week.

Alex Bowman: Alex Bowman finds himself in an odd place in NASCAR, Cup Series owner Tommy Baldwin showed now faith in him and dumped him a week ago for Regan Smith. On the other side, Dale Earnhardt Jr sees potential with Bowman and inked him to five Xfinity Series races this upcoming season. One could argue that Stewart could see something in Bowman that Junior sees, but reality says Bowman WILL NOT drive for Stewart.

Clint Bowyer: While Bowyer will drive for Stewart, as his successor, in 2017, this year he WILL NOT drive for Stewart. Too much was done to get him over to HScott Motorsports for one year to then nix that deal to run him half of this year. If they knew Stewart was out for the full year, maybe, but with sponsors involved this one is a no go.

David Ragan: Ragan WILL NOT drive for Stewart. This isn’t so much because Ragan signed with BK Racing, it’s more because no one seems to want Ragan. He was spurned by Team Penske, Richard Petty Motorsports (twice!), Front Row Motorsports didn’t want him back after he left last year, and no other team had a fleeting interest in Ragan. That said, he does have one big fan who assumes every open seat is Ragan’s…good thing this guy isn’t in the media.

Parker Kligerman: Kligerman WILL NOT drive for Stewart. No talk of him doing it, just trying to justify using his image for the article. While he did work as a backup plan if Kurt Busch was late coming back to the Daytona 500, Kligerman has hitched his wagon on the NBC train while dabbling in the Truck Series. With no Cup experience, he would be very far down the list. He ran for Swan Racing, which everyone has since forgot about.

Ryan Ellis: Bwahahahaha.

Ty Dillon: Dillon’s name has gotten a lot of steam as a replacement, but he WILL NOT drive for Stewart…in the Daytona 500. He already has a deal with Leavine Circle Family Sport Racing (whoops, Leavine Family Circle Sport Racing…or is it Circle Sport Leavine Family Racing?) to run the 500 with Cheerios as a sponsor. You could argue they could move primary driver Michael McDowell to that ride and let Dillon go, but I don’t see that happening. After Daytona, however, I could see him being a good substitute for Stewart. And it’ll be fun to see him paired with Kevin Harvick as a teammate.

5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run.

With that excitement and the season closing in on the end of the regular season and start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are many questions coming into the weekend. Here are just five of them:

Who can pull off the win and get into the Chase?

Looking right off the bat you have to go to a driver who has wins, but is outside the top-30 in points. That’d be Kyle Busch, who’s a two time champion of this event. He needs to earn maximum points to get his way into the top-30 and into the Chase. More on him in a bit.

Two more intriguing names are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Stewart is the all-time wins leader at The Glen with five and is on the outside looking in on the Chase. Gordon is in via points for the time being, but with the second most wins (four) at the track has to be a favorite. I would like to say the fact it will be Gordon final race at the track will factor in, but he hasn’t performed that well when running at tracks the final time. In fact, looking at his Watkins Glen record he hasn’t finished better than 10th in his last seven races here.

While in the Chase by points right now, Kasey Kahne must make up for a 43rd place finish last weekend at Pocono. He has an uphill battle to do so since his best finish here has been a 12th, that coming last season. AJ Allmendinger will look to duplicate his victory last season that got him into the Chase. Currently 23rd in points, Watkins Glen represents the last bit of hope Allmendinger has at getting his second career win.

Can Kyle Busch’s Streak Continue?

It is hard to believe that Busch has only run 10 races so far this season and has come away with four wins, four top-5s, and five top-10 finishes. Had it not been for being just shy on fuel last weekend, we’d be talking about how he’s gone five for 10 with wins. Busch is a two-time Watkins Glen winner who had a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes snapped last year at the track. He will be strong and quite possibly dominate this weekend knowing he needs to go balls out to get the most points he can.

Will the “Road Course Ringers” have an impact on the race?

Had this been written about 20 years earlier, I would say yes. Now that it is 2015 and quality rides are just not there for “Ringers,” it is an resounding “no” to the question. The only “Ringers” entered this weekend at Boris Said and TJ Bell. Bell will be with Premium Motorsports’ #62 team that has had a terrible record of qualifying for races. He might be a “ringer,” but Bell hasn’t been in a Sprint Cup car since 2012, and that coupled with the car he is in, he’ll be lucky to make the race. What plays in his favor is that there are only 44 cars entered this weekend. For Said he gets to run for Go FAS Racing in the #32 Genesee Brewery Ford. Go FAS isn’t the worst team on the track each weekend, but it is far from being even average. For all his skill, it would be a victory for the team if Said finished in the top-20 this weekend.

Will it rain this weekend?

It seems like whenever the Sprint Cup Series comes to my native New York, rain always tries to ruin the party. In a nine year stretch qualifying was rained out five times. Five freakin’ times, and yes I’m still bitter about having to drive two hours to sit in the rain and not see anything done. This weekend has a slight chance of rain on Sunday, but I’m confident it will stay away. As of this posting Accuweather.com has it at a 40% chance and with this NASCAR will be coming with rain tires just in case. The rest of the weekend looks to be perfect at around 80 and sunny. It’s just Sunday has the possibility, like always.

With it being Jeff Gordon’s final race here, what is your favorite memory?

The easy answer is to go for any one of his four wins, including three straight from 1997-1999, but I’m going to go a different direction. It was the 2000 race and right at the beginning (right in front of where I was sitting) Gordon and Tony Stewart got together through the esses. Both cars continued the race, Stewart finished sixth and Gordon 23rd. After the race is where the real fireworks happened, cameras caught the exchange between the two drivers, which to me made me respect Gordon a bit more afterwards. I had pegged him as a cry baby kind of driver who never would stand up for himself. Here I was proved wrong as the video shows, Gordon was not back down to anyone including Stewart. My favorite part is when Gordon tells Stewart to “speed up and that won’t happen” and closes with “I owe you one now buddy.” Classic. I hope both drivers can get back to their competitive fiery ways on Sunday.

Daytona Qualifying Disaster

There is an old saying that what drivers hate, fans will love. Sunday afternoon’s qualifying for the starting two position of next week’s Daytona 500 proved that saying wrong. Both fans, drivers, and media alike classified the knockout qualifying rounds as “idiotic,” “dumb,” “the worst,” and “not even entertaining.” The only group that seemed to enjoy it was the FOX broadcast team who had to enjoy the ratings as fans watched in horror at what the Daytona 500 qualifying has become.

Just one year ago, and many years prior, this day was single car qualifying which saw the fastest two drivers be reserved for the front row of the Daytona 500. There was much prestige to be felt by drivers and crews because this was the culmination of an entire offseason of trying to build the fastest car. This year, to spice things up, NASCAR brought in their knockout qualifying format that it had used with success last season (minus the fall Talladega race, another restrictor plate track like Daytona).

This format saw the field split into two groups, with the top 12 in each group advancing to the second round. Then the top twelve of that group would advance to the third and final round, with the fastest car in that session becoming the pole sitter for the “Great American Race.”

The problem with this scenario is a few things, first instead of filling out the entire field, this spectacle was used for the first two spots. In four days there will be two races run to determine order of the field, which feels redundant to put it kindly. The second problem is each round has a three minute clock, but drivers do not start until half the time has passed. This would allow a fast first lap for some, while others might not have had enough time to attempt theirs or would not have enough time to knock you off. So basically for over a minute, cars just sat on pit road waiting. The third problem was exactly what we saw in the first round, which was a multi-car wreck (typical of restrictor plate racing) that not only put some drivers in a bad spot qualifying wise, but in Reed Sorenson’s case, unless his team can rebuild his car in four days, he won’t be able to even try to make it into the race.

Clint Bowyer, who was caught up in the Sorenson wreck after the two made contact, did not hold back in his interview with FOX after being released from the care center. “It’s idiotic to be out here doing this anyway. It makes no sense in being able to put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is, then you have a guy out there in desperation doing this crap like this. There’s no reason to be out here. These guys have spent six months working on these cars, busting their asses on these cars to go out there and have some guy out of desperation do that crap, but it ain’t his fault. It’s not, it’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing.”

Other drivers weighed in with similar thoughts as Bowyer, including last season’s Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson. “I think they need to go back to single-car qualifying. I think that’s about it; for Superspeedways anyway, because this is pathetic.” Team owner and driver Tony Stewart took to Twitter to call out NASCAR for what went on today. Keep in mind that all four of his cars did not advance past the first round, but I think the frustration was beyond that.

In my opinion, AJ Allmendinger’s assessment of the day was spot on. “Honestly, I could have cared less how I qualified. I just didn’t want to wreck. Restrictor-plate qualifying; it’s going to be boring or dumb, no matter what, honestly. It’s the nature of it. It’s pretty cool for a race team to win the Daytona 500 pole. That’s prestigious and that’s important. But the rest of the speedway qualifying doesn’t really matter. You could just draw out of a hat for Sunday and that would be a lot easier.”

Naturally the cheerleaders of what we saw were the FOX broadcasters Darrell Waltrip, Mike Joy, and Larry McReynolds. Also joining that bandwagon was ex-driver Kenny Wallace, who works for FOX, and current driver Michael Waltrip, who works for FOX. Waltrip went so far as to say he had fun in his car out there trying to qualifying for the 500. I understand they have to keep things positive, but just another reminder of why I don’t mind turning down the volume on the TV while races are on.

The lone positive in this whole debacle was Jeff Gordon picking up the pole for his final Daytona 500. The final round of qualifying almost saw half the field running not even being able to register a time as they played chicken waiting for someone to leave pit road. Had Martin Truex, Jr. just waited a few more seconds, he could have been the lone driver to make a time and collect the pole. Instead, it was Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson creating an all Chevrolet front row for the season opening race. “This is one of the most gratifying poles here at Daytona that I have ever had,” commented Gordon.

I just hope for all the complaining that drivers and fans did today NASCAR will learn from their mistake and not do this again. The realist in me, though, believes NASCAR will fine drivers like Bowyer (whose whole rant was epic) and Stewart for speaking out in order to send the message that they need NASCAR more than NASCAR needs them. I hope Thursday is not as much of a shit show as today was.

Sprint Cup Series 2015 Season Preview

One year ago it was chaos for NASCAR fans as the announcement came through there was a new version of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, one that put emphasis on winning, had eliminations, and an expanded field. Many, include me, thought this was the dumbest idea ever and no way would it work. Sometimes I can admit when I’m wrong, and judging by the tempers that overflowed and nail biting season finale at Homestead, this was the correct move for NASCAR to make.

This offseason leading into the 2015 was supposed to be a calm one without much waves being made. Heck, what could top last year’s circus atmosphere to start the season? Only one thing, that being Jeff Gordon announcing this year will be his last in the Sprint Cup Series. Bombshell for sure and now that’ll be what everyone will be talking about, not only to start the season, but over the course of the 36 race trek across the United States.

It would make sense to start with Gordon, so let’s do that. I’m still in disbelief that he is calling it a career after 23 years. You almost think he would race forever, and at age 43 he will walk away many years before some of the stars that came before him. Gordon was in the thick of the points battle until that fateful night in Texas where his title hopes got dashed after a run in with Brad Keselowski. The fight and fire you saw that night, I believe, will carry over into his final season. He should go out with a bang, rather than a whimper, which is why he’s calling it quits now. Last season he won the most races in the previous seven season, had the most top-5s and top-10s in the past five seasons. It’ll be hard to beat those numbers he put up, but anything will be possible for this team and driver determined to leave on top.

After 11 years with Ford, Carl Edwards makes the jump to the “dark side” of Toyota with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s been putting up decent numbers with Roush Fenway Racing, despite that team going through a decline of sorts. I’m not sure how Gibbs’ organization will handle being a four car operation, as only Hendrick Motorsports has figured that balance of four cars out. And even then, it’s taken them nearly a decade to perfect it. Many expect Edwards to have the sort of jump in his step that former and now current teammate Matt Kenseth had when he joined the organization for the 2013 season.

Thanks to NASCAR’s subjective rules, Trevor Bayne will not be able to run for rookie of the year this season. Despite not having run a full season, he’s done enough in prior years (including a Daytona 500 win in 2011) to be deemed experienced. Never mind he’ll still have a yellow stripe on his car, he’s not rookie according to NASCAR. Thanks to BK Racing picking another rookie to run, we will have a Rookie of fhe Year award winner. That is Jeb Burton. Not finding sponsorship in the Truck Series was the best thing that’s happened to him. Unless he talks to Ryan Truex, then it might be the worst thing that happened to him.

Welcome back to the Cup Series Ron Hornaday, Jr., he gets the nod in the new TMG Racing #30 Chevrolet as the “primary driver.” Not sure about the wording on that about primary driver, but whatever. I assumed Hornaday’s career was done when he got screwed over by the Turner Scott Motorsports fiasco, but instead will try only his second full Cup season. The other was in 2001 running for A.J. Foyt in the #14 Conseco Pontiac, remember that car? It’ll be nice to see the 56 year old Hornaday back, I would have trusted him to do more in the Truck Series than Cup, but if the goal is to finish and not tear up cars, then Hornaday’s your guy.

Also coming back to the Cup Series is Sam Hornish, Jr., who took his lumps and learned how to race in the XFINITY Series the past few years. I’m rooting for Hornish to do a lot better than he did in his first Cup go around, especially because he’s learned not only how to win in a stock car, but also run for a title. I think that is what he needed when he first came to NASCAR in 2008.

Other moves over the offseason include Michael Annett moving to HScott Motorsports (the only cool part about this is now he’s running the 46 and his teammate Justin Allgaier runs the 51, Days of Thunder anyone?), Mike Bliss, Bobby Labonte, and Boris Said will run the 32 Ford for Go FAS Racing (lame name), Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing replacing Annett (you won’t really notice much out of performance improvements with him in there), JJ Yeley becomes the “lead” driver for BK Racing (whatever the heck that means, more Whoppers?) who have yet announce anything else, and Landon Cassill returns to the 40 of Hillman Racing.

New Chase and a title for Kevin Harvick? You could say he loves this format. While the expectation is for Harvick to slow down in his bid to go back to back, the scary part is how many races the team let go during the course of the season last year. Part failures mostly bit Harvick early in the season, and when it was all sorted out, there was no stopping him from the title. He can only improve, and that will be a big task considering how good his season was.

After nearly pulling up a major upset by winning the title without a win, I hope Ryan Newman comes into 2015 and wins a bunch of races. Not only would it stick it to all the fans who called him out as not being title worthy, but I’m due as a fan of his to see him win again. After winning eight times in 2003, Newman has won seven times since and not more than two times since 2004. He’s due, check that, beyond due to win some races.

When it all shakes out I expect the usual suspects up front once again. Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski, Gordon, and others will go for the title. The hard part is figuring which Cinderella stories get into the Chase through fluke wins and which usual suspect gets shut out. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards should have solid seasons, but I’m putting my early money on ol’ six time champ Jimmie Johnson to win his seventh title.

NASCAR Making Right Call With Stewart Exemption

Ever since the tragic events that took place early in August at the Canandaigua (NY) Motorsports Park, public opinion has been split on Tony Stewart. Once again, after NASCAR’s announcement Friday that Stewart has been granted an exemption for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, opinion was split. This means if Stewart wins this weekend at Atlanta or next weekend at Richmond, he would be able to run for the championship.

Many drivers and owners applauded NASCAR for the move, some media members and fans then lauded NASCAR for the move. When NASCAR announced prior to the season that exemptions could be allowed the idea was to prevent drivers with injuries from risking further damage by racing. That drivers would not be forced to drive with broken ankles like Brad Keselowski did, cover up a concussion, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. did, or this year allowed Denny Hamlin not to run Fontana with a piece of metal in his eye.

What was not accounted for when the rule was made up was the idea that a driver could be involved in an incident in a non-NASCAR sanctioned event that could result in the death of another driver. There was no playbook for what happened to Tony Stewart, and hopefully we will never have to deal with this type of a situation again.

I’m not sold that Stewart could have raced immediately afterwards at Watkins Glen, but it would have been possible he could have returned to his car soon than a three week absence. In a sign of respect for the parents of Kevin Ward, Jr. and getting his head right after what happened, Stewart sat out three races.

With that in mind, NASCAR made the correct call in allowing Stewart the exemption. The odds of Stewart coming in and capturing the necessary wins are slim, but plausible. I don’t believe he will do it, and it would have been interesting to see how NASCAR handled the situation if Stewart was already locked into the Chase.

The most important part is Stewart is at the track and he can begin to move forward with his life. As Stewart told media on Friday, “I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.” That is very true and once those cars fire up and roll out for the pace laps tonight, for once in three weeks life will be normal for Stewart.