[NASCAR] Speed Addicts

On Tap This Week: The Latest from the Brickyard and Everything Else You’d Want to Know! Honest!

Speed Addicts

– Steve Price, aka “Speed Addict”
For Inside Pulse Sports

Well, hello there, little ones! Before you break out the spears and javelins and what not, allow me to express the following sentiment: the beach is cool. With that out of the way, let’s get cracking. I don’t think it’s been hard to deduce from the past few columns that I’ve grown bored with the current format of Speed Addicts, so we’re switching (for one week only) to a post-race format, to gauge whether or not tackling the post-race bits is more enjoyable than the pre-race ones. Following next week’s standard fare, we’ll make the final assessment. That means, for this week, Stat Tracker gets an extended break. But we’ve got two brand-spankin’ new cups of Kool-Aid that’ll be sure to brighten your day coming on Saturday. So let’s hit that love machine, Smokey!

Track Profile: Indianapolis
It’s a race track that needs little introduction. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most important racing venue in North America… perhaps all the world. NASCAR began racing here in 1994, but IMS has seen plenty of racing, long before the Southern brand arrived at the state capital of Indiana. Built in 1909 as a testing ground for the then-fledgling automobile industry, IMS was designed with a concept that seems downright incredible, or impossible today. Using over 3 Million paving bricks with a mixture of mortar, the original Indianapolis executives created a facility that would come to earn the title that has stuck with it to this day: “the Brickyard”. In fact, most of the original bricks are still on the site; asphalt was used to resurface the track in the 1940’s, and by the early ’60s, the entire racing surface had been covered with asphalt. Sans a set of exposed bricks, the “yard of bricks” at the start/finish line that serves as a reminder to the past. Most of the bricks originally used as the surface are underneath the current racing surface used today.

Indianapolis is unlike any other “oval” on the NASCAR circuit. There are three other tracks that can measure up to Indy from length/size: Pocono, Daytona, and Talladega. Pocono has become the embodiment of the odd triangular shaped track, while Daytona and Talladega have come to represent the biggest tri-ovals in the sport, with Talladega the beneficiary of the off-center start/finish line. Indianapolis, for all intensive purposes, is much more a rectangle than an oval, with two long straights at the east and west ends of the compound, complimented by two shorter stretches that run in between Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4 at the northern and southern end of the speedway. This, along with the low grade banking and more specifically, the dueling grandstands down the front stretch have made Indianapolis an icon untouched by almost any other track in the world.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway was first used, believe it or not, as a venue for motorcycle races. When the original surface proved disastrous to that business venture, the four principal investors in the speedway turned their attention to hosting a single mega-event at the race track each year. From that date on, the Indianapolis 500 became the staple pin of the raceway. In fact, until NASCAR arrived in 1994, only one non-Indianapolis 500 event had been held at Indianapolis in the same year as the 500: in September of 1916, a second race was held at IMS, but was scrapped after just one year. The venue has also held a rather lengthy longevity streak; sans the years involvement of the United States in World Wars (which would be 1917-1918 and from 1942-1945), the Indianapolis 500, and IMS by default, have continuously ran races at the venue for nearly ninety years now, an incredible accomplishment for any one venue. Of course, with times changing, so has the flavors of racing held there. NASCAR was the first major brand to venture into the land of “Indy” Cars in 1994, with the highly successful Brickyard 400, where inaugural pole sitter Darrell Waltrip and eventual winner Jeff Gordon helped gain NASCAR a foothold at the cherished site. Since then, another major racing organization, Formula 1, has also raced at the venue with their United States Grand Prix.

IMS has played host to some of the most memorable finishes in auto racing history, let alone IRL. In fact, some people would claim that the 1982 Indianapolis 500, featuring the heart-pounding duel between Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears that literally went all the way to the wire, is the most exciting conclusion to an Indianapolis 500 ever. Aside from that, Indianapolis has seen plenty of history in its time. Legends of the sport like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Johncock and Mears have all tasted the milk at Indianapolis, while auto racing’s answer to Mia Hamm, Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500. With the good, however, comes the bad, as the track has seen its fair share of controversy as well. Most notably in recent years was the troubling 2005 U.S. Grand Prix put on by Formula 1, where fourteen of the twenty cars on the grid boycotted the race, leaving IMS in an uproar of hostility and anger. Nevertheless, no controversy can destroy the legacy that Indianapolis Motor Speedway has built in the realm of Auto Racing. Daytona can challenge its importance, and the Coca-Cola 600 can attempt to out draw it’s main attraction, but the Brickyard has become an integral part in this country’s sports scene. And that will always count for something.

Race #21 of 36: Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
Date: Sunday, August 6th, 2005 from Indianapolis, Indiana
Time: 2:30 PM on NBC
Pole Sitter: Elliott Sadler (#38 M & M’s Ford)
Distance: 400 Miles (2.5 Miles per Lap = 160 Laps)
Broadcast Team: Bill Weber, Benny Parsons, and Wally Dallenbach

Say what you will about Tony Stewart, but the man is absolutely crazy hot right now. Four wins in six races, not to mention a second place finish at Michigan, a fifth place effort at Chicagoland, and a seventh place finish at Pocono, rebounding from June’s 29th place effort. That’s the kind of tear that Tony the Tiger has been on. He hasn’t finished lower than 7th place in the past seven races! That’s just under two months of championship racing right there alone. What’s more, Tony has gotten it done at a variety of tracks; he tackled the Infineon road course and the Daytona Superspeedway in consecutive weeks, complimented that off with a Top 10 at the oddball Pocono and a win at the 1.0 Mile New Hampshire circuit, not to mention his 2nd place at the 2.0 Mile Michigan and the Top Five run at the cookie cutter Chicagoland.

And now, you can add a win at the Brickyard to his collection.

I don’t know if it was the fact that he won the race, or if it was how he won it, but something just stood out during the race that Stewart so desperately wanted to win. An Indiana native, Stewart had tried for years to bring home an Indianapolis 500 trophy, but the ultimate goal had always eluded him. Then, with only a slew of laps left in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Stewart began an interesting game of “Monkey See, Monkey Do” with eventual runner-up with Kasey Kahne. It became obvious with ten laps to go that Kasey could run with Stewart’s car, unlike at New Hampshire, when Stewart just obliterated any and everything in his path. Kahne and Stewart were actually swapping the lead back in forth for twenty or so laps prior to the finish until Tony finally took it back for good with eleven laps remaining. Tony, knowing that his bumper would have to double in size to keep Kahne behind him, began taking odd-ball lines up and down the front and backstretch, keeping Kahne from running the preferred lines around the track. Kahne, wanting to draft badly with Stewart, fell into the trap, and with each passing lap, Stewart began to pull farther and farther away from the sophomore. By the final turn, Kahne had nothing for him, and Stewart was free to begin his not-so-subtle victory celebration with 200,000 citizens in Tony Nation. That’s how you race, boys and girls.

Other tidbits from the Brickyard: a scary incident on Lap 145 brought a lot of concern about for former points leader and Nextel Cup contender Jimmie Johnson, whose hard lick in Turn 4 disoriented him enough to earn him a trip to the local hospital. Johnson would be released without further incident. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Dale Earnhardt Jr. “Little E” was already fighting a terrible car when, on the Lap 61 restart following an extended caution period, Junior was turned around by longtime Earnhardt Sr. teammate Mike Skinner, ending his day along with teammate Martin Truex Jr. Despite proclaiming that he’d need “a miracle” to finish respectably with his car, Junior’s 43rd place effort all but seals the deal on his chances to enter the Chase for the Cup.

Overall, this year’s “Allstate 400” at the Brickyard proved to be a memorable one. Good racing throughout, mixed in with drama and plenty of shocks and twists that made the day all the more satisfying for race junkies. So far, Indianapolis may turn out to be the race of the summer, though Watkins Glen may take issue with that on Sunday. Here’s to Tony Stewart, the 2005 entry to the list of NASCAR winners at the Brickyard.

Race Results from Indianapolis
01. #20 Tony Stewart – The Home Depot Chevrolet
02. #9 Kasey Kahne – Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
03. #25 Brian Vickers – Garnier Fructis Chevrolet
04. #19 Jeremy Mayfield – Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge
05. #17 Matt Kenseth – DeWalt Power Tools Ford
06. #41 Casey Mears – Target Dodge
07. #6 Mark Martin – Viagra Ford
08. #24 Jeff Gordon – DuPont Chevrolet
09. #40 Sterling Marlin – Coors Light Dodge
10. #5 Kyle Busch – Kellogg’s/Delphi Chevrolet

11. #0 Mike Bliss – NetZero Best Buy Chevrolet
12. #99 Carl Edwards – AAA Ford
13. #45 Kyle Petty – Georgia-Pacific/Marsh Stores Dodge
14. #88 Dale Jarrett – UPS Ford
15. #43 Jeff Green – Boxtops for Education/Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge
16. #15 Michael Waltrip Chevrolet NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
17. #42 Jamie McMurray – Texaco Havoline Dodge
18. #97 Kurt Busch – Crown Royal Ford
19. #29 Kevin Harvick – GM Goodwrench Chevrolet
20. #31 Jeff Burton – Cingular Wireless Chevrolet

21. #16 Greg Biffle – National Guard Ford
22. #49 Ken Schrader – Red Baron Frozen Pizza Dodge
23. #91 Bill Elliott – Stanley Tools Dodge
24. #7 Robby Gordon – Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet
25. #2 Rusty Wallace – Miller Lite Dodge
26. #22 Scott Wimmer – Caterpillar Dodge
27. #104 Bobby Hamilton – BHR Dodge
28. #01 Joe Nemechek – U.S. Army Chevrolet
29. #23 Mike Skinner – History Channel AutoManiac Dodge
30. #07 Dave Blaney – Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet

31. #136 Boris Said – CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet
32. #38 Elliott Sadler – M&M’s Ford
33. #11 Jason Leffler – FedEx Express Chevrolet
34. #12 Ryan Newman – ALLTEL Dodge
35. #10 Scott Riggs – Checkers/Rally’s Chevrolet
36. #44 Terry Labonte – ditech.com Chevrolet
37. #77 Travis Kvapil – Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge
38. #48 Jimmie Johnson – Lowe’s Chevrolet
39. #32 Bobby Hamilton Jr. – Tide Chevrolet
40. #18 Bobby Labonte – Interstate Batteries Chevrolet
41. #21 Ricky Rudd – Motorcraft Genuine Parts Ford
42. #1 Martin Truex Jr. – Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet
43. #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Budweiser Chevrolet

Nextel Cup Points Standings [Thru 08/07/05 – Indianapolis]
Noted: Starts, Poles, Wins, Top Fives, Top Tens, and Position Change Following Indianapolis

01. Tony Stewart – 2923 Points / —— Points Leader
(21 Starts, 1 Pole, 4 Wins, 9 Top Fives, 13 Top Tens) / +1 Position

02. Jimmie Johnson – 2848 Points / -075 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 1 Pole, 2 Wins, 8 Top Fives, 13 Top Tens) / -1 Position

03. Greg Biffle – 2812 Points / -111 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 5 Wins, 7 Top Fives, 11 Top Tens) / No Change

04. Rusty Wallace – 2705 Points / -218 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 0 Wins, 5 Top Fives, 11 Top Tens) / No Change

05. Kurt Busch – 2646 Points / -277 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 2 Wins, 7 Top Fives, 11 Top Tens) / No Change

06. Mark Martin – 2636 Points / -287 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 0 Wins, 6 Top Fives, 11 Top Tens) / +1 Position

07. Ryan Newman – 2568 Points / -355 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 5 Poles, 0 Wins, 5 Top Fives, 10 Top Tens) / -1 Position

08. Jeremy Mayfield – 2554 Points / -369 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 0 Wins, 3 Top Fives, 05 Top Tens) / No Change

09. Dale Jarrett – 2493 Points / -430 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 1 Pole, 0 Wins, 3 Top Fives, 05 Top Tens) / +1 Position

10. Carl Edwards – 2487 Points / -436 Behind Leader
(21 Starts, 0 Poles, 2 Wins, 6 Top Fives, 08 Top Tens) / +2 Positions

The following drivers, while still in contention, are not currently among the contenders for the 2005 Chase for the Nextel Cup. To enter the Chase for the Cup, a driver outside the Top 10 in points must be within 400 points of the leader by the second race at Richmond, Virginia on September 10th.

11. Jamie McMurray 2475 Points / -448 Behind Leader
12. Elliott Sadler 2463 Points / -460 Behind Leader
13. Kevin Harvick 2405 Points / -518 Behind Leader
14. Jeff Gordon 2400 Points / -523 Behind Leader
15. Matt Kenseth 2319 Points / -604 Behind Leader
16. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2296 Points / -627 Behind Leader
17. Joe Nemechek 2248 Points / -675 Behind Leader
18. Jeff Burton 2240 Points / -683 Behind Leader
19. Michael Waltrip 2237 Points / -686 Behind Leader
20. Kyle Busch 2226 Points / -697 Behind Leader

21. Kasey Kahne 2212 Points / -711 Behind Leader
22. Brian Vickers 2207 Points / -716 Behind Leader
23. Bobby Labonte 2039 Points / -884 Behind Leader
24. Casey Mears 2002 Points / -921 Behind Leader
25. Sterling Marlin 1971 Points / -952 Behind Leader
26. Ricky Rudd 1948 Points / -975 Behind Leader
27. Mike Bliss 1925 Points / -998 Behind Leader
28. Ken Schrader 1896 Points / -1027 Behind Leader
29. Kyle Petty 1877 Points / -1046 Behind Leader
30. Dave Blaney 1876 Points / -1047 Behind Leader

31. Scott Riggs 1870 Points / -1053 Behind Leader
32. Jeff Green 1860 Points / -1063 Behind Leader
33. Travis Kvapil 1724 Points / -1199 Behind Leader
34. Scott Wimmer 1717 Points / -1206 Behind Leader

The following drivers have been mathematically eliminated from the Chase: Jason Leffler, Mike Wallace, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Robby Gordon, Kevin Lepage,Terry Labonte, Hermie Sadler, Johnny Sauter, Boris Said, Bill Elliott, Mike Garvey, Martin Truex Jr., Mike Skinner, Stanton Barrett, John Andretti, Jimmy Spencer, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Kerry Earnhardt, Ron Fellows,Brian Simo, Randy LaJoie, David Stremme, P.J. Jones, Stuart Kirby, Kenny Wallace, Clint Bowyer, Bobby Hamilton, Chris Cook, Shane Hmiel, Scott Pruett,Greg Sacks, Jeff Fuller, Eric McClure, Tony Raines, Kirk Shelmerdine, Ted Christopher, and Tom Hubert.

Inside Pulse’s Official NASCAR Power Rankings [July 24th – August 07th, 2005]
01. Tony Stewart
Infineon… Check. Daytona… Check. Chicagoland… Ok, we get it.

New Hampshire… Check. Pocono… Need I say more?

Indianapolis… Check.

02. Rusty Wallace
Krusty Rusty looks like he’s for real. No kidding!

03. Mark Martin
See: Wallace, Rusty sans “No Kidding!” remark.

04. Brian Vickers
Chicks dig the Garnier Fructis Car.

05. Kasey Kahne
And, in another brilliant rib on California Speedway, Kasey Kahne inadvertently causes a sign tower to crash. How it’s brilliant is beyond me.

06. Kurt Busch
Small snafu aside at Indy, Kurt is still looking like a contender for the Cup. Notice I didn’t say Chase, like I will for…

07. Jeremy Mayfield
Or…

08. Carl Edwards
Office Depot/AAA/Scotts!

09. Greg Biffle
Following his failure to win at Indianapolis, NASCAR execs tried to contact Simon & Garfunkel about reworking their classic anthem “Mrs. Robinson” to fit Biffle’s persona, only to learn that Jared Fogle ate them with a six inch turkey breast and a diet Dr. Pepper.

10. Matt Kenseth
It’s funny; when he’s winning, no one notices. When he’s losing, no one notices. When he starts creeping back into contention for the Chase…

NASCAR Bottom Rankings
01. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
No soup for you!

02. Ricky Rudd
It was funny, because you could see Ricky enter the cloud, but you couldn’t see him exit it. Now you see him… and, now you don’t!

03. Jimmie Johnson
A stunner! Three spins in two races? The former points leader maybe riding the wrong Karma train. We’re just happy he’s alright after a scary little episode at Indianapolis.

04. Dale Jarrett
It’s official: the brown truck stole DJ’s heart. And his racing edge.

05. Jason Leffler
And in the first good move made by the Redskins this year, Joe Gibbs cut Jason Leffler from bench-warming duties this week.

06. Elliott Sadler
I have nothing witty to add here, so… Yankees Suck!

07. Joe Nemechek
The wheels just keep spinning for Ol’ Joe. They’re flat half the time, but they keep spinning. Sorta.

08. Casey Mears
When you can’t tell the difference between Jason Leffler, Casey Mears and Scott Wimmer, you’ve got a problem. Wait, how did Wimmer not make this list? DAMN IT!

09. Bobby Labonte
Poor Bobby… no matter how hard he tries, it’s always one step forward, three steps back this season.

10. Jeff Gordon
If it’s not brakes one week, its being upstaged by Ryan Newman calling you out on your real place of birth (San Francisco?) the next…

Memo to Addict: 2004 called, they want their jokes back. Oh, and 1998 called; they want that joke back, too.

NASCAR News & Headlines
With all that tomfoolery out of the way, let’s hit up the newswire and see what looks like fun. There’s a couple of tidbits here and there that we’ll hit up, but first, a major shocker that will likely be all the rage around water coolers in the garage this week…

Kurt Busch Penske-Bound by 2007
An absolute shocking news story that first hit NASCAR.com and the news boards just after 1:00 PM, Kurt Busch has announced that he wants out of Roush Racing for 2006, and has signed up with Penske for the 2007 Nextel Cup Season. As of right now, Busch is trying to work his way out of his 2006 obligations to Jack Roush.

Ahem.

To say this is major level news is an understatement. This is almost the equivalent of Curt Schilling having his contract bought out, and then released by the Boston Red Sox. The defending 2004 Nextel Cup Champion and premier poster child for controversy on the circuit, Kurt Busch would have become the staple pin for Roush Racing with the departure of long-time figurehead Mark Martin in 2006, but all that seems to be for naught now. There is no word on why the sudden split (attempt) occurred, but Busch has apparently inked the deal with Penske for 2007, so the split will eventually happen at some point.

The knee-jerk reaction is befuddlement. This was just out of the blue, much more so than the Waltrip/DEI or Leffler/Gibbs splits. I mean, this was just shocking when it hit, and it hit hard on ESPN, MSN, AOL and Yahoo. After that, though, my opinion on the incident has mellowed into confusion, and distrust in the decision made by Busch. I’m not a Busch fan, we all know that by now. But leaving Roush for Penske is risky to begin with, but think about what he’s leaving behind. Busch will be losing one of the best crew chiefs in the business, Jimmy Fennig with this move, along with stalwart teammates Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, and Carl Edwards. With so much success with Roush, a move to Penske (a decidedly less-successful organization) makes no sense.

But, on a bigger scale, this event will shake up NASCAR’s power balance fairly quickly. Roush, now losing Martin and Busch in the near future, have been greatly reduced on the food chain. They’ll suffer the most, along with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Chip Ganassi Racing (who’ll be losing Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray in the off-season) and Joe Gibbs racing. On the flip side, Penske picks up a huge gun to replace the retiring Rusty Wallace now. Otherwise, though, the team that will benefit the most from this wheel-and-deal session will most likely be Hendrick Motorsports. With their core superstars, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon returning for 2006, Hendrick has also secured the returns of promising rookies’ Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers as well. With Terry Labonte still riding the fence on 2006, Hendrick is probably the strongest group on paper for 2006. Roush will survive as well, with the Biffle/Kenseth/Edwards trio, though losing Martin and Busch will hurt their team immensely. It’s an exciting development that will surely bring more fallout to the Nextel Cup Scene.

Leffler Gone, Labonte on the Outs with Gibbs
This would have been the big story of the day otherwise, but it really doesn’t hold the shock value that Kurt Busch’s exodus from Roush had (and will have). Jason Leffler, the rookie driver of Joe Gibb’s #11 car and long suffering victim of criticism over his poor 2005 efforts, was finally released from the team on Monday, opening the way from a three-driver tandem (spearheaded by veteran Terry Labonte) to assume driving duties in the FedEx Chevrolet for the remainder of 2005.

This one fell under the “only a matter of time” department, as Leffler was forced to bare more responsibility than he was ready for when Bobby Labonte’s struggles began to undermine his efforts. As it stands now, Bobby Labonte is also on the outs with Joe Gibbs. The Redskins head coach has been fairly disappointed with the lackluster seasons that Labonte has been putting out over the past few years now, and it is a very real possibility that Labonte may be with a new team in 2006.

With all this going down, the only driver Joe Gibbs has coming back for sure in 2006 is Tony Stewart, who is looking like a strong contender to win the Nextel Cup. But in an era of multi-car teams ruling over all, Gibbs will have to find a stable partner for Stewart if he wants to succeed in the future. Though Kurt Busch seemed like a possibility when his split from Roush was announced earlier, his signing with Penske South ended that speculation. Another candidate (unmentioned at this point) to step in would be Michael Waltrip, who is looking for a 2006 ride, is comfortable with a Chevrolet chassis, and works really well with Tony Stewart on the track. Of course, that too may not come to fruition if the following comes true:

Waltrip/DEI Split Speculation Premature?
Just rumors at this point, though they were strong enough around these parts to warrant mentioning. Though Michael Waltrip and DEI still plan on parting ways following this season, there have been grumblings coming out of Kannapolis (the home base for the group) that previous reports of the split between the two groups may have been premature. While nothing has been made official yet, rumor has it that Michael Waltrip may yet return to the #15 car for 2006. A major hurdle in the negotiations from the start was Waltrip’s need for DEI to confirm that the Eurys’ would return to Waltrip’s team in 2006, something that top-level execs were sour on (most assumed that Tony Eury would return to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. team in 2006). If that hurdle was somehow cleared, however, a new contract may yet be possible between the marketable tandem.

Negotiations have been dead for awhile now, but Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip still reserve the rights to negotiate a new deal until Waltrip finalizes his speculated deal to drive the #0 Car in 2006.

Chad Knaus Calls Out Indy EMT’s
Chad Knaus, crew chief for the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, was livid Sunday following an accident that caused great concern for the health of his driver.

“You come to these events and make a mistake as a team and get penalized for it, and there’s a driver that’s sitting on pit wall out there in need of an ambulance and NASCAR doesn’t even send an ambulance down there, what happens to them?” – Chad Knaus [Credit: NASCAR.com]

The event in question occurred on Lap 145, when a cut right front tire sent Johnson’s car careening into the wall in Turn 4. Johnson steered his car to his pit stall without further incident, though he would later claim that he did not remember doing so. A small fire broke out underneath the hood, prompting an astute Knaus to pull Johnson from the car, who was visibly slowed by the incident. After sitting on pit wall (and consulting with Knaus and NASCAR officials), Johnson regained his composure long enough to do an interview with NBC. It was Johnson’s second spin of the afternoon, and following said interview, Johnson would eventually be escorted by officials to the infield care center, and later on to a local hospital for observations. He was treated and released shortly after, but not before Knaus took a few parting shots at the EMT’s on hand for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Oh, this one wont be pretty.

I’ve been fairly critical (off the record, mind you) of Knaus for a long time now, though I’ve been giving Johnson’s crew chief the benefit of the doubt in past columns thanks in part to the success the two have shared in the past three years. At this, though, I draw the line. First of all, NASCAR rules dictate that a driver must take a mandatory trip by ambulance to the infield care center only if his car is rendered incapacitated by the accident. Johnson drove his car without much incident back to the pits, and only when he pulled it to a stop and the fire broke out in the engine block did it become apparent that something was amiss. Even then, though, NASCAR officials and medical personnel were shown promptly arriving to the #48 pit on television, while Knaus seemed more intent on shooing away the NBC cameraman than talking to any personnel. And what’s more, Johnson at first declined any sort of medical assistance while on the pit wall, which is a main reason why NASCAR didn’t force him to the infield care center to begin with. Once it became apparent that things were not alright, officials did take him to the infield care center, then airlifted him to the hospital for precautionary measures.

Now, I’m not saying that NASCAR Safety Workers are the brightest bulbs in the bunch. They’ve been criticized quite often for their actions at various venues (see Michael Waltrip’s tumble at the 2004 Daytona 500 for proof of that). With that said, I thought the safety workers were fairly prompt in attending to Johnson in the pits, all things considered. Johnson didn’t radio in to his crew that anything was wrong following the wreck, and he was out of the car and into his pit box long before anyone noted that he was hurt in any fashion. Beyond that, it wasn’t like NASCAR officials wouldn’t *let* him into the care center. He declined it, which must meant he wasn’t hurting badly enough to seek medical attention. Did Knaus overreact? Eh, maybe, maybe not. Johnson was apparently disoriented following the lick, though he seemed to regain his composure long enough to give a pretty coherent interview minutes after. With the car on fire and Johnson slow to respond, he probably panicked and wondered why he wasn’t seeing the 81st Airborne rush in to help his valiant driver out of the war zone. He may have overreacted, but he sure as Hell crossed the line when he called out the guys that got his driver to the hospital for precautionary measures.

But, on that subject, I’ve got to call out something here. Johnson’s lick was tough, but was it so life-threatening as to warrant the kind of venom that Knaus was spewing at the EMT’s? Not hardly; I don’t want to be the jerk here, but I’m pretty sure that a majority of Johnson’s problems on Sunday stemmed from his frustration, not some sort of outstanding injury. I’m glad he’s okay, but Knaus really needs to stick his foot in his mouth, because his constant bitching about one thing or another is getting old, really fast.

That’s the news, whether you like it or not.

Victory Lap for the Pimps
Tierney covers the Palmeiro scandal, and for once, I’ll keep my mouth shut. Riding the Pine

Dr. Jay Gauss does the steroid thing again. Pine Tar for Sale

Pomazak is back with the best football column ever! Whoo! Pancakes

Eric Szulczewski takes Bret Hart fan boys to task for treating the guy like a God. Now, if only we could rid the world of Chris Masters, then maybe I’d come back to wrestling. Wrestling News, Opinion, Etc.

And you know who gets the last laugh in this bad boy. On the Offense

Victory Lane
That’s it for this bad boy. Tune in Saturday for an all new badass edition of Speed Addicts. Until then, this is your host with the most, signing off. We gone!

3

2

1

… just kidding. Hasta Luego!

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!