Sports

Inside Motorsports: Final thoughts on the debacle at the Brickyard

OBSERVATIONS

Tony Stewart got fined $10,000 and was placed on probation for a confrontation with a U.S. Auto Club official during a race last week at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Stewart owns teams that compete in USAC races and he didn't like a call that officials made that hurt one of his cars chances in the race. Without being overly alarmist about it, containing that part of himself might be a considerable challenge for Stewart as Cup car owner next year. He's had run-ins with NASCAR authority before, but he's always had Joe Gibbs Racing to act as a buffer for him. Next year, it's all on him.

Anybody listening to scanners last weekend knows that the radio is a place where the built-up stresses of a long summer of racing combined with all that's going on with drivers who're either about to move to new teams or drivers who might like to move can come spilling out.

I thought the star of the show on ESPN's first Cup telecast of the season was Brad Daugherty. In his role as a studio analyst, Daugherty did not mince words about what was going on out on the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He stepped up and said exactly what the fans could see was happening as the race deteriorated into disaster.

MY TWO CENTS

Please allow me to offer a few final thoughts on the debacle that was the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard before we move on to Pocono and another race.

First, fans have been asking why NASCAR doesn't let other tire manufacturers come in and compete with Goodyear. I wasn't around for the Hoosier-Goodyear tire wars, but what I know about the sport's history is that the period in which stock-car racing had the most trouble with tires that weren't acceptable for use was during that time. Given that, I don't see where having more than one tire supplier at a time solves anything.

You could argue that NASCAR should let other tire companies compete for the right to supply the tires. Maybe so, but if it was a lucrative proposition doesn't it seem NASCAR, which is fairly well known for shaking money out of the trees, would do what it's done with other sponsors and set them into bidding opposition for those rights? My guess is there's not a long line of companies looking to step off into the kind of minefield Goodyear walks through as a tire supplier.

Meanwhile, NASCAR did apologize for what happened at Indy. What's more, it has accepted responsibility. There will be those who keep beating them up for it, but at some point you have to take your foot off a guy's neck and let him try to get back up.

NASCAR's leadership has to work with Goodyear and the teams and the track so that this year's problems will remain forever so unusual that it will be long remembered.

All of what went wrong last weekend can't be changed. But it has to be understood, understood on a level that means it nothing like it will ever happen again. Forget damage control, that's the job NASCAR has to do now.

NOTEBOOK

IndyCar shuns New Hampshire, Las Vegas

The IndyCar Series announced its 2009 schedule on Wednesday, one with 18 races that does not include races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway or Las Vegas Motor Speedway, tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc..

"I don't understand the decision not to include our facility on next year's schedule," said Jerry Gappens, the vice president and genera manager of the New Hampshire track. "I think it's a slap in the face to Bruton Smith, our Chairman, and to our company. ...I don't want to burn any bridges, but I am upset to be excluded."

IndyCars will run at Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s Texas Motor Speedway on June 6 and Infineon Raceway on Aug. 23. Eddie Gossage, president of the Texas track, handled the company's negotiations with the Indy Racing League

Gossage said the IRL wanted to run at Las Vegas only if it would use the road course that's outside of the oval at that facility. "With the multi-million dollar improvements we've made recently on the oval and the infield, we felt this was the best place to showcase the drivers and teams and to put on the best show," Gossage said.

The IndyCar Series added a race at Toronto and put the Long Beach race, formerly part of the ChampCar series schedule, on its calendar. The season will open in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 5 and end at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 11.

McCumbee, Petty and Labonte lined up in No. 45

Chad McCumbee will drive the No. 45 Dodge for Petty Enterprises this weekend at Pocono, with Kyle Petty scheduled to return the following weekend at Watkins Glen. Terry Labonte is then set to drive the car at Michigan.

"Chad, Kyle and Terry will be competing at places where they have all had success in the past," said Petty Enterprises Vice President of Race Operations Robbie Loomis. "That should put the No. 45 team in the best position possible to gain points on the teams in front of us in owner points."

Sports cars climb to Eagles Nest

The Central Carolinas Region of the Sports Car Club of America holds its annual Rock-N-Roll Hill Climb on Saturday and Sunday in Banner Elk, climbing a 1.5-mile course that rises 1,500 toward The Lodges at Eagles Nest.

Sports cars, sedans, formula cars and specials will all compete with drivers ranging in age from 18 to 76. For spectators, there will be food, live music and outdoor activities to go with the runs up the mountain against the clock.

Gates open at 8 a.m. each day.

  Complete schedule and more information

Briefly

Richard Childress and his family have donated $5 million to the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center to help form The Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. The unit will focus on key areas in treatment, education and training, research and prevention of pediatric trauma. Wake Forest Baptist and the Childress family will work to raise the additional $20 million to establish the Institute.

Driving legends Bobby Allison and Ned Jarrett, car owner Ray Fox and hall of fame NASCAR radio broadcaster Barney Hall have been added to the list of those who'll participate in question and answer sessions at the inaugural Darlington Historic Racing Festival on Aug. 30-31 at Darlington Raceway.

Donnie Allison, Bud Moore, Marvin Panch, Raymond Parks, Maurice Petty, Rex White, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Jerry Cook and Carl Kiekhaefer are among 21 finalists for election in the 2009 class for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. Drag racing's Ronnie Sox and Raymond Beadle are also among the finalists.

Austin Dillon was moved from a third-place finish to 25th in Saturday's Camping World East race in Beaver Falls, N.Y., when unapproved shocks were found on his car in postrace inspection. That dropped Dillon, the grandson of Sprint Cup team owner Richard Childress, out of the points lead in the series standings. Matt Kobyluck now leads Trevor Bayne by 57 points and Dillon by 72 points in the standings.

Carolinas racing roundup

Concord Motorsport Park announced this week that its feature division for weekly shows in 2009 will be the new pro late model, bumping late model stocks to the top support division status. The cars will use "crate" motors, from Ford or General Motors, supplied by builders specified by the track.

Jeff Smith of Dallas, N.C., picked up a victory Friday night in round two of the super late model shootout at Gastonia's Carolina Speedway. Scott Freeman won in street stocks and John Pursley won in late models. Gates open at 5 p.m. this Friday with racing at 8 p.m.

Ronnie White of Charlotte won in late model modified sportsman and Nick Hoffman of Mooresville won in open wheel modifieds Saturday at East Lincoln Speedway. Hoffman drove a car sponsored by NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, so after his victory Hoffman performed his version of Edwards' trademark victory backflip. Racing begins this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Clay Hair of Mount Pleasant won the legends masters division feature Tuesday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Jordan Anderson of Forest Acres, S.C., won in the pro division, Austin Hill of Winston, Ga., won in the legends semi-pro division and Evan Swilling, of Cohutta, Ga., won in the legends young lions race. In Bandoleros, Blake Jones, of Sevierville, Tenn., got his first young guns division win. Mason Massey, of Winston, Ga., won in bandits, Kendall Sellers, of Kannapolis in outlaws and Michael Van Wingerden of Huntersville in thunder cars.

Andy Mercer outdueled Andy Loden to win the late model feature Saturday at Hickory Motor Speedway. The track plays host to the Hooters Pro Cup Series this Saturday evening.

THIS WEEK: Pennsylvania 500, 2 p.m. Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

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