Saturday, September 14, 2013

NASCAR: The Reality TV Series

So this is the first time I've posted in a month so it'll be difficult but I'll try my best.

The NASCAR season has 10 races to go.  This is the "Chase."  Let me explain for those who don't know.  For the first 26 races of the season, drivers gain points and wins, like a regular race series.  Once the 26 races are over, the Top 12 drivers are entered into the Chase, where the points are reset and it becomes a brand new season over the last 10 races.  Drivers that fail to make the Chase still participate in the races but only the 12 Chase drivers can win the championship trophy.  So basically, if you want to win the Big Trophy at the end, you MUST make the Chase.

As you imagine, there's a couple of problems with this.  The first one is if you gain enough points to lock yourself in the Chase, those last couple of races become meaningless in terms of the Championship.  Look at Jimmie Johnson's record over the last 4 races--finished 40th, 36th, 28th, and 40th, very noobish, I figure Jimmie liked wrecking the car cause "YOLO, I'm in the Chase anyway."  Yeah, Jimmie has that baby girl but who cares, NASCAR trumps family.  The second one, which we can see on display now, is that racing teams will "game the system" to get their drivers enough points to make it to the Chase.  That is not to say this has never happened in motorsport but the nature of the Chase just acerbates the problem.

Richmond was the 26th race, a 3/4 mile oval.  Four drivers were on the bubble--Joey Logano (#22), Martin Truex Jr. (#56), Jeff Gordon (#24), and Ryan Newman (#39), and only two of the four could make the Chase.  A couple of things go down and here's what I got out of the flurry of news the last few days:

* Early in the race, Jeff Gordon struggles and goes a lap down.  Going a lap down is a death kneel for a driver's chances of winning.  Think about restarts as "rounding up" your lap progress so if you're on the lead lap when that happens, you gain a lot of ground (dropped a second behind the leader) that you don't get a lap down.   So stay on the lead lap as long as you can.  Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson dings his car to draw a caution that helps Jeff get his s*** together and back on the lead lap.

* Brian Vickers is ordered to pit with a few laps to go to help his fellow Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., move up another spot.

* Joey Logano falters late into the race (about 20-25th place).  One position ahead of Logano is David Gilliliand (#38).  Penske Motorsports (Logano's team) bribes Front Row Racing (Gilliliand's team) to tell the Gilliliand to slow down and let Logano pass.

* But worst of all!  Late in the race, Ryan Newman is leading the race by a sizable margin.  If he wins, then he's in the Chase.  Michael Waltrip Racing, owner of Clint Bowyer (#15) and Martin Truex Jr.'s cars, is aware that Truex Jr. is in jeopardy of missing the Chase if Newman wins.  So Clint (who is a lock for the Chase) is ordered to spin out with 5 laps to go to help Truex Jr.  A caution comes out and on the restart, Newman loses his momentum and finishes 3rd.  It gives Truex Jr. just enough points to make the Chase.

"39's gonna win the race"
"Well that kinda sucks...5 more right here"
"Is your arm starting to hurt?"
"I bet it's hot in there, itch it"
"Oh yeah"
*le spin*

There's no real defense of what happened here.  Shoot, in the post race interview, if you stare away from the camera and say "Yeah, uhhmm, we had a bad tire..." you're lying.  And Clint continues to do television interviews denying any wrongdoing with team owner Michael Waltrip claims Clint really had poison ivy (who tells someone to really scratch their arm on the radio???).  He's not in court, he doesn't need to plead the 5th, he's already been slapped on the wrist, he might as well say "I cheated, I'm sorry" and just get on with it.  But no, he continues to shred any credibility he's had thus far.  If you're dug in a hole, most give up but a few keep digging their way to China.  Remember this is the same guy from a year ago who instigated a brawl with Jeff Gordon so I'm not surprised by Bowyer's actions.

Post-race, the initial result were Truex Jr. and Logano are in the Chase and Gordon and Newman are out.  However, the next day, NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing, deducting points from Bowyer, Truex Jr., and Vickers and suspending their pit chiefs.  The point loss was enough to replace Newman with Truex Jr. in the Chase.  And then, a few days later, after the Logano controversy comes to light and after Gordon's bitching, NASCAR puts Gordon in the chase too for a grand total of 13 Chase drivers, flagrantly tossing the rulebook out the window.  As of now, Logano or Gordon were not penalized for their mutinies.

The only thing more baffling is Michael Waltrip's dance routine.

EDIT: It gets better!  Today, NASCAR adds a new rule to the book that reaffirms COMMON SENSE SPORTS ETIQUETTE that we were taught by Herm Edwards years ago.

NASCAR requires its competitors to race at 100 percent of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in an event. Any competitor who takes action with the intent to artificially alter the finishing positions of the event or encourages, persuades or induces others to artificially alter the finishing position of the event shall be subject to a penalty from NASCAR. Such penalties may include but are limited to disqualification and/or loss of finishing points and/or fines and/or loss of points and/or suspension and/or probation to any and all members of the teams, including any beneficiaries of the prohibited actions.

Artificially altered' shall be defined as actions by any competitor that show or suggest that the competitor did not race at 100 percent of their ability for the purpose of changing finishing positions in the event at NASCAR's sole discretion.

Is this really necessary?  Are NASCAR drivers dicking around that much that they need to be told "you better try hard or else"?  Can't we just say "don't game the system" and call it a day?  Okay, so this 100% balls out thing is A BIG F'ING DEAL.  Get Rich Christensen on the phone.  He runs bracket drag races (which make no sense) and he can tell when you're not going all out, hence the name of his show PINKS: ALL OUT.  Some BS like "Jimmie Johnson ran a 32 sec lap at qualifying, now he's running 31.5 sec laps late in the race, he's clearly sandbagging, BLACK FLAG HIS ASS."


NASCAR has no idea what they're doing.  Truex Jr. is the sacrificial lamb in this situation.  It's a shame because technically, he did nothing wrong, his teammates did.  Bowyer and Logano are still in the Chase, Truex isn't.  And after learning about Gordon's inclusion in the Chase, Truex Jr. objects to it.  Think about this--if Truex is punished by Bowyer's yellow flag, shouldn't Gordon be punished for Johnson's yellow flag too?  So basically, NASCAR is like a reality TV show that adds and changes flimsy rules as it goes on to create the drama it so desires.


Besides, I'm getting tired of the Chase being called "NASCAR's playoffs" anyway.  In other sports, if you lose a playoff game (or series of games), you're eliminated from subsequent competition.  Players/teams are eliminated until one remains.  In NASCAR, this isn't the case since you can still participate in and win races even if you're mathematically eliminated from the Chase or aren't even in it in the first place.  Just get into the chase, get a car that can win mile/mile-and-a-half tracks and win the championship.  Besides, what are the odds these non-Chase drivers can win the Championship at that point in the Season?  Isn't the Chase useless except for resetting points and nullifying the progress made over the last 26 races?  It's absurd and I'm pretty sure most NASCAR diehards want it eliminated after 8 years of its institution.

Oh well, I'm a NASCAR fan but still, I have to shake my head at these guys anyway.  Tomorrow, we go Boogity Boogity Chase Racing again and it'll be brushed aside.  So anyway, that's it, and screw Alabama for yet another curb stomping of a SEC rival (Texas A&M).  Life sucks and I'm still unemployed but the SEGA flame never dies.

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