NASCAR has crept up on me suddenly this year…like the shadow of a monster. Well, to be honest it was lurking there all along But like everything this year, it has taken me by surprise.
Yes, it really IS and has been Speedweeks, for a bloody week already. And it’s not just me. One of my friendly local pub owners almost forgot that the Daytona 500 was this Sunday, the 21st…two days from now as it pen to this illustrated manuscript.
Then again, as I now recall, something similar happened last year. But this year it’s worse. Not because I’ve been remiss in actually setting my arse down and doing some writing. I almost complete overlooked the fact that Speedweeks was even happening. The gong went off and kept going off during the weekend of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, but I kept hitting the snooze alarm.1
So now I have to get at it. And instead of seething over Guus Hiddink’s substitutions Tuesday in Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Paris St. Germain, I’ll get straight after NASCAR’s headlong plunge into the Middle Ages and see if I can uncover any startling revelations. And if not, I’ll just make some up.
What I’m referring to is NASCAR’s new Charter System which gives 36 teams charters, and limits the field to 40. It’s a modern upgrade in the approach to Stock Car Auto Racing and is very similar in scope and function to the Medieval Bulgarian Royal Charters of yore. While not written in the Cyrillic alphabet, the NASCAR charters give 36 team rights and dispensations very similar to those laid down in The Dubrovnik Charter back in 1230 AD.
Now I don’t know about you, but as for me, I wonder about these two things in particular:
- Who the fuck is Go FAS Racing?
- And WHY do they have a NASCAR Charter?
Evidently, Go FAS Racing has been at it on a regular basis for the past 3 years, 2013-2015 per NASCAR Charter Requirements, albeit as a lower table team. Not a field-filler, not start’n’park outfit, but close to almost being part time.
But according to the Charter rules thrown down Brian France deemed them fit to be one of the 36 teams to receive a Charter.
So that explains in part why they have one. But it provokes another question….why didn’t the #19 team of Carl Edwards (Joe Gibbs Racing) or the #41 team of Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing) receive charters. We might or might not get to that later, depending on my whim.
As for who the fock are Go FAS Racing, well…. The team used to be owned in part by Frank Stoddard with various partners including Archie St. Hilaire (who?). Now it seems that Archie is full owner. Their original plan for 2016 was for Bobby Labonte to run the restrictor plate races, and have Jeffery Earnhardt pilot the #32 Ford for the rest of the races. Before the Charter System was announced, they had sponsors lined up for 19 races for Jeffery Earnhardt. Nothing too unreasonable about that I guess. And with their Charter in hand, they are guaranteed a starting spot in every race.
But it’s the seasons leading up to this one that give me pause…
With a motley crew of mostly part-time drivers, FAS Lane Racing formed by Frank A. Stoddard Jr actually attempted all 36 races each season. In 2013, the team finished 37th in owner points. In 2014 they merged with Archie St. Hiliare’s Go Green Racing, and hence became Go FAS Racing. And their motley crew brought them home at 38th in owner points. Last season, with Josh Wise primarily at the wheel, the team finished 42nd in owner points.
And now you know why. Maybe.
Last night, Friday the 19th, Brian France2 threw down some significant new rules regarding the personal conduct of drivers both on and off the track.
From the look of it, it’s quite evident that they’re back-pedaling from the Have At It, Boys!!® approach of yore. And while NASCAR denies it, it’s very obviously a reaction to the argy-bargy between Matt Kenseth & Joey Logano at Martinsville last season.
Some of the issues addressed, like domestic violence, hate-speech, and criminal behavior all make sense. Other sports, like Roger Goodell’s National Football League for example, have given this sort of thing lip-service for the most part, but NASCAR should be lauded for putting these things in writing, in their rules, with very specific penalties.
So let’s let Brian France himself tell us what he’s thrown down. Plus, I’m getting a kick out of portraying Brian France as a Medieval Bulgarian Ruler.
Here’s the gist of Rule 12.8 in NASCAR’s(Brian France’s) own words:
NASCAR membership is a privilege. With that privilege comes certain benefits, responsibilities and obligations. Correct and proper conduct, both on and off the race track, is part of a Member’s responsibilities. A Member’s actions can reflect upon the sport as a whole and on other NASCAR Members. Ideally, NASCAR Members are role models for the many fans who follow this sport, regardless of the type of license a Member may hold, or the specific Series in which a Member may participate. Therefore, NASCAR views a Member’s conduct, both on and off the race track, which might constitute a behavioral rules violations under this Rule Book with great importance.
.a Member action(s) that could result in a mild response such as a meeting, warning, probation:
● Heat-of-the-moment actions or reactions, either on or off the race track;
● Member-to-Member confrontation(s) without physical violence (e.g. shoving match, shouting match, or general “venting”).
.b Member actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine and/or probation:
● Disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership;
● Verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.;
● Intentionally damaging another vehicle under yellow or red flag conditions or on pit road with no one around.
.c Member actions that could result in a loss of 25-50 Championship driver and Team Owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine and/or one Race suspension, indefinite suspension, or termination:
● Physical confrontation with a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.;
● Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment;
● Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship;
● Intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.
.d Member actions that could result in a loss of 50-100 Championship driver and Team Owner points and/or $150,000-$200,000 fine and/or two Race suspension, indefinite suspension, or termination:
● Targeting another driver who is in a highly vulnerable position, such as already stopped with window net lowered; or whose vehicle has already had one or more of its safety systems affected by crash damage, such as an exposed fuel cell, damaged roll cage, and so on.
● Premeditatedly removing another Competitor from championship contention in a dangerous manner when not racing for position based on the available evidence and specific circumstances of the incident.
● Without limiting the scope, examples could include a Competitor “waiting” for another Competitor and then taking action; taking a trajectory with the vehicle not normally taken such as from pit exit directly up into a vehicle in the racing groove; clearly forcing another Competitor into the wall in an abrupt and unambiguous manner; and so on.
.e Member actions that could result in a fine and/or indefinite suspension or termination:
● Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.
● Being charged with or convicted of significant criminal violations (e.g. Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Assault), or having had determinations rendered by criminal or civil authorities that in NASCAR’s judgment necessitate action. NASCAR will not pre-judge guilt or innocence in the criminal or civil legal system, or the guilt or innocence of the Member, but rather review each matter in its own context and circumstances and with regards to its potential effects upon the sport.
.f Factors that NASCAR may consider when reviewing a matter might include:
● When and where the incident(s) occurred;
● The perceivable or potential ramifications to others and/or to the sport;
● Available empirical data;
● Member’s past history;
● Possible effects to fans, safety workers, crew members;
● Any extenuating circumstances;
● Was the explanation(s) plausible given the circumstances;
● Was there an indication of genuine remorse or attempts to work things out with the other party(s) in a civil manner; and so on.
Everything seems in line, except for the “and so on…”
We’ll just have to see what happens when “some racing’ deal” actually crops up. It’s nice to have consistent rules. Now it’s up to NASCAR(Brian France) to see if they(he) actually consistently applies them.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
The Race to The Chase starts at Daytona. Or insert your own marketing term here to magically describe NASCAR’s “Regular Season”.
The 26 races leading up to The Chase for The Sprint Cup, as it will be called this year is still the same as last year. Win and you’re in, for the most part. Unless there are 17 different winners in the first 26 episodes of NASCAR and you happen to be lowest of the 17 in points….in that case you’re not in.
But that’s not likely to happen.
So who will be in? Any darkhorses? Or a driver you’d expect to be there left on the outside looking in?
Well, in past years I’ve given it a go. But probably not this year.
NASCAR has gone boring with the Chase in my view.
Instead of the smartly named Challenger Round, Contender Round, and Eliminator Round, they downsized them3 to The Round of 16, the Round of 12, & The Round of 8.
Really NASCAR?? REALLY?
So I’m going to pull a NASCAR on my predictions this season and say fuck all and watch the FA Cup 5th Round Proper match between Bournemouth and Everton. Based on the run of play I’ve seen so far, Bournemouth could eke out a 1-0 win. But I wouldn’t bet any of my mother-in-law’s money on that.
Now I will state right now, before the green flag has dropped at Daytona, that Chase Elliot, who’s replaced Jeff Gordon in the #24 NAPA Chevrolet will win Rookie of The Year. That’s not a prediction, but a statement of fact. Will he make The Chase in his rookie season?? I’d probably put a fiver on that. We’ll just have to see what happens between Daytona, and episode 26 at Richmond.
I want to say Matt Kenseth will win. I want to say Denny Hamlin will win. I want to say Kyle Busch will repeat as Champion. I want to say to Danica will win. I want to say Junior will finally win it all.
Instead, what I will say is this:
The halftime score from Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, Dorset UK is Bournemouth 0 Everton 0.
There. My NASCAR predictions for 2016.
The Daytona 500 should tee-off Sunday with NASCAR Rookie of the Year Chase Elliot on the pole, with Matt Kenseth beside him on the first. Lined up behind them in Row 2 would be Can-Am Duels winners Junior and Kyle Busch.
Instead of that perfect world, Matt will start the race in Row Z along with That Good-for-Nothing Jimmie Johnson, and Junior Jr. ((that would Martin Truex Jr in the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet for those of you down at Fat Boy Slims in Mineral Point WI who’ve not been privilege to my scintillating NASCAR commentary since most of our commentary there of late has dealt with either Donald Trump’s ongoing twattery, Bernie Sanders’s basketball acumen or me mumbling to myself about The English Premier League)). This all due to a cock-up by Jamie McMary at the end of the 2nd Can-Am Duel as he tried to precisely place his #1 Camping World Chevrolet in front of Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Lowe’s Chavrolet(sic) without a place put it. Kenseth and Truex got swept into this thrilling stupid tale of wreckage, along with Danica Patrick who, fortunately, didn’t have to go to a backup car as she ended up slipping down he track and plowing through the infield.
But it’s not where you start…and all that dross.
There are good things to look forward this 2016 NASCAR season: Chase Elliot; Jeff Gordon’s Broadcast Debut on FOX; The Charter System ((unless you’re a fan of toddling around the track for 3 or 12 laps and then heading for the garage with a VVVVVVVIIIIIIIIBBBBBBBRRRRRRRAAAAAAATTTTTTIIIIION!!!! to down a 30-pak of LOST LAKE Light. The 40 team field has put paid to that bit of nonsense, hopefully.)). Just to mention three.
But as always there’s a little bitterness to the sweetness. Need I remind you that Sunday’s Daytona 500 will mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt? I hope you already know that. I don’t have much to add to what I said 5 years ago on the 10th anniversary. Times change, but memories never do.