Kurt Busch may have went to Victory Lane in Monday’s rain-delayed Axalta 400, but the prominent topic du jour to come out of Pocono Raceway had to do with the third-place finisher accusing one of NASCAR’s most popular figures of being biased broadcaster.
Was Jeff Gordon really biased in what he said about Brad Keselowski? Wasn’t he just making an observation and Brad like he always does took exception?
Gordon pointing out that Keselowski’s team deliberately manipulated the aerodynamics on the No. 2 car was correct, and if he would have left it at that there would be zero issue.
But where Gordon ran afoul and what sent Keselowski into a tizzy was Gordon incorrectly saying Keselowski’s team had previously committed improper body modifications during the Las Vegas race, thus implying that contributed to him winning back in March. That’s the offense Gordon apologized for later on Twitter. And Gordon wasn’t helped by the undeniable favoritism often emanating out of the Fox broadcast booth.
Not that Keselowski isn’t blameless here. The No. 2 Team Penske crew has a deserved reputation for playing in the gray area of the rulebook pertaining to illegal body modifications. All one has to do is see a replay of Monday’s race and it’s clear as day a crewmember intentionally falls into Keselowski’s Ford to cave in the right side of the car, which would provide an aerodynamic advantage. NASCAR saw what happened and correctly handed out a penalty and made the team correct the problem area.
Seeing Kurt Busch win made think if suspending a crew chief is even really a penalty? Kurt ran as good as he’s had all year and you know Tony Gibson was still calling the shots even if he wasn’t at the track. If NASCAR is going to be suspending all these crew chiefs for lug nuts, shouldn’t they come up with stiffer penalties?
Unless NASCAR is going to have an official sitting beside a suspended crew chief preventing them from texting or opening a laptop, there is not much that can be done to prohibit a crew chief from communicating with their team. It’s just too easy nowadays to communicate remotely.
Which means to Donnie’s point, NASCAR might have to evaluate other ways outside of suspensions as punishment — especially if the sanctioning body continues to dole out penalties for lug nut-related infractions on a near-weekly basis. If a suspension is supposed to signify a deterrent, a crew chief sitting home a single week doesn’t suffice. Additional sanctions with more consequence are needed.
The hunch is if the number of violators remains at this level — three crew chiefs have been benched in four point races since the revised policy went into effect — NASCAR will escalate the penalties. And on that front, deducting driver points might send a better message.
As a Tony Stewart fan should I give up hope that his final season is going to be anything special? I really thought he would be more competitive with the aero changes and a new crew chief.
Considering he’s 71 points behind the 30th-place threshold he needs to be Chase for the Sprint Cup eligible in addition to not having won a race in over three years, yeah it might be time to adjust your expectations.
To be kind, Stewart just isn’t the same driver and the results bear that out. His lone top-10 finish this season came because of Ty Dillon’s relief appearance at Talladega and he hasn’t had a top-five since October 2014 — a span of 45 races. Best-case scenario: Stewart steals a win somewhere along the way byway of strategy or luck allowing him to retire with at least another moment in the sun.
With Stewart-Haas Racing already announcing its move to Ford and Kevin Harvick saying he’s not switching teams, does that mean silly season is going to be quiet this season?
Plenty still needs to be decided. Ryan Newman is in a contract year, HScott Motorsports needs to replace Clint Bowyer — who’s transferring to SHR filling the retiring Stewart’s seat — and there tends to be a likely out-of-nowhere move that will catch most everyone by surprise, though SHR’s bombshell Ford news could be classified as such.
One thing to keep an eye on is whether Furniture Row Racing expands to a two-car team. Toyota would like to get Erik Jones in Sprint Cup fulltime, and with Joe Gibbs Racing capped at four teams that makes the Denver-based organization the logical suitor. It’s expected Jones will drive a second Furniture Row Toyota in some late season events in a prelude to full slate of races in 2017.