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Four Gears

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This week our staff takes a look at some of the hot topics in the world of NASCAR. We look back at New Hampshire, glance ahead to Indianapolis and rate the season to date. Our staff also tackles the question of penalties and when/if those penalties should affect the outcome of a race. We are joined by guest contributor, Katelyn Kinnett, co-founder of NASCARFemale.com.

1st Gear: How would you rate last weekend’s race at New Hampshire on a scale of 1-10 and why?

I would rate it a 7.5/10. It’s not a race I’ll look back at years from now and say “Boy, that was an awesome race at Loudon back in July of 2016,” but I think it was good in the context of the 2016 season. At this point, I’d probably list it as an honorable mention when I do my list of the best races of 2016 in December. – Tucker White

I’d put it at around a 7. It wasn’t too bad because there was a lot of racing at the front of the field, a lot of going back and forth for position, leaders were within striking distance of each other, et al. Sure, it wasn’t ideal like Atlanta considering the majority of laps led were led by Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, so there wasn’t much diversity up front manufacturer-wise. But with the field being bunched up by both lapped cars and cautions, this allowed for better racing and kept everyone’s attention. – Joseph Shelton

I’d give it a 5. Nothing much happened in the first 200 laps, the last 101 were much better. If it wasn’t for the last 101 it would probably be a 2. The Toyotas are just on another level right now. – Michael Finley

I would most likely give it a 6, only because of the long green flag runs that spread the field out. Then again, you could give it an 8 because when that occurs, you get lapped traffic in the mix, and there were several instances where the leader got caught racing lapped traffic and it allowed the second place driver to catch up – which, in turn, improved the racing. It’s truly a catch-22. The cautions at the end of the race definitely provided the fans with great racing – especially during the restarts, so with all of that said, I’d be inclined to up my initial rating to a 7 – just to meet both sides halfway. – Katelyn Kinnett

2nd Gear: Does the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway still hold as one of the crown jewel events of the sport? If yes, where would you rank it?

The answer is yes. It’s not the most entertaining race of the season, but it’s one of the cathedrals of auto racing. The order of importance to me is the Daytona 500 at No. 1, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at No. 2, the Coca-Cola 600 at No. 3 and the Brickyard 400 at No. 4. – Tucker White

The Brickyard 400 will forever be a crown jewel of NASCAR. It’s a historical track where many racing legends, not just NASCAR drivers, have visited Victory Lane. It’s the epitome of racing elegance and is a pillar of American motorsport. That said, it’s not as prestigious as it once was because it’s been marketed out and watered down.

Thing is, in NASCAR, you mention the Daytona 500 and you can just feel that awe, that majesty, that the event inspires. It has never been the Coca-Cola Daytona 500, or the Toyota Services Daytona 500, but just the Daytona 500. It’s a mighty track, the grandest venue NASCAR races at. But you can’t say that for Indy. Aside from the fact that Indy wasn’t originally built with stock cars in mind, it’s hard to take as series. Plus, look at the name over the years. It’s been the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard. It’s been the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Selling the naming rights to a race at Indy waters down the prestige, in my honest opinion. That and bringing in the Xfinity Series when the division is at its worst has definitely diminished Indy NASCAR racing in my eyes. Of NASCAR’s biggest events, I place Indy at the bottom rung. – Joseph Shelton

No. It has had terrible racing for a long time, on a track that just wasn’t designed for stock cars. Sure, the race was a novelty the first five to ten years, but it has long overstayed its welcome. Indianapolis is a great city for a race, though I think I’d rather watch the cars rub fenders at Lucas Oil Raceway Park than go watch a parade around a rectangle. And with the recent reports that IMS has only sold roughly 35,000 seats as of Monday, the fans seem to agree. – Michael Finley

I would say that it is still considered a crown jewel; however, I feel that it has lost its luster with bringing the XFINITY Series into the mix. In my opinion, the NXS series should have never left O’Reilly Raceway Park. It was a niche track and the fans loved it. I mean, who doesn’t like short-track racing? The Brickyard was known for being the place where Cup drivers could make their dreams come true “at the yard of bricks” but with adding an additional NASCAR touring series it has definitely knocked down the race a peg or two in my book. Daytona is, and always will be, the crown jewel. The Southern 500 would be second, with the Brickyard coming in as a close third. – Katelyn Kinnett

3rd Gear: With this past weekend being the first race of the second half of the season, what was the biggest surprise – be it good or bad – of the first half of the 2016 season?

It’s hands down Tony Stewart winning at Sonoma Raceway. Given his performance and off-track issues the last three years, I was convinced that Tony Stewart’s win at Dover in 2013 was going to be his last. In the last seven races, Stewart has finished outside the top-10 twice, and his bad finish at Pocono was a wreck that took him out while he was running in the top-10 where he had been most of the day. His other dud finish was Daytona which is a whole other animal. As much as I hate the “Smoke gets hot in the summer” cliché, that seems to be the case this year. – Tucker White

The quality of racing has been the biggest – and best – surprise. The low downforce package has improved NASCAR’s product so well that it’s amazing to see how many awesome races we’ve had this year. – Joseph Shelton

The biggest story of the season so far is the mid-summer saga of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and if the possible ramifications of concussions will lead to shortening his career. Earnhardt is by far the most popular driver in the sport, and the announcement of Jeff Gordon coming out of retirement to replace Earnhardt has only added fuel to the fire. – Michael Finley

The biggest surprise of the first half of 2016 would probably be Smoke’s injury in his final year. I think it is a driver’s worst fear to be injured in an activity other than racing at the Cup level, especially in your final year in a race car. Stewart has the luxury of being the co-owner of the team he drives for so the conversation after the ATV incident, I’m sure, was far different than say, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s after the American Le Mans Series incident in which he suffered second-degree burns. – Katelyn Kinnett

4th Gear: On SiriusXM Speedway this past Monday, the driving topic question of the day was “Is it time for NASCAR to consider taking away wins and/or bonus points from a team that fails post-race inspection.” What’s your stance on whether NASCAR should take away wins and/bonus points from a team that fails post-race inspection and why?

I had always been on the fence with this one, but I’ve come around to saying NASCAR should take away a win for a car failing post-race inspection. However, it should only be for a P6-level infraction. We don’t need this to turn into the Snowball Derby where the winning car gets disqualified for having so much as a one-micrometer dent in the wrong place. In other words, take the win away if the car has an illegal engine, illegal fuel, illegal tires or puts the driver’s safety at risk. – Tucker White

Absolutely! Strip the wins. These guys are money-making machines. A slap on the hand is nothing to these guys, and if they’re already in the Chase points won’t matter (unless they’re at or near 30th in points). If NASCAR wants the competitors and teams to be on their very best behavior then take away what means the most and what can hit them the hardest in the long run – the big W. – Joseph Shelton

There was a Finley Factor article a month ago that talked about overhauling the Chase seeding for the first round. Right now NASCAR only rewards three bonus points per win in the first round. By making wins mean more (I suggested 10 points per win), it discourages teams from playing so hard and fast with the rules because that means fewer points to start the Chase. Kenseth was penalized a meaningless 15 points and crew chief Jason Ratcliff was given a $25,000 fine that the team will probably pay off anyway. If the infraction had put the No. 20 team in a hole after Richmond, it would mean so much more. Wins shouldn’t be taken away unless the car is ridiculously illegal. It shouldn’t be a question after the race who won it for both the fans and the sponsors. – Michael Finley

In my opinion, if a car fails post-race inspection – the win is negated; period. An advantage is an advantage. Lance Armstrong had to relinquish his Tour de France wins because of his advantage. Whether it be by man or machine, it’s one and the same at the end of the day. – Katelyn Kinnett

Please join us again next week and become a part of the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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