BUMP STOPS: Controversy, Christopher's Engine and Calling It Like It Is

Friday, July 1, 2011
Photo: Travis Barrett/GWC

It's the end of the week again. Time to dust off that ol' Mini Stock and take it out of the garage for a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...

I THINK EVERYBODY just kind of assumed something was going to happen that never actually happened at Thunder Road International Speedbowl last weekend.

Here's what we know: With fewer than 20 laps to go in the Carquest VT Governor's Cup 100 at the track last weekend, and Nick Sweet leading John Donahue by roughly a half-straightaway, three cars spun to the infield. The Thunder Road flagman reached for the yellow flag but never displayed it, no matter how awkwardly he held it.

Sweet's spotter told him the caution was coming out – Sweet slowed, Donahue passed him, the race stayed green and Donahue drove off to the victory over everybody's Hometown Hero.

It was called by some a "controversial" finish. It was called by others "confusing." Chaotic, wild and strange were also words that were used by people I talked to this week.


I'm not sure it was anything other than a little crazy – but certainly I wouldn't go so far as to call it a controversy. I think Sweet admitting in Victory Lane that he "made a mistake" about sums it up.

Again, I think everybody at the track just sort of felt like the caution was coming out, and I think some of the spotters out there got a little lazy. Every good flagman I've ever watched usually at least reaches for the yellow flag when cars spin, whether they get going or not. They're just trying to be prepared.

On Sunday at Thunder Road, when the cars that spun got going again on their own and posed no imminent danger to themselves or others, there was no need for a caution.

Several ACT Late Model Tour drivers this week told me that they don't have a spotter who listens to race director Tom Curley, though some teams do have a team member that monitors the race control channel. Frankly, I'm surprised that so many teams rely only on what they see in the flagstand it today's world of radio communication.

My guess here is that more teams might think about having the spotter wired into race control. No matter how many extra batteries it's going to cost you, a competitive edge is a competitive edge.

If Sweet's spotter was dialed into race control on Sunday, he never would have told his driver that the yellow was out. Sweet never would have slowed. By all accounts –including Donahue's – Sweet would have won unchallenged.

One has to wonder what that kind of information is worth to a team. We know what the cost was, in this case, for not tuning in.

LAST WEEK, TED Christopher's car was disqualified – and parked – before it even headed out to qualify for the Modified Racing Series event at Stafford Motor Speedway. Seems there was something funky about that car's engine.

What really irked me was not that the engine was illegal, but how Christopher initially defended himself. Christopher didn't deny that the engine was too big (read: too powerful), but instead said that the MRS should have just tagged him with some added weight instead of DQ'ing him outright.

Good for the MRS, though.

The "gray area" has become wider and wider in this sport's garages. To me, defending yourself with, "Yeah, it's illegal, but..." is an admission of guilt. How guilty? That's irrelevant.

The blatant disregard for the rules is disturbing. I'm no neophyte here – I know it happens everywhere. But more series and tracks need to do what the MRS did and decide they're just not going to have it anymore.


I'M BEGINNING TO wonder if Mother Nature just hates Oxford Plains Speedway. Or, more specifically, ACT races at Oxford Plains.

THIS WHOLE KURT Busch was standing on pit road with a strange blonde woman really bothered me this week, especially when one outlet decided to run an entire story about how it didn't want to write about it but thought it curious that NASCAR media hadn't when everybody knew.

I say, if it doesn't effect competition on the track, and if it's not a matter of public safety, then there's no reason for it to be written. And the accusation that "in other sports" every divorce would be written about is ludicrous.

It flat-out wouldn't be, and New Englanders need look no further than Jason Varitek's messy off-the-field distractions as proof. It's just something that's not necessary.

Saying that "fans wanted to know" what was going on is no excuse, either. Heck, some fans want to know where Red Sox and Patriots players head simply so they can go hang out with them – and further rob them of the little privacy they have.

More than wondering about the issue of what's too private – and, to me, it's a case of "if you have to ask, you know it's probably not appropriate to write" – it's about the manner in which this particular Busch story was written.

Nobody, not even the author of the story, ever did Busch the service of asking him the question. If you ask him, and he wants to talk about it publicly, then fine. And if he doesn't, then he has that right, too.

But a "reporter" knows one simple thing: If there's a story there, you've got to ask someone about it.

That never happened in this case. Instead, the author took a passive-aggressive approach by writing about how he "didn't want to write it" and did, anyway.

Poor, poor ethics.

ROWAN PENNINK MIGHT be one of the nicest guys in the Whelen Modified Tour garage.

Better yet, he came up with the line of the night at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday. Pennink was asked about when he has to hit the proverbial switch as the series points leader and start worrying about points first and wins second.

"I don't really know," Pennink said with a big smile and a suppressed chuckle. "This is really my first time at this deal."

I STILL HAVEN'T seen Hangover 2, but the flat-out lack of buzz in generated probably tells me everything I need to know about it.

DID YOU GUYS catch that part about the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup?

YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the stuffed chicken ball and don't forget to tip your waitress. The Foggy Mountain Boys are here, so stick around...

– TB