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BUMP STOPS: Changes To IndyCar, Changes To Talladega And Changes Atop The Standings

Sunday, October 23, 2011

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

THE LOSS OF Dan Wheldon shook racing to its core this week, not just in open-wheel circles but across the racing landscape. The reasons are obvious: Wheldon was a popular personality, and IndyCar champion and a two-time winner of the most prestigious single auto race in the United States.

The one thing I've taken away from all of it is the need for change in IndyCar, specifically to the cars themselves. I don't necessarily agree with Jimmie Johnson's assessment that the series should get away from oval racing entirely; I don't have a problem with the speeds, and I'm only concerned about the tracks there on when it comes to those individual tracks making sure their facilities are safe for all types of racing.

What I do believe, however, is that the days of the open cockpit race car have come and gone.

 

Wheldon's death and Paul Tracy's admission on Twitter this week that there was a tire track across the visor of his helmet are proof enough of that. A head sticking out of the cockpit of a race car is a recipe for disaster, which we've witnessed, and there's nothing that can persuade me that IndyCar can't design some type of a fighter jet-like bubble to fully encapsulate the driver.

I don't think it's the be all and end all of safety in IndyCar, but it has to be a step in the right direction.

IndyCar has had ample time to clean up the safety aspect of its inherently dangerous sport. A series of deaths in the sport in the last decade should have served as wakeup calls to the series and its officials, and the time for posturing, rationalizing and justifying is over.

Make some changes to the one thing desperately crying out for it – to the car's design itself.

THE RACING AT Talladega Superspeedway isn't necessarily good or bad, but it certainly is different.

Clearly, restrictor plate racing is its own animal, unlike anything the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams do every other week of the year. Debate raged in social media circles this week about restrictor plate racing and its merits, with the popular sentiment being that the new two-car draft system makes the races boring until the very end.

Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR personality Dave Moody, a Vermont native, answered critics this week by saying that baseball fans still watch the first eight innings of a game in anticipation of the final inning. I'd counter by saying that it's a poor analogy, because a baseball team can score 12 runs in the third inning and put the game's outcome out of question.

In restrictor plate racing, you may be able "lose" the race with a crash early on, but you definitely can't win on the first lap.

I don't mind the chess game that takes place for the first 150 laps of a race at Talladega as teams work to put themselves in the right situation to win over the final 30. You can't expect drivers to take unnecessary chances in the early going, and you've got to be willing to accept that as a fan in order to see your driver in the mix by race's end.

The only thing the two-car draft does is make it virtually impossible for a driver to venture out on his own and win. But the type of racing does ensure a final couple of laps with five or six two-car pairs making an assault on the finish.

And that's good stuff.

SO MANY THINGS happened during the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour finale at Thompson International Speedway last weekend, it was amazing.

I've never been a big fan of the "points as they run" graphics showing on Lap 4 of the first Chase race at Chicago, but following the wild swings in the standings between Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy during the day at Thompson was amazing.

Silk crashed early and went nine laps down in the pits trying to make adjustments. With each passing lap, his chances to win the title seemed to fade a little more. But in a crazy race filled with 16 caution flags and contender after contender after contender wrecking out while challenging for the lead, it was clear that nothing was certain in this event.

And it wasn't.

The day was capped by seeing Rowan Pennink sprinting the length of the Thompson infield to confront Justin Bonsignore during a red flag, Szegedy calling on NASCAR to take a stance against the rough driving that has pervaded the division this year, and 18-year-old Brian Ross crew chiefing Glen Reen to his first career Tour victory. One little race, so many storylines.

YOU'VE GOT TO be a certain kind of person to get a Jeremiah Weed tattoo in support of Matt Kenseth. Thankfully, if you were that person, you had the chance to do it for free at Talladega this weekend.

CONGRATS TO ALEX Bowman on winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sunoco Rookie of the Year award this season. Great kid with a bright future in this game.

– TB