Yo yo yo, what up peeps? Couple thing have jolted me out of my contented slumber and caused me to fire up the dark roast, so DRINK (coffee), ye BASTARDS and let’s discuss a case of no contact (Bristol) and contact (Sonoma).
NASCAR at Bristol: How Kasey Kahne Became My Personal Hero —
Setting: Bristol Motor Speedway
Cast: Matt Kenseth, P1, Kasey Kahne P2, 15 laps to go.
Background Sound Effects: Steady stream of bitching on Twitter (Bitching on Twitter? SHOCKER) about how Bristol has lost its mojo. How the banging and “bump and run” style racing is gone forever. Sprinkle in the tinkle of tears of lamentation.
Cue the swelling musical scores ….
Several times Kahne would dive under Kenseth, draw even, maybe even slightly touch, but then couldn’t quite pull off the pass. (Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry Voice) “So you gotta ask yourself, do you wreck him … punk?”
Dale Jarrett in the booth was all for Kahne busting out the chrome horn and applying it liberally. He all but screamed “WRECK HIS ASS.” Check out Dale talking about the toughness of Kahne in this clip, then hold that thought …
In the end, Kahne didn’t wreck him. He couldn’t make the pass clean, so he didn’t bash and dash. And he became my personal hero at the end of the race when he said: "I think at the end of the day, I just don't wreck people.”
So does that mean that Kahne isn’t “tough?” I say no. I say it’s better to lose with honor than win at any cost. Maybe that’s naive or maybe that’s playing by different rules than the rest of the people, but I respect the hell out of Kahne for behaving that way. I know that puts me in the tiny minority (again) when the majority say the ends (winning) justify the means (intentionally trashing another car), especially in lawless NASCAR. Fair enough. I’m going to buy a Kasey Kahne shirt, nonetheless, and make this public declaration of support.
Ironically, my buddy Nate Ryan of USA Today called for Kasey to start bashing and banging in an opinion piece published a few days before the race. I respect and admire Nate who is among the most reader-focused journalist out there. Nate covers the Law of the Jungle angle well and gives you insight into the hit and be hit of NASCAR. You should read the whole thing here.
All that being said, as a guy who likes racing, not wrecking, I love Kasey Kahne (in an acceptable man-crush kind of way).
IndyCar at Sonoma: Festival of Flying Crew Members — So let's now talk about some contact ... in this case a car hitting a crew member. Late in the IndyCar race at Sonoma, Scott Dixon pulled out of his pit box and his car hit one of Will Power’s over-the-wall crew. That much is not disputed.
What is in dispute, it seems, is:
1) whether the crew member caused the contact by walking toward Dixon (as Dixon claims) or if the crew guy was minding his own business well within the pit box and Dixon bashed into him.
2) Whether Dixon's car was inside Power's pit box when contact was made, and if so how far inside.
Let’s go to the replay:
OK, a couple things. 1) It’s impossible for viewers to say (IMO) what happened mainly because the pit box markings are not clear. The white lines in the replay are not the IndyCar pit box markings. I’m not even sure the pit boxes are marked at all in IndyCar. I know the crews put down tape where they want the car’s wheels to stop, but as far as marking the box boundaries, I don’t think it’s actually done.
So then the question becomes was the pit guy intentionally taking up space to make it tough for Dixon to get out of his box? Another hard one to call. In order to do that you’d have to look at a few other crews (including how Dixon's crew behaves) to see how they move about to see if the Penske guy was making himself wide.
Steve Wittich (Twitter: @stevewhittich) alertly found this video of an earlier stop, so you can kind of compare what the tire carrier did earlier with what he did on the second stop. You can even see Dixon flash out behind the carrier on this one.
NBC Sports Network’s Jon Beekhuis alertly got IndyCar chief steward Beaux Barfield on camera after the race and asked him what was up with the call. Beaux said in his judgment Dixon used “less than great judgment” when leaving his pit and caused the contact.
Beaux said the tire changer appeared to be doing his normal routine and didn’t deviate from his normal path with the tire. So I look at all that and I say I would have called the penalty too. It looked to me like the carrier made his normal moves, moves that didn’t get him hit on previous pit stops, so if the carrier didn’t change his moves then Dixon caused the impact.
The counter argument is that the pit guy made himself wide thinking he wouldn’t get hit but would cause Dixon to be slow coming out of the pit. Before I indict the pit guy of that, I’d have to see some video of what other pit guys do on other teams, and if this guy is doing the same as the other guys, then it’s hard to say he’s trying to draw the foul.
The entire thing would be clearer if there were pit box lines, honestly. So given all that, based on known and unknowns (and known unknowns) then I say call the penalty. But recall I said call the penalty back in Brazil when I and about every driver that doesn’t work for AJ Foyt thought Takuma Sato violated the no blocking rule late in the race and hosed Josef Newgarden. I thought Sato clearly made two moves, which is illegal. Barfield swallowed the whistle there saying he didn’t want to make the close call late in race, or that calls that close gets a no call late in the race.
The caveat is that in this case a human being got hit by a car, so that's infinitely more serious of a situaiton than a blocking call on the track.
Update: Actually, Barfield told the Indy Star re: the Sato thing that he didn't see enough evidence to make the call and he was in favor of “Letting the race play out. Don’t let the officiating dominate the story.” (Read it here.) So I mischaracterized Beaux above. He could have been saying: when it's that close, err on the side of no calling so as not to unnecessarily making the ref the story.
Overall, I think you call fouls consistently no matter if it’s on lap five or the last lap, whether it’s a back marker or a championship leader. I’ve never been in favor of having the rule book less enforced late in a race or among championship contenders. That, to me, is the height of inconsistency.
Oh, and finally, please please please please IndyCar do NOT fine Scott Dixon for using "it was a dick move." I mean, come on. "Dick" is now on the list? Stop mashing every bit of spontineity and color out of your drivers. Let 'em say "dick" and "screwed" and stuff. It's not like they're f-bombing or using "SHIT!!" Lighten up.