Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5 Questions After ... The Capital City 400



We now know the answers to the “5 Questions Before... the Capital City 400.”  Here they are, briefly:  
  • Mother Nature generously allowed the rain to move through in time for the track to dry for racing, but she did turn the thermostat down to chilly, which made for a fast track. 
  • Greg Biffle hung onto the points lead with tooth and toenail. 
  • The closest Michael Waltrip Racing came to a win was polesitter Mark Martin leading the first 29 laps, but he faded to an eighth-place finish.
  • Despite another luckless night and a finishing position way too close to his car number (23), Jeff Gordon managed to climb one rung in the points to 17th. Kasey Kahne parlayed his fifth-place finish into a two-spot gain to 24th.   
  •       Five cautions barely slowed the race, with the official speed just shy of 10 mph faster than in April 2011 when the yellow flag flew eight times. Lead changes equaled those of last year’s spring race with 14. 
Now for Five Questions After…

What was up with Tony Stewart on the restarts?
All the experts have commented on how Stewart spun his tires on that last stop, some insinuating and some outright saying he did it on purpose to burn Carl Edwards. Yet they seem to forget he spun his tires every time he restarted from the front row. Sure, "Smoke" got his name from smoking his tires, but now he’s known for being one of the best at restarts. What happened Saturday night?   

What was up with the pit road follies?
From missed lug nuts to loose tires, from frustrated drivers to upset tire carriers, pit road was a hot mess for many teams. Is it the lack of cautions? Is the honeymoon wearing off for many of the new combinations? Whatever it is, the race at Richmond emphasized that NASCAR is a team sport, and the part of the team that goes over the wall can win or lose a race as easily as the part that’s behind the wheel. Johnson, Stewart, and Harvick all had issues. Menard and Earnhardt Jr. did too, though not of their own making. What's it going to take to change those issues?

What was up with the black flag controversy? Did NASCAR make a careless mistake or was it honestly a miscommunication? 
Everyone’s heard and read about it even if you didn't see it. Edwards thought he was leading, and Steve Addington knew the No. 14 was in the lead because Johnson peeled off to serve his penalty, giving Stewart first place. Edwards’ spotter claims an official told him they were in p1. Who knows for sure? Should NASCAR have waved off the restart? I bet the No. 99 team thinks so.   

What was up with the debris caution at the end of the race? 
Tony Stewart said it was a plastic bottle. Other sources say it was a beer can, and yet others say it was sheet metal. Which was it? Should debris that causes a caution be on display like confiscated parts? Would the teams agree with that? It would be interesting to find out.  

The fans got drama without a wreckfest. But is it constructive drama?
Will it put more bodies in the seats at Talladega and beyond? Everyone has an opinion about what the fans want and what constitutes good racing. There's no avoiding the facts that in the nine races this year, overall, cautions are down, lead changes are - for the most part - down, and races are running faster. Is that a good thing for the sport? Can this kind of drama hold the fans' interest? 

We shall see what we shall see. 

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