Friday, March 20, 2015

House of Cards: Five Questions for Fontana

(Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The racing world is like a house of cards. The structure needs to be flawless to reach the desired product, a stable pyramid. Interestingly enough, the pyramid isn’t that stable at all. It’s quite flimsy.

All it takes is one mishap, and then it’s gone.

Every part matters, from the car to the crew to the driver and his mentality. If any part of that is weakened, then it can’t work.

The cards come crashing down.

Ahead of this weekend’s events at Auto Club Speedway, I discuss Erik Jones, Stewart-Haas Racing and much more. Here are Five Questions for Fontana.

Will hot dogs end the world as we know it? Stop the presses. An era in NASCAR is ending, and it doesn’t involve Jeff Gordon this time. Martinsville Speedway is changing the brand of its infamous hot dogs. As villages burn and riots incite, we can take solace in that the “Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog” isn’t disappearing from the menu. Track President Clay Campbell states the new hot dog will taste the same and cost the same price. As Valleydale Hot Dogs takes over where Jesse Jones Southern Style Hot Dogs left off, we can heal and move forward.

Can Jones build on solid NXS finish? Although Erik Jones is the talk of the town, it’s surprising to learn that his top-five finish at Phoenix International Raceway was his first in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This kid doesn’t back down from anything, which is why he’s doing so well. Excelling in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the young gun has earned respect and praise from notable people, including Kyle Busch. It can only go up from here for the talented Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who will race at Auto Club Speedway in the No. 20 car. Go get'em, Jones.

How can smaller tracks be saved? Wednesday afternoon brought news I didn’t want to hear. Mansfield Motorsports Park, the long forgotten racetrack near my hometown, won’t be returning to the racing scene anytime soon. The business deal to bring events back to the track was ended due to racist Facebook remarks. Mansfield’s track was a hotbed for NCWTS (formerly known as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) races, among other motorsports events. This is a case of same story, different track. Various small tracks have lost their glitz and fallen to the wayside. Nazareth, North Wilkesboro, the list goes on and on. History and big names are created at these hometown venues, and they’re ceasing to exist. I want to know how we can prevent this from happening. If anyone has ideas, put them in the comments.

Is Keselowski’s blog saying what fans should think? In a recent blog post, the former champion expressed some poignant thoughts on the injured Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski explained that, though he and Busch definitely aren’t the best of friends, he misses seeing and racing against his competitor on the track. This echoes the thoughts we all should be thinking. Busch is not a fan favorite by any means. Many believe he is harsh, rude and greedy. They loathe him and his success. Keselowski doesn’t see it that way, and neither do I. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver added an element to racing, and that is passion. The guy is more talented than three-fourths of the field, and he won’t let anything stand between himself and a trophy. An athlete who values competition isn’t simply a competitor. He is also a winner. We all need to embrace his absence and take it as a lesson. Though his style is unorthodox, it is elegant in its own way. Thanks, Keselowski, for making us think.

What’s going on with the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing? I remember asking this exact question late last year, yet it still holds true this season. Kevin Harvick is off to a strong start this year, backing up his 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship with two victories. The rest of the organization is struggling, and it’s raising eyebrows everywhere. We can’t address Kurt Busch’s performance due to only racing once this season, so Tony Stewart is the next talking point. Ever since the incident in New York, the three-time NSCS champion hasn’t been the same. Can you truly blame him? The accident pushed Stewart away from his true love — sprint car racing. It served as a necessary release for him, and taking that tactic away created more problems. There are larger issues here than just bad equipment and they need to be addressed. On the flip side, Danica Patrick isn’t doing any better. There isn’t a bigger problem in this case; she simply isn’t getting good finishes. It’s time for a drastic change in that camp. If Patrick wants to succeed, she’ll push for important changes. Taking charge is what needs to happen, and in doing so, she will show that she truly cares about her performances. Both she and boss man Stewart should grab their problems by the horns and show them what’s what — before the house of cards crumbles.

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