Friday, November 6, 2015

Can't Look Away: Five Questions for Texas

(Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
This week’s column was difficult to write due to the lack of storylines. Not.

We all know what the story of the week/month is, and that’s the central topic of Five Questions. How can it not be? It’s all over every racing-oriented show, website and radio station. You can’t get away from what happened at Martinsville Speedway.

However, I also discuss Erik Jones, the Chase race at Texas, and NASCAR overall—while expressing my long-withheld opinion on the issue.

Buckle up, because it only gets crazier from here on out.

Does the punishment fit the crime for Kenseth? Matt Kenseth is on a two-week vacation, according to NASCAR. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is suspended for the next two events following his actions at Martinsville Speedway. As every fan lost their mind, I had to wonder if the punishment truly fits the crime. I have many thoughts on the matter—which you will read below—and came to the conclusion that it was a little steep; this is the kind of action NASCAR wanted, right? So why two races? One would have sufficed and gotten the point across. Of course, many fans on social media think he shouldn’t be penalized at all. I think they might be a bit biased. Despite whatever we may think, the suspension stands until the appeal is processed.

What does this mean for Jones? With Kenseth out of the No. 20, the focus now shifts to who will fill that seat. Erik Jones will fill in and add to his already-full plate. He will race all three events this weekend, yet there’s a twist—he’s currently battling Matt Crafton and Tyler Reddick for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. Will this jeopardize the young gun’s chance at the title? It may be a struggle, but Jones is more than capable of handling the pressure. Managing focus is key. Crafton and Reddick are closing in every weekend, and this could be their big chance if Jones had a clouded mind. However, it’s doubtful this will impact him negatively. The long-term effects from the extra seat time will aid his eventual jump to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This may seem like a hard weekend for Jones, but he should do fine.

Can Logano breathe easy? While the spotlight shines on JGR, not much talk is surrounding Joey Logano—you know, the guy Kenseth spun. I never knew that the Team Penske driver was so hated until this happened. Apparently, that dislike spreads into the garage as well; radio chatter revealed that crew chiefs and fellow drivers applauded Kenseth’s move. It sounds like Logano has a lot to worry about. He needs to win this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway or at Phoenix International Raceway to lock himself into the final round. The driver may have to stay alert; if someone else decides to take out their frustrations on him, he’ll fall even deeper into the unescapable Chase points hole.

Will tempers overflow into Texas? There’s been no shortage of excitement in this season’s Chase, and it’s not stopping anytime soon. Texas dubbed itself as the “Asphalt Circus” a few years ago. That’s bound to continue. This past week’s events has created much tension in the sport. Add that to the fact that many drivers dislike Logano, and you have a recipe for more craziness. Remember the infamous “Harvicking” incident last year? As Texas’ slogan goes, there are no limits—meaning things are going to get wild in The Lonestar State.

Did NASCAR make the best decision for itself? The Kenseth penalties are obviously the biggest story of the week, yet I’ve refrained from talking about it on social media—and amongst my peers. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it; I understand why Kenseth was mad at Logano, and I also understood why fans were enthusiastic about the incident itself. With that said, I can now say with confidence that this was a product of NASCAR’s attempt to manufacture excitement. This Chase format promotes this type of buffoonery. This is what the sanctioning body wanted—or at least what they thought they wanted. What happened at Kansas Speedway was what they had in mind when they created this “playoff.” They wanted hard racing. Martinsville was the product of that hard racing. NASCAR didn’t account for drivers’ emotions. They didn’t account for paybacks or arrogance or any of the elements that make this sport human. And now they’re punishing Kenseth for exemplifying that humanity because they want to cover up the mistakes, their mistakes—one of those mistakes being not penalizing Kevin Harvick for his antics at Talladega Superspeedway. “Consistency” is a dirty word in NASCAR, and that’s why you won’t see any of it. Amid all the opinions and editorials, the facts remain: despite the hefty punishment and apparent unhappiness, NASCAR will still use the Martinsville wreck in their commercials and highlight reels. They will keep straddling the line between true sport and unabridged circus. And they will have me in their firm grasp until the day I die. I can’t look away, and that’s exactly what they want. 


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