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Random Lugnuts: NASCAR Actually Makes Some Good Calls

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts: NASCAR Actually Makes Some Good Calls

Bill Crittenden
August 22, 2007

Driver Introductions

Remember when you needed to be 18 to smoke the product NASCAR's top division was sponsored by?  Stock car racing's participants seem to be getting younger and younger.  Jake Francis, all of 17 years old, will start his first ARCA RE/MAX Series race Sunday in Milwaukee.  Maybe he'll be old enough to drink by the time he wins a Bud Pole Award in NASCAR, if he gets that far.

Owners' Points

Last week I asked readers what sports figures they'd like to see in NASCAR ownership.  Charley B. writes, "I would like to see Al Davis as an owner of a NASCAR team. He could provide a proper venue for racers who are socially challenged such as Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. Maybe he would be the only owner allowed to bring back rehabitable drivers like Shane Hmiel."

And Jeremy Sellers, owner of Jerm's Joint, writes:

"Indeed, Bill, this was a challenging question for me to answer. As I certainly appreciate the diversity NASCAR is stirring up within the entire professional sports community when it comes to attracting interest, it also seems to be causing a growing enormity of NASCAR that is causing it to spin out of control. If I'm correct, Joe Gibbs has been the biggest name for years as far as someone from another professional sport taking his fincancial interests to NASCAR. Obviously, this venture proved successful and it opened the eyes of other pro sports associates who jumped on the Joe Gibbs bandwagon. However, other teams have struggled as in the case of Hall of Fame Racing, who had plans at one time for a two-car team, but can't even find it in their hearts to let Tony Raines compete on a road course. Regarding the Evernham/Gillet formation, Ray Evernham took notice that all three of his cars are struggling this year and decided he needed to be more "hands-on" with his teams. Merging with Gillet as co-owner will allow a financial mogul take care of the paperwork and book keeping that was maybe bogging down Ray, thus allowing him to become more of a "crew chief/owner". Jack Roush has more money than he knows what to do. I can't help but believe that this merger with Fenway isn't an excellent plan to make TONS more. Between the two empires, they are making a HUGE step at gaining "cross-over" fans. Also, I firmly believe this merger will find a way to create a loophole in NACAR's four-team policy being implemented next season. ...but I digress.

I find it difficult to pin down an answer for this question. If it's performance you want in a NASCAR team, could you imagine if George Steinbrenner started one up? He would hire the best advisors, who would in turn hire the best team, and spare no expense on hiring the best driver. However, could one imagine the pressure they would be under every race weekend? Though he does have the business sense, and could make a successful team, not many would want to work for him. Larry Bird comes to mind. Not only is he a hall of fame athelete, he knows a little something about running a team, and the business sense behind it. With the Brickyard being in his neighborhood, is it possible that he has somewhat of a knowledge of motorsports, could spend the money in the right places, and be NASCAR's next shining star? Certainly, in my opinion! OR, this one will blow your minds! It's no secret that Ricky Rudd isn't going to race forever, yet knows the trials and tribunes of being an owner. Though he met many hardships as an owner/driver, what if he and, say, Rusty Wallace were to team up to form a motorsports powerhouse? Both men know what it takes to win races in NASCAR's modern era, yet have enough history to know how to make folks feel comfortable in the workplace. Rudd had 20 consecutive seasons with at least one win, not a lot of drivers can say that. Rusty has a championship to throw into the hat. They also both possess ownership experience, therefore having business sense. Could you imagine what kind of premier racing team could be born of that type of merger? I could be wrong, but championship drivers, I believe, make championship teams and visa-versa. So it is with that I offer my three choices for the next pro-sports backed NASCAR team. Thanks to Bill for soliciting my opinion in this issue and hope to read others' thoughts as well."

I'm kind of suprised no one mentioned Mark Cuban, but then there's only so much an entertainer can do with a race team, one of a dozen on race day.  As a track owner/promoter, though, the possibilities are endless.

In July Andre Rison was reportedly in negotiations with Cleary Motorsports, an ARCA team that fields a car for Gary Sherman, on some sort of ownership deal.

And now a word from our sponsors...

Now it looks like AT&T's run on the side of Jeff Burton's car is at an end.  While running a major sponsor out of the sport mid-season is troublesome enough (can NASCAR itself ever be fined for "actions detrimental to stock car racing?"), especially when the running out of the sponsor may have been on less than solid legal ground, what NASCAR did serves as a wake up call to the fans, sponsors and team owners of just what NASCAR is.

NASCAR is not a league, a coalition of teams represented by a commissioner elected by the owners of the participating teams, like other major American sports.  It is a private business, operated by and for the benefit of the France family.  The fans are their customers.  Their respect for the fans isn't the sappy wonderful appreciation for all the glorious moments shared together that is portrayed by the sport...it's just appreciation for their customers' business, without whom a lot of people in NASCAR's hierarchy would have much lighter wallets.

NASCAR might lose a few fans showing AT&T the door, and a few more still if Alltel follows close behind, but weighed against protecting their very lucrative deal with Nextel, removing AT&T was a good business decision.  A few fans miffed enough that a sponsor was removed, and maybe an upset Richard Childress, is a small price to pay for easing relations with a sponsor whose reported investment in the series is in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.

Yellow Flag

NASCAR's decision not to come down on Juan Pablo Montoya or Kevin Harvick for their little on-track scuffle at Watkins Glen was the right call.  Personally, I'd like to see more fistfights between drivers at NASCAR races.  Why?  Becuase it's better than the alternatives offered up by various drivers and teams over the years.

Consider Jimmy Spencer's retaliatory punt of Kurt Busch.  Busch does a bump & run at a low-speed short track, so Jimmy puts Kurt Busch into a wall that has seen the deaths of more drivers than most others that surround any racing surface anywhere in the world.

Kurt Busch, however, is not without fault of his own, showing his anger with Tony Stewart in such a way that sent an unprotected crewman scrambling to safety.

Point is, when there is as much at stake as there is in NASCAR's highest levels, emotions boil over.  And when drivers take out their frustrations with 3400 pound machines, someone can get hurt.  But if they want to take swings at each other's helmets instead?  That's fine by me.

NASCAR can learn something from hockey here.  I think hockey allows fighting because it's a better way to vent frustrations than boarding someone at full speed or hacking at someone with a stick.  Drop the gloves, take a few swings, cool off in the box, and come back ready to play hockey.  And whatever happens on the ice, stays on the ice.

So instead of crashing cars on the track or rumbling in the pits (nearly resulting in serious injury to DeLana Harvick in one incident), the drivers get out of their cars, take a few swings, get pulled apart by track crews, spend their five minutes in the box (in this case, the NASCAR trailer), and come back the next week ready to race.

Spare Parts

Just a thought:  The trouble with driving the wheels off a car is that sometimes the wheels fall of it.

The Record Book

This week in NASCAR history:
August 21, 2005:  Jeremy Mayfield wins the GFS Marketplace 400, his last Nextel Cup win.
August 26, 1935:  James Hylton born.  That means he was 12 when NASCAR began racing in 1948.
August 29, 1921:  Wendell Scott, the only African-American to win in NASCAR's top level, was born.

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