Last Lap: Opening act
By Marty Smith, NASCAR.COM
February 21, 2006
10:27 AM EST (15:27 GMT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The priority of NASCAR rules enforcement often perplexes the masses, seems skewed. Here we go again:
Doctor your ride? See you next month. Intentionally body-slam a guy at 190, put him in harm's way and ruin his bid to win the sport's grandest event? See you in a few minutes.
Granted, NASCAR's initial step with Chad Knaus was both warranted and properly directed, and penned a quality introduction to a vital message. And to ensure credibility, this week's follow-up punishment must underscore that introduction.
Ryan Newman has a point: Three of Jimmie Johnson's last four wins carry a shroud of uncertainty, with the roof height situation at Vegas last spring, Shockgate last fall at Dover and now the 500 qualifying escapade.
He's merely saying what the rest of the garage is thinking. NASCAR should have taken the 48 team's primary car. But rest assured, while Johnson's qualifying lap was tainted, the 500 victory is legit. NASCAR stripped that 48 car to the pop-rivets to ensure its legality in the 500.
Knaus should get a month off, though, maybe more, to ensure he gets the message. Though it's unlikely any penalty could hurt worse than the one Knaus already served -- absentia from Victory Lane in the Daytona 500.
But what about Tony Stewart? What happened to the multi-lap penalties NASCAR handed out last fall for blatantly wrecking a competitor?
The Daytona 500 is a restrictor-plate race. And in a restrictor-plate race, with nearly half the race remaining, the tail end of the longest line isn't very far from the lead for the best driver in the sport.
Stewart said body-slamming Matt Kenseth was all part of the plate give-and-take, that Kenseth had turned him sideways earlier in the race. He also said he thought he was clear of the 17, that Kenseth should know Stewart wouldn't purposely damage his own car just to retaliate against another driver.
Plate racing is heated. Drivers are three inches apart from one another for four hours. Eventually tempers flare. Stewart did what he felt he had to do, sent the best car in the race packing. It's up to NASCAR to make him rethink that decision next time.
It seems they're willing to show Knaus that cheating won't be tolerated. Bravo for that.
But they dropped the ball with Stewart. Fortunately Mike Wallace, Bobby Labonte and the other drivers Kenseth slid wildly in front of were skilled enough to elude the No. 17. That would have been ugly.
Stewart's fans are among the most loyal in NASCAR. Even some of them struggle to look past what occurred Sunday, especially considering his comments following the Budweiser Shootout:
I am a huge Tony Stewart fan, but what was he doing Sunday? Was NASCAR watching the same race I was? He showed his a-- and got away with it. I guess after you kiss their a-- the week before by acting concerned about everyone's life being in danger you can get away with putting Matt Kenseth, and over half the other drivers, in danger.
Then has the nerve to admit it on NBC but changes his story for SPEED and others. He really let me down. I truly hope NASCAR does something this week but they probably won't. He did not deserve a fifth-place finish. -- Angela, Lexington, S.C.
Also, listening to the new Garth Brooks CD. Some of the songs, frankly, SUCK. But the good stuff is SO GOOD, and so untypically Garth.
See, I wasn't a Garth fan until 1997 or 1998 when the "G" tour came to Richmond. He is an amazing performer in concert.
This CD has more uneven quality than his past ones and it's obvious ole Garth is dusting off the cobwebs. (I predict he'll be recording regularly again in the next two or three years.)
Still, despite the uneven quality I am IN LOVE with his remake of "Fishin' in the Dark" and the very out of character "She Don't Care About Me". "That Girl is a Cowboy" and "My Baby No Esta Aqui", are also very good. "That Girl is a Cowboy" is very traditional Garth, very similar to his early stuff, but with the resonance of stuff on the "In Peices" album, which is one of my favorites. Also, the duet with wife Trisha (Yearwood) is really growing on me, as is his homage to Chris LeDoux.
Back to work and my Soy Vanilla Chai Tea Protein Shake...