Thursday, June 14, 2012

COMMENTARY: Chicken Little Is Alive and Well In Michigan

Heads up, everyone. Chicken Little has flown the coop.

After four drivers topped 200 mph in today’s first practice at Michigan International Speedway, a small but jittery chorus of panic-stricken prognosticators has begun heralding the coming of a NASCAR apocalypse.
Like Chicken Little of “The Sky is Falling” fame, they’re cackling about 218 mph corner entries, predicting chaos, upheaval and terror. They’re calling on NASCAR to make an ill-informed, knee-jerk reaction by slapping restrictor plates on the engines, despite the fact that the powerplants in use this weekend were not designed to be plate engines.
“Do something,” they wail. “Do anything! Someone’s going to DIE!”
Intentionally or not, championship contender Greg Biffle legitimized the cacophony of catastrophe, saying, “A little action, a little controversy...and certainly worthy of talking about. (But) we don't want to kill anybody. We have to walk that fine line of not killing people and creating excitement."
Those comments sent Chicken Little into a feather-shedding frenzy that has not yet abated.
Here are a few pertinent facts, just in case anyone’s interested.
FACT: Today’s sizzling speeds are no surprise. In fact, nearly identical laps were turned during a Goodyear Tire test at MIS in the month of April. NASCAR and its teams knew the 200 mph barrier would likely be eclipsed today, and somehow, they managed to avoid wetting themselves in fear.
FACT: NASCAR had two months to mandate restrictor plates, gear ratio changes or other cures prior to arriving in Brooklyn, Michigan this week, and elected not to do so. Like anyone who paid even remote attention to the April test, they knew that speeds would initially be high.
FACT: This morning’s opening practice session generated what will almost certainly be the fastest speeds of the weekend. Track and ambient air temperatures were comparatively low, generating maximum grip and horsepower, and little rubber had yet been laid down to slicken the racing surface.
FACT: Speeds in this afternoon’s practice are down by about a mile per hour, as expected. When the green flag flies for Sunday’s 400-mile race, temps will be 15-20 degrees warmer than they were in this morning’s practice. Speeds will absolutely fall as a result.
FACT: Many of the same predictions of doom were made last week, after opening practice at Pocono Raceway. Speeds decreased as the weekend wore on, no restrictor platres were needed, and best of all, nobody died.
FACT: Every single driver – Biffle included – has stressed today that while speeds are high, so is grip. The cars are extremely stable, and not one driver has complained of being anywhere near the ragged edge of control. In fact, the most common adjective being used to describe track conditions today is “comfortable.”
Unfortunately, words like “comfortable” don’t generate website hits. They don’t sell newspapers and they don’t entice panic-stricken fans to predict the end of the world on their favorite talk radio show. So instead of using their brains (and years of experience) to calmly assess the situation at MIS today, some have chosen to play the drama card, hyping this morning’s test speeds into a harbinger of doom.
Tighten up those helmets, everyone. The sky is apparently falling.  


  1. Karen3:03 PM

    Well said sir! Who would have ever thought Pocono would have been the best racing of the season so far?! I expect much of the same this weekend! First time in years I'm excited for a Michigan race!

  2. Anonymous3:08 PM

    Are you picking on Mike? He just can't help but find a negative!

  3. This track repave with the cars as is, is what we need right now.

    We need to have the "possibility" of doom present again. With the advent of all of the safety improvements, the edge is lost in terms of appeal to the casual fan.

    I say this is exactly what we need because this has created a situation where, as an avid fan, I'm a little more curious to see how the racing is affected by the increase in speed. Michigan could use a little more drama on occasion. I want to see speeds that would make it possible for someone to run flat out and pit once more, and still be fast enough to prevent someone from shutting her down twice a lap, sneaking a win away. I appreciate the strategy of the fuel mileage race, but I don't look forward to seeing anyone try to figure out how slow they can go.

    To the otherwise unlikely to watch this weekend fan, they will have only heard the doom and gloom predictions about the race, and how cars will start to disintegrate once they draft because they'll be going so fast. They'll have plasma build up glowing around the cars reminiscent of a shuttle reentry.... That guy is going to tune in. Maybe even round up the fellas and head to the track to see it in person.

    I love to see improvement, for the sake progress. I want to see the cars go faster, with safety being the priority. We need records to fall. They were made to be broken after all.

    I once read a wise saying on the back of conveyance, I would like to share.


  4. Anonymous3:53 PM

    I know NASCAR recently made changes to the bodies adding a thin strip to the roof line.
    My question is now what is the speed a backward spinning car attains liftoff?
    I'll wear the Chicken Little hat having seen what happens when you combine 200mph and catch fences. I have no need to see that again.

    Robert Y

  5. Anonymous5:00 PM

    coming out of turn 2 will be interesting

  6. If someone dies at Michigan, it's going to involve a hot dog wrapper.

  7. Anonymous9:20 AM

    The media (not including the fair and brilliant Godfather) yet again lets us know that they are smarter than the rest of us. Let's guess who they will crucify next since they will fail to generate hype with this phony controversy.

    Doug from disgruntled NJ

  8. No different than when Atlanta did the re-configure in 1997. Ran a 197 mph average lap and not sure I recall anyone saying the sky was falling on a track that was a half a mile smaller!

    As long as Goodyear has a tire that won't fail 20 laps into a run all will be golden this weekend.

    Personally this has me excited even though I will most likely miss this race. Will stay updated for sure however!