|Larson set a standard last year|
NASCAR’s finest short track stars are set to converge on Daytona International Speedway Tuesday night for the Second Annual “UNOH Battle at the Beach.”
Hopefully, this year’s version will be different than the first.
One year ago, in front of a nationwide television audience, the inaugural “UNOH Battle At The Beach” began with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series duel between Kyle Larson and C.E. Falk that saw Larson wreck leader Falk coming off the final turn. At most short tracks across the country, Larson’s jack`em up tactics would have warranted an immediate black flag. NASCAR allowed the finish to stand, however, setting a precedent that would haunt them for the remainder of the two-night event.
The following night, both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series events were afflicted with similarly violent finishes. Cameron Hayley picked up the K&N Pro Series checkers after Gray Gaulding harpooned Michael Self out of the lead on the final lap, then drifted up the race track, opening the door for Hayley. The Modified race went to veteran Steve Park, but only after leader Mike Stefanik spun on the final lap courtesy of contact with both Park and eventual second-place finisher Eric Goodale.
|Stefanik was not amused...|
After allowing Larson’s dump job to stand on Monday night, NASCAR had no choice but to rubber-stamp similar results on Tuesday, making Self and Stefanik little more than ducks in a 600-horsepower shooting gallery. An event designed to showcase the best of American short track racing instead became a display of Neanderthal knuckle-busting at its lowest, least skillful level.
Hopefully, NASCAR now realizes the error of its ways.
A newly designed race course has been mapped-out on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway, with shorter straightaways and wider, more sweeping turns. The new layout should allow drivers to take a more conservative approach to Tuesday evening’s events, rather than resorting to the “stab and steer” tactics of a season ago.
NASCAR will also have an opportunity to turn thumbs-down on rough riding in this year’s event, warning competitors in pre-race driver’s meetings that overzealous use of front bumpers – on the final lap, or at any other time – will result in an immediate black flag, a trip to the back of the pack, or even disqualification from the event.
NASCAR cannot afford to swallow the whistle again Tuesday night. Competitors and fans alike deserve better.