Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said last week what many of us have been thinking for years; that it’s time for NASCAR to put a stop to the ludicrous practice of post-race burnouts.
Commenting in the aftermath of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott’s penalty for a piece of tape added to his car’s rear spoiler two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver questioned the logic of penalizing duct tape, while allowing race winners to roll into the weekly post-race technical inspection with their cars “tore all to hell.''
Earnhardt’s comments were spot-on and long overdue.
In an era where the difference between legal and illegal is often measured in thousandths of an inch, it makes no sense for NASCAR to continue allowing winning teams to demolish the rear end of their machines with a series of lengthy, tire-blowing, fender-shredding burnouts.
|"It doesn't make sense."|
The sanctioning body long ago banned swerving on the post-race cool down lap, after teams used the technique to reset their cars’ rear suspensions to a more neutral (read legal) configuration, just in time for the weekly round of post-race, white-glove scrutiny. If a simple swerve is enough to camouflage under-the-car mechanical chicanery, how can a pair of exploding rear tires not accomplish the same nefarious goal?
It’s simple common sense.
In addition to being cliché, predictable and dull; these weekly, post-race donut fests are now entirely devoid of any spontaneity or emotion. They are the motorsports equivalent of celebrating a Kentucky Derby victory by shooting Secretariat.
And more important, they’re no longer fooling anybody.
NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller defended the sanctioning body’s post-race protocol in a written statement last week, saying, “We're confident that our process provides a fair playing field for all of our competitors, while also allowing the fans to enjoy the celebration of the winning driver.
"In addition to the pre-race inspections, every winning vehicle must still go through a full post-race inspection where we expect it to be within the rules set forth by the rulebook.''
|No way to treat a winner...|
Earnhardt, however, doesn’t seem to be buying it.
He directly addressed the long-ignored elephant in the room last week, acknowledging that winning drivers are intentionally blowing out their rear tires, under the guise of post-race celebration. The resulting damage makes it virtually impossible to take accurate measurements after the event, while also providing crewmembers with an opportunity to illegally manipulate their cars while replacing those smoldering tire carcasses.
In the days when post-race inspections were conducted with a tape measure and the naked eye, drivers had neither the need nor desire to destroy their winning mounts. Burnouts were unheard of, with winning drivers generally taking a nice, slow celebratory lap with the checkered flag before driving directly to Victory Lane.
Carl Edwards might stick the landing on a backflip, or Tony Stewart would occasionally climb the fence. But like Hall Of Fame running back Barry Sanders once counseled his end zone-dancing teammates, NASCAR drivers used to be content to “act like you’ve been there before.”
Today, however, it’s more about covering their clandestine tracks and beating the lasers with a post-race burndown thinly veiled as celebration.
"Until (the officials) tell them not to do it, it's fair game,'' added Earnhardt last week. "It just upset me -- with what happened to Chase and how they sort of got zeroed-in on -- when all this is going on right under everybody's nose.
“It doesn't make sense.''