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Could we, heaven forbid, trash some NASCAR technology?
Send it to that big junkyard in the sky. Melt it like a radiator coil. Beat it with a tire iron.
I’m talking about the radio.
No, not the one with the FM dial and the Bose speakers. The one they use to speak with the pit crew, and the television audience, and the Twitter world.
Racing in its purest sense is mano y mano, or at least it used to be.
Oh sure, it’s been a collaboration of corporation, advertisers, mechanics, engineers and drivers since they started pushing cars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But once that green flag waved, it developed into a me against you guys tussle.
Drivers had to take on a lot more responsibility for understanding how their vehicles were working. Yes, you could see the guy along pit row who was holding up a “Your car is on fire!” sign, but in general, major decisions were coming from the cockpit. And drivers didn’t have time to sort things out because some guy in another car needed help.
As this year’s Chase begins today, and major penalties for cheating have rocked NASCAR, we seem to have swerved into another direction.
Drivers can feed input to the pit crews and they can run all the data through some computer which alerts them that the car can finish 200 laps and have enough gas left over to get to the Dairy Queen on Third Street. The driver has to be a pinball wizard and not so much of a mathematician.
That’s OK, but he no longer is master of his own destiny, either. That ability of the pit crews to examine data from the car has developed into much more than telling a driver to “pit now.” More voices stirring the pot mean more considerations, as opposed to the old “finish as high as you can” philosophy.
Auto racing deals have been struck in the pits since the beginning of the sport, but it once was troublesome to relay the deal to the major player, in this case the man, or woman, behind the wheel.
Technology has erased all those worries that some information might be misconstrued. “Hey Jim, we want you to fake an accident ... please try not to harm anyone ... because we have to move Bob up three places to lock Rick out of the Chase.”
The driver not only understands exactly what is going on, but he can give his own feedback if he so desires. And not even a “Breaker, breaker 19.”
Without that perfect communication, Jimmy Johnson’s pit row sign might read “No. 48, plz ht No. 2 wall 4 No. 98 2 win.”
Try reading that at 210.
Racing deals aren’t going to stop because it’s dang near impossible to tell what is intentional and what is not. Did the driver get loose, or did he just drive Tony Stewart into the wall so that his teammate could win the race?
Collusion is all around the track. We’ve got “couples” racing at super speedways and we have multimillion-dollar corporations that really don’t care about the Mark Martin fan club, and therefore are willing to sacrifice him for the cause. Somehow, some way, deals will be struck.
But why set up a format that makes it easy for everyone involved to develop a plan 20 laps from the finish line?
Just take the radio capabilities away from the drivers. If people are going to “semi-cheat,” make sure they need to jump through a lot of hoops first.
A stupid idea because of the safety ramifications? Then leave the radios in the cars, but only allow the drivers to use them to deal with safety issues.
If that’s the case, though, then an entire monitoring system will need to be put into place so those “pit for no reason” messages aren’t delivered in code. Then we will launch into an episode of “Mission Impossible” instead of “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Right now, we have “Let’s Make a Deal,” and the fans are getting zonked. And after a scandal, nobody seems to feel they have done anything wrong.
Brian Vickers said it best. If you want a rule that says you can’t help your teammate, then pass one.
Rule one: Get off the phone.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.
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