It Probably Doesn’t Seem as Stupid Out There

Kyle Busch’s crew managed to get the car through inspection. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 17, 2018, 10:05 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

In Friday’s qualifying process at Auto Club Speedway, results were incomplete. Only 22 out of 36 cars made it through inspection in time to participate. Everyone gets to race on Sunday, assuming, of course, their cars are eventually deemed legal – oh, no, too harsh a ward – or “in compliance.”

That’s better.

I tweeted that it was ridiculous. Some assumed I meant that NASCAR was ridiculous. They quickly proclaimed that it wasn’t NASCAR officials’ fault that the cars couldn’t please the Laser Inspection System (LIS). I didn’t say (tweet) it was. What I thought was that it didn’t matter who was at fault. What I tweeted was that it looked lousy.

Had I been in Fontana, I would’ve hated to pay to see that. Here at home, I hated to watch it. Thank goodness for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Clint Bowyer, second in practice earlier, didn’t participate. All the Hendrick Chevrolets flunked their midterms. Denny Hamlin watched from the sidelines.

Kevin Harvick is free and clear. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick, who might be sidetracked if Trump names him deputy attorney general, went out and set a track record. Most others sat on pit road so that Darrell Waltrip could crack jokes and offer such incisive analysis as approximately this: I think the Fords are faster because they’ve got the oldest cars. Chevrolets are slow because they’ve got the newest cars. Toyotas were fast last year, but now they’re slow because their cars are a year older.

Wow. That explains everything. Thanks, D.W., and, yes, you’d make a fine deputy attorney general.

Some drivers went out at the end and puttered around, merely completing a lap so that they could make the top 24, which more correctly were the only 22.

What I have learned from perusing the lethal social-media feeds and reading the emailed transcripts is that fans are hanging judges, drivers represent the ACLU and NASCAR officials don’t have much to say. I’d know more if I was out there examining the farce from close range. Not being at close range, my conclusion is that I don’t care who’s fault it is. This can’t happen.

It doesn’t make NASCAR look like the WWE, or whatever bailiwick governs ‘rasslin’ these days. WWE chicanery would be entertaining.

Kyle Busch (left) and Martin Truex Jr. try to make sense of the madness. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

The quotes that caught my eye were from those who actually got to qualify. They were so understanding.

It’s not a big deal,” Kyle Busch said. “It’s not.

We’re all trying the best we can do. And this is a whole new system. It’s our fourth week on it. I think you have to give it a little bit more time. I think, also, the reason why these systems are so complicated to begin with is because we’ve over-engineered our race cars over the course of the last 20 years by 10-fold, 100-fold. Whatever you want to call it. It’s certainly just the grounds of trying to keep everyone equal. NASCAR is doing what they need to be doing, and we’re all doing what we need to be doing. There’s going to be times where our line is past their line of what they want to allow through, and I think that’s just natural and I think there has to be more leniency from this room.”

This room? The media room? No more leniency from NASCAR. No more attention to detail from the teams. The problem is that more leniency is needed from the media? By God, he wants us to bore them to death. That’s already the problem.

Martin Truex Jr. was the driver who actually won the slippery pole.

Nobody goes into tech expecting to fail or trying to fail,” he said. “Sometimes you just get caught off guard.

For the crew chiefs, it’s a difficult situation to be in. I think our number popped up at Atlanta, and we were, like, how did this happen? It’s obviously on us because we failed, but when things are changing so much, it’s hard to know exactly where you need to be to make it through there. … It’s just a difficult thing, and it’s a little bit of a moving target from what I understand.”

Jimmie Johnson didn’t make it out. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

If that’s the case, the real culprit is Harvick, who messed everything up by beating the hell out of everyone else for three straight weeks. Everyone’s trying to find either what he and crew chief Rodney Childers know or something else that works. Harvick’s got the rocking pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu. Everyone else has the plague.

Alan Gustafson, one of Friday’s crew chiefs (for Chase Elliott) whose tolerances could not be tolerated, was unrepentant.

Ultimately, you’ve got to get the lion’s share of the tolerance,” he said. “To kind of put it into perspective, 90-95 percent to be competitive. Certainly you can be much more conservative and make it through inspection easier, but you wouldn’t run very good and ultimately that is not good for job security on my part. You kind of have no choice, and the tolerances are tight and in this certain situation we failed the first time, I think it was 20 or 30 thousandths of an inch, and we certainly did everything we could to rectify it.”

A small point. Remember when fractions could be reduced? Even though I’m not an engineer, I know that 20-30 thousandths of an inch are 2-3 hundredths of an inch. How did the Nobel Prize elude me?

Everyone applies redundant sayings to complex issues. It is what it is at the end of the day. Rules are rules. Up close, this is all serious business. Across the country in my living room, it seems roughly as silly as an episode of My Mother the Car.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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