Stewart defends drama-free NASCAR races

Posted: August 02, 2013

THE QUALITY of NASCAR racing evidently is in the eyes of beholders.

While Ryan Newman's victory in last Sunday's Brickyard 400 was heartwarming since Newman is an Indiana native and he's looking for a ride next year, many observers thought the race was typical Indianapolis: fairly boring. There was only one pass for the lead on the track.

When Tony Stewart, also a native Hoosier and Newman's boss, was asked about the racing quality, he offered this animated response:

"Look at 'racing' in the dictionary and tell me what 'racing' says," Stewart said. "Look up 'passing' and tell me what 'passing' is. We're racing here. This is racing. If you want to see passing, we can go out on [Interstate] 465 and pass all you want, and if you can tell me that's actually more exciting than what you see here.

"It doesn't have to be two- and three-wide racing all day long to be good racing. Racing is about figuring out the package you're allowed and making it better than what everybody else has.

"I've seen races here won by over a lap, seen 20-second leads here, and for some reason the last 10 years everybody is on this kick that you've got to be passing all the time. It's racing, not passing . . . I don't know where this big kick comes from. It baffles me."

Drivers are really busy during races. For them, there are no casual visits to the cooler for a refreshing drink: Every high-speed lap requires focus.

For fans and media members, however, some races are challenging in the focus department, especially during the first halves. Watching cars go round and round without much passing tests our focus. To be clear, we aren't looking for lead changes every half-dozen laps. But more drama is high on the wish list.

Stewart finished fourth in the Brickyard 400. The next night he was involved in a scary accident at Ontario's Ohsweken Speedway when his sprint car flipped five times. Did Stewart then skip Tuesday night's World of Outlaws race at the same speedway? Nooooo . . . He finished fifth. Further proof that race-car drivers are different than most of us.

A wiser young man

Joey Logano is in his fifth full Sprint Cup season. He turned 23 in May and says he's much wiser now.

"There's a lot more to it [Cup racing] than I thought," he said yesterday on a conference call. "Just like any 18-year-old kid, I thought I knew everything, and it turns out I didn't."

The Connecticut native said his early success in the Nationwide series led him to believe he would be quickly collecting wins in the Cup series.

"They put you in a Sprint Cup car, and then you start to struggle," he said. "That's an eye-opening experience. You don't know what you don't know. You don't even know where to go to make yourself better."

In the first race after Pocono's track was repaved in June 2012 Logano shattered the Pocono track qualifying (179.598 mph) and then won the race for just his second Cup victory.

"I'm happy where I am now," he said. "I'm not content, though. Obviously, I want to be winning races and running up front. But I do see the gains we've made throughout the last few years [and the gains] I've made throughout the last 3 years."

With six races remaining before the 12-driver Chase field is determined, Logano is in 18th place, 35 points out of 10th. The Chase field includes the top 10 in points plus the two drivers with the most wins inside the top 20.

"I think we can get into the Chase by points," the driver of the No. 22 Ford said. "But we're one bad race from needing to go for it and changing our strategy. Our confidence is still high.

"Winning that Chicago [Nationwide] race on our off weekend was nothing but good for me. You're coming out of two straight 40th-place [Cup] finishes, and you go out there and win in Chicago. That's big. That transfers over to the Cup side, as much as some people don't think it does. That definitely does."

Pocono is one of Logano's favorite tracks. He also is comfortable on the other tracks leading to the Chase. If Logano can close the gap and make the Chase, he'll be riding unbelievable momentum into the season's final 10 races. His problem is, the drivers ahead of him competing for Chase berths aren't likely to fold, so Logano probably will need a win or two to be a Chaser this year.

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