The Car Guy of Benchfield
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by Jan Bazen
I watched the beginning of the EA Sports 500 at Talladega and then watched the last 50 laps . . . in between I snoozed in front of the TV. The major players had already announced they would run at the back of the pack until the last dozen laps, so I figured the middle of the race would be a great time for a nap. I was right. From what I've read I didn't miss much in the middle, and I almost wish I had missed the 16 car pile up at the end. It would have saved me some needless anxiety. My heart stopped and I squeezed my eyes shut, praying that nobody would be killed or seriously injured. Someone upstairs must have been listening to all our prayers since none of the drivers were hurt--- just a lot of race cars needed doctors in the end. When I opened my eyes, Earnhardt Jr had won, with Stewart coming in second. That night I read that Jr's car came up 1/8" short in the post race inspections.
My first thought was why they waited until after the race to measure the cars. Would it not make more sense to measure the height before the race? Isn't that the reason all the Nascar officials hang around the garage before the race, or is it just to jack their jaws with the crews? Okay, remember folks, this is my first year watching Nascar and I stand chastised that, yes, they do measure the cars before the race, but the winning car must be inspected again after the race.
I still had more questions. Do they inspect everyone's car after the race? What could cause a car that passed inspection before the race all of a sudden shrink 1/8" after the race? What transpires during a race that changes the car that much? Ok, I think to myself, easy enough to find out the answers. I'm sure others are asking the same questions. This subject will make a great feature article; after all, I am not the only person new to Nascar. Great idea, old girl. All it will take are a few phone calls, right? NOT!
I spent Monday getting resources together, meaning phone numbers. I figured that the Monday after the race would be busy at all the shops and decided to wait until Tuesday to start making phone calls. Let all the big media people get their interviewing done first.
Tuesday, a little after 8:30 A.M., I began by calling DEI. The conversation went something like this: "Uh, excuse me, but I am writing an article for a small web site on what transpires during a race that can cause a car to come up 1/8th inch short after the race and I am new to racing and need to speak to someone who can help me with this type of technical information, please." All this said in one swooping breath, before they could hang up on me. "One moment, please." You mean they really are going to let me talk with someone at DEI? Cool! This is easy. "Joe Blow speaking, can I help you?" I quickly ran through my spiel again, but this time a little slower and with more confidence. "Oh, you need to speak with Mr. Publicity in the media department. Just a minute and I'll transfer you." Okay . . . Mr. Publicity should be up on the technical aspects, he has to talk to reporters like me all the time, runs through my mind. "I'm not at my desk at the moment, but if you will leave a message, I'll return your call as soon as I can." Disappointed that I ended up with an answering machine, I leave my name, telephone, and the information I need and go on to the next person on my list.
"Hendricks Motorsports, how may I direct your call?" Once again I go through my spiel about needing some technical information. This time I didn't even make it to Joe Blow, but was connected immediately to another Mr. Publicity's answering machine. Again, I leave my message and number feeling sure that between the two of these that someone would call me back.
In the meantime, I e-mailed a couple of other sources asking their expert opinion on what may have transpired to change the height of a car during a race. I include the information in one of the e-mails that I had left messages with DEI and Hendricks Motorsports, but wanted to cover all the bases, so could they give me a heads up. Well, the guy who wrote back gave me a heads up all right . . . don't sit by the phone or hold my breath like the little boy on the UPS commercial waiting on a return phone call, because it wasn't going to happen and Dale Jarrett wouldn't be around to pop my cheeks before I could turn blue. Also, he stated he just writes about Nascar, and is not knowledgeable on the technical issues. Okay . . . maybe he's wrong and they will call me back, I mumble to myself.
So next I go to Google, a search engine, and start a search on Nascar Rules and Regulations. More than 80,000 matches come back. Now I'm getting somewhere; should have just started here to begin with. The first Internet site is an explanation of the point system and how drivers earn points . . . interesting, but I've already seen this before. The next site gives me the rules and regulations of a contest with Nascar in the name. Next comes a site that tells me the rules and regulations of gambling on Nascar . . . now why should that surprise me? Did you know you can even place Nascar bets online? Back to the subject at hand: I find sites that refer me to changes in Nascar rules, broken rules, people griping about the rules, rules that need to be changed and rules for small town U.S.A. local tracks. Five hours later I look at the clock to see that it is almost time to pick up my son at school. Quickly, I try a few more sites . . . and then I find "it." The site that is going to tell me all about Nascar rules and regulations and this is what it says:
The Rules: The "official" NASCAR rules and regulations
are not made available to the general public or to the
media. NASCAR reserves the right to disseminate those
regulations only to those teams it deems of merit as
seriously contending participants.
No way! What do they think they're protecting, national security secrets? But after picking up my son from school and trying a few more sites, I find out this is true. No where are you going to find out about the official rules of Nascar unless you are planning on racing, and you better be planning seriously. What Nascar is trying to hide I do not know. Maybe, if they don't make the rules public, it is easier for them to change them weekly.
Six P.M. came and went, and sure enough I never received a call from DEI or Hendricks Motorsports. I did hear back from the other e-mail. This person lives in Canada and is familiar with "CASCAR", the Canadian version of Nascar, having worked on race crews for many years. She stated tire pressure change, springs, and wedges are just a few of many things that can change the height of a race car without intentionally cheating. Ok, well at least this is a partial answer.
One source that may be helpful to those of us that want to learn more about Nascar racing is Mark Martin's book NASCAR for Dummies. I think I'll buy a copy, and also look for Reporting on NASCAR for Dummies the next time I come up with another bright idea like researching Nascar's Rules and Regulations or calling the people who actually race for answers.
It's easier just to guess at the answers.
Jan is a RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about Nascar, she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing. She enjoys gardening and reading. Although Jan is new to the sport of Nascar, she was exposed to Nascar from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard Nascar fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views. You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.
2001 Car Guy of Benchfield