An intriguing hypothesis: The Car of Tomorrow will reduce Buschwacking.
Jeff Burton told me all along that the best way to discourage Cup infiltration of the Busch Series is to create a greater differentiation between the series' cars. This effectively will do the trick, no?
I mean, the Busch Series isn't running the COT.
"The short answer is yes," said Busch Series director Joe Balash. "When we went to our tire leasing program and Cup teams couldn't openly test on our Goodyear tires like before, we saw a number of teams build Busch teams. You can't hide that fact.
"But with the change in the car, there will be less need for Cup teams to want to go build a full-time Busch team to gather data, because the car is physically different. By natural progression the tide is going back the other way now."
Elliott Sadler agrees.
"Why even run the Busch car?" Sadler said. "It just doesn't translate. Some things will, but the percentages and accuracy go way down."
Interesting. But the question remains: why aren't Busch teams running the COT?
"I wouldn't say money," Balash said. "There are other factors, with data on the Busch cars that [deal] with speeds, the fewer number of laps, the number of incidents. That all adds up."
Balash said NASCAR officials continue to evaluate possible implementation of COT in the Busch Series, and that for the time-being they're slowly integrating COT technology into the current Busch cars.
One such move, Balash explained, is the relocation of "ballast weight" -- lead weight that can be shifted around to balance the car -- from outside the frame rail on the left side of the car to a location underneath the car, thus making room for a driver-side crush zone that dissipates energy away from the driver.
"What we haven't done is gone fully to the next-generation car," Balash said. "With the next-generation car there are a couple developments that are not safety related, they're competition related like the splitter and the wing.
"We haven't built the larger [driver] cage the COT has. That's something we're heavily evaluating for the Busch Series."
Balash also said the Busch Series will move to a smaller 13-gallon fuel cell for all events in 2008.
"It'll take some time before Busch owners take notice, see there's more opportunity," Balash said. "[They'll think] 'I need to get my second car out there, or start another team.' There will be a little lull, then we'll be back with full-time Busch teams again."
During Jimmie Johnson's last pit stop at Vegas, a NASCAR official in front of the 48 stopped a tire from rolling out into pit lane. How was that different from the penalty enforced on him earlier in the race?
If the crew needs an official to catch the tire, isn't that the same as letting it get away? Shouldn't he have been penalized again? Just asking the question.
-- Bryan Collier, Jackson, Tenn.
It's a good question, Brian. The 48 might well have gotten away with one. Following the race at Vegas, several crewmembers from other teams approached me in the garage to voice this very complaint, said it's blatantly unfair and there's no way Johnson would have won were that penalty enforced.
So I hunted down Nextel Cup director John Darby for answers. Darby was completely unaware that it even happened, said there was no radio transmission between the pit inspector in Johnson's stall and the scoring tower, the position from which lead race officials govern.
Darby admitted they might have missed one, and likened it to a missed-facemask in football -- you might see it plain as day on the replay, but you're not going to go back and enforce it in the aftermath.
"We're not going to govern that way," Darby said.
And they shouldn't.
Before going into Sunday's race at Las Vegas, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 40th in points. Being a fan from the start, I wasn't feeling very well with only two races before the COT at Bristol. The only positive thing to show everybody was to be in the top-35 in points and continue to make his way in to the top 12, and get this contract done.
It would/should show he can handle the pressure of keeping his mind on the racing, and not worrying about the effect of the two could cause between crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and the rest of the crew. Teresa Earnhardt knows more about what would happen if Junior left DEI.
When he said he wanted the majority of DEI, he never said to move his desk next to Teresa. He's just looking for some respect. I'm sure he let half-brother Kerry and sister Kelly know what he wanted, and I'm sure they talked about it. At any point would you disagree with me?
-- Hays, MIA
I was at a function with Dale Jr. Monday in New Orleans and posed that question, Hays: Is the contract stuff a distraction to you and/or your team, man?
He said no, that he's not one to think too far into the future, said he peers about 10 minutes ahead of the moment. He did admit there are times the magnitude of it hits him. He said he'll be in bed at night and think, damn, we need to get moving on this.
He's a deep guy, though, and said something intriguing: "I'd like to sit down with each crew guy and see how it affects them individually."
Don't forget, too, that Eury is going with Junior, no matter where he ends up.
On Monday night's "NASCAR Now" you were in front of an impressive display of literary horsepower. Was that a set or are those all yours?
-- Leslie, Norfolk, Va.
That was in New Orleans, in some random Cajun guy's house/studio. It's funny, I commented about his 1972 Encyclopedia Britannica collection, too, and he said he'd just found them on eBay a month ago.
They were awesome, all weathered, old school, had that antique off-white/beige tint from 30 years of dust and ultraviolet light and cigarette smoke. There was a book on whales, one on bird-watching or something.
And if you thought those encyclopedias were ancient, you should have seen the televisions that guy had. One was like a 14-inch screen with a four-foot wooden box around it. It was awesome. I asked him to move it into the shot behind me, but he wouldn't bite. I wanted that TV in the shot.
What's the deal with Robby Gordon. I'm one of eight southerners that truly appreciate his ability, but he can't get a break with the press/general fans. One ill-advised move and he's a crazy man that should be kicked out of the sport. Where's the love for the only owner-driver/single-car team that has a secure points position? So much for rooting for the underdog.
-- Matt, Raleigh, N.C.
Here's the deal on Robby, Matt: No one questions his talent, ability or gumption. He has as much God-given ability as anyone that's ever strapped into a car, and he's achieving the impossible in fielding a competitive single-car team. I thought he'd fail miserably, given the multi-car climate in which we live. But he's sure doing it, with solid sponsorship and backing from Ford Motor Company.
Now, on the flip side, drivers will tell you he also has a tendency to make poor decisions behind the wheel. Remember Junior's "moving chicane" comment at Bristol a few years ago? Classic.
That's it for this week. My son got a new basketball and it's a gorgeous day. Time to hit the driveway and teach that boy what mid-March in Carolina is all about.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.