By Craig Murto
Prior to the first race of the 2013 Chase, NASCAR made some changes and implemented new policies.
First they took the interesting step of adding Jeff Gordon to the Chase, bringing the number of Chase competitors up to 13. Then they put Joey Logano's team and that of Front Row Motorsports on probation for the rest of the year because of conversations the teams had during the Richmond race that indicated Penske Racing offered something to Front Row in exchange for a position on the track.
NASCAR also implemented a rule making it illegal for a team to knowingly alter the finishing order of a race. They also implemented new rules limiting the people in the spotters stand and putting a camera in the stand to watch what goes on.
It boggles the mind that Clint Bowyer is still in the Chase. Why is NASCAR afraid to simply say that he spun his car on purpose at Richmond? Without the spin at Richmond there would have been no reason for the shenanigans that followed, for which the Michael Waltrip Racing team was penalized. There is a rule on the books that makes it illegal for a car to intentionally bring out a caution. If NASCAR had simply penalized Bowyer 100 points for spinning his car, it would have reset the Chase with 12 cars, and Bowyer wouldn't be one of them.
Gordon was solidly in the Chase before Bowyer's spin, so I don't mind him being added. But this entire episode has stretched NASCAR's credibility.
Chicagoland Speedway's race barely got in after a long rain delay. NASCAR made such a big deal about its new state-of-art track dryer this year, but it wasn't at Chicago because NASCAR wants the tracks to pay an additional fee to bring it to the track. Given all the TV money and sanction money NASCAR receives, it should bring it without charging extra.
If you watched the second half of the Chicago race, you got to see some incredible car control by Juan Pablo Montoya when his left rear tire exploded.
It was announced that Montoya will join Penske Racing and compete in the IndyCar Series in 2014. Expect the former Indy 500 champion and Monaco Grand Prix winner to be fast right out of the box.
Chip Ganassi's going to wish he'd kept Montoya. Ganassi's Cup team is sketchy at best - for every race in which his cars are competitive, they run two races at the back of the pack. It's always been that way, with every group of drivers he's had behind the wheel.
Montoya is one the best pure racers in the world. He didn't forget how to drive a racecar when he came over to NASCAR. Ganassi's going to hate watching his cars lose to Montoya on the IndyCar circuit next year.
And what of Montoya's replacement, Kyle Larson? He's an incredible talent. But will the cars be up to snuff? Or will Larson's time at Ganassi prove frustrating, leaving him to ride out the rest of his career in less-than-stellar equipment like former Ganassi drivers Casey Mears or Reed Sorensen? Hopefully Larson finds the chemistry at Ganassi that will let him thrive.
Tom Humphries thrives behind the wheel of a 305 Sprint Car, and claimed victory in the last Sprint Car race of the season at Shenandoah Speedway.
The final night of racing at the beautiful facility off Rte. 340 ended with a 100-lap Late Model feature. The race turned out to be the first feature win for Dave Carter, a 20-year veteran of the Late Model Stock Car trenches, mostly at the now-defunct Old Dominion Speedway. It was no cakewalk, either, as Carter had a number of serious challenges during the race. Crew and driver were jubilant, and Carter joked in victory, "I think I should retire now so I retire on top."
Hagerstown Speedway's Brawl in the Fall - originally scheduled to run last year but postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, then postponed in March due to weather - is scheduled to finally be completed on Sept. 29.
A limited practice is scheduled at 2 p.m., then racing continues for Late Models, 410 Sprint Cars, Big-Block Modifieds and 358 Sprint Cars. If you still have a rain check, they will be honored. You can also save $5 on your admission with any 2013 rain check from Hagerstown or any other dirt track, or by bringing five canned food items for the local food bank. Visit hagerstownspeedway.com for details.
Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.