Saturday, July 21, 2018
Sports

NASCAR is going (lug)nuts

Racing doesn't get much better than a bump-and-run on the final lap for the victory. It's what Carl Edwards did to teammate Kyle Busch at Richmond International Raceway in what NASCAR says was the first last-lap pass for a win in track history.

It was dramatic, controversial and likely set the stage for tense team meetings at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Was it enough, though, to build any positive goodwill for NASCAR?

"I think (Sunday) was a great day for the sport," said winning crew chief Dave Rogers of Edwards' decision to nudge his teammate out of the way to win the race.

It's hard to say with NASCAR's bipolar fan base. If there's an issue, it should only exist inside the walls at JGR, where the team owner can navigate any potential hard feelings.

But this is the new norm in NASCAR, where no race is good enough, no finish exciting enough, to satisfy this fan base.

How did this happen? A combination of bad racing and boardroom decisions made by NASCAR has alienated many hardcore fans and turned off the casual observer. The races are too long, the 11-month schedule oversaturated. Some fans love the playoff-style Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, others despise it and long for the good 'ol days.

More than anything, though, it seems the themes that most ignite the fans are off-track issues.

Die-hards were disgusted when NASCAR chairman Brian France said he didn't want Confederate flags at races anymore. Then he alienated a different portion of the fan base when he endorsed Donald Trump. The prayer given before this month's race at Texas by Duck Commander founder Phil Robertson was cringe-worthy.

And now, the sport just spent a week debating lug nuts and freedom of speech.

NASCAR's cutback on pit-road officials meant the series could no longer ensure every team tightened all five lug nuts after every tire change. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and crew chief Rodney Childers were among the handful of participants who warned of the danger in allowing teams to skip lug nuts in favor of a faster pit stop.

Then Tony Stewart gave his two cents — warning of potential injury if NASCAR doesn't step in — and the series promptly fined him $35,000 under its new behavioral policy. Few believe it was anything but retribution from France over Stewart's direct attacks on him over the years.

So off they all went to Richmond, where Stewart made his return after missing the first eight races with a back injury. His return was overshadowed by his fine, by the Driver Council's decision to pay the $35,000 for him and, of course, by lug nuts. As Stewart was getting ready to race for the first time this season, a big and welcome headline for NASCAR, he was on national TV talking about lug nuts and his fine. (Then, on Monday, NASCAR added fines and other penalties for teams caught without five lug nuts on each wheel.)

It's been one PR disaster after another this year for NASCAR, which has chosen to vaguely answer or not comment on issue after issue. All of this has only heightened the animosity of the fan base.

NASCAR desperately needs to find a way to stop shifting attention away from its stars, from its improving product and from its rivalries. It would go a long way toward making Edwards' move on Sunday appreciated as "quintessential NASCAR" racing.

— Associated Press

Comments
Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

Rays Tales: Sure is a lot to talk about

WASHINGTON — There was a lot of talk specific to the Rays at the All-Star Game last week, from commissioner Rob Manfred's strong endorsement of the Ybor stadium plan to Wilson Ramos' rousing ovation from the Washington fans to Blake Snell's imp...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

Another bad look for Rays in 3-2 loss

ST. PETERSBURG – To get a sense of how shorthanded the Rays were by the final innings of Saturday night's game, all you had to do was look at the field and see Carlos Gomez playing second base.It was that kind of night for the Rays, who lost an...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Bucs’ Mike Evans donates $11,000 to family of shooting victim

Turns out Donald Trump wasn't the only person that Bucs receiver Mike Evans reached out to on Twitter on Saturday.The Bucs receiver fired back at the president after a tweet suggesting that NFL players who protest during the national anthem should be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome misses cut but has a blast in PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome did not make the cut in her first PGA Tour event, but she did improve by seven shots in her second round.Lincicome shot 1-under 71 on Saturday at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., after having to wait an e...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs’ Mike Evans fires back at Trump after anthem protest tweet

Bucs receiver Mike Evans fired back at President Donald Trump on Saturday, responding to another tweet from the White House criticizing NFL players who want to protest during the national anthem.Trump's latest tweet came after Thursday's joint announ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

For starters: Rays vs. Marlins, with Justin Williams called up

UPDATE, 3:52: 3B Matt Duffy (back) is feeling better but Cash said they would stay away from using him except in an emergency. That's not that unlikely, however, as the Rays wull have a short bench, with only C Adam Moore and Williams, assuming he ge...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

Bucs training camp questions: How to split the QB reps, position battles and more

TAMPA — Jameis Winston would like to move forward with his career now that he has accepted the NFL's decision to suspend him three games and apologized — for something — to the Uber driver that the league says he touched in an "inap...
Published: 07/21/18
Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

Rays journal: Replacement catcher Adam Moore ready to play

ST. PETERSBURG — The newest Rays player is also nearly the oldest.With All-Star C Wilson Ramos on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, Tampa Bay turned to veteran Adam Moore, 34, as the new backup catcher behind Jesus Sucre. Only reliever...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

Martin Fennelly: Rays and Marlins at different stages of same mission

ST. PETERSBURG — New York Yankees god and former Tampa resident Derek Jeter, who was once going to save the Rays (or so we thought), was at Tropicana Field on Friday night. The Captain had the gall to show up as Miami Marlins chief executive of...
Published: 07/20/18
Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Times wiresThe NFL can't seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue.The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league's wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violenc...
Published: 07/20/18