Column: Why is this a big surprise?

Published 8:45 pm Saturday, February 18, 2006

By Staff
This past week in Daytona has been wild and wooly. From the defending champion warning NASCAR that someone would lose their life on the track if the drivers continued driving recklessly to a championship caliber crew chief being ejected from the track, it sure has been a busy week and there has not been a single championship point earned yet.
I guess we found out how much stroke Tony Stewart has with the NASCAR brass. After the Budweiser Shootout, which I thought was a great race, Stewart commented that someone would die at Daytona or Talladega if the drivers continued driving as they did in the Shootout.
After meeting with Stewart, NASCAR decided to police the bump-drafting and have zones on the track where bump-drafting is not allowed. If a driver is seen bump-drafting in these off-limits zones, he could have a stop and go penalty.
My question is, why is this a big surprise to NASCAR? Why make a big deal out of it now? Is it because Stewart made the comment about another driver getting killed? I think NASCAR created this problem and like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said, it is a necessary evil on the restrictor-plate tracks. Drivers are going to do whatever it takes to win races and if it is necessary to slam into the car in front of you to win, that's what they will do.
We'll see how it goes Sunday at the Daytona 500, but I would be very surprised to see any penalties doled out against any of the drivers.
It looks like Jimmie Johnson will be without Chad Knaus longer than just one race. Knaus was ejected from the track earlier this week, because of an unapproved rear window on the 48 car discovered in post-race inspection at the Shootout.
When NASCAR discovers changes that are obviously intended to give a competitive advantage, it doesn't sit too well. The fact that this isn't Knaus' first time down this road doesn't help, either.
NASCAR has not announced any further penalties against Knaus, but smart money is on at least a four-race suspension and perhaps a points deduction from the 48 team. Everyone is watching to see what penalties NASCAR decides to give to the 48 team and Knaus. It is possible that Jimmie Johnson could begin the season with negative points. Wouldn't that be something.
It is good to see Richard Childress Racing back on the pole at Daytona. Jeff Burton will start shotgun on the field Sunday. Jeff Gordon, winner of the second duel race Thursday, will start on the outside pole and Elliott Sadler will start third because of his win in the first duel race.
Valvoline will be looking to make a one-race sponsorship deal with one of the marginal teams that made the race. Scott Riggs, Valvoline's full-time driver, failed to make the race and someone like Kirk Shelmerdine will be the beneficiary. Shelmerdine's car is under funded and a deal with Valvoline to get its colors on that car will make a huge impact on his operation.
This race is shaping up to be a great one. So many cars are good and capable of winning. My pick to win Sunday is Jeff Gordon. He has been strong all week and winning the second duel race Thursday has Gordon primed for a good run Sunday.