Two things are bothing me about the Denny Hamlin-Joey Logano controversy.
1. The Auto Club Speedway in California is getting off easy. If Hamlin isn't hurt when he crashes into an unprotected wall (as in, no SAFER barrier), then all that happens is two guys who don't like each other have a spat. This sort of thing happens all the time between drivers at every single NASCAR race.
If the SAFER barrier had been in place, Hamlin might have escaped injury. Danica Patrick did at Daytona a year ago when she went into the SAFER-protected backstretch wall head-on and at full-tilt.
She walked away. Hamlin didn't.
When is that place in California going to learn? Greg Moore died in 1999 because a temporary concrete barrier was left at a 45-degree angle to the racing surface exiting turn two. When Moore lost control of his CART Indy car and went into the infield, he crashed head-first into that wall.
Suggestion: any exposed concrete at any oval speedway on the NASCAR circuit should be covered by a SAFER barrier or, at the very least, foam blocks of the kind found at small speedways. Those things save a ton of limbs.
2. Okay, since when did Denny Hamlin become everybody's favourite driver? He's an okay guy, but he's sure not above creating controversy. In short, he's no angel. Even shorter, he's no Jamie McMurray who - if he played hockey in the NHL - would win the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy year in and year out.
Hamlin's had his share of scrapes over the years. He's crashed guys and been crashed. In fact, he started this latest business by spinning out Logano at Bristol two weeks ago. He did the deed and then had the snappy putdown for the television cameras after Logano confronted him:
"He says he's coming for me but he means he's coming after me because I just don't see that much of him."
Ask Austin Dillon what he thinks of Hamlin as the result of a run-in they had last year at Texas Motor Speedway. Ask Clint Bowyer and/or Kevin Harvick (who actually came to blows with him). There's not a lot of love lost there.
And what was with Tony Stewart? He goes after Logano because he's angry about a block? Tony Stewart has never been blocked before? He, himself, has never blocked anybody else (see Talladega, 2012, for graphic illustration)? Never pulled off a slide job in a sprint car race?
Of course he has, and has, and has.
So what's going on with Tony Stewart? His reaction was way over the top, which means he's pissed about something else.
And what could that be?
One thing about NASCAR, though. People love it. TV ratings from the weekend illustrate once again who's - and what's - No. 1 when it comes to car racing.
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Auto Club 400 - 350,000 viewers (TSN Sunday)
NASCAR Nationwide: Royal Purpose 300 - 167 viewers (TSN Saturday)
F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - 94,000 viewers (TSN Sunday)
F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia (replay) - 59,000 viewers (TSN2 Sunday)
You know, I never question figures like these. If someone puts them out, they must be true. This is a long way around to saying I am really, really impressed with the 94,000 viewers for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which was on television in the middle of the night everywhere in Canada: 5:30 a.m. in Newfoundland, 5 a.m. in Halifax, 4 a.m. in Montreal and Toronto, and so-on till you get to Vancouver where it was only 1 a.m.
To set the alarm to get out of bed to watch a car race shows real commitment, don't you think? Or do PVR recordings count?
Speaking of television, I did a mini review of the Sportsnet presentation in my previous column and I wrote that the IndyCar race panel of Rob Faulds, Paul Tracy and Bill Adam with Todd Lewis in the pits had done okay.
I even suggested that, going forward, instead of broadcasting the audio from the NBC Sports Network team that Sportsnet utilize the talents of our Canadian commentators, particularly Tracy.
Although I didn't say it at the time, I also want to applaud Sportsnet for making an effort. TSN used to, but gave up years ago and has been satisfied in recent years to simply re-route the feed from whichever host broadcaster it buys the programming from, be it Fox in the U.S. for NASCAR or the BBC for F1.
So although the statistics above show TSN on top with 350,000 viewers for the Sprint Cup brawl in California, it's really Fox that should get the credit.
Having said all that, I have a friend who disagrees with me on Sportsnet. Boy, does he disagree. His name is John Strothard, a.k.a. Johnny Lugnuts, and he is one of the few people who knows everything about all forms of motorsport. Get Johnny talking and he'll argue you into the ground on F1, Indy cars, NASCAR, sports cars, sprint cars on the high banks in the U.S. midwest - you name it and he knows it. A former TQ midget racer himself, he also takes wonderful photographs of racing cars in action.
I'm telling you all this about Mr. Strothard because, although we disagree on this subject, he has the credentials to make an argument. He writes:
"Sorry, but the Indy broadcast on Sportsnet left me steaming! Are we stuck with this format and these three morons for the entire season? Say it ain't so!
"The Sportsnet pre-race show was a complete waste of time and offered . . . um . . . nothing. Perhaps the first time fan might've gotten something out of it (and don't get me wrong, we need those folks), but most people know all about Hinch and Tags. How about a quick preview of the season? How about an explanation of the red and black tires? The new push-to-pass rules? Should I go on?
"The constant updates following commercial breaks during the race were annoying. Thanks to the CRTC, I get enough CanCon jammed down my throat on local radio, I don't need it here, too.
"Rob Faulds is no more than a talking head and Bill Adam provided nothing. At least PT had some mildly interesting insight. Todd Lewis gave the whole thing a decidedly minor league feel.
"I'd be willing to overlook all of the above, but the post-race interviews were the last straw. Thanks to Sportsnet, I got to listen to The Mayor deliver his victory speech twice, while they thought it appropriate to cut off Simona, and skip Helio and Marco. Oh, but I did get to hear from 10th place finisher Tags.
"Insulting and unprofessional. Just give us the NBC/ABC/ESPN/whatever feed with their pre- and post-race shows, please."
Thanks for weighing in, Johnny.
Other views are welcome.