Denny Hamlin called passing ‘impossible’ at Sunday’s snoozer
Maybe NASCAR should steal a page from IndyCar and install a push-to-pass button.
This past weekend saw the boring Brickyard at its worst.
Juan Pablo Montoya griped over his radio that trying to pass another car cost him position on the track. Jimmie Johnson suggested the track needed a second lane with more banking to help the cause. Denny Hamlin called passing “impossible.”
“If impossible is hard, then it was impossible,” Hamlin said. “It is just a product of the speed we run, the tire we’ve got and the surface. It all just makes for hard racing. It’s hard to pass anyone. You’ve just got to deal with it.”
Even super-snail “Turbo” would have been stuck in Sunday’s single-file snoozer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Never really considered an exciting 400 miles anyway, Indianapolis may have topped itself in the 20th Cup race at the famed track. There were three cautions, for stalled cars or debris, and no accidents or spins.
And such little passing. The field fanned out into single-file racing for most of the event — a plodding style that perhaps is a big reason why the crowd has dwindled from 200,000-plus in the Brickyard’s NASCAR heyday to maybe 80,000 fans on Sunday.
There were scores of empty rows along the frontstretch, and fans at home probably wound up changing the channel at times.
The clean race was responsible for the fastest Brickyard in history at 2 hours, 36 minutes and 22 seconds.
The race was basically a yawner until Ryan Newman used a flawless final pit stop to top Jimmie Johnson for the win.
All this came only two months after one of the more thrilling Indianapolis 500s in history. Tony Kanaan passed leader Ryan Hunter-Reay to grab the lead in the last of a record 68 lead changes.
The stock cars? They turned the 21/2-mile Indy track into a leisurely Sunday drive. Just one pass for the lead under green that had nothing to do with pit stops.
“On a flat racetrack, it’s just tough to pass,” Johnson said. “These corners, they aren’t really that long. You have four, 90-degree turns. That puts a lot against this racetrack for side-by-side racing. But we still love this place.”
Drivers love the history steeped in the 108-year-old track. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Newman fell in love with the place as kids, and they all talk of the reverence they hold for a place where A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Rick Mears made Indy and open wheel king.
Stewart said he was “baffled” at criticism of the racing and he gave a blistering defense.
“If you want to see passing, we can go out on I-465 and pass all you want,” Stewart said.