Originally created 06/18/04

Michigan should calm down recent NASCAR chaos

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Rusty Wallace is hoping calm replaces chaos and confusion at Sunday's NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway.

"The last two weeks have produced enough weirdness, controversy and torn-up race cars for a quarter of a season, let alone just the two races," Wallace said as he prepared for the DHL 400 in the Nextel Cup series.

"I really think things will calm down a whole lot this week at Michigan and I'll be totally shocked if they don't."

The previous Nextel Cup races - at Pocono and Dover - featured confusion over new rules and scoring. NASCAR ended up issuing apologies to two drivers, and the races produced 22 cautions, bringing out the yellow flag for nearly a quarter of the laps.

Most of the problems grew out of rules governing freezing the field when the caution flag is out and when pit lane opens to competitors.

"It must be a situation where the moon is aligned with some of the evil stars or something weird like that," Wallace said. "Man, with all the crashes, controversial calls and unusual stuff going on, you just wonder what could happen next."

Wallace was part of the craziness.

At Dover, he avoided serious damage in several crashes but a stop-and-go penalty late in the race relegated Wallace to 13th when he appeared headed for a top-five finish.

At Pocono, his brakes failed and he crashed with Michael Waltrip and finished 32nd.

"I can't believe that happened and I hate it for him and us," Wallace said. "We've had some brake problems in the past at places like Watkins Glen and at Martinsville, but never at Pocono. It just shows you how weird things have gotten."

Wallace figures, though, that Michigan's wide, high-banked track should be the cure for what has been ailing the series.

"Michigan has always been a pretty calm place, with all the excitement centered around fuel mileage, pit strategy and track position," Wallace said. "It's just not a place where all the crazy stuff happens."

In the 10 races run at MIS beginning with Dale Jarrett's victory in a caution-free event in 1999, only 269 of 1,956 laps have been run under yellow.

Most races on the 2-mile oval lend themselves more to fuel economy runs than fender-rubbing skirmishes.

Tony Stewart, who finished second at Dover and 27th at Pocono, said it may take time for the new rules to work smoothly.

"In NASCAR's defense, the first time we were told as drivers about freezing the field, they said it would be a work in progress," he said. "As frustrating as it's been for everybody, I think we have to be realistic about making rule changes.

"This wasn't just whacking a quarter-inch off a spoiler or changing the size of a restrictor plate. It was a pretty drastic change. And any time you change a rule like that you're going to run into a situation that somebody didn't think of, because there's only so many different scenarios you can think of."


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