NASCAR bumping with controversy

I've always maintained that particularly in NASCAR, perception is treated more credibly than reality.

For instance, you can still hear the fans' outrage this week in NASCAR about what kind of racing they saw Sunday at Talladega, Ala.

I've been covering this sport for 12 years and been to every Sprint Cup race at Talladega, and I can tell you 90 percent of them have been exactly the same.

Drivers spend the first 30 or so laps racing to feel out what kind of car they've got, stay out of the trouble (or ride around - use whatever term you like), then race for the win at the end. Check YouTube, roll out your old VCR tapes. It's there for everyone to see.

So, why the outrage? Because hours before the start, fans discovered drivers were instructed not to bump-draft in the corners. There you have it! Regardless of whether that decision would actually change the outcome, because NASCAR told drivers not to do something, the result had to be bad.

Just check the ABC broadcast where commentator Dale Jarrett was espousing the "driver boycott" theory before the race was 40 laps old.

Here's another example.

You had many drivers complain about the boring racing, wrecked cars, etc., and blaming NASCAR's decision on no bump-drafting. Nothing sinister there. So, NASCAR takes all the blame.

But does it deserve it?

Does anyone really believe NASCAR President Mike Helton sat in his motorcoach Saturday night and on a whim decided to change the rules?

Not me. I know what happened. Drivers went to NASCAR over the weekend and said they didn't like the bump-drafting and asked Helton to do something about it. They complained it was unfair for two cars locking bumpers to decide the outcome of a race with 41 other participants.

So NASCAR changed the rules - and as a bonus heard some of the same drivers who asked them to change them, complain after the race that they did.

Series leader Jimmie Johnson all but admitted as much on Tuesday.

"The fans can be upset and be upset at NASCAR, but at the end of the day, the reason we weren't three and four wide is because we didn't want to be," he said. "We wanted to ride single file. We wanted to log miles and have a better chance at finishing the race."

If I were Helton, I'd throw each driver that asked for the rule change under the bus. But he won't.

But if those drivers had any credibility at all, they would stand up and be counted - not as part of a driver's strike, but for what they did: causing the rule change and the fan outrage, instead of cowering behind it.

Keselowski gets early start. Brad Keselowski is getting an early start at Penske Racing and takes over the driving duties of the No. 12 Dodge for the rest of the season, beginning this weekend at Texas. Keselowski replaces driver David Stremme.

Keselowski will continue driving duties for JR Motorsports' No. 88 Nationwide Series team through the end of this season. Next season, in addition to driving the No. 12 in Cup for Penske, Keselowski will drive the No. 22 Dodge in Nationwide.

"I think the biggest hurdle for me is to look around and see how everything works on the No. 12 team. I need to be very observant and try to understand how we do things," Keselowski said.

Allmendinger driving a Ford. Richard Petty Motorsports driver AJ Allmendinger will race the remaining three races of the 2009 season in a Ford as the team prepares to a move to Ford and merger with Yates Racing in 2010.

Last week at Talladega, RPM driver Elliott Sadler drove a Ford to a ninth-place finish. Allmendinger will be the only Petty driver in a Ford the rest of the year.