Foregone Conclusions

Sometimes a reporter can ask a question, and "no" is said so vehemently that it becomes obvious the answer is "yes."

For instance, Jack Roush has been quoted recently as saying he doesn't care if he ever wins a Winston Cup championship.

Roush, of course, has done everything a car owner could possibly do except win a championship. Greg Biffle won a Craftsman Truck Series championship for him in 2000, and it would not be a shock if Biffle won a Busch Series title for Roush in 2002.

Roush very nearly won the 1990 championship in a Roush-owned Ford. Early in the season, Mark Martin had points stripped for an alleged rules infraction that ended up being the difference in the points race between him and Dale Earnhardt. A similar punitive ruling by NASCAR cost Biffle the 1999 truck title. To this day, Roush becomes very agitated when the subject of either incident comes up.

Martin has said several times he would rather win a championship for Roush than for himself. There's a tipoff for you.

Jeff Burton finished third in the points race as recently as 2000, but this year the Roush organization, which fields Ford Tauruses for Martin, Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, has fallen on hard times. Martin, Burton and Kenseth have all done much better in recent races.

Roush Racing will be back, and it's not because the boss has lost interest.

Hot-button topic No. 2: common templates.

From NASCAR's point of view, the ruling body is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. Having Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs and Dodges that are shaped just alike brings complaints from fans and manufacturers who want there to be a difference in the way the cars look.

Having Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs and Dodges that are shaped differently brings constant allegations that one or more of the manufacturers has an unfair advantage.

The answer to this problem, from NASCAR's point of view, seems to be: Gradually do it, but don't admit it.

The only difference between a Ford Taurus and a Dodge Intrepid is a slight concession that was granted the Dodge around midseason.

The shape of the windows is different. The shape of the headlight and taillight stickers is different. The shape of the bodies is the same, and if you don't believe it, try to get a Ford driver or a Dodge crew chief or anyone from either manufacturer to show you a noticeable difference. It can't be done.

A widespread belief is that all the cars will be shaped just alike by 2003. No, it's more than a belief. It's a foregone conclusion; only, no one wants to admit it.

The trend toward uniformity is marching onward. The new "one-engine" rule includes requirements limiting just what parts teams can use, allegedly in the interest of durability. NASCAR officials have slowly fenced in the variables where chassis setups are concerned, too.

The real question is: Are we headed in the direction of fair competition, or will it be a IROC on a grand, 36-race scale?

Hot-button topic No. 3: Steve Park.

It’s rare for NASCAR to be completely honest about the medical condition of an injured driver. As an example, when Park was injured at Darlington on Sept. 1, he was described as having suffered a "moderate concussion."

At the time, I noted to a colleague the last time I remembered hearing that someone had had a "moderate concussion," it was Ricky Craven, at Texas in 1997, and if that was the case, I'd hate to see what a severe concussion was.

According to the best information I can get - and this is from friends of his who do not get hysterical every time the subject is broached - Park's condition has improved by leaps and bounds.

He is working hard, day after day, to prepare himself to climb back into a race car again. But he remains a long way from ready, nearly two and a half months after a freak accident - under caution, no less - that occurred during a Busch Series race.

Keep at it, Steve. We miss you. But take your time and make sure you're ready. I'd love to see you win the next time you climb into the No. 1 car.

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