The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Spring Cleaning by Amy Henderson -- Tuesday March 21, 2006

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Hooray! It’s officially Spring! Well, on paper anyway…New Hampshire doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo just yet. Anyways, Spring means a lot of things. Birds chirping, Bears and other beasties waking up, racing at the local tracks"¦ it also means Spring Cleaning. In celebration of that dreaded chore (come on, whoever left that petrified bagel behind the microwave, "˜fess up!) I have decided to clean out my desk of some of the random little thoughts and facts that never quite became columns, and some that never should:

  • The cool thing about NASCAR is with so many great races to choose from, you always have a moment of history to share. Ask a mixed group of fans about their favorite race and you’re sure to hear a variety of excited responses: "The one where Rusty spun out Darrell." "Oh, no, that time where Cale edged Richard at the wire!" "Wait! The one where Burton and Gordon bumped all the way to the wire! A Southern 500, I think it was." "Where Fireball won at-" "When The Silver Fox-" "That time that Dale-" Obviously, if you should choose to ask that particular question, you better make sure you have plenty of time on your hands"¦
  • I wish I’d been around when NASCAR raced dirt. I’ve held this notion for a while, but then I went to my first dirt race last summer. It was amazing, and possibly the most fun I’ve ever had at the racetrack, anywhere. Every part of it was exciting! It was as driven a group of racers as you will find in any NASCAR field, but it was informal, fun, and, well, dirty! You could see the clean where my shoes began. Sitting in the pits on a hot summer night, racing until past midnight…that was a generation of NASCAR I’m truly sorry I grew up too late to be a part of…
  • Every once in a while you see a comparison of this driver and that driver at such-and-such a stage in their careers. While it’s true that you can compare raw statistics, what cannot be compared is the era and circumstances surrounding them. To compare the careers of, say, Jeff Gordon and Junior Johnson, is a shaky endeavor at best. The cars, the tracks, the point system, the team structures-every detail is so vastly variable that such comparisons don’t really carry a lot of water. That’s not to say that they aren’t important or interesting; they are, but you have to compare so much more than numbers to really learn anything.
  • Racing at the upper echelon of NASCAR is fun and exciting, but I wish it wasn’t so commercial. Not that I don’t love commercials with drivers in them, but today’s NASCAR is so toe-the-company-line structured, both within the sport and within its many complex sponsorships. Imagine if the drivers did some of the crazy things they did before they hit the big time, the fits they would give sponsors and sanctioning body alike for being politically incorrect. That’s why it’s so much fun when they forget themselves and do just that"¦
  • I’ve been to quite a few Nextel Cup, Busch, and Craftsman Truck Series races over the years. This year, I’m going to the one track that mixes racing and history like no other: Darlington. I’m like a kid at Christmas; I can’t wait.
  • I love the new show on Speed Channel called "Back In the Day." Kudos to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for getting involved, and to Speed for showing us a piece of NASCAR history every Monday night!
  • Speaking of, if you haven’t seen the NASCAR IMAX movie, it’s worth it for the opening "bootlegger" sequence, a nod to racing’s roots. I won’t spoil it by revealing the identity of the rumrunners or the Feds- just take a close look, there’s something vaguely familiar"¦

Hey, with all these little half-filled bits of paper gone, my desk is a much safer (but not necessarily saner) place. I’ve shared my favorites, and tucked away others for a rainy day. Perhaps I’ll share them, when the time is right. Isn’t that just…history?

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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