The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Time Changes by Amy Henderson -- Thursday August 18, 2005

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Time really flies when you’re having fun.  And sometimes when you’re not, too.  But that’s another story.  I was going through some old files the other day, just cleaning things up and checking some of my thoughts from times past, and it made me think just how quickly history passes.  As much as some things change, of course, other things happily stay the same.  In racing, though you’d barely recognize the cars of today in yesterday’s models, fan loyalty and love of the game is a constant.
 
So here I was, reading some of my old stuff and thinking how fast these racing seasons pass us by, and I found a collection of thoughts, written almost one year ago, and I decided to revisit them again now that the history afterward has been written in stone.  I know events can change how we perceive things, and I wondered if history’s quirks would change them at all. So, how does one year’s history change one writer’s perception of that year?  Here’s that piece form one year ago, with this year’s new and improved thoughts on the subject in bold.
 
Now that Labor Day is past (well, maybe not quite yet) and all my white clothes are safely packed away (what white clothes?  I work in a barn!), It’s time to do another cleanout of the crevices of my mind.  Time to get rid of those summer thoughts and turn my mind on fall.  Here are some of the ones that I’ve banished from on top of the winter horse blankets and where the pool stuff goes (I need a bigger garage).
 
While I still don’t like the Chase for the Championship format, it has made the last few races more exciting. (Yes.  I’m especially excited to see the size of the cow NASCAR has when neither Dale Junior nor Jeff Gordon makes the Chase) I don’t like NBC’s “color coding” system to let us know who’s in at Richmond this weekend either. (Bet I won’t like it this year, either.)
 
The reason I don’t like it is because the way I see it, there are three teams that are legitimate championship caliber teams this season.  Those three are all within shouting distance under the old system.  (Third place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may certainly been shouting something to second-place Jeff Gordon or point leader Jimmie Johnson.  Who could hear him over all those engines?) Who would have been weeded out are several good teams that deserve a top ten but maybe not a championship. (Yeah, like the #97) I like, say, Mark Martin.  A lot.  I’d like to see him win the big trophy more than anyone, but have he and his team been a championship threat all year long?  No.  And I just don’t think one of those other seven teams should win it all in the end.  (Should.  Would. Two totally different things.  One did win, and I still don’t like it.  If you look at the number of wins, top-five finishes, and top-ten finishes that Busch had all of last season to the number that Gordon and Johnson had, I bet you can guess why)
 
Speaking of big trophies, that new Dover trophy is UGLY! (Yeah.  But the action figure version is kinds cute.  It’s kind of a novel way to merchandise, and the trophy is certainly different from any other track’s.  Racing needs little unique pieces now more than ever. Take note, ISC.)
 
I read, under duress, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s book, Driver #8.  And I liked it.  It was honest and funny and everything that Junior is.  I like Junior.  A lot.  I just don’t like hearing his name in every other sentence that leaves an announcer’s mouth.  (It’s been interesting to watch the coverage of Junior this year.  The pressure that must be on that guy.  But I still hold that there are 43 guys out there, with someone footing the bill.  Sure would be nice to see those guys mentioned a few times to keep the sponsors in the game.)
 
On that note, there are 42 other guys out there. (Hey, there’s an echo in here.) I’d like to hear about every single one of them throughout a race, just once.  It’s terrible for the fans of a driver who wrecks or drops out of a race with no word from the TV booth.  Especially if that driver hit something and they never bother to tell us if he’s OK.  Shame on you, Fox and NBC! (Yeah.  What I said!)
 
Also on that note, I did think NBC was fairer than the networks usually have been on coverage last week at California.  Junior was having a mediocre night and they only mentioned him a mediocre amount.  I still feel sorry for the guys in 16th on back in points though.  Yes, they are still out there!  (They are?  Where?)
 
Not only that, but the Busch and Craftsman Truck series are still the stepchildren as far as exposure is concerned.  (Yep.)  It took me what seemed like forever to find out on NASCAR”s own website who won last night’s truck race.  (But I have Speed Channel now.) Guess a race winner just isn’t front page news.  Trucks especially have it tough in some markets.  If you, like me, don’t get Speed Channel, you’re outta luck in that department.  (And if you still don’t, you still are.  But you aren’t stuck with NASCAR Nation nightly either)
 
From a Happy Childhood Memory standpoint, how cool is it that Disney is making a new Herbie movie?  I loved those movies as a kid.  Who wouldn’t secretly love to own a car that spits oil on people we don’t like?  (I haven’t seen it yet.  The original Herbie didn’t wink at people, did he?)
 
I really like the aerodynamic package that the Busch Series runs on the restrictor plate tracks right now.  I liked it when it was on the Cup cars too.  It demanded the ultimate in control and patience, which is what racing on those tracks should be about.  But I do wonder why, if it was too dangerous for the Cup guys, it is OK for the NBS guys?  I hope NASCAR doesn’t consider them more expendable. (Maybe they don’t; the Busch Series isn’t subject to the scary dangerous tire compound that the Cup guys get this year.  This is a very good thing, and I applaud the new camber rule in Cup that will hopefully help the situation before someone gets seriously hurt.)
 
Speaking of expendable, while the Lady in Black stood silent, the garbage was more exciting than most of the racing at California.  Woohoo, progress.  (At least Darlington is on the schedule for one more year, anyway.  I should count my blessings.)
 
Progress continues on the improvements at Daytona despite the terrible weather of late.  That new tunnel looked like a canal.  I expected a large blue bottle to float by at any minute.  (Thank goodness that silly sponsor tiff is in the past.  Some things in history should never have happened in the first place.  But most of the improvements at Daytona were well-done and due.  Except for maybe putting the teams in a giant garage-shaped fishbowl.)
 
I want that new Chase for the Championship (or whatever they call it) video game.  Except I’d spend all the races trying to make the little cyber-drivers fight after the race. (Still would.  “Come on. Little Jeff, don’t let little Kurt do that again!”  No, wait that was about the racing…)
 
Finally, here’s hoping that the racing this fall is as fun and as safe as it has been all summer.  The end may be in sight, but, way off in the distance is Daytona again.  Some things don’t change.  Thank goodness. (Amen to that!)
 
It’s funny how a year can affect your thinking.  The events of history can have a profound effect on a person’s perspective; it has the power to solidify or totally transform a though or opinion.  While my views on the Chase are stronger than ever based on last year’s events, I’ve completely changed on things like the tire rule.  A year ago I was desperate to see changes that put the races back in the hands of the drivers.  Now I’m sick of the cautions caused by those changes and the pins and needles from waiting to see if another driver is OK.  A dynamic, thing, history.

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