If I ruled the NASCAR world, I would be a benevolent dictator, issuing edicts for the good of all who reside in my racing realm.
These would be my decrees for the week of November 14 "" November 20, 2005:
The Palace Praise
- To Bill Weber, for reporting that there were four drivers vying for the title, when all week the media portrayed this as a three-man race.
- To Greg Biffle, who seems genuinely honored to represent the National Guard. And for winning a series-high six races on the season.
- To Rusty Wallace, for driving more than a quarter of a million miles in his Cup career. And for reminding the young guys that “driving these cars is a privilege.”
- To Wally Dallenbach, for giving the last Wally’s World ride of the season to his cameraman, who usually films other people having all the fun.
- To Rick Hendrick, for what appeared to be a heart-to-heart talk with Tony Stewart before the race.
- To Jimmie Johnson, for missing the 22 car by the narrowest of margins when it spun right in front of him.
- To Jeff Gordon, for continuing to rebound from a disappointing season, leading 39 laps and finishing 9th on Sunday to secure 11th-place in the standings.
- To Jimmie Johnson, for showing incredible class and poise in his interview mere seconds after crashing out of the race and losing any shot at the title.
- To Kenny Wallace, for running two races as Kurt Busch’s substitute driver, bringing home two solid finishes with no major incidents.
- To Tony Stewart, for crediting his team with never giving up on him. And for climbing the fence because the fans insisted on it.
- To Matt Kenseth, for a touching tribute to Robbie Reiser’s dad after the race: “John Reiser was a special, special man. Without him, I would never have been racing Busch series, much less Winston Cup series. I’m for sure gonna miss that guy a lot.”
- To Kyle Busch, for winning two races this season and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award.
- To Carl Edwards, for bringing a fresh level of enthusiasm and optimism to the Chase this year.
The Official Inquiries
- How cool was it to see drivers standing in line for the chance to have Rusty Wallace autograph their uniforms before the race? Nice to know that famous folks can still be fans.
- Was it the wind, or has Jamie McMurray switched to extra-hold mousse? His hair was even spikier than usual Sunday.
- I wonder if NASCAR or Nextel gave any thought to not showing the Kurt Busch commercial about his run at Homestead last year, seeing as he was missing from this year’s event?
- Isn’t it funny how different people are? Rusty Wallace retired with great fanfare and a year-long tribute tour, while Ricky Rudd flew below the radar until the very last driver’s meeting of the year.
The Dictator’s Decrees
- I know that the drivers and crews need some time off, but in my kingdom, we would find a way to have NASCAR racing year-round.
- I would have kept Ricky Rudd from experiencing a serious pit crew incident on the occasion of his final Cup race – not just for him, but for those who were injured as well.
- I would insist on seeing an advanced copy of Kurt Busch’s award speech, which, according to NBC, will be written by personnel from Roush Racing.
The Royal Reprimands:
- To Scott Stapp, for an absolutely horrid rendition of the National Anthem on Sunday.
- If it is true that everyone in the driver’s meeting gave Rusty Wallace a standing ovation except his teammate, I just have on thing to say: Shame on you, Ryan!
Magic 8-Ball Question of the Week
Question: Casey Mears has driving talent, but will he finally get his first victory in 2006?
- The Magic 8-Ball says: Reply hazy, try again.
*“Lucky Dork” Award of the Week*
To the person responsible for choosing Scott Stapp (see “Royal Reprimands”) to sing the National Anthem.
And finally "¦ A Tale of Three Drivers. During Sunday’s pre-race show, Bill Weber reported that Kurt Busch “realizes in the last few years he has matured in the seat as a racer, but not as much as a person,” and that, “he plans to work on that.” Busch has been described by Jack Roush as a “challenge,” and is perceived by many as arrogant and ill-tempered. Kurt’s troubled Cup career, including a recent arrest on a reckless driving charge, poses an interesting juxtaposition with the new-and-improved version of 2005 champ Tony Stewart. For years, Stewart was known as the bad boy of NASCAR – a brash, petulant young man whose on-track talent was overshadowed by his off-track transgressions. At the end of the ‘04 season, Stewart’s crew conducted a behavioral intervention, which Stewart described as “the most stressful meeting I’ve ever gone into in my life.” At that moment, Stewart was faced with a choice: He could become even more angry and defensive, convinced that the meeting was just one more example of an unjust world – or he could do some serious soul-searching and clean up his act. By all reports he did the latter, and as a result, is enjoying racing – and life – more than ever. Before Sunday’s race, a second reformed driver, Rusty Wallace reminded everyone that driving a Cup car is a privilege. Both Stewart and Wallace have learned that lesson the hard way, and now it is Kurt Busch’s turn to do the same. Busch told Bill Weber that people will see an obvious change in him next season, and if you don’t believe it, Busch says, “Just watch.” Don’t worry, Kurt. We will.
Until next week, I remain your Benevolent Dictator "¦ Rebecca
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