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 August 27 – September 3, 2005:
The Dictator’s Decrees:
- I would prohibit anyone on TV from saying, “Here’s where they are in the Chase” until the last 20 or so laps of the race. At Bristol, the first Where-They-Are-In-The-Chase bulletin came on lap 47 of a 500-mile race. Why even mention it that early in the event, knowing things will surely change before it’s over?
- I would follow through on Bill Weber’s (Freudian?) slip and start awarding the “Lucky Dork” every week. Who shall we nominate as the first recipient?
- I would require at least one episode of QVC’s “For Race Fans Only” without the regular host (no offense, Dan), and have Dale Junior and Mikey doing the same bit that they do on those NAPA commercials.
The Palace Praise:
- To 160,000 fans filling every seat at Bristol Motor Speedway, year in and year out.
- To movie producer Quentin Tarantino, who enthusiastically shouted during his Wally’s World hot lap, “Give me a Bristol stripe!”
- To the Motor Racing Outreach kids for their charming performance of the National Anthem. Could they sing it every week? Please?
- To Dale Junior’s easygoing attitude. Asked if this was a “must-win” night for the 8 team, Junior replied, “It’s a must-have-fun night.”
- Rusty’s blue flame paint scheme on the No. 2 Dodge.
- To me, and probably most of you, for knowing the answer to the AFLAC Trivia Question when the guys in the booth didn’t. The question was, “Who has the most Cup series wins on Bristol’s concrete surface?” Benny Parsons said Jeff Gordon, and Bill Weber said Kurt Busch. The correct answer: Rusty Wallace.
- To Kevin Hamlin, Jeff Burton’s crew chief, and his honest reply when asked if Burton could “get up there and pass the 17?” Hamlin shrugged, chuckled and said, “Who knows?”
- To Matt Kenseth, for his reputation as a clean racer. Said Jeff Burton, “I drove Matt clean because he drives me clean. He’s always driven me clean. You know, he’s a clean driver.” Congratulations as well to the 17 team for rallying from 24th to 11th in the standings since mid-June.
- To Kyle Petty, who could charm the skin off a snake and make him think he was enjoying it. Petty had every right to be angry at Carl Edwards, who wrecked not one, but two Petty cars at Bristol, including Kyle’s. Afterwards, Petty smiled and shook hands with the young driver while simultaneously laying down the law – as evidenced by the fact that Edwards couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
The Official Inquiries:
- Was anyone else as surprised as I was to hear that Jeff Gordon’s last Top-5 finish was at May in Darlington? Including Bristol, that was 15 races ago. During the same time period, he’s had six finishes of 30th or worse. Not surprised? How about this one "¦
- Matt Yocum informed us that Brian Vickers is second only to Tony Stewart for points earned over the last six races. Before Bristol, Vickers had scored four top-10’s in the last six races.
- Speaking of Brian Vickers, did you hear what Jeff Gordon said on his team radio after Vickers apparently cut him off? Gordon: “If he ever does that again, I’ll take him out – I don’t care WHO he drives for!”
- I wonder what the record is for Lucky Dog passes by one driver in a race? Dale Junior earned three Saturday night "¦ and he needed all of them.
- Casey Mears, who got caught up in a wreck on lap 75, said this about his races at Bristol: “I haven’t finished any of them yet "¦ wish we could just come home with a clean run here one day.” I know he has a great sponsor, but there is a certain irony in hearing that from a driver with a big red target in the middle of his helmet.
- Not that it matters, but did you notice that for a few seconds, when the running order was Biffle-Kenseth-Labonte, that their numbers were consecutively 16-17-18? If Mayfield, Stewart, Rudd and Wimmer had been behind them, it would’ve made seven consecutively-numbered cars in a row.
- After Ryan Newman was taken out by Dale Jarrett, the pit reporter twice asked him to respond to the statement, “This hurts the championship hopes, Ryan.” Although there was engine noise in the background, was it a bit of selective hearing when Newman twice replied, “I can’t hear you?”
The Royal Reprimands:
- To the person who chose this week’s “Bank of America Higher Standards Moment.” With the entire weekend a tribute to Rusty Wallace, making his last career start at Bristol, a track where he has nine wins and over 4000 laps led, and where a tower behind the grandstands was named after him on Saturday, and where much of the pre-race show was dedicated to an extended interview with him – what did Bank of America choose to show for its highlight? Jeff Gordon’s bump-and-run for the win on the last lap of the 2002 Bristol race. His victim: Rusty Wallace.
- To Marty Snider for relentlessly pursuing a distraught Kevin Harvick, seconds after the wreck that ended Harvick’s day and his hopes to make the Chase. Harvick had already demonstrated considerable poise by stopping to talk to Snider, but as he walked away, Snider followed him shouting, “Here’s the replay of what happened, Kevin! Kevin, what about the championship?” It was appalling.
This week’s Commissioner Appointment: A Commissioner of Confidential Conversations, who could report back on exactly what is said between drivers after the race, starting with the Kyle Petty/Carl Edwards post-Bristol chat.
This week’s Magic 8-Ball Question:
Question: Will Jeff Gordon make the Chase?
The Magic 8-Ball says: Signs point to yes.
And finally "¦ The Bristol situation involving Ryan Newman, Dale Jarrett and Kevin Harvick was about as strange as they come. Newman had very little to gain by wrecking Jarrett, and should have known that swift payback would follow. Jarrett, desperately trying to stay in the hunt for the Chase, had even less to gain by retaliating, aside from a few fleeting seconds of satisfaction. And the hapless Kevin Harvick, an innocent victim of the action, retreated to his motor home and apparently refused to get back in his car when repairs were finished, saying that he didn’t want to go back on the track over 100 laps down. After seeing the replay, it’s hard to believe Newman’s claim that he didn’t intentionally turn Jarrett – and even harder to believe his statement that he “didn’t expect him to retaliate like that.” With 12 races to go in the season and so much on the line, your Dictator would like to remind all the drivers to use their heads and think about the consequences of their actions.
Until next week, I remain your Benevolent Dictator "¦ Becca
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