The Frontstretch: Reasons To Keep Watching NASCAR In 2009 (No Really, There Are…I Think) by Danny Peters -- Monday November 2, 2009

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It’s a good time to be a Jimmie Johnson fan right now. In fact, scratch that, it’s a stupendously, unconscionably, ridiculously good time to be a double J devotee. How else can you explain your boy running about a mile behind from the chasing pack like a little scared rabbit and still finishing sixth — it beggars belief, it really does. I wish I could say fortune favors the brave, but there was nothing brave about riding around so far back from the snarling draft he may as well have been in a different zip code.

Johnson’s (repeated) good fortune aside, Sunday’s race was, not to pull any punches, excrement. I’m normally a cheerleader for our sport, or at least I try to be by writing positive articles, but even I – an eternal optimist – am finding it close to impossible to write anything good about that shambolic fiasco I was unfortunate enough to waste three hours of my life watching this past Sunday. Like many of the good folks who comment on the site, I was appalled by the lack of racing and then the carnage at the end of what purported to be a NASCAR race, but was in fact little more than a glorified 2.66-mile long game of Scalextric (slot cars-ed.).

The disaster this weekend at Talladega may have been a low-point in what’s been a down season for the sport, but believe it or not there are things to look forward to over the final three weeks.

And I’m still bemused by NASCAR’s bizarre decision on the bump drafting just hours before the race. I mean come on people; we’re not talking about a quiet drive through the countryside here. We’re talking about Talladega. The sad thing is the decision rendered by the “experts” absolutely killed the race as a spectacle as a number of drivers pointed out after. And guess what? After 180 some laps of eye-gouging, soul destroying follow the leader rubbish we still got two epic crashes. Speaking of those crashes, I can’t help but wonder how much worse the Newman incident would have been if it was Michael Waltrip who suffered that accident. One final point: Why does ESPN persist in showing the driver’s worried other half running to the in-field care center? That’s ghoulish – and no, that’s not a delayed Halloween joke; it’s akin to ambulance chasing.

So as we look toward the denouement of a season that has staggered from one crisis to the next, it’s hard to be anything but scared for the future of our sport as the powers that be methodically and systematically run it into the ground. As a writer, though, I like a challenge and my challenge this week is to come up with reasons to keep watching over the final three races. Cue the tumbleweed and the awkward silence…..thinking…thinking….okay here we go:

Surely, it can’t get any worse:

At times this season, NASCAR has been little more than a car racing version of WWE with strange “timely” cautions, inexplicably boring racing and sheer Johnson related tedium. But with three races to go surely it can’t get any worse right? After all, we don’t have to go back to Kansas or Auto Club Speedway…(sorry Kev in SoCal- it’s low hanging fruit.)

We’ve come this far…

If you’re reading this article you’ve come this far and like anything it’s always good to finish what you started. With 33 down and 3 to go you can do it. I promise.

Three good tracks to go…

Thankfully we don’t have to think about Talladega until next April. Up next is Texas which can be, to be fair, somewhat hit or miss but overall it’s not a bad track. Ditto Phoenix, a circuit I nearly always enjoy watching and finally Homestead which qualifies as a good track only because it’s the (blessed) last race of the season.

Can Junior find more ways to plumb new depths?

It’s hard to fathom quite how bad Dale Junior’s season has been this year. But there are still three races for Jooooonya to find new and previously unexplored ways to encounter bad luck. The wheelman of the No. 88 Chevy might be the only person who wants the season to end more than the disaffected fan base.

We can stop talking about the Chase…

With a 184-point lead for the 3-time champ, barring a disaster of hitherto unseen, Titanic-esque proportions, Johnson will win this year’s title. With that in mind, we don’t have to talk about the Chase these last three races because the Chase, in all its serial ineptitude, is to all intents and purposes over.

And focus on the racing…

With the above point in mind, we as fans and writers can concentrate on each individual race. Sure, ESPN will bang on about points and the possibilities for those trailing the automatons – sorry, No. 48 team, but as we head into the winter break, we can focus on each race and enjoy them (we hope) as standalone events and not as part of the mythical Chase beast.

What will Nationwide Champ Kyle Busch have in store?

After the guitar smashing antics in Victory Lane at Nashville earlier this year, I can’t help but wonder what Kyle and “Krew” have planned to celebrate his Nationwide Series Championship? Perhaps a reenactment of the siege of Troy or the labors of Hercules; one way or another it’s gonna be fun to watch.

Despite it all, we’ll miss it in the off season (I think)

And for all my complaining (and the huge volume of criticism from fans) we’ll all miss NASCAR in the off-season. Well, those who are still interested in watching.

Two final points to finish up this week:

I really enjoyed the truck race – it felt like a real race and not some kind of 200 MPH disaster movie the Cup race almost became. Plus you had Chrissy and Mike Wallace racing together and you had Mario Gosselin sponsored by MyTireMonkey.com. Now if there’s a better name for a sponsor I haven’t seen it yet.

And finally, congratulations to fellow countryman Jensen Button on winning his first F1 crown. Given that he was out of a ride just months before the start of the season and saddled with a reputation as a playboy after nine years with just a solitary victory, his entire Brawn team’s effort was fantastic. Yes, he wasn’t so good in the second half of the season, but six wins in the first seven races (of 17) set him on the way to a Championship. Well done Mr. Button.

Contact Danny Peters

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Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
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Bad Wolf
11/02/2009 11:14 PM
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I see the worm has finally turned for Danny Peters. Welcome to the real world.

Kevin in SoCal
11/03/2009 01:32 AM
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Danny said: “After all, we don’t have to go back to Kansas or Auto Club Speedway…(sorry Kev in SoCal- it’s low hanging fruit.)”

Sure, I’ll play along. It takes a better man to strive for greatness in the top branch rather than accept the easy pickings of the low-hanging fruit.

JM
11/03/2009 06:21 AM
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The Nascar season is over. JJ will be champ again. there hasn’t been any good racing all year, and won’t be in the last three races. Since the “Chase” idiocy, all Nascar has done is shoot itself in the foot, and today it stands lame. If we had national health care, it would be sent home to die.

john
11/03/2009 07:36 AM
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Nope, sorry, there aren’t any reasons to keep watching. Cup that is. I’ll watch the last three Truck races. Even if Hornaday runs away with it, they’ll still be actual races.

Kurt Smith - Frontstretch Staff
11/03/2009 08:20 AM
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Danny, I truly applaud your optimism. It’s more difficult to be optimistic than it is to be cranky like me.

Actually, I agree about the part that we can just focus on individual races. I think the implementation of the Chase destroyed that. The last race of 2003 was a great one, even if it was meaningless from a title standpoint.

CANUCME
11/03/2009 08:20 AM
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good points danny. im not a fan of the chase and even though im a huge martin fan im glad the championship is basically decided. i think it will actually make for better racing these last 3 races. let jimmie johnson ride around and collect his points. i know the 5, 24, 14, and 42 will be balls to the wall trying to win these last 3 now that points dont matter.

Bill B
11/03/2009 08:21 AM
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“Despite it all, we’ll miss it in the off season “

Not me. I can’t remember ever looking forward to the end of a season more than this year. I won’t miss the frustration that this year’s races have caused week after week.

Dennis
11/03/2009 08:50 AM
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I hear NASCAR was so pleased with it’s last minute change in the rules they are implementing 2 new ones.

#1 No passing the #88 and #2 no passing the #48.

The thing that disturbed me the most about seeing Newman’s wife was the fact the team sent nobody to walk with her to the care center.

ginger
11/03/2009 10:26 AM
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For an eternal optimist, you fell short on Dale Jr. He led laps, he pushed people to the front and actually stayed with them unlike his two teammates who hung him out to dry. He finished 11th (last I heard) and has stated publicly (where were you) he didn’t want the season to end.

Get it together Danny.

JohnP
11/03/2009 11:22 AM
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Kurt Smith from Frontstretch said:

“we can just focus on individual races. I think the implementation of the Chase destroyed that.”

Thats the root of my problems with Nascar. 26 weeks of testing followed by only 10 weeks of actual racing. JJ was so worried Sunday he radioed Chad that the throttle was only HALF. And that the engine might be running way to lean for to long. Nascar killed the individual races when they inacted the Chase. I still watch, most likely keep watching. However, this is to the advertisers – I only check it out on commercials of other programs. The History, Travel, Gac, Cmt, Discovery, Military channels all offer more action than the dumbed down moronic racing that Nascar puts on. Since 1996 I’ve watched nearly every race on tv, been to 7 or 8 of them. Until last year. Especially this year. The sport has been dumbed down so bad by King Brian and croud it’s amazing. I’m not a Gordon or Earnheart fan(Sr). But, I miss the rivarly. Where is the competition? Where are the rivarlies that once brought the sport to greatness. I’m not talking about fist fights on the backstretch at Daytona, that’s teenage crap. But, there has to be something between an imature bar braw and cooking cutter media perfect prettyboys. Just my one cents worth.

Kevin in SoCal
11/03/2009 11:35 AM
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If Kyle Busch wanted to redeem himself with the fans, he’d take out Jimmie Johnson this weekend and make a better race out of this Championship fight.

Bob
11/03/2009 12:06 PM
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If the running with the wife’s to the care center isn’t bad enough, the “what emotions are you feeling after flipping down the front straight” question HAS to be the stupidest tv reporter moment of the year.

The Turnip!
11/03/2009 12:33 PM
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Yep! Newman gets out of the care center and is asked “how do you feel”!

How original!

And then is asked “what did you think when you seen your wife”?

Again, how original!

Gee, someday we might, just might, see a driver emerge from the care center and an announcer say something like: “Ryan, we are all very glad to see you ok and walking”! “Take care and we will see you later”!

I just think these STOOPID announders/reporters have no idea of what a tumble at 190+ does to the body and the mind!

Let the poor guy relax and collect his thought!

Is that too much to ask?

Me thinks not!

But, TV is TV!

How STOOPID!

And Ginger, my, my! Jr. was upfront for a bit?

WOW!

But don’t be disturbed by
the “ignorance” of the announcers, he**, I watched Robby Gordon do the same and run up in second place! You woulda thunk he simply did not exist!

If ya’ ain’t a chase baby! Ya’ ain’t NOTHIN!

Welcome to the wide world of NA$CRAP!

REALLY? Jr. was that far up in the pack?

But Ginger, now I is confused! You said Jr. ststed he did not want the season to end?

But two weeks ago he publicly stated he wished the season HAD ENDED!

Boy, mmm sorry, Girl!

NA$CRAP must have had a talk with him for sure!

Joe
11/03/2009 12:42 PM
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It doesn’t matter what Kyle does…he will still catch hell.

Jimmie winning 4 in a row is the LAST thing nascar needs or had in mind when they came up with the chase.

RamblinWreck
11/03/2009 01:02 PM
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I’m watching because as an RCR fan, I still think Richard’s boys can take home a checkered flag this season.

The Turnip!
11/03/2009 01:06 PM
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“reasons to keep watching NA$CRAP”?

Really now, there was no reason to even watch in the first place, never mind the “keep watching”!

It, the racing, just goes from dumb to dumber!

CANUCME
11/03/2009 01:34 PM
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johnp,

how could you say there is 26 weeks of testing. when the 5 and the 48 dueled it out at darlington early in the season were they testing? when tony stewart was pushing the fuel limits at pocono and cutting the engine off to try and squeeze out a win was he testing? when the 5 and 48 both ran out of gas at michigan were they testing? when the 99 moved down to block the 09 at dega in april was he testing? when kyle busch put a block on smoke at daytona in july was he points racing? when the 5, 39, 11 and 24 were battling it out on the last few laps at chicago were they testing? when marcos ambrose came from last to 2nd at sonoma was he testing? when jpm was busted for speeding at indy was he testing?

for a bunch of self proclaimed old timers a lot of you really don’t seem to know much. points racing has gone on forever. dj and bobby labonte have both used the same strategy at dega the 48 did on sunday before the chase. i have seen guys like martin and jeff gordon both back it down in situations at a place like bristol late in the season because points were on the line.

the reason the chase takes away from the races these days is because everyone…. people who love the chase and hate it are consumed with it. all we hear is championship this or championship that. mark martin said it more than once this season. why can’t everyone just enjoy the race? every weekend there is a race and it is lost in all the hype about the chase. proponents and detractors alike put way too much into the championship. me personally i am not a fan of the chase but i don’t let it ruin my enjoyment of the race that takes place every weekend. i mean damn is it that friggin important to you? there’s more to life than nascar’s points system.

midasmicah
11/03/2009 01:50 PM
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As a long, long time fan whose finally had enough, I guess it’s fortunate that I didn’t watch the race. From what I’m told the drivers reacted to the rule of no bump drafting in the corners by not racing at all. Just driving around in single file. But haven’t they been doing that the last few years? The difference this time is that they did it in protest. I did switch over at the end of the race to see the results and got to watch replays of the wrecks in the last few laps. This was like a rolling drivers strike, I’m told. Thye ultimate borefest. NAS$CAR!!! I REALLY WANT TO COME BACK AND WATCH THE SPORT I DEARLY LOVE, BUT UNTIL YOU DECIDE TO END THIS DEBALE THAT SPRINT CUP RACING HAS BECOME, I WILL NOT COME BACK. SAD, I’VE BEEN WATCHING THE SPORT SINCE THE EIGHTIES. THANKS FOR LISTENING TO ME VENT.

CANUCME
11/03/2009 02:05 PM
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midas,

you should probably watch the race for yourself and not rely on other people’s opinions. i have been a nascar fan since 95. i know that isn’t long sompared to some of you who claim to have been board since the 60s but it is still 15 years. i really didn’t see a huge difference in the race sunday. was there some single file lap killing going on. sure there was just like i have seen in the past. can you point to a race where every single second of every single lap is a nail biter. i think it is people like you who contantly whine and complain about the racing that make it bad. the racing at dega has been the same for all 15 years i have been watching. it always comes down to the last 15 laps or so and there usually is a pretty violent wreck somewhere near the end. was this race sunday a little boring. sure it was but races sometimes are. i am a huge new york giants football fan and they got their asses kicked 40-17 by our nfc east rival. to me it was a boring game. i watched the race and the game though knowing that they aren’t all gonna be nailbiters every time out.

and for someone who doesn’t watch the racing you sure put a lot of time in talking and commenting about it. where i come from someone who debates a race or races that they haven’t even watched for themselves is ignorant. i really mean no disrespect but c’mon man. how could you say it was bad if you didn’t see it.

The Turnip!
11/03/2009 04:05 PM
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Hey midasmicah, send your “vent” to:

ktharp@nascar.com,

at least you can also go direct, as I do!

Just trying to help, lets overwhelm NA$CRAP with the facts!

Carl D.
11/03/2009 04:12 PM
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“Now we can focus on individual races”

Yeah, we can if we have the sound turned down, because you KNOW the announcers are still going to remind us, ad nauseum, how many points Johnson is ahead of his nearest challenger, how historic his fourth championship is, and how positions 2-12 are shaking out at any given moment during the race. I don’t blame the anouncers; that’s their job, but we don’t have to listen to it. Me, I have a porch to paint Sunday.

Hollis
11/03/2009 04:58 PM
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Danny – you got there at last :-) M25 sped up a bit…..and mate, you can’t expect me not to pick you up on this. Jenson, not Jensen. His dear father spelt it with an “o” so as his name wouldn’t be associated with the car company of same name.

dansmom
11/03/2009 05:03 PM
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We watch because the horsepower is awesome, the talent is incredible, we all wish we were driving and despite everything we hate about the sport… We LOVE racing.

That is why we watch and why I always will.

The Turnip!
11/03/2009 07:30 PM
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Hey dansmom, yes, we like racing, yes, we like horspower, yes we like 190+, and more yes, we like REAL RACING, FAIR RACING! RACING WITH RULES! THE SAME RULES FOR EVERYONE! EQUALLY APPLIED!

AND RACES WITH REAL RACE CARS!

Know where we can find this type of racing?

Cause I sure don’t!

Just a frustrated old fan I am!

I so do miss those exciting Sunday afternoons and the sounds of REAL RACE CARS!

And REAL COMPETITION!

Does the term “contrived” come to mind?

Dang, almost forgot, I also like REAL RACE CARS with REAL RACING TIRES!

midasmicah
11/03/2009 08:23 PM
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Whether you agree or not, one thing is happening. People are tuning out. They just don’t care anymore. The France family had better do something and soon. People will only accept s**t being served up to them for so long. The attendence and tv ratings show this to be true.

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