NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Labor Day is always a melancholy holiday for me. It’s not because the weekend marks a symbolic end to summer, nor is it because it marks the beginning of a new school year (the moans of children are often difficult to hear over the cheers of their parents). What makes Labor Day so depressing to me is the fact that this was the time of year when Virginia Howell – my mother and one of the most dedicated NASCAR fans I ever knew – died from lung cancer at the age of 69.
I’ve written at length over the years about the role both of my parents played in my life-long relationship with NASCAR, but it was my mother who taught me about the meaningful (and sometimes quite complicated) nature of the driver/sponsor/fan triumvirate. Her loyalties were legendary within my family, and the example she set went on to inspire others once they discovered this thing called stock car racing.
My mother never smoked a day in her life, yet this most horrific of cancers took her from us on Sunday, September 13th – a morphine-soaked week after Labor Day – in 1998. This may sound like ancient history to some readers, but my memories of that time continue to haunt me once the end of summer rolls around. While some might fondly recall the anticipation of a new school year, I remember an early-morning telephone call from my father on September 7th suggesting that I head home to say goodbye. The drive from Northern Michigan to Northeastern Pennsylvania never seemed so rushed.
All of 1998 seemed rushed to me. I had been at a new job (the teaching position I currently have) since the previous summer, and I was still celebrating the bloom of recognition that comes with the publication of a book (which came out around the same time I began the new job). My 1998 had been filled, until Labor Day, with conference lectures, media interviews, book signings, and awards – all extra tasks tossed on top of my regular, full-time teaching schedule.
Not that my work with NASCAR took a back seat to my busy life that year. While I wasn’t traveling as much as I did when writing my book, I was still getting to as many races as possible, staying current with the sport, and making connections for future projects. As the month of July approached, I was planning trips to Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Michigan. And then, my mother’s health failed.
Discovery of seemed to be leukemia put my mother in the hospital just before July 4th with a less-than-hopeful diagnosis. I immediately traveled to see her and spent time with my family at her bedside while she underwent a very difficult course of treatment. The medication made her weak and even more susceptible to illness, but it didn’t deter her from focusing on more important things in her day-to-day life, like NASCAR.
My father lined up VIP passes for the Cup race at Pocono on July 26th. We both assumed we wouldn’t go, given that my mother was still recovering from her bout with leukemia and that she’d need us to be close by. Maybe we thought too highly of ourselves because when local attention shifted to the upcoming race, my mother all-but-demanded that we attend. Her thinking was that SHE would most certainly go if she were able to, so why should we sacrifice such an opportunity just to sit around the hospital with her? My older brother arranged for a large television set to be brought in, and our mother was able to enjoy two special treats: an afternoon of NASCAR free from our noisy and opinionated running commentary.
My mother enjoyed NASCAR, in part, because of her relationship with my father. When they were dating back in the late-1940s, they’d sometimes attend stock car races at Bone Stadium, a multi-purpose sports arena in Pittston, PA that included a quarter-mile oval. In those days, my parents also went to races at the fairgrounds in Hughesville and Bloomsburg (which hosted a Grand National event – won by Herb Thomas in a Hudson – in 1953). During later years, my parents would take me with them to the one-third-mile dirt oval at Herb Harvey’s Speedway in the small farm town of Lemon, PA, the half-mile paved oval at Shangri-La (now Tioga) Speedway in Owego, NY, and to the legendary “tricky triangle” of Pocono Raceway in Long Pond.
Those many weekends spent at such diverse tracks were special to me back then because my parents were taking me to see races in person. We’d all choke on the dust, sweat in the heat, and cheer for drivers trying to make a name (as well as a buck) for themselves. The drivers we watched during those earlier days – regional talents like George Kent, Dutch and Dean Hoag, Jimmy Spencer, and the Bodine brothers – were as recognized in our house as the names of Mike Schmidt, Franco Harris, and Julius Erving were in the homes of my classmates.
To my mother, automobile racing meant more than wins and losses; to her, racing was about the people who owned, sponsored, prepared, repaired, and drove the cars. The sport was about loyalty. If you were a driver, you should be loyal to your team. If you were a car owner, you should be loyal to your driver and crew. If you were a sponsor, you should be loyal to the team you financed. And if you were a fan, you should show loyalty to all of these entities because each was necessary to make a day at the races possible. Race teams needed race fans even more than race fans needed race teams….
My mother’s loyalty in NASCAR was to Bill Elliott. She recognized and admired his family’s talent and work ethic long before their historic Winston Cup season in 1985. Part of her loyalty was based on Elliott’s long-time dedication to the Ford Motor Company (I grew up in a rural area where families were defined by their devotion to either Ford or Chevrolet). Her only point of contention was regarding Elliott’s sponsorship deals. No matter how much she liked “Awesome Bill”, she had moral and/or ethical issues with his backing from Coors Beer.
The same issue arose when Elliott drove for Junior Johnson during the early 1990s with sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser brand. I was working around the sport doing fieldwork back then and had some minor affiliations with Elliott’s team, so sometimes I’d bring a Budweiser souvenir home to my parents. While my mother never refused it, she was sometimes averse to displaying it openly.
All that changed once Bill Elliott received sponsorship from McDonald’s. This deal was a match made in marketing heaven since it paired Elliott’s “aw shucks”, good-ol’-boy-next-door persona with perhaps the most famous and most-beloved “family-friendly” franchise on the planet. Not only did Elliott’s arrangement with McDonald’s enable him to draw from an entirely new (and young) audience, but it also allowed teetotalers (like my mother) to go public and openly tout their support of the No. 94 Ford Thunderbird.
This new, more fan-friendly sponsorship deal provided my mother and father with opportunities to meet Bill Elliott during some of his personal appearances at area McDonald’s restaurants. A photograph of one such encounter was published on page 72 in my book From Moonshine to Madison Avenue: A Cultural History of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (U of WI Press, 1997). Given what was going to happen just a year after the book was published, I’m certainly glad that this picture was selected to print.
Even though my mother’s battle with cancer worsened during the summer of 1998, she still made NASCAR a central part of her life. Maybe it was because stock car racing provided her with a much-needed escape from the trials and tribulations of her situation. She encouraged me to do media interviews and other public events even when it was nearly impossible for her to see their eventual results.
When her strength had improved enough for her to go home at the beginning of August, she scheduled her release from the hospital around the start of the Brickyard 400. My mother arrived home in time to see the entire race and watch Jeff Gordon continue his march toward the Winston Cup championship. Mom cheered Bill Elliott home that afternoon to a 12th-place finish.
The following morning, a blood clot had Mom in a speeding ambulance on her way back to the hospital. She’d never spend another day at home.
On the night before my mother died, my father and I took a break from our bedside vigil to allow my nieces the chance to say goodbye to their grandmother. We went into the nearby day room and found the television there tuned to that night’s Cup race at Richmond.
While we sat there watching the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400, I realized that this was exactly what Mom would want Dad and me to do. Over the course of 198 consecutive laps – nearly half the race – Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead seven times. That was a lot better than sitting helplessly while the woman we both loved languished in the final throes of a morphine-induced coma. My mother would have expected nothing less.
My brother and I were at our mother’s side when she passed away the following morning. Jeff Burton’s victory at Richmond was yesterday’s news, as was Bill Elliott’s 40th-place finish. As the events of the following week unfurled, I kept reaching back for happier days when I stood at my mother’s side and watched Bill Elliott win multiple times at Pocono, or when we saw Tim Richmond and Rusty Wallace win races at Watkins Glen, or those Saturday nights when we cheered for George Kent as he took the checkers at Shangri-La.
That’s why Labor Day makes me feel more restless than rested. Memories of my mother seem to fade with each passing year, and maybe that’s the curse of growing older. At least the events of NASCAR circa 1998 can provide some clarity. Jeff Gordon’s championship season of thirteen wins, seven pole positions, and average finish of 5.7 will endure on the printed page, even if his chances to make the Chase in 2012 seem to be in jeopardy.
At least Jeff Gordon is still driving the same car for the same team. That kind of loyalty in the face of adversity meant a lot to my mom. She’d be proud of Jeff for that, even though she’d still insist that Bill Elliott was the better driver….
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Thanks for a fine article. It is refeshing to hear love and respect for a parent such as you have voiced. Having lost both my parents many years past, I can respect your honesty in dealing with the loss.
Blessings to you…
Kudos, Mark. Nice piece of writing; poignant but positive.