The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: 11 Weeks In? Sounds Like an Awards Column is in Order by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday May 13, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: 11 Weeks In? Sounds Like an Awards Column is in Order

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday May 13, 2010

 

Mother Nature has a way of catching us off guard right when we least expect it. Such was the case two weekends ago when my adopted hometown of Nashville and the surrounding areas were hit by over 14 inches of rain in a 48 hour period. I’m not going into personal tales of woe, nor will I lament on the ongoing and far-reaching impacts of the devastation. I will, however, devote my video link of the week to raise awareness.

The flood has come and gone, and life, in turn, keeps moving too. But there are still thousands whose lives are nowhere near normal. The brotherhood that blind-sided catastrophe produced was beyond admirable and like nothing I have ever witnessed, but help is still needed. Please take three minutes out of your busy day to watch the clip and, if possible, visit Hands on Nashville at www.HON.org to make a donation or text the word “redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross that will be applied to your phone bill.

Some are not in a position to donate. We all understand that. So please remember that prayers are a free way of giving and just as valuable.

That said, here’s your link to contact me with questions, comments and opinions. We’re in the greatest racing month of the year, so let’s have ‘em.

I was inspired by a reader a couple weeks ago who wrote to ask if I had ever compiled an awards-type list in honor of the goings-on on the circuit — you know, the amusing midseason awards and such that you read here and there. The truth is, I hadn’t. But the idea intrigued me and, regardless of it being only 11 weeks into the season, when you’re crouched over in nine inches of sewage, filth, and God-knows-what-else in an area that also doubles as your home’s crawlspace, you find yourself needing to occupy your mind with anything other than the cesspool of bacteria you’re trying to pump out.

So since we’re almost one-third of the way through the season, the premier edition of “The Flamers,” Fanning the Flames’ irreverent tip of the Braves ballcap to the NASCAR season thus far:

  • The “We Never Got to Know You” Award to Terry Cook, who walked away from what was shaping up to be a real hum-dinger of a Rookie of the Year battle with Kevin Conway. And by hum-dinger, I mean total dud.

And the award for “Making the Most of a Bad Situation” goes to…Slugger Labbe, for reviving Paul Menard’s career.

  • The “Making the Most of a Bad Situation” Award to Slugger Labbe, who was hired as crew chief to Paul Menard at Richard Petty Motorsports and has used the Force or some other mystical religion to make the No. 98 levitate toward the front of the field.
  • The “Kevin Harvick” Award for performance in a contract year to, well, Kevin Harvick. This is Mr. Harvick’s second “Kevin Harvick” Award. He also won the honor back in 2006.
  • The “I’m Finally in a Role that Fits Me” Award goes to Michael Waltrip in his performance as emcee on SPEED’s Fast Track to Fame … far, far away from a steering wheel. A game show host. Why didn’t anyone think of that before?
  • The “Boys Don’t Cry” Award goes to Jamie McMurray … not for any resemblance to Hillary Swank (or lack thereof), but for his performance in Victory Lane at Daytona.
  • The “Buckshot Jones” Award goes to John Wes Townley simply for his “performance” as a NASCAR driver. Bur-gaaak.
  • The “Phil Parsons” Award to none other than it’s namesake, Phil Parsons, for making a mockery of what a business model should look like in NASCAR. And for doing so in such an unapologetic manner.
  • In turn, the “Don’t Throw Your Golfin’ Buddy Under a Bus” Award goes to Rick Allen, for never sending the “Start and Park” comment Parsons’ way while calling Truck Series races (as a quarter of the field retires due to “handling” problems).
  • The “Verizon Wireless” Award goes to UPS for paying millions of dollars over the last two years to sponsor Roush Fenway’s high-profile No. 6 car and still not getting its corporate logo any airtime.
  • The “On Loaner” Award goes TRG Motorsports for breaking in Kasey Kahne’s 2011 over-the-wall crew. Bobby gave them an extremely good workout last weekend.
  • Speaking of Kahne, he is the recipient of the “Mark Martin Award for Common Sense” which recognizes those that didn’t over think it and just accepted Rick Hendrick’s contract offer … regardless of such minor details as not having a seat available.

And now, for our big ones:

  • “The Flamers” Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Bruton Smith. For the shades alone.
  • The “Dr. Claire Lewicki” Award for best pre-race arm candy goes to Samantha Sarcinella for … well, good God … just look!
  • The “Carl Naughton, Jr.” Award for best driver in a supporting role goes to Jeff Gordon, for his performance as Jimmie Johnson’s teammate and perpetual runner-up thus far in 2010.
  • The “Quentin Tarantino” Award for best director goes to Chad Knaus. Yes, this was a close one, but there’s no way Johnson should have three wins right now.
  • The “Darlington 2003” Award for best race goes to the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 from Martinsville. Yeah, we know … No you never, Larry.
  • And lastly (and for what it’s worth) the “Dale Darrell Waltrip Richard Petty Rusty Awesome Bill Irvan Gordon Earnhardt Smith Johnson, Jr.” Award for best driver through not quite the one-third point of the season goes to your points leader, Mr. Kevin Harvick. It’s all about body of work, people. That 8.7-place average finish is hard to overlook. The Talladega win was the capper.

So that’s that, and thanks for the idea Laura, wherever you are in New Jersey. I’ll wrap this up with a very interesting question. One I had never been asked, nor thought to ask.

I watched your clip of the Earnhardt/Waltrip incident from 1986. Watching the interview with winner Kyle Petty after the race, I noticed that as he exited the car he was not showered with liquid drinks of any kind. Just kind of got me to wondering when — what I consider one of the stupidest things in NASCAR (no wonder people consider us rednecks!) — the liquid shower for the winner and anyone within reach in Victory Lane began?
— Ken Smith, Fremont Ohio

A: Told ya it was a good one. Best I can surmise, Ken, the tradition began with the spraying of champagne and has evolved over the years to include everything from beer to soft drinks to sports drinks.

Surprisingly — and to put your mind at ease about the redneck thing — the first Victory Lane celebration complete with sprayed champagne is believed to have been done in 1967, after Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. So much for the high-brow types looking down their nose at us hilljacks pouring oversized bottle of the bubbly on one another, huh?

Of course, over the years the tradition has found its way to NASCAR and literally every other form of motorsports in the world. And as the corporate age of NASCAR dawned, the showers consisted of whatever beverage the winning team may have been associated with. From epic Tim Richmond Old Mil-abrations to Davey pouring Miller High Life over Bobby’s head at Daytona to the Gatorade/Powerade wars of 2004 to Junior’s Bud Crew reigning a waterfall of suds to the present-day Coca-Cola Bottle Squeeze, it’s all about who’s showing me the money.

The one element that remains constant, though, is the large champagne bottles, provided by the track and uncorked by driver and crew chief for the benefit of the assembled photo corp.

Thanks for making it this far. I promise I won’t repeat these awards at the midway point or after the season. The randomness of Week 11 fits it too well. Keep Nashville in your prayers.

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Recent articles from Matt Taliaferro:

Fanning the Flames: Of Daytona, Danica, Dale, and Duels
2009 Season Review: Tony Stewart
2009 Season Review: Ryan Newman
Fanning the Flames: Closing the Inbox on the 2009 Season
Fanning the Flames: The Crew Chief Carousel and Other Assorted Oddities