Fanning the Flames · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday May 3, 2007
I love this time of the year. It's May, and here in Tennessee that signifies a major shift in the seasons. The flowers are blooming, the fish are biting, and there is no humidity accompanying the beautiful 75 degree days that have sprung from the chilly mornings of April.
May also signifies a shift in the NASCAR racing season. The circuit has visited two plate tracks, two short tracks, and five intermediate venues, so we've had a chance to see what each team has in their arsenal. The opening stretch is over…yet the Dog Days of summer are not yet upon us. And look at the tracks we visit this month: Richmond, with it's old school charm and new-age facility; Darlington, the toughest patch of asphalt in existence; and Charlotte, with it's All-Star fireworks and 600 miles of Memorial Day Weekend Madness.
Yes, it's been a rough start to the season. I'm as tired of having to read, write, and discuss Daytona penalties, phantom debris cautions, beer-can projectiles, and the Car of Tomorrow as you are reading about it. But hey, it's May, and we have the greatest single month of venues and competition before us that we'll see all season. Here's to hoping the racing â€” the pure art form of driving â€” on three of the circuit's most storied tracks far overshadows the soap opera that fills the six-day void in between the roar of the engines.
With that said, let's tackle some questions. What else are we going to do now that we're in the middle of that six-day racing void? Give me a shout, folks. There are more opinions, issues, and exploits flying around the series than I've ever seen, so don’t be afraid to share the love, people! The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: So, 14 fans got a lifetime ban from Talladega for throwing stuff at Jeff Gordon after he passed Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on the wins list. Doesn't he get pelted with beer cans after every win? Will other tracks start handing out lifetime bans, or did Talladega overreact, Ricky Bobby-style? â€” Nate R.
A: I'm sure there have been a few 12-ouncers aimed Gordon's way on a cooldown lap or two, but not to the extent we've seen over the last two weeks. Last Spring's Talladega ending and the Bristol night race in 1999 (when Big E rattled Terry's cage) aside, I do not remember a chorus of projectiles of this magnitude ever.
Look, whatever it takes to make a big enough example out of these “fans” so that it will discourage others from doing the same is fine with me. No one wants to ban coolers, but if this keeps upâ€¦
Q: I thought I would give you a heads up. Earnhardt fans are not the only ones who dislike Jeff Gordon. When you go to the next race….look around. You will see fans wearing gear of almost every driver booing him. He thinks the track belongs to him, every driver should just move over and let him pass, and God forbid someone touches him or races him hard.
Perhaps since Dale, Jr. has the most fans, he (and we) get blamed for any negativity on or at the track. Ain’t true, McGee! JG is just a universally disliked driver, and that is the truth. Sooooo, if the worst happens at Dega, don’t just lump all the childish, immature behavior on Junior or Senior fans. There is enough to go around. Include the drunks and fans of all the other drivers. Thank you. â€” Virginia R.
A: One thing I've always wanted to ask the Gordon Haters out there: If Jeff is so disliked, why did he finish second in the Most Popular Driver voting last year? Virginia, I'm sorry, but I agree with absolutely nothing you said concerning Gordon.
While we (continue to) remain on the beer throwing topic, I've learned from more than one person who was there that a major point of discontent focused on NASCAR changing the scoring after the caution had flown to show Gordon, not McMurray, the leader. Not only that, but I’ve heard that “fans” of several drivers were guilty of beer throwing…not just Junior’s.
Q: Tony, Tony, Tony… NASCAR is the new WWF? If Tony Stewart were a “wrasler,” who would he be? Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jerry Lawler, or Hollywood Hogan? Seriously, he makes a good point. But I think NASCAR officials throwing the caution flag for invisible debris is more like touch-foul star-treatment in the NBA Playoffs. Bad for business, or good for the game? â€” Rush
A: On the contrary, I believe it's good for business (in the short term) and bad for the game. Tony said it right: “To me, it's not all about the money, it's about the integrity of the sport, and when I feel our own sanctioning body isn't taking care of that, it's hard to support them and feel proud about being a driver in the Nextel Cup Series when they're throwing debris cautions.”
Bunching the field up and engineering excitement may draw fan and sponsor interest to the sport, but like Tony said, when you lose your integrity in doing so, what's the point?
And by the way Rush, judging from Stewart's verbal blast of NASCAR, I'd say his wrestling alter ego is Rowdy Roddy Piper, as Tony's got his own version of Piper's Pit every Tuesday night.
That's it for this week, ya'll. Hope the “beer-tossing” questions go away soon; in the meantime, it is May, so I'm going fishing.
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