The Frontstretch: Because I Just Can't Take California Racing Too Seriously by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday September 2, 2008

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Because I Just Can't Take California Racing Too Seriously

Sitting in the Stands : A Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday September 2, 2008


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I knew it! I just knew it!

Like something from an episode of the X-files, it sat in the middle of the track, looking vaguely like an indeterminate piece of technology. It was big, clearly made of metal and entirely out of place. Awkward shadows hid its true purpose in life. But there was no denying it, there had to be a debris caution.

The little men in the safety truck were dispatched to the location of the incident. There was the customary scurrying and tossing of the item into the bed of the pick-up before the anonymous worker climbed back into his vehicle and sped off. Crisis over. The field was now bunched back up and NASCAR Control could let fly the green flag in the interest of finding some nifty racing on this warm California night.

Then the guys in the television production truck went to work, playing back various camera shots trying to determine from whence the foreign object came. It was a safety light. One of many blinking yellow lights mounted to the fencing system surrounding the track. Typically, these chunks of electrified metal hang from their brackets and provide little, if any, entertainment. Oddly enough, this particular safety light simply fell from its usual position. What happened?

Conspiracy theorists unite! After years of odd and unexplained cautions for debris, S.D. Grady has finally figured out it is the V.I.P.‘s in the fancy RVs, posing as rabid NASCAR fans, that are responsible.

I have a theory, conjured during the mind-numbing laps called a stock car race Sunday night. Hence, it probably has a few logic flaws…but when trying to stay awake while watching TV, it’s amazing what your brain can come up with.

It’s a conspiracy! After years and years of suffering through mysterious debris cautions, I did become suspicious of NASCAR’s tendency to put out the yellow for a random candy wrapper when it suited them. However, after having listened to the tower during many NASCAR events, I can no longer point the fingers at the obvious powers that be. Too many times, I’ve heard the race director actually laugh at hysterical drivers declaring the track is just littered with engine parts. Usually said driver has the leader threatening to put them a lap down. So, I’ve been reticent to place the blame for the occasional yellow with an apparent lack of litter on the track.

However, what if it really isn’t the men in the tower that are responsible? What if…

See, last week NASCAR issued another of their infamous “probation” penalties to Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. This has happened endless times over the past decade. I often refer to this form of punishment as “double-secret probation”. Nobody knows exactly what will happen if the admonished parties do it again and nobody seems to know precisely who is enforcing the probation. Thus, the secret part.

So, what if that mysterious enforcement entity is sort-of a NASCAR Secret Service? cue the really cool music

They arrive at the track days before the first qualifying session in the guise of some rabid NASCAR fans. They park their top of the line RV in the spot reserved for the V.I.P. guests and seem to know just about everybody associated with this traveling circus. And for those few days before the haulers start to arrive, this group of fans are mostly not to be found. Where are they?

I think they’re setting traps. Perhaps in California, they attached some explosive bolts to that lighting fixture. In 2004, they probably poured some kind of high-tech compound into the concrete at Martinsville so that it would jump up and put a hole through Jeff Gordon’s car. In Pocono, I suspect they wrangle deer, releasing the random poor creature onto the track at opportune moments. In New Hampshire, a few years ago, the numbered markers for the turns began to fly from their moorings during the race. Were they making use of a bolt cutter?

You have to admit, every few races there is just something odd that happens. It usually results in a bunch of uniformed inspectors standing around and pointing at the oddity such as boilerplates that shift after impact, gates that come unlatched—even though they were checked multiple times, and tires that fail to last longer than 10 laps. We could attribute the apparent confusion displayed by NASCAR as great acting, but then again…

Can you hear the Twilight Zone music?

It makes you think, doesn’t it? I shall have to be more observant when we travel up to the track next weekend and park our RV seven days before the big event. While we will be enjoying campfires and the song of crickets all week long, I will wonder exactly where the other 4,999 RV’ers went.

Author’s disclaimer: The above theory is in no way associated with Area 51, Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster.

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The Old Guy
09/02/2008 11:05 AM

The words “California” and “Racing” should never be used in the same sentence when speaking of, or writing about, that place where Sundays snooze fest was held.

09/02/2008 12:59 PM

When I hear “california” I hear “no racing this weekend”.

I haven’t watched a race there since the first one. And I won’t ever again.

The best way to get nascar’s attention is to not watch (or go).

Kevin in SoCal
09/02/2008 02:09 PM

Has there been any race this year you guys would call “good” ?

I imagine you havent seen a good race since the 80’s.

09/02/2008 02:26 PM

Been several I’d call “good”.

Now, “awesome”? Hmm……Let me check….

Well, so far this year my favorites would be Darlington, Martinsville, and Richmond. And, surprisingly, I enjoyed Atlanta this year.

I think I’ll like Atlanta on Labor Day weekend although I still wish it would go back to Darlington.

09/02/2008 02:28 PM

“I imagine you havent seen a good race since the 80’s.”

Oh, I saw PLENTY of awesome racing in the ’90’s too.

The Old Guy
09/02/2008 09:16 PM

Well, Kevin…

There have been a number of good races this year, as well as last year. And, there have been a boatload of them since 1980.

Unfortunately, none of them have ever been at the California Speedway.

09/03/2008 07:38 PM

And never will.

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