The Frontstretch: A Dying Man's Five Racing Wishes... If I Were Dying, That Is. by Vito Pugliese -- Tuesday October 28, 2008

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A Dying Man's Five Racing Wishes... If I Were Dying, That Is.

The Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday October 28, 2008


With the 2008 NASCAR season winding down, we are in the middle of one of the more anti-climactic points races of the last decade, regardless of format. There is one outstanding title fight in the Truck Series, and another brewing in the Nationwide Series. Predictably, most of the media have avoided covering these two series with much more than a passing interest. Then again, most of the media has avoided covering some telling statements about a certain individual who will be running for an elected executive office next week, so why should this be any different?

As much as I would like to sit here and go over the possible scenarios of how Carl Edwards could beat Jimmie Johnson, or what Jimmie would have to do to empty the magazine into his foot and cost himself a title, I will avoid that and talk about something markedly different and refreshing:

Me. Because when you get right down to it, it’s all about me and what I want.

There are certain inevitabilities in life: Death, Taxes, the Detroit Lions being the worst team ever in the history of organized sports. You might want to chalk up Johnson winning four consecutive titles at this point, because there isn’t a whole lot that group does wrong, and at last look, Chad Knaus and his driver aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That being said, there are a few things I have on my racing bucket list that I’d like to see before I draw my knees up into my chest, take one last gasp and lay down for a dirt nap. These are purely selfish requests, and are in no way rooted in reality, objectivity or plausibility.

The return of Rockingham and North Wilkesboro to the schedule:
Will this ever happen? You have a better shot at seeing Steven Hawking challenging Robbie Knievel to a jump-off over the Grand Canyon. Though come to think of it, that would be pretty awesome, and technically it’s motorsports. But I digress.

The likelihood of it happening is between slim and none, but it sure would be great to see some of the old mainstays of NASCAR return. These were tracks that created some of the greatest racing moments I can remember. Dale Earnhardt wrecking with Ricky Rudd on the last lap at North Wilkesboro in 1989 — a finish that would ultimately cost him what would have been his fourth title. Two years later it was Earnhardt and Harry Gant going at it, denying Gant what would have been his record setting fifth consecutive win … at a mere 51 years young. Now it is over grown with weeds and crab grass.

Rockingham was another great old track that has since been slightly reanimated, having hosted an ARCA race this past spring, as well as serving as an open test track for the Cup teams during the course of the year. Who can forget the stirring invocation given by Darrell Waltrip just one week after the tragic passing of Earnhardt for a race that was halted due to rain. Bright, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky on Monday, it was Dale Earnhardt, Inc. driver Steve Park passing Bobby Labonte on the final lap – not unlike Earnhardt did to latter a year earlier at Atlanta. Park was as emotional as anyone else who was watching, hardly able to contain himself after the race while being interviewed. I still get a little teary eyed watching that clip seven years later.

Could Las Vegas or Chicago offer up that sort of drama or finish? Doubtful.

Racing stock cars as cars that are stock:
Let’s face it; the American auto business is in the toilet. All parties are guilty, though a tip of the cap goes to the UAW for doing everything humanly possibly to cripple the industry that employs them. Hey, I’m from Michigan — I know of which I speak. Since they are blowing through that $25 billion in government loans like MC Hammer on cars, houses and horse, why not have a series for cars that really are … stock cars?

Gut them, weld in a roll cage, throw on some headers and slicks, and have at it. Hey, they used to have a class for convertibles once, right? Sure, that may have been back in the days of leather helmets and the flagman standing ON the racetrack, but whatever, they used to have cars that were essentially “stock” cars as well. Let’s put some teeth back into Henry Ford’s, “Win on Sunday/Sell on Monday,” mantra we have heard so much about over the years. After all, his company needs it probably more than anyone else’s.

Since this is my wish list, I will make this the rule of the Nationwide Series. They already are using my idea of going to the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger, so do it with the cars that are V8, rear wheel drive and available with a manual transmission from the factory. With a 400 horsepower V8 available in the Mustang for 2010, they’ll all be at similar power/weight ratios. Get those crowbars and torches out and have at it.

Mark Martin wins a Sprint Cup Championship:
Many of the staff here are probably rolling their eyes about now. As a journalist you’re expected to be unbiased. That’s fine, but I’m also a shameless, unapologetic shill for the Batesville, Ark., native.

I’ll be honest, if not for him, I probably would never have followed racing as closely as I did in my formative years, and you would not be reading this (so if you think this sucks, don’t take it out on him). That being said, is there any guy who has gotten rooked out of a championship more times than the little guy? He actually would have won the title in 1990, had NASCAR not fined him 46 points for a spacer plate that was bolted — rather than welded — to his intake manifold at Richmond. This was the same manifold that went through inspection three times race weekend and was touched by a NASCAR inspector. He lost the title by 20 points that season, and would go on to finish second on three more occasions.

He was in position to win the title in 1997 in the closing laps at Atlanta, when leading and pulling away when his Valvoline Thunderbird burned a piston in the closing laps, and he slid back to third just as Jeff Gordon was limping around as the last car three laps down.

The 2007 Daytona 500 was just more salt in the wound for what would have made a nice consolation prize for his not wining a championship. He was denied when NASCAR, for the first time since 2003, decided to let cars race back to the finish line amid chaos, mayhem and utter destruction, with the track blocked and cars upside down, flipping and on fire.

No matter, Mark Martin returns full-time for 2009 to once again walk into the hailstorm of doom, gloom and disappointment, in search of the prize that has eluded him for as long as I have been alive.

Kurt and Kyle Busch get into a fight with Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart:

This will be awesome. I want an uncensored interview with each of them afterwards. It should probably be at Bristol too, so then they all will be extra irritated. Kurt will unload with a rash of analogies and eloquent expletives, Kyle will offer a deadpanned comment about Delana Harvick’s firesuit, leading Kevin to shove Tony and remind him about the Brickyard in 2007. Smoke will then insult the reporter who comes up to him to ask him a question while crushing a $5 Footlong in his Subway firesuit. Then Jimmy Spencer comes out of nowhere smoking a cigar and pops Kurt Busch in the nose again, just for posterity.

Just for the record, I like all of these guys.

The MRN crew calls the race on television:
You want to know why NASCAR ratings have suffered and interest is lacking as of late? I’m here to give you bibles full of truth: the coverage is nothing short of abysmal. If you have a chance to catch a classic race broadcast from CBS or ESPN during the 1980s or early ’90s, you will notice a marked difference: it is actually not painful to watch!

Ken Squier was the master of building excitement and narrating a 500-mile race, even if things got spread out a bit. Watching on television today is nothing short of painful. The action on the track is secondary to the conversation that is taking place in the booth or what selected driver is profiled for over three hours. Listen to a race on your radio by tuning into MRN. Barney Hall and Joe Moore, along with the rest of the crew, paint an entirely different portrait compared to what beige Etch-A-Sketch drawing is offered on television, between promos for prime-time TV shows or upcoming football games.

These are just a few things that came across my mind the other day. I’m sure you have your own opinion of what you would like to see if you had one last racing-wish. Feel free to add yours to this list — we always appreciate and welcome reader interaction and look forward to reading your comments and replies.

Contact Vito Pugliese

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

10/28/2008 07:55 AM

I would so love to see racing AGAIN at The Rock. I attended 28 races there over the years. Camped in the rain, the heat, the cold, and 4 other kinds of weather I couldn’t even recognize. I met some of the best fans in the world. I cried when I heard the news of it’s impending doom. If I did have a wish it would be for NA$CAR to return to The Rock in all it’s full regalia… just one last time.

10/28/2008 08:16 AM

And my wish would be to just have a decent organizing body take over STOCK CAR RACING!

10/28/2008 09:34 AM

I’ve been a Mark Martin fan since I started watching racing, and I agree that the heartbreak reaches out to his fans almost as bad as it does to him. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still the 1990 Winston Cup Champion, AND the winner of the 2007 Daytona 500… Two wins that were taken away by, as usual, bullshit subjective officiating and rules made up on the spot. It’s staggering that Mark has lasted as long as he has without throwing up his arms and going to sports car racing or something.

Having said that, I work for Carquest, and seeing my favourite driver in our team’s seat has given me a reason to watch Spring Cup again (although that might be a bad thing)… He’ll have the equipment to finally win a Cup title… the question is, will the bullshit of “The Chase” ruin it for him, or phantom cautions, rules infractions that don’t exist… Guess we’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic, but also prepared for more heartbreak.

10/28/2008 10:05 AM

Geeze Vito,

I don’t know how to break this to you, but you ARE gonna die, before Mark Martin wins a Cup Championship!

Listening to Jerry Punch, is about as exciting as golf on the radio. The only thing worse was having to listed to Brad Daughtery become a full blown Mikey cheerleader, after getting bed with him, metaphorically speaking…..I think.

10/28/2008 11:30 AM

My wish is that na$car does something to make me want to come back next year. Get ride of chase (I’m dreaming), bring back “The Rock” (I’m dreaming), bring back real stock racing (I’m dreaming), etc. I could go on and on, but what’s the use. The season was over a couple of races ago and I see no reason to continue to watch this sorry excuse for racing. Thanks for listening.

Bill B
10/28/2008 12:34 PM

What year was BF born? My wish would be to go back in time and give Bill France a condom.

10/28/2008 12:55 PM

Hehe…good stuff Vito. Great sense of humor.
I’d like to see more girlfriends and wives go at it. They are as passionate about their beaus as the Bo’s and Luke’s are about their own racing. Throw in a kiddie pool and some jello and ya got something better than pay-per-view!

10/28/2008 01:07 PM

My wish would be for Brian France to just go away and let an adult in the France family take over. No one can do any worse. Little Brian should have enough cash to buy all the sodas he can drink. It’s a shame what he has done to NASCAR.

10/28/2008 01:10 PM

Hey Bill B!!


Don Good
10/28/2008 01:19 PM

You’ve got some good wishes, especially about North Wilkesboro and Rockingham. I’d also advocate giving Darlington back it’s rightful Labor Day date.

Lunar Tunes
10/28/2008 02:37 PM

Yeah, that is a REAL GOOD ONE Bill B.

The only way it could have been better is if you had signed it ‘Bill FRANCE’ !!!!!! Jr. or Sr…..they prolly both wish the same thing too!

Jeff Meyer
10/28/2008 02:42 PM

“…All parties are guilty, though a tip of the cap goes to the UAW for doing everything humanly possibly to cripple the industry that employs them. Hey, I’m from Michigan — I know of which I speak.”

LOL Tune in Next Week to see writers Vito P & Tommy T. go head to head in a WWF Cage Style Death Match! LOL Too funny.

The Old Guy
10/28/2008 04:50 PM

Let’s see. Mark Martin and Dale Jr. are fighting for the championship in 2009 (an unlikely scenario for either of them.), Rick Hendrick looks at his invertment in the 88 team and the fact that M. Martin is in his last year. Can you say “Team Orders”?

I would love to see Mark Martin win a Championship but I’d prefer to see it with him driving for the “Cat who brought him to the dance.”

10/28/2008 05:05 PM

I am from Michigan also, been in the auto industry all my life, as has family, but when you see skilled trades people at the big three making $250,000/year, you know something is wrong! Totally wrong!

OOPS! Thats not my job”!

And now there’s not enough of them (UAW highly paid workers) to go out and buy all the $30,000 SUV’S they are making!

Gee! We did not see that coming now did we!

And a relative in business sold a GM employee a “product”, she wanted to know what kind of vehicle he was driving, she wanted to keep her business “local”, as she sits at her GM desk with her Chinese Computer, her Taiwanse clothing, and with GM’s largest manufacturing plant overseas!

Aren’t we really silly?

And stupid?

And even more GM stuff, used to sell product to GM, most on bid basis! So after submitting an ever-changing bid, you were selected as lowest bidder! You received notification of this!

THEN! GM purchasing would send out YOUR (winning) bid once again with a letter that said “can you beat this bid”?

10/28/2008 07:29 PM

How’s this for an idea. Get rid of The Chase, and have something akin to a real playoff. Maybe 2-4 races at select (or even defunct, to your point above) tracks. Only the top 10-12 drivers race. Every other sport has a playoff where only X number of teams make it.

You would re-set points, and sure maybe give bonus points for regular season standings (seeding, essentially).

10/28/2008 10:21 PM

Hands down…. best line ever….from BILL B. I will be laughing till tomorrow.
Vito, I like your article this week. So I say…
I would like to see these sissys throw some different tires on, a windshield wiper, and not stop the race and put car covers on when it starts to rain. Run them in the water. I don’t see the big deal. I also think they should make a sequel to “Days of Thunder”. Guaranteed it would suck like the first but everybody would go and see it.
Take care Vito and keep up the good work!!!!!

Kevin in SoCal
10/29/2008 01:18 PM

Could Las Vegas or Chicago offer up that sort of drama or finish? Doubtful.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for leaving the tired old Fontana joke in your back pocket and picking two other tracks instead.

Joe, I dont think any tire manufacturer in the world can create a rain tire that will stick to the pavement in an inch of water at 150+ miles per hour. Its just too dangerous to race on ovals in the rain. Unless you like watching the cars go around the track at 50 MPH.

Paul F.
10/29/2008 01:38 PM

Great article! You’ve pretty much covered all my huge problems with NASCAR today: the cars, the tracks, the television, and the BS playoff system. It’s amazing how many people have problems with all four, yet all four only get worse over time…

I feel a parallel pain to yours with Mark Martin, except mine is in watching a sport I love crumble. Stock car racing in NASCAR is dead.

10/30/2008 06:22 PM

Kyle Petty wins one race

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