The Frontstretch: Haven't I Seen This Show Before? Deja Vu All Over Again In The Lone Star State by Vito Pugliese -- Tuesday November 4, 2008

Go to site navigation Go to article

Haven't I Seen This Show Before? Deja Vu All Over Again In The Lone Star State

Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Tuesday November 4, 2008


Have you ever got the feeling while watching a movie, that you may have seen it once or twice before? You’ll notice it when viewing virtually any action movie made over the last 20 years that it is essentially a slightly disguised rip off of Die Hard – with the exception of Ironman – which by the way, is awesome. I’ve had similar feelings before watching races. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you swear you’ve seen the same one before – and I don’t mean just because there’s been another 30-car pile up at Talladega. Those similarly uneasy feelings came over me again this past Sunday while watching the Dickies 500 from Texas Motor Speedway. Well, at Texas Motor Speedway. I was in my living room. Thank you for the English lessons, U.S. educational system. But I digress…

Empty Seats: Yes, this has been an epidemic that has grown more noticeable the last few years, but to me, this really hit home on Sunday. I do not recall ever seeing as many unoccupied seats at past Texas Motor Speedway races than this past Sunday. And, after suffering through most of the event, I can understand why, although I had always felt that the DFW track was immune to this sort of thing. A check of the stated attendance figure shows that 165,000 were on hand to avoid being subjected to the Denton County Parade televised on ESPN. Back in 2005, when Texas was included into the final 10 races for The Chase, approximately 194,000 were on hand.

Can the poor attendance last weekend at Texas be attributed to a slow economy or to declining fan interest?

A swing of nearly 30,000 attendees is far from insignificant; a 15 percent drop in attendance will be surely noticed and the economic impact felt as well. I would also venture to say, judging by the amount of real estate surround the track, that the 165,000 number is probably the result of some generous rounding. Yet another very real sign of a contracting economy, as well as declining fan interest in what but a few short years ago was the hottest thing going. Perhaps the lack of perceived (or very real) competition in Sunday’s race at Texas is the culprit. Then again, the action here was probably equally as satisfying to the average Texan as the Cowboy’s latest huge and embarrassing failure. Brooks Bollinger is not the answer to your problems, Cowboy Fan.

Black Car = Black Cloud: Back in 1961, there was a hit single recorded by Faron Young (and subsequently written by Willie Nelson) entitled, “Hello Walls.” It is not uncommon for bands to record covers of the original tracks, often to disastrous results. I was reminded of one such hit on Sunday, when Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 42 Texaco car went head on into the backstretch wall at about 170 mph. In 1994, Ernie Irvan’s black Texaco car went headlong into the backstretch wall at Michigan in a very similar fashion, and at a very similar speed. He was left in a coma with a slim chance of survival; kept alive by machines with Vaseline smeared over his eyes to keep them from drying out. In Irvan’s case, he was felled by a blown tire during practice.

In Montoya’s incident, he was turned head long into the wall by a driver of less than credible credentials.

To say that David Gilliland has a habit of executing ill-advised maneuvers on the track would be something of an understatement. David Ragan was once decried as a dart with no feathers; if that’s the case, David Gilliand would be akin to a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel, powered by one of those 358 cid Roush-Yates stump pullers.

No, JPM might not have the most envious record of restraint or anger management either, having done pretty much the exact same thing to Kyle Busch at New Hampshire back in June of this year under caution. However, let’s take a look at the context here: Getting looped at 60 mph is quite a bit different that meeting an immoveable object at nearly three times that speed. Even more off-putting was his incredulous explanation following his ejection from the race that he simply, “misjudged” trying to fall in line behind Montoya. His statements amounted to air heated to extremes not seen since the Hindenberg got a little too close to some powerlines — or since the comments uttered by Goodyear engineers at The Brickyard 400 this year.

The potential physical threat aside, it was another strong run ruined for the No. 42 Ganassi team who have struggled mightily this year with slow cars and vanishing race teams, ruined by the “misjudgment” of another driver. Thankfully, nobody ended up getting a helicopter ride to a trauma team.

That is not being melodramatic either.

Pulling a Knaus Out of The Cat In The Hat:: Following Carl Edwards’ Atlanta victory last weekend, the talk had been primarily how Jimmie Johnson’s second-place run in the face of a day gone wrong had spelled doom for the No. 99 team’s championship hopes. How on Earth could Edwards possibly bounce back and manage to contend with the nearly infallible No. 48 Lowe’s team?

Easy. Take a page from their playbook.

Recall back to April of this year at Phoenix. After having lead most of the race, Johnson had been overtaken by teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and future teammate Mark Martin. Martin had victory seemingly in hand, while Johnson faded back a bit. Knaus had Johnson wait until the leaders pitted, then had Johnson back it down to Driving Miss Daisy speed all the way to the checkered flag.

Much the same, Edwards had the dominant machine on Sunday, but fell back in the field after a late pit stop saw him take on four tires while many drivers, including teammate Jamie McMurray, took two for track position.

With clean air on the nose of his Crown Royal Ford, Captain Hair Gel had positioned himself to get the No. 26 Roush Fenway Fusion into Victory Lane and fire those Colt Single Action Armys into the air. While virtually every team on the lead lap pitted with less than 20 laps to go for two tires and a can of fuel, No. 99 crew chief Bob Osborne began coaching Carl to conserve fuel, much like Knaus did with Johnson at Phoenix. Running at what looked and sounded like half-throttle for the final 10 laps, Edwards was mimicking the same strategy Johnson used to win with in April.

It’s kind of hard to beat the cars in front of you by doing the exact same thing in a fuel mileage race. Osborne made the right call, and Edwards sailed home unopposed to his eighth victory of the year, and one that has pulled him to within 106 points of Johnson, who soldiered home in 15th place.

Just for the record, under the traditional system, the difference with two races remaining would be all of 21 points. Hooray for change.

One thing that has not changed, however, is the inevitability of Johnson’s third consecutive championship. Much was made of the day Johnson endured at Texas, running as just another car one lap down for most of the afternoon. As it was, he finished as the third car one lap in arrears just behind Chase competitor Jeff Burton and teammate Casey Mears. Even as he understatedly said that it was not the day he had wanted — and Edwards was bitterly clinging to his hopes of a disastrous couple of weeks for the No. 48 Hendrick team — the future became a bit clearer: Jimmie Johnson needs only to average a seventh place finish in the next two races to secure his claim to the 2008 Sprint Cup.

For a team and driver that have won the two previous championships and are managing an average Chase finishing position of fifth, it is safe to say that the scene we will witness at Homestead in two weeks will indeed be another instance of racing déjà vu all over again.

Contact Vito Pugliese

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

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!

11/04/2008 07:58 AM

Quote from Frontstretch:

Estimated crowd in attendance at Texas.”

Quote from Vito’s article: “that the 165,000 number is probably the result of some generous rounding.”

Gee! Can I get whoever supplied the 165,000 number to count my bank account? Sure would like to double my money!

And talk about credibility!

Quote: “In Montoya’s incident, he was turned head long into the wall by a driver of less than credible credentials.”

Montoya got what he deserved, and why worry about anyone being injured, their driving the very safe CoT remember, isn’t that why this piece of crap was introduced? To protect the drivers?

And like this hasn’t happened before with other drivers involved, including Montoya! As our great friend DW would say: “what goes round comes round”!

BUT, NOW MORE SPECIFICALLY TO THE POINT: If NA$CAR is so interested in driver safety, I.E., cars hitting the wall at speed! Then why doesn’t NA$CAR clean it’s own drawers out and dump GOODYEAR!

I think more drivers have been placed at risk by BLOWN GOODYEAR TIRES, than a dozen David Gilliland’s could cause in a season of racing!

This is yet another case of NA$CRAP saying one thing, I.E. “we support driver safety”, and penalizing a driver for causing a crash, and yet NA$CAR themselves cause more crashes with their defective tires throughout the year than any other cause of crashes! AND I MEAN HARD CRASHES!



Carl D.
11/04/2008 09:24 AM


I’m with you on the Goodyear situation, and the fact that JPM has used the chrome horn on more than a couple of occasions, but that doesn’t for a minute excuse Gilliland’s obvious diregard for the safety of another driver. The hit was as intentional as it was vicious. Nobody on the track deserves to have to take a helicopter ride to the local trauma center, especially due to the hot-headed actions of a fellow competitor.

11/04/2008 11:22 AM

Douglas, I agree with you, that JPM got what he deserves…..and he will continue to get it until he gets the point and or he gets hurt! That’s the way life is!! Also Goodyear needs to go, but I think they give baby brian too much money so drivers will continue to have tire failures and get hurt! So now nascrap tell us how you care about driver safety!!

11/04/2008 11:42 AM

While I don’t condone what Gililandn did to Montoya at those speeds, the #42 driver seems to bring out the worst in fellow competitors. He’s not well liked at all and he constantly ruffs up other drivers. Goodyear is a joke. Another back end of a car (#20) blre off. What gives? As far as the attendence. na$car reaps what it sows. Put on some good racing and fans will watch. The race at Texas was, at it’s best, boring. Thanks for listening

Don Mei
11/04/2008 12:39 PM

All the rationalization in the world cant justify Gillilands actions on Sunday. I suspect most of you cheering him on would soil your diapers if you ever found yourself on a racetrack. If he drove for my team he would be hitting the unemployment line this week.

11/04/2008 12:49 PM

I guess the U.S. educational system wasn’t entirely successful. I think you meant that the song was written and “then” recorded.

11/04/2008 01:06 PM

Hey Don Mei, your quote: “All the rationalization in the world cant justify Gillilands actions on Sunday.”

So, in your mind, just what “rationalization” does NA$CAR use in justifying the continuing use of GOODYEAR TIRES?



And yet, NA$CAR does nothing! (but penalize drivers)!


The Old Guy
11/04/2008 01:30 PM

For Don Mei.

Some of us have been on the racetrack and have been on both ends of the JPM/Gilliland deal. and, I might add, in cars that were about 1/100th as safe as todays cars.

Personally, I applaud Gilliland for taking Juan Problem out.

I wonder how many of you who thought that Gillilands actions were un-excuseable, thought it was OK when Stewart too Kenseth out at Daytona @ 200+ MPH. If I recall correctly, most of you said, ‘That was just one of those racing deals.’

Oh, and did anybody notice, Kyle Busch is ahead of Junyor in the points now?

11/04/2008 01:30 PM

Hold up there Vito.
Did you miss the memo, about the “Official Kool Aid of NA$CAR?

It’s the economy, stupid!
How dare you mention, boring races, cookie cutter tracks, the Car of Crap, wildly optimistic overbuilding of seating. By the two monopolistic track owners, the legacy marshmallow running NA$$$$CAR. Come on, VITO. Shape up!
That benign aside, about waining fan interest, puts you on thin ice.

Kevin in SoCal
11/04/2008 01:52 PM

Just for the record, under the traditional system, the difference with two races remaining would be all of 21 points. Hooray for change.

And last year, under the old system Jeff Gordon would have won by 300+ points. The chase reset made it more interesting. Only a Jeff Gordon fan would say a 300 point runaway is a good thing. Not every year is going to be a fight to the finish.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/04/2008 02:48 PM

Nor shuold it be, Kevin! I am not a fan of The Chase, and never have been. I liked things the way they were.

Whut are you saying Bob, I kant spel gud? Perhaps what I meant to say was, “ (and happened to be recorded by Willie Nelson) “….

don mei
11/04/2008 03:12 PM

For Doug;

Stewart taking out Kenseth at Daytona was just as stupid. Are you trying to use that to justify what Gilliland did? Sounds like 12 year old “nyyah nyyah! “ to me. Lets see if you think its amusing when some driver ends up on life support as a result of such blatant stupidity.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
11/04/2008 03:39 PM

Douglas and I went to the same school. I love how every statement is an exclimation. I envision this crazy man carrying on in his house, throwing stuff and the neighbors can hear it. Hahhaah…Keep up the witty replies, brother!

11/04/2008 05:29 PM

And furthermore! for those of you that think JPM was innocent, and that NA$CRAP is rosy! If your TRULY interested in driver safety, as you claim you are, read this: “Cars dropped to the rear of the field before the start of racing at Texas.
(No. 20 – Tony Stewart and No. 7 – Robby Gordon for going to backup cars”!


So we have at least two VERY HARD hits due to tires, causing drivers thru no fault of their own, having to go to a backup car and get penalized to the back of the pack at that, but not a wimper out of you that want to throw Gilliand to the dogs for putting out one car, and one that started the thing in the first place, JPM! If he doesn’t want to play with the big dogs, let JPM go home! He even admitted he hit Gilliand IN THE CORNER, TURN ONE!

That my loyal friends has ALWAYS been a no-no in NA$CAR’S book, well, which ever one they are using for this weekend anyway!


Where is your uproar over that, huh Don Mei?

And: “ Lets see if you think its amusing when some driver ends up on life support as a result of such blatant stupidity.”, thats a quote from you Don Mei!

And in my mind the BLATANT STUPIDITY rests with NA$CAR and GOODYEAR!

Not with Gilliand who was “protecting” himself from that loose cannon called, yep, JPM!

And a note for Vito, thanks for the comment, I do live in the country so my neighbors really can’t hear me rant and rave!


Señor Obvious
11/04/2008 07:51 PM

Tire management.

Besides, who’s going to supply a tire that WILL hold up to the driver’s inability or unwillingness to manage their tire wear?

It’s not the manufacturer. It’s the drivers.

11/05/2008 07:24 AM

MMMM, hey Senor Obvious!

“Tire management.”

And: “It’s not the manufacturer. It’s the drivers.”

That my friend, if I may say so without offending, is one of the absolute dumbest statements I have ever heard!

Remember Indy??? I hope you do, because tires there lasted two laps before exploding!

And Jr. a few races ago, 5 laps on his tires! BOOM!

And Stewart at practice at Texas, 8 or 10 laps on his tires! BOOM!

Same for Robby Gordon! BOOM!

These tires are failing in less than a dozen laps, and you consider this lack of “tire management”?

At the rate things are going with your illustrious GOODYEARS, proper tire management would be to leave the car in the garage and not go onto the track!

I am simply flabbergasted at anyone would say it is “lack of tire management”!

And as one reader here reminded us, NA$CRAP made the fuel tanks smaller a few years back because GOODYEARS even then were not lasting a full fuel run, at the rate these tires are now failing, they, NA$CRAP need to mandate fuel tanks measuring in quarts! Not gallons!

Señor Obvious
11/05/2008 05:45 PM

It is indeed lack of tire management. What you mention are statistical anomolies. They work great for people who hate all things NASCAR and anything associated, but in reality can be easily explained by one race that had one badly chosen tire, a bad individual tire, a neurotic driver, a crew chief’s overly agressive setup, and finally, and what usually is the problem, lack of tire management.

Again. Name a company that can step up to the plate and make a tire that will withstand the abuses of a driver that won’t excercise proper tire management. You haven’t because you can’t.

It’s a basic of racing. No matter what wearable part you have on your car, you have to conserve it or it will eventually wear out. Whether it’s tires, brakes, gearing or motors, you can’t demand bleeding edge parts and then blame the manufacturer when they aren’t able to hold up to undue abuse.

Contact Vito Pugliese