The Frontstretch: Diary of a Madman: Cabin Fever & Stir Crazy Collides With an Irritating Daytona 500 by Vito Pugliese -- Wednesday February 18, 2009

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Well, another Daytona 500 has come and gone, and many are still talking about it. The 2009 NASCAR season is officially underway, and this year Speedweeks had many compelling stories to discuss.

It started with the Budweiser Shootout that had Kevin Harvick virtually replaying the 2007 Daytona 500 with a last lap pass for the win. Then, there were the Duel 150s that saw Jeremy Mayfield, Scott Riggs, and A.J. Allmendinger squeak in the field by the skin of their teeth (or in Mayfield’s case, flat top). Enter the Camping World Series Truck race next, where Todd Bodine was black flagged, single-handedly took out half the field, then held off Kyle Busch for the win. And finally, there was the Nationwide Series event that was pretty tame until Jason Leffler sent Steven Wallace for a ride, followed by Shrub attempting to blow Smoke up out of the way.

Sunday brought the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of stock car racing (as Ken Squier once labeled it). I was not at the track for this particular event. Like so many of you, I was perched on my couch, pounding a Hungry Howie’s calzone while shoveling tortilla chips and queso dip into my food hole. Can I tell you about Snickers ice cream bars? They’re awesome. Especially the third one.

Anyways, during the eight hours or so I spent watching the hype and hoopla, a few things struck a chord, caught my eye, raised an eyebrow (no small feat for Jimmie Johnson), and piqued my interest. Ever have your interest piqued?

Well, I have.

With that, here are a few random rambling rumblings that came to me while watching a soggy day of racing from Northern Florida, while enduring yet another suck-ass, bone-chilling Sunday in western Michigan.

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie, you seriously need to shave the beard. It does not make you look like Crockett or in any way a tough guy. It makes you look like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia . It does not create an aura of charisma or mystery, or whatever is trying to be purported because a few haters accuse you of being “boring.” Dude, just be yourself. Go back to winning races, say you’re stoked, thank all the employee owners of Lowe’s, and remind us that Chad is a genius.

Jimmie, look, welding in the middle of the night is one thing — but that mess on your face has to go.

Remember, it’s OK that you’ve been diagnosed with JGS (Jeff Gordon Syndrome) — we’re here for you. If winning is a crime, then stand up and plead guilty as charged. And while I’m at it, stop carving yourself up with a jack knife trying to fish that drinky straw through your firesuit. Scars can look cool, but only if they come from wrecking a motorcycle or falling off a golf cart – both of which you have done. The straw thing just makes you look clumsy. Please don’t walk through a glass shower door next. Or shave off an eyebrow by accident.

That would just look creepy.

Elliott Sadler
Elliott, do we need to knit you an Afghan? What was the deal with the little pity-party there while leading with 60 to go? Let’s be honest here; it wasn’t until you were threatening legal action that you got your ride back a couple of months ago. The truth is, you took that header off the stage on Trackside a couple of years ago better than you handled leading the Daytona 500 with rain imminent. It’s understandable, I guess, with it being the biggest race on the planet and everything. If it’s any consolation, thank you for not pulling a Vickers (or in this case, a Tony Stewart) and swerving at Matt Kenseth when he took the lead from you. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Anyways, congrats on a fine performance and a solid run. Buck up, little camper… we’re going to make it up that mountain.

Chris Myers
Is there a legitimate reason that Chris Myers gets to wear the SOCOM US Navy SEALS headset and I don’t? Is it because of his luxurious and gorgeous hair? I am pretty sure that he doesn’t know much more about NASCAR now than he did eight years ago when FOX first started butchering racing coverage. He’s good with stick and ball sports… but ones that involve tires and headers, uh, not so much.

The pre-race show … is bad. It does not need to be an hour. 15 minutes is probably sufficient to show a montage of race car drivers uncomfortably mugging for the camera (“OK Kyle, slide those sunglasses on slower … that’s it. Mark, relax a little, and look stern and pensive …”) while reciting a bunch of random statistics. I don’t need to hear Jeff Hammond start off every sentence with “basically” or “kinda like.” I will say, however, that Hambone hasn’t lost much when it comes to pitting a car. Give him a few days to train with that impact wrench some more, and he could be ready by California.

Digger
Somebody desperately needs to choke the living $#*! out of that miserable vermin, post-haste; or, as my dad normally handles woodchucks back home, roll him with a .223 JHP. Digger is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the sport today and NASCAR’s shameless attempt to attract attention to itself through any means necessary. I can picture the meeting that gave the go ahead for Digger: “Let’s try to pander to Casual Sports Viewer or Golf-Guy, who will recognize Digger as the gopher from Caddyshack !”

If the sport can dip this low, what’s next? Is the San Diego Chicken going to hold the Stop/Go sign at the end of pit road and stomp off with it in protest after an official tries to pull it from him? Are the Harlem Globetrotters going to come out and start clowning Greg Biffle’s team in the middle of a pit stop?

Hey FOX, here’s an idea: how about just calling your camera “Track-Cam?” Is that too much to ask? Or how about duct taping it to the side of the head restraint in the car, so I can actually see what the driver is seeing? Last time I checked, the driver is not positioned atop the roof or suffering from walleye-vision. I am still amazed that after 30 years, the best visual coverage I have seen yet is from the mid-‘80s, when CBS was first experimenting with the in-car camera…

Keith Urban
An Australian guy who sings with a Southern accent? Fair enough.

Awkward that his wife’s ex-husband and cult leader was milling about Jeff Gordon’s pits in mirrored sunglasses? Kind of.

When Chris Myers’ first question to him was, “Do you like speed?” I was expecting his response to be, “No, but I’m really into coke.”

And what is with the rapid weight loss plan? Jimmy Spencer might want to try NutriSystem, but you’re probably good. Ease off the caloric burn throttle and feel free to mix in a sandwich. It doesn’t have to be Vegemite, either. Try a corn dog at the concession stand… it won’t kill you.

FOX Crew
I find it a bit odd that when the Vickers / Earnhardt fracas occurred, the announcers were very quick to shake a finger at Junior, and did so in unison. It was as if they were going out of their way to sound objective. A few minutes later, they couldn’t stop making excuses fast enough. It was as if someone phoned the booth and told them to elevate their thinking and reevaluate the situation.

While I can understand their taking it back — since I am of the opinion that Vickers instigated the situation — it didn’t do much to quell those who so vociferously charge that the media is in Hendrick’s and Junior’s hip pocket.

And memo to Mike Joy: You’re a great announcer, I’ve been watching you do this since I was five years old, but please, please stop calling Kyle Busch “Wild Thing.” Nobody calls him that except you. The “Hello, Newman…” thing was bad enough when he won a bunch of races. This is just making things worse.

Joey Logano
The last time a guy who had such high expectations set for him rolled into Daytona as a rookie, it was 1993. He had a mullet, a terrible porn-stache, and drove a rattly F-body Camaro. That same guy, however, also won his 125-mile qualifying race and finished fifth in his first Daytona 500 — with a brand new team. I think you know of whom I speak.

Unfortunately, the only guy who wanted to get out of Daytona faster than Joey Logano this year was probably Ryan Newman. Logano got turned head-on into the wall during the Budweiser Shootout, pancaked the right side of his No. 20 in practice, then ran head-on into the inside retaining wall during the Daytona 500. Things were so bad, Logano might want to look at getting Head-On – Apply-Directly-To-The-Forehead as an associate sponsor.

Those wrecks, coupled with a handful of wall-rubbing incidents throughout the week during practice made for a rough Daytona debut for the rookie deemed Sliced Bread; which, by the way, might just might be the dumbest nickname I have ever heard applied to anyone. It doesn’t make any sense. Consider some of the nicknames in NASCAR’s storied past: Fireball. Junior. Buddy. Smokey. Suitcase.

Sliced Bread? See: stupid.

Please don’t take any of these comments as indictments against anyone; it’s all in good fun. There is enough gloom and doom in the news as it is, and I have yet another snowstorm headed my way in a few hours — so I have to try to find humor in something, especially since this weekend, the series moves to Caliboringya and the Auto Club 500. Auto Club… isn’t that the thing you wrench onto the steering wheel of your Cutlass Supreme so nobody steals it from you? Would that even work on a stock car, since the steering wheel is removable?

There’s some food for thought next week.

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marshall
02/18/2009 09:31 AM
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Mike Joy a great announcer ??? Well , HE thinks he is . In truth , hes no better than the majority of “ announcers “ on these unwatchable shows .
Through the entire Speedweeks coverage from Daytona , there were a very small handfull of analysts who actually did a good job . Andy Petree , Dale Jarrett , and Dave Despain all did a very good job . PERIOD! The rest , all of them , terrible as always . I didn’t hear one single question from a pit reporter that we all didn’t already know the answer to . The radio broadcasts were far superior as usual .
One thing remains certain each season . The pre-race and post race shows keep getting longer and mor inane .

Kevin in SoCal
02/18/2009 01:18 PM
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Vito, I still find it hilarious that a reporter from Michigan calls the California track boring. I guess the four more degrees of banking that Michigan Speedway has makes all the difference. Or perhaps Michigan would be less exciting if it was 500 miles too.

Douglas
02/18/2009 02:13 PM
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A job well done my friend! Great reading!

And your “Somebody desperately needs to choke the living $#*! out of that miserable vermin, post-haste; or, as my dad normally handles woodchucks back home, roll him with a .223 JHP.” is probably the funniest thing I have read in ages!

(oh, from the Western Michigan area)

Jimmy Mac
02/18/2009 05:36 PM
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Vito- by your title, I thought I;d hate the post. I didn’t. Good points were made and you made me laugh. I don;t gree with you an all counts, but I havea wrist rocket for Digger if ya need it. They may not let you sneak a gun into Auto Club.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
02/18/2009 07:17 PM
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If Michgian was lengthend 500 miles, I’d kill myself.

Of course it was a funny article Jimmy Mac. I am the greatest thing to happen to racing journalisim since Jeanie Zelasko.

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