Sometimes – and it only happens about three times a year – sometimes, something happens on the track that evokes the best and worst out of all the fans that follow NASCAR week in, week out. It usually involves one or two of the most popular drivers, and it induces opinions fed by loyalty, which, at times, one may think becomes stronger than the belief in God himself. The last lap at Talladega this past week produced just such an incident, and the reaction by fans this week has done nothing but back up the theory of extreme loyalty I just mentioned above.
Before I proceed, let me make sure my readers know exactly how I feel about the parties involved in last weekend’s “shenanigans.”
In my opinion, Jimmie Johnson isn’t a good guy. He is a very talented driver, but he has no integrity whatsoever. Dale Earnhardt Jr., however, is OK in my book. He is not the most levelheaded guy on tour, but he has shown great strides in maturing over the years since the death of his father thrust him into the limelight of celebrity, the magnitude of which none of us will EVER completely understand. He, too, is a very talented driver. As for Brian Vickers, I honestly have no opinion. He has shown brief glimpses of being a great talent over the last couple of years, but they have been sporadic. He is too new to the top ranks of the sport to warrant anything more than “a guy to maybe keep your eye on.”
Even though I am a member of the “evil” media (so my editors keep reminding me), I do have a favorite driver, and always will. My favorite driver is known as one of the classiest guys involved in the sport today. Although he is not often involved in such controversial issues as what happened this last Sunday, he has been in a few “interesting” on-track incidents. The one that sticks foremost in my mind happened at Bristol, last year I believe, when this person DELIBERATELY took out a guy that made him crash earlier in the race.
As much as I like this particular driver, there was no way, after seeing it live AND watching the replays, to say that he did not mean to wreck this other driver. Now, I may lie to a cop. I may lie to my boss. I may even lie to the IRS, but I cannot and will not have such blind loyalty to a sports figure that I will lie to myself! Seeing is believing. If you cannot actually see what your eyes show you because of a certain number on the side of a car, you need to take a step back and get a grip on reality.
So, as we examine this Talladega incident, forget for a moment that the cars involved even have a number on the side of them. Imagine, if you can, that they are not even painted. The cars in question, heading down Talladega’s long back straightaway, appear to be three identical Chevrolet Monte Carlo racecars that have no distinguishing characteristics from one another. Can you do that?
Car number one (the lead car, not the actual number!) is desperately trying to stay in front of cars two and three. As all three cars are entering the turn, car number two dives to the inside of car number one. Car number two is expecting car number three to follow suit, as they both know, on this particular track, that two cars together are faster than one. Simple physics.
Car number two makes the move to blow by car number one. Car number three, however, does not follow at the exact precise time. This is where the accident starts.
Car number two, who has now made the move to the inside, does NOT have car number three exactly behind him, thus LOSING the advantage that TWO cars would have over one. Thus, as car number two attempts the move, HIS CAR IS SLOWED, EVER SO SLIGHTLY, as it pulls out from the draft of car number one. Car number three, who is still in the draft of the NOW TWO-WIDE cars that are in front of him, is quickly filling the void left by car number two.
Car number three desperately wants to follow car number two because he knows, as we stated earlier, two cars together are faster than one. Car number three attempts to slide in behind car number two, but remember, since they did not make the initial move together, CAR NUMBER TWO HAS ALREADY SLOWED, BE IT EVER SO SLIGHTLY!
Car number three is now going at what may seem to you like an insignificant higher rate of speed, but at speeds of nearly 200 mph, that slight difference is all that it takes. Car number three, as it tries to fall in behind the slower car of car number two, makes the slightest of contact with the right rear. The rest is history. Everybody, no matter who they root for, seems to have seen the same thing after that! Go figure.
The above scenario is the accident that happened last Sunday, explained in a way that even my dog would say, “Yup, Jeff, I see that you are correct.”
If there is ANY blame to lay, it would have to be on the Hendrick team as a whole. The Nos. 48 and 25 should have made the move TOGETHER, and that’s where the team itself had failed. Junior was just an innocent bystander, and Vickers WAS TRYING TO HELP JIMMIE WIN. There wasn’t time left for Vickers to try to pass Johnson also. Unfortunately, Vickers’s eagerness and excitement to help his teammate parlayed itself into a run too fast, too quick for the No. 48 car to handle in front of him.
Don’t let your bias blind you. Have the (anatomy part of your choice) to call a spade a spade. Because that’s exactly what this incident screams for you to do.
Stay off the wall,