At 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, it’ll all be behind us. Manifolds, illegal substances, aerodynamic enhancements, failed shock mounts; the fines, suspensions, and point-dockings. Then, once we get past FOX’s frenzied, frivolous and flighty pre-race show, one that will once again highlight all the craziness of this past week, the main event will finally, finally take place. 3:15 p.m. ET, the 49th Great American Race will find itself underway down in Daytona Beach.
I, for one, can’t wait.
Sure, this Speedweeks has given those of us fortunate enough to share our thoughts and opinions on racing more than enough fodder to keep our fingers tapping away. If a monkey can qualify a car at Daytona as Tony Stewart claims, a goldfish, whose memory span is said to be three seconds, could have stayed employed writing about the activities in Daytona this week.
While I’m not complaining, I am growing weary of penalty after penalty being handed out it record numbers. Tuesday, it was Evernham’s Three Direct-eers along with Roush Racing’s Robbie Reiser getting kicked out; Wednesday, it was Michael Waltrip‘s “individual or group of individuals” that, if you listen to Mikey, all but sabotaged his shiny new Camry; Thursday, it was Hendrick Motorsports’ turn. Earlier that day, Jeff Gordon won the second Gatorade Duel in impressive fashion with a daring move that had Jimmy Spencer salivating all over himself at the SPEED booth. Well, it wasn’t quite as spectacular when, an hour later, we learned that the rear quarterpanels of the car were nearly an inch too low. That’s an inch that, according to ESPN’s Tim Brewer (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite analysts) could add as much as 7/8th of a second to a car’s lap time.
Well, while the penalties don’t exactly paint the sport as happy and healthy, you’ve got to hand it to NASCAR. Amongst all the talk of cheatin’, lyin’ and rulebreakin’, we’ve not noticed Brian France sitting up in the control tower devilishly grinning. Any publicity is good publicity, the old saying goes, and this week has proven that beyond the shadow of a doubt. The national media, led by mighty ESPN (they are the worldwide leader in sports, ya know) have been trumpeting the good (James Hylton), bad (Evernham, Roush) and the ugly (sorry, Mikey) of NASCAR’s colorful group of good ol’ boys. That’s all the while the pageantry, drama and intrigue has been broadcast directly into our homes every morning and afternoon. Stories leaking out of the garage have been reported with the same style and intensity of an investigative journalist’s breaking report from the Press Room at the White House… this NASCAR stuff is serious business these days. Just ask NASCAR.com writer-turned-ESPN suit Marty Smith.
Gone is Marty’s whacky, fun-loving cry of,”Juuuuunior!” In is a funeral-parlor serious, “Marty Smith reporting from Daytona Beach.”
That’s why it will be so refreshing when that green flag waves on Sunday. NASCAR racing has become too heady, too self-important, too, much! I want a cold beer, my fake-leather couch, my 32″ inch non-hi-def television and 500 miles of auto racing. And I want it without all the overblown melodrama.
After all, this is only racin’.