NASCAR Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: Take Off Your Damned Glasses & Stop Sucking Down That Sugar Water. Do It For Momma…

In yesterday’s installment of Voice of Vito – a particularly poignant exposé and perhaps my finest work ever – I made note of some key NASCAR staples that need to remain in place; an unmolested Darlington, short-track racing and Talladega being left well enough alone. After what had been a rather dismal few months of competition and off-track activity so far this season, these past few weeks have been refreshing and encouraging. Much like seeing a muscle car in mid-restoration, the familiar style of racing many of us grew up on seemed to surface once again; the original model, but with new parts.

There are however some things that have to go. It has been a few weeks since we’ve had something frivolous to complain about, and let’s face it, that’s why this column exists.

The first thing that needs to be banished from the sport, is this ridiculously staged product placement. You know what I’m talking about. Anytime one of the “Coke Family of Drivers” is interviewed, we have to see the phony, staged swig of syrupy sugar water. Looking pensively off into the distance as if deep in thought about how said driver will run 18th today, he whisks away those concerns as he slowly sips back on a lukewarm 20oz bottle of Coke Zero.

If there is anything that is more indicative of what is wrong with NASCAR, this is it. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s stupid and it needs to stop. What if during the 1970s anytime somebody interviewed Richard Petty, he slicked back his hair with a bottle of STP? It wasn’t as if Tim Richmond was standing around with a mug of Folgers coffee anytime he was interviewed, or Ken Schrader spit out a big chunk of Kodiak chewing tobacco during a post race debriefing. What if Casey Mears got all loaded and went for a drive out in the desert with… oh wait. That was Al Unser Jr. Never mind.

Sponsors drive the sport to be sure, but when you have drivers who are either fake-drinking with the cap still on, or plugging the bottle opening with their tongue so they don’t actually have to drink said product so that they become both dehydrated and bloated before they climb into their 130-degree cocoon, you know it’s gotten out of hand. Interviews shouldn’t resemble the scene from Wayne’s World 2 where everything from Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Nuprin were pimped in a tongue-in-cheek dig at shameless promotion.

The other thing that needs to be addressed are the sunglasses. Like an NBA player, every driver apparently has, not a shoe contract, but a sunglasses deal. They all seem to have the same rounded wraparound ones – the kind that look like the ones worn by Dirty Harry and Layne Staley. That is except for Kyle Busch. His glasses look like he’s about to go watch the fireworks at Ground Zero in Los Alamos. In no way do the drivers look wooden or laconic as they issue a trite and canned response through their ambivalent Ambervisions. This is a sport that was built on access to the driver and the unfiltered emotion and visceral response of the competitors – why mute the connection and essence and personalities of these unique individuals who make NASCAR so compelling in the first place with some goofy looking sunglasses?

I will give credit where credit is due though. Carl Edwards has the process down pat. He has the glasses on, then takes them off and props them up on his forehead. Glasses still get exposure, and you can actually see the guy’s eyes and get a sense that he has a soul and is not Racer X from Speed Racer.

Any rant about what is irritating and intolerable would not be complete with out a dig on FOX and their insufferable production gimmicks. The least of which… wait for it… Digger. Seriously. It needs to stop. What is with those cartoons that take up valuable time to hear how stoked Jimmie Johnson is during the pre-race show? You know it’s getting bad when a well-respected country singer is tasked with composing a song for a digital rodent in what appears to be a high school sophomore’s first foray into CGI animation… in 1995.

To make matters worse… there is now a girl Digger. Yeah, it might be his cousin, but this is NASCAR, and we’re going to be down south this weekend, so I’m sure somebody is already conjuring up an incest joke. After all, these are hole dwellers. They don’t have anything better to do. Apparently, neither do I, so I guess I’ll be here to see it all unfold again this weekend. At least it’s supposed to rain, so I have an excuse not to wear my sunglasses.

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