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Boring. Tedious. Wearisome.
These are adjectives continually assigned to NASCAR races. It seems that we, the fan, expect to be entertained every week with side-by-side racing, last-lap passes, on-track rivalries and finishing orders that materially affect the Chase. It’s clear that we’d rather not watch a 400-mile event where a single car drives away with a five-second lead, such as Sunday’s Brickyard 400.
Well, if watching the 36-race parade isn’t managing to live up to our expectations… what would? Why do we tune in only to spend the next five days degrading the waste of a Sunday afternoon? Are there acceptable alternatives?
I’ve heard it often enough: “I’d rather spend my afternoon washing the car.” I may have said it more than a few times myself.
So, why don’t we?
I don’t know about you, but my time spent in front of ESPN and SpeedTV isn’t usually a portrait of somebody glued to the set. Even if I go back a couple decades to the infancy of my addiction to all things stock car, there really wasn’t an expectation that Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt would provide all the entertainment for the day. NASCAR was more of a backdrop to afternoons while I waited for the evening’s excitement to begin. Maybe something thrilling would occur on the newfangled big screen TV with the cable box on top… but maybe not. It didn’t take but one season for me to learn that as tense as the announcers sounded, most of the time there were a bunch of cars burning an insane amount of fuel and eating tires like there’s no tomorrow.
Even today, I will open a book, do the dishes, fold some laundry and feed the cats while the familiar commentator’s voices walk the cars around the track. The faces are different, the cars are burdened by that silly wing, and the locations have moved. But no, I’m not holding my breath for a visual feast to start. I’ve come to accept that there is a greater likelihood of seeing door-to-door competition by watching Monster Trucks.
However, there are a great many things that I look forward to during a race weekend, and if I’m honest, somewhere along the way I will find several things to talk about.
Maybe Juan Pablo Montoya was not the first driver to tuck an Indy 500 and a Brickyard 400 under his belt, but it was fun to watch him try. His diatribe after he missed pit-road speed was certainly worthy of a Monday morning sound bite. And no, Mark Martin did not manage to add yet another victory to his stellar year. Even the disappointment of watching a champion continue to be a champion couldn’t entirely kill my enjoyment of the weekend. Why?
Because there’s a great deal more to racing than Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps the Truck Series does not garner the headlines the Cup boys do, but they certainly deserve greater recognition. Hornaday’s four-in-a-row on Friday night was everything we love! Heck, the Saturday night Nationwide race provided enough fodder for the racing gossips to chew on for the week all by itself. Between Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch’s continued battle for the first and second spot and absolutely on-your-feet-move-over-so-I-can-see final laps for the rest of the field, I just wasn’t that let down by Sunday’s naptime.
The hours were filled by catching up on all the Silly Season drama that continues to unfold, and it appeared that an alien had landed in Kyle Busch’s head. Who finally issued media interview answers to the boy?
Let’s face it. The cars can’t always be ready to wreck. The rookies will rarely make a good showing. Your driver isn’t likely to win, unless you’ve signed up with the Hendrick Domination package, and until the gigantic corporate sponsors vanish into the mists of the damaged economy, the commentators won’t sound like they can’t believe so-and-so kept their car off the wall.
But, come next Sunday afternoon, I will have a nice lunch with the family, set out the cold drinks, turn on the television, and lean into the next day in NASCAR. The engines will rev, the flags will fly, the hours will pass by in pleasant conversation, and if I’m lucky… something worthy of note will happen.
After 20-odd years of cheering, I’ve learned something usually does.