That’s what I thought. But wait, I have another one.
A show of hands, please, on who couldn’t believe their ears when the Catawba County Sherriff discovered methamphetamines in Jeremy Mayfield‘s home. Come on now. There has to be somebody. No? I’m not quite done yet. How about is anybody in total denial that it is quite likely either Cousin Carl or the quixotic Smoke who will win the 2011 Sprint Cup?
Yeah. I’m not terribly surprised. You see, even as of 6:00 p.m. Monday night, the NASCAR gossip mill is actually pretty damn quiet. We’ve been here, done this, got the t-shirt and the diecast to go with it. Danica Patrick will be driving in the Sprint Cup Series next year (No, really! You are permitted a moment of stunned silence followed by a gasp.) Austin Dillon will be bringing the No. 3 to the Nationwide Series.
Mark Martin will not be retiring! (Somebody could probably hock that rocking chair as an antique by the time he really does quit). Even a remodeled Phoenix International Raceway isn’t really bringing anything startling to the table.
It’s November. We are coming up on Race 35 on the interminable Cup calendar, we’ve seen everything this year has to give and yet, there are still two more meets to struggle through. Two more afternoons of engines humming and our favorite TV personalities trying to generate something new out of a season that is gasping to get to the finish line. I am… done.
Quite a few years ago NASCAR created the Chase in order to drum up some interest in the waning weeks of the overpopulated Sprint Cup season. We were up against the World Series, the start of hockey, basketball and, well, they were simply smoking something if they thought auto racing would be able to put a dent into the NFL ratings. They knew it then. I can see it now.
February was a very long time ago. I can barely recall what happened in the opening races of the NASCAR season. It seems… unconnected to events that play out now. And yet, our lack of surprise at the latest Kyle Busch shenanigans should indicate we’ve seen all this before. Might have been sometime this year? I vaguely recall something about a beatdown in the garage. But does his encounter with Richard Childress actually mean anything in this moment? I’m thinking not.
Gone are the spring jitters full of anticipation and trying to line up the new paint jobs with a new slew of drivers. Lost in billows of tire smoke are the list of winners, old and new. Was it ever 100 degrees this summer? Right now we are dusting out the china cupboard, making a few early purchases for the holidays and raking up the leaves. It’s time for a winter nap.
And yet the cars are still going around in circles.
In NASCAR’s heyday, back in the ’90s and turn of the century, the France empire couldn’t add enough events to the calendar. Heck, the tracks simply weren’t equipped to see entire cities descend upon their tiny towns for more than two days in a year. So we got new tracks, another race, an extra week, lost a holiday here and there. The then-Busch Series tried to fill in the gaps, and once they discovered the beauty of racing the same weekend as the big boys they decided why stop at a healthy 25 races? We wanted more and we got it.
Now, we pay for that greed with too much of everything: races, sponsors, collectibles, series, drivers, commentators. Our lives have succumbed. Halloween is just another means for the networks to do something completely foolish instead of an opportunity for NASCAR Nation to turn off the boob tube and enjoy the neighborhood with all the ghoulies.
I’m not asking for much, just a return to sanity. Four fewer races. One more month out of the 12 where I can reclaim my humanity by letting go of that 24/7 race fan for just a little bit. Please?
A brand new season is only a little over 90 days away and all the hoopla that goes with it. I know my house will just be returning to a slightly more organized state, as I use those precious weekend hours to bring my life back into focus. However, an extra month of Sundays might permit me to forget what it’s like to watch Kyle Busch be an ill-tempered driver or that the Mayfield fiasco isn’t over yet. I might even be able to get excited about Ms. Patrick’s pending Cup debut.
Actually, it would take quite a bit longer than three months for that. But I can hope, can’t I?
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