Winter maintains its icy grip over a large swath of the nation including here in Guthriesville. I just wanted to clear some things off my mental desk before they find my coyote gnawed carcass here at Eyesore Acres in the spring. West Brandywine township workers are nailing up the “Wooly Mammoth Crossing” signs on the utility pole across the street but I need to get my Zen on before Sunday’s race. I’ve found microwave popcorn and Cheesy Poofs move the Tao Chi into the express aisle.
More Great Moments in NASCAR TV. FOX couldn’t even make it a full minute into this season’s first race broadcast (a practice session) before delivering the first bit of misinformation. Yes, they were running stock car races on the beach at Daytona before NASCAR had been founded. But drivers haven’t been coming to Daytona to kick off the season since DIS opened in 1959. From 1970 to 1981 the Cup season kicked off at the road course in Riverside CA. I looked it up s now you don’t have to. (Bar bet trivia: The final race of the 1955 season run at Hickory also served as the first race of the 1956 season. The 1956 Cup season finale was run on 11/18/56 in Wilson NC a full week after the 1957 Cup season kicked off in Lancaster CA on 11/11/56. Believe it or don’t.)
Ah, yes, he’s back. Ol’ DW arrived at Daytona with his carefully coiffed hair dyed right down to the roots thanks to Just For Men. It’s amazing how that old man can go zero to annoying more quickly than he ever drove a race car. In this age of instancy created by social media can we finally have an unrigged vote on dumping this “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” nonsense? Yes, it’s a minor annoyance but who wants to tune into a race to be annoyed?
Speaking of DW, even his online store doesn’t carry Little Digger souvenirs anymore. In fact I went on a protracted search of the internet and couldn’t find a T-shirt with that sub-terrain rat’s mug on it anywhere, nor could I locate a plush stuffed Digger toy. Apparently FOX finally totally and completely divorced themselves from one major annoyance with stuffed cotton for brains leaving only DW on the payroll.
I’m going off on a tangent here as is my habit, but when merchandisers are stuck with T-shirts that are never going to sell they get a tax deduction for donating them to charity. Yep, all those Seattle Seahawks 2015 Super Bowl Champions t-shirts (you don’t think they actually wait until after the game to print them up, do you?) are serving a good purpose keeping displaced persons a little warmer in some third world country though the person wearing the donated garment probably has no idea what that shirt’s logo represents. So somewhere in a refugee camp in Somalia some confused kid in a “Lumpy” T-shirt is still wondering why the other kids won’t allow him to play in the sandbox.
Danica Patrick expressed her disappointment at having this year’s GoDaddy ad in which she made a cameo appearance yanked due to outrage by animal rights activists. Remember back when stock car racers were disappointed by not winning races? During last weeks Saturday Night Live Anniversary special I finally remembered where I’d seen Patrick’s hairstyle before when Mike Meyers reprised his role as Wayne in the Wayne’s World skit. Party on Garth! For the record Meyers has wan exactly as many Cup races as Patrick.
At the Joe Gibbs stop of this year’s Media Tour, Kyle Busch labeled ESPN’s Keith Olbermann (as well as many others) an “idiot” for mixing his name up with that of his brother Kurt. So how does his first TV interview from Daytona on FOX begin? Once again, he is referred to as Kurt Busch. The normally vitriolic Kyle Busch remained calm, rolled his eyes and asked plaintively, “Already?” Meanwhile a story in no less an august paper than the New York Times ran a photo of Kyle Larson atop an article on Kurt Busch’s legal woes. OK, guys, no more drivers with K names!
He’s back! Tony “the Terrible” Stewart came out the chute at Daytona kicking up a fuss with his first tantrum of the year. It seems His Immensity thought the rule stating all drivers must weigh in prior to the season only applied to those other drivers not fortunate enough to be him. When he learned of mistake by way of a black flag and a call over the radio to report to the weigh in the driver I never refer to as “Smoke” decided he was going to finish his practice run anyway earning himself the honor of being the driver in 2015 to be summoned to the NASCAR trailer for a little chat.
It’s been a tough couple years For Stewart. First he was badly injured in a sprint car wreck. Perhaps that accident gave him a glimpse of his own mortality and surely his lifestyle changed radically as he had to depend on others to do all but the most basic things to meet human needs for him. Having to ride around in one of Rascal style three wheel cars when used to piloting a 900 horsepower Cup car has to be a little humiliating. Being forced to sit out all those races had to be nightmare for Stewart and his sponsors. It wasn’t that many years ago an injury that horrific would have resulted in an amputation of his leg, and maybe a decade ago he’d probably have bled out before he reached the hospital.
Then came last years tragic fatal accident on that short track in New York. Whatever happened can be debated but Stewart was clearly distraught at first as he waited to see if he would face criminal charges after the incident. In that incident Stewart sat himself out again not for physical reason but for emotional ones. Even once the DA decided not to press charges Stewart remained pensive and reflective rather than the belligerent bully that had became so polarizing amongst the fans.
Well, from what we’ve seen of him so far Tony Stewart — God bless his pointy little head — has returned to form. Some people get by with peace, love and enlightenment. Stewart runs on cream filled donuts, cheap domestic beer and rage. I predict Stewart will return to form this season, running up front again and winning some races perhaps as early as this Sunday’s Daytona 500. Bully for him. In the westerns you can’t have the good guy in the white hat without the bad guy in the black one. Can it really have been over a year and a half since Stewart last drove a Cup car into victory lane?
In another sign of the impending apocalypse, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. appeared on the Rachel Ray show Tuesday. The programs producer, a North Carolinian, got very excited at the prospect of meeting the driver of the 88 car, perhaps a bit too excited. Carter opined “In our neck of the woods you got Jesus, Elvis and Earnhardt and not necessarily in that order.” We’ll see how that comment plays out in the Buckle of the Bible Belt.
OK, you knew I had to get around to it eventually; The Strange Saga of Kyl…um Kurt Busch and what happened in a luxury bus in the drivers’ compound at Dover. I hesitate to even explore the topic because as the brother to four younger sisters, I know that domestic violence is a plague on this land.
And as seriously as I take the matter, I’m also a little hesitant to join the ranks of those who want to tar and feather the elder Busch brother and run him out of town on a rail before charges have even been filed against him. What we have here is a classic He Said/She Said situation. Ms. Driscoll alleges that Busch has serious problems with alcohol and depression, and that he grabbed her by the neck and slammed her head against the wall of the bus several times. Busch says he placed his palms on Driscoll’s cheeks to tell her again their relationship was over, and in doing so he might have lightly bumped her head into the wall. Then Busch made his bizarre allegations that Driscoll was a government trained assassin adding that she once returned to his bus in a bloody ball gown. When I first heard those allegations, I thought perhaps Busch was trying to get off on all charges with the insanity defense. But that’s what the “He” side of this He said/she said deal said.
So why isn’t the Delaware Attorney General investigating whether Driscoll is a murderess for hire who might have accidentally offed some non-coms during her bloody homicidal rampages. (If only Busch had gone Monica Lewinsky and saved the dress, maybe?) I’m uncomfortable with how this is all playing out. To take a page from LBJ’s Texan playbook, if I accuse you of having sex with chickens, it leaves you in the uncomfortable position of having to state you don’t. So has Kurt Busch committed a grievous crime or is Patricia Driscoll the Chick from Hell trying to torpedo Busch’s career below the waterline? (Note to Ms. P.D. – Kurt has shown a remarkable ability to torpedo his own career without any help from others.) That’s a matter that has to be decided in court, not in the sports pages, and if it seems to be taking an inordinately long period of time, so be it. These are serious charges and I’m very worried that if the DA decides not to file, it will call into question the truthfulness of other women who have been legitimately suffered injuries at the hands of their spouses or boyfriends (or let’s not forget, men who have been the victims of legitimate domestic abuse.)
Busch’s bizarre claims thrust NASCAR racing into the spotlight in ways they’ve never been able to for the right reasons. Our local ABC affiliate rarely even acknowledges the existence of NASCAR racing unless the series runs at Pocono or Dover, both of which are within WPVI’s purview. On those four weekends a year, maybe they show a five-second clip of the winner crossing the line and give the race a two-sentence rundown. (This station is one that once famously announced Mike Martin had won a race at Dover). Yet when Busch made his allegations in a Delaware courtroom, not only was the story covered in the first five minutes of the six o’clock news, it was used in the teaser leading up to the program. Even ABC’s (hey, sorry only ABC comes in clearly using tinfoil wrapped rooftop antennas out here in the boondocks) World News Tonight gave the Busch-Driscoll story one of the coveted spots before the first commercial break. David Muir’s evil-looking, lazy left eyelid leaped to the full upright position reading the lead for the story and after it ran, he favored viewers at home with his famous bemused smirk. About the only way NASCAR can break through its “not quite ready for primetime status” is in the aftermath of a violent wreck or one of these stories that implies we’re all grass chewing, halfwit, rednecks watching cars drive around in circles.
Everyone else but Magnan’s sister shoplifting at Araby’s has gotten a chance to render justice, so that means so shall I. This isn’t a He Said/She Said deal. This is a They Said deal. Apparently, when Driscoll made her uninvited visit in Dover she bought along her young son, wanting Busch to tell the lad to his face why he would no longer be a part of the boy’s life. (Strike One) Busch, who had retired for the night got out of bed naked. (Strike two. I mean, how tough is it to say, “let me pull on a pair of sweatpants.”) The pair had their conversation and whatever happened, happened with Busch standing naked and the doubtlessly frightened and emotional child looking on. (Strike three) In my opinion, that child should be remanded to Child Protective Services while Busch and his mom work out their tiff. Maybe it’s time they both grow up and get a real job.
Meanwhile, Busch is left dangling in the window. While lukewarmly supporting their driver, Stewart-Haas Racing admits they already have a backup plan in place should NASCAR suspend KUBU from driving. SHR executive VP Joe Custer seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth right now concerning Busch’s future with the team, So when he finally decides on a firm position, will that be “Custer’s Last Stand?”
SS, we hardly got to know ye. Chevrolet has announced they are discontinuing their slow-selling and grossly overpriced SS model made in Australia, The SS, of course is also the model that Chevy runs in Cup racing. Some of GM’s most highly skilled engineers are burning the midnight oil to come up with a new set of decals as a result. Why doesn’t Chevy just admit that the NASCAR “stock cars” are anything but “stock” and call their race entry the Volt?
Toyota is also resulting in some chicanery concerning the “Camrys” they run on Sundays in NASCAR racing. In teasing a new high performance variant (TRD) of the all new Camry ( the front end of which looks like a catfish that just ingested something it really didn’t care for) a Toyota spokesman said it was a natural move given that Camry’s are out there competing out there in NASCAR almost every Sunday, The fellow must not have gotten the memo those Camry’s turning laps at Daytona and Darlington are V8 powered and rear wheel drive as opposed to the dishwater dull, milquetoast UJA (universal Japanese appliance) that’s become this country’s top selling car as America’s long time love affair with the automobile goes the way of the Busch-Driscoll romance. You know one thing I’ve never seen? An ex-sailor wearing a Pearl Harbor Survivor cap at the wheel of a Camry.
While it’s probably a good thing to get more people out of harm’s way on pit road, this whole thing with 45 cameras watching every move the drivers and pit crew make down there is just a little too Orwellian for me. And where did they get those guys working in the officiating review trailer, a Boy Scout Jamboree?
But despite that Big Brother monitoring system being in place (and there’s no truth to the rumor Brian France picked it up at Best Buy with three years no interest same as cash in-store credit card) NASCAR has also decided that starting this season, leaving a lug nut or lug nuts loose won’t draw a penalty. Shazam! I’m reflecting back on how the outcomes of too many races to count would have changed if that rule (or non-rule) had been in place. But my guess is NASCAR is going to soon regret this move when an 80 pound tire/wheel combination enters the grandstands at triple digit speeds. Does anyone ever think this stuff through? I guess it’s a matter of “we have met the enemy…and they is us.”
About the author
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.
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