NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kickin’ the Tires: Reminiscing About Yesteryear’s “Incredible” NASCAR Finishes

Normally, I would be writing a column about what happened during the Coca-Cola 600 and any issues that may have occurred in the race… but not this week. After the response to last week’s column, it seems appropriate to point a few things out about incredible racing people remember from decades ago.

Let’s start off with the 1965 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the incredible finish that occurred that day. In fact, it was a finish that would go down in the record books, a record that still stands today. Surely, you diehard NASCAR fans who think today’s racing is something the dog leaves behind in the yard remember this race. You could probably clock the margin of victory with a sundial.

Something leads me to believe the only side-by-side racing that happened on the track was when Ned Jarrett lapped the field repeatedly. Oh wait, he finished 14 laps ahead of Buck Baker and 19 laps ahead of third- and fourth-place finishers, Darel Dieringer and Roy Mayne, respectively.

How do you think Dieringer felt when he was looking back over his career and realized that his best-ever finish in NASCAR was third – and he was 19 laps down? Likewise, Mayne’s best career finish was his fourth-place run at Darlington when he was also a spirit-crushing 19 laps down.

And, surely people remember the Dura Lube 300? What? Don’t the diehard fans that took me to the woodshed last week, accusing me of imbibing the NASCAR Kool-Aid, remember the most exciting race of all time or, at least, in 2000? The only driver to slip and slide his way into the lead was Jeff Burton and he stayed there for 300 riveting laps. Bobby Labonte, who ran second, probably got tired of looking at Burton’s posterior for more than three hours.

Said one media center reporter looking over this column before it was published, “that was one of the worst races of all time.”

Since I’ve brought up the most extreme situations I could find in the 35 seconds I spent perusing the Internet, let’s get back to reality and partake in a physics lesson. The lesson is simple. The car in front has always and will always have an advantage.

There is your physics lesson for the day.

Don’t ask me to explain it. I can’t. I’m not a physics major, just a smartass with a column and a website to type it on.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it that the car up front has an advantage. Here’s what defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick had to say:

“Wait a second. Let’s clarify the aero-push,” Harvick said, when asked about aerodynamics and aero-push being the reason he was unable to pass Denny Hamlin for the lead. “Does anybody watch Formula 1? It’s been there for years. It’s in Indy cars. It’s in racing (laughter). If you run behind one of your colleagues in this room (media center), you’re going to have an aero push. It’s never going to get fixed.

“It’s always going to exist in racing. It’s never going to not exist. Your car is never going to run as fast behind another car as it does by itself. It’s just impossible. It’s just absolutely impossible. And I think these cars, over the last 20 years, have become more sensitive in aero-push. I just think in the ’70s and ’80s it was probably there; they just didn’t know.”

Not convinced? Harvick continued to address the question and took the burden upon himself for not getting past Hamlin.

“I could make my car run fast behind other cars last week, but it’s just a totally different way of driving the car when you’re behind somebody than it is when you’re driving by yourself,” Harvick said. “Denny made a good move and he kind of caught me off-guard. I felt like I had options to run all the way up against the wall or I could run on the bottom. I could maneuver my car. It’s just that he kind of caught me off-guard at the right time and I was committed to the middle.”

BOOM! goes the dynamite. Harvick just admitted he got caught off-guard. Even with aero-push from the lead car, he felt like he could pass, including Hamlin.

It was said last week and it will be said again. NASCAR is the best form of auto racing out there. And aside from F1, which is on the worldwide stage, it has more fans. That being said, it’s not perfect and no one ever said it was. There are some things that need to be fixed and NASCAR is working on it. But one has to wonder if some of the blame doesn’t rest on the drivers’ shoulders. Back in the day, the cars handled like a dump truck and the drivers muscled them into Victory Lane. Now, the drivers would love it if their cars had auto-pilot, sucked down on the track and handled like a Rolls Royce on a freshly paved country road.

For me, the racing is pretty damn good most of the time. Then again, according to all of you “experts” I’m just a guy who writes poorly, drinks NASCAR Kool-Aid, and has only been watching races from my couch for six weeks.

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Capt Spaulding

Sounds like NASCAR refilled his pitcher, keep up the good work, maybe they will give you a block of empty seats at next years Coca Cola 600.

Dennis

Hahahahahaha…. love it.

Dennis

“let’s get back to reality and partake in a physics lesson. The lesson is simple. The car in front has always and will always have an advantage.”

Your example shows exactly the opposite. You’re going back to a time when the cars were using primarily mechanical grip. Back then the dominate car could pass the cars in front of him and then BECOME the leader. And if the 2nd place car was multiple laps down, that meant the dominate car was able to pass the 2nd best car repeatedly. Remember, every time the leader was putting the 2nd place car down another lap, the 2nd place car had the “clean” air. And, yet, the pass was made.

Now, with the use of front spoilers, air dams, or, now, front splitters we have given whoever is in front a HUGE advantage. So, we have faster cars that may have dominated an event and after a bad pit stop cannot recover because the cars are so aero-dependent. And you seemingly wonder why the fans don’t like an aero-push race?

MPM

Six weeks? Really? Has it been that long? ;-)

For your most superior edification a few notes. No, the 1965 Southern 500 probably won’t go down in most folks books as the best ever. But one needs to recall (as you doubtlessly do) 1965 was the year Chrysler boycotted Cup racing. See there was this whole brouhaha concerning whether drivers like Richard Petty could compete in Hemi powered mid-sized cars. (Back then the Fury Hybrid version with the backup cameras hadn’t reached the market yet. Nor in fact had the Hemi version Petty won the title driving in 1964) NASCAR said no and Chrysler took their ball and bat and went home leaving roughly half the sport’s top drivers on the sidelines. Which is why Gentleman Jarrett ran away with that race. But you knew that, right?

I am baffled by your comments about Mr. Dieringer. You see he actually won seven races in NASCAR’s top series. I can’t say he won in Sprint Cup like the Kool-aid purveyors do because they hadn’t invented the celll phone yet back then. Yeah, Jerry, we got along with the durned things. We were a hearty breed back when you had to outrun dinosaurs to get to grade school. (Five miles and it was uphill both ways.) But dang it Jerry. we did learn to count to seven. Eight and Nine were on the drawing boards and were adopted by popular acclaim soon after. Facts, Jerry, facts. They can be inconvenient but you can’t change them. See old Darel he won the 1966 Southern 500. He was in fact a pretty durned good driver. Shame on you for saying otherwise to try to make a point. And if you keep plugging away at the writing thing I’m confident one day you will in fact make a point.

As for the 2000 NHIS race, welll, Jerry, see there was this problem. Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin had been killed at the track that year. Drivers, team owners and pests like me in the media were all in an uproar about safety improvements, the HANS device, SAFER barriers all that nonsense which everyone takes for granted these days. But the dark overlords down in Daytona, those who buy the Kool-Aid by the tanker truck load, they weren’t convinced. NASCAR said that SAFER barriers were a cure worse than the disease. Drivers were independent contractors who could decide on their own whether to wear a HANS. But to show how 100% devoted to safety they were NASCAR made the teams run restrictor plates at NHIS. Oh what a mess that turned out to be. In fact the same could be said about NHIS in general. The racing was more better at tracks like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro but then you knew that too, right? (Oh, about that NHIS race, while you’re at the Kool-aid dispensary next time ask to see the official NASCAR record books. According to them Bobby Labonte led the first lap so Burton didn’t lead flag to flag. (Actually he did. I was there. But NASCAR will try to tell you otherwise because they’re just nasty, stupid people.)

Lean in a little closer, Jerry. I’ve got some bad news. C’mon put down the Kool-aid, have a brew. We won’t tell your mommy. Despite what one driver, Harvick in this instance. had to say the facts Jerry, the facts, prove that there was a long period of this sport’s history where you wanted to be running second on the final lap. I swear it. See the cars weren’t so aerodynamic so the drivers used what was called “the draft” to make passes. Those cars punched a hole in the air like common sense punches a hole through your logic so drivers would actually slam on the brakes to let somebody by them, knowing they were setting up that cat for a final lap pass. I’m sorry, Jerry. This is all true. And the racing was in fact better back then. I’m sure you’re a tech savvy guy and you’ve paid the cable company’s extortion this month so head to Ya’lll Tube and check out some races from the 80s. At the top of the list I’d put the 1982 Winston 500 at Talladega, but any race from Michigan in that era will do. Watch and learn, Jerry. Cars coming to the line in four wide packs passing and repassing one another with smoke billowing off tires as fenders rubbed, sheetmetal getting bent and nary a driver saying it just didn’t matter because they were already locked in the Chase. The what now? While you’re at it take a look at the Darlington spring race of 2003. That counts as ancient history too, doesn’t it? Yep, alll we need to do is make the cars less aerodynamic and we’ll have some good racing again. And cake! I promise Jerry, there WILL be cake. With Mr. Harvick’s kind permission of course. Come on Campers, you in? Let’s make this sport even more most superior.

Tread lightly, Jerry, tread lightly. The Kool-aid is sort of like dope. If you choose to imbibe yourself no one will much care anymore. But when there’s an obvious “intent to distribute” well then the fact police are going to nail your butt every time. You have the right to remain silent……

Capt Spaulding

“book him, Danno,” sorry I mean Matt.

Budsudz

Game, Set, Match

Dennis

*slow clap*

Carl D.

It’s denial just like yours by Brian France and his cronies that put this sport in the sad situation it’s in. Personally, I have no problem with change provided it’s constructive. Nothing Nascar has done in the last 15 years has been constructive other than some safety measures that were reactionary rather than visionary. It’s not just me, though… those newer fans? They may be checking to see if who is winning, but I can guarantee you most aren’t watching a significant portion of the race on their iphones and ipads. In fact, I don’t even know anyone under 35 who watches races anymore. And the older fans like myself are walking away in droves, never to return.

There are three undisputed facts that you should accept:

Attendance at Nascar races is decreasing;

Ratings for Nascar races are declining;

Sponsorship for race teams is getting harder to secure.

At your next slumber party with BeeZee, ask him why those things are still happening. I don’t suspect you’ll be able to understand his mumbled, incoherent answers, but go on and give it a shot. Just don’t write about it because we’ve heard it all before.

JohnQ

Fascinating isn’t it. It seems so obvious that giving your customers what they want is a successful business model where as telling your customers what they want is a going out of business model. NASCAR could hardly be more customer deaf. Having a fawning press really does them a disservice in the long run. The Emperor has no clothes (except in print).

nick

How about you look at 2001, when I became a fan thanks to GREAT racing, not gimmicks and storylines. In the first couple months of the season, Rockingham, Atlanta, and even Texas had incredible racing. I dare you to watch those races and not think that 2015 racing “leaves a lot to be desired.”

MPM

“It was said last week and it will be said again. NASCAR is the best form of auto racing out there.”

This week’s English comp 101 lesson. Try to avoid using the passive voice, it’s just weak. ”

“Out there.” Out where? You’re confusing readers.

Indefinite pronouns? Sigh. Here’s a quick rewrite. Helpful I’m just trying to to be.

NASCAR is the best form out auto racing out there in this writer’s opinion. I said as much last week and I will repeat myself this week.

DoninAjax

Jerry, send your resume to Daytona. Brian’s looking for you.

Tim S.

Ah, the rare North American compensated troll, or writerus imbecilus, so named due to its superfluous nature. Millions of Internet users perform its function daily without compensation.

Subject also exhibits traits of writerus lockstepia, or NASCAR Media.

MPM

Quick update. There were 23 passes for the lead in the 1965 Southern 500 cited here as the worst race ever. There were 22 passes for the lead in Sunday night’s World 600. It’s like fishing in a rain barrel folks. Boom goes the dynamite? Really?

DoninAjax

And there weren’t any “debris” cautions to bunch up the field. Drop the green and let the race play out. What a concept!

Tim S.

Oh, I’m with you. I’d much rather have racing where they congratulate themselves every two minutes for safety measures that they were the last to investigate, much less mandate. “We’re so safe. We’re so safety-oriented. Testament to safety. Blah blah blah look at us. Pay no attention to those memorials at New Hampshire.”

Capt Spaulding

Looks like Matt gave you a reading homework assignment….seems you had to read more than the article header to dispute your initial talking points, but taking your critics to task by suggesting driver death contributes to good racing sets a new low for any writer employed by Frontstretch.

Charles Jenkins

Matt the MAN !!! You bring new meaning to the phrase ” bringing a knife to a gunfight ” ! Jerry J., your knife is dull as well.

JohnQ

I love it when some shill tells me that what I’m seeing is not what I’m seeing, especially one with his nose so far up Brian France’s ass that the view never changes. Still, I suppose I can understand why it would bother the writer that so many of us dismiss him as PR rather than analysis. Nascar has always had its problems, some of us just enjoyed it more in pre COT days. My God, not only are they not stock cars anymore, they do not even resemble stock cars. The only positive that I can think of is the steady safety improvements over the years, many despite NASCAR active/passive resistance. I cringed when Johnson hit the wall and love that it was not the death sentence it may have been in the past. Jerry, don’t go away mad, just go away. Nobody’s buying.

MPM

Said one media center reporter…. ummm…..One media center reporter said…..

Hey, you asked,

The Grammar Police

PS- I very much doubt you’ve been cherry for a long time. Now bend over and grab your ankles. Brian France is on line 2.

JohnQ

Jerry, It’s just a few negative one foot out the door fans that cause all the problems. So let’s all ignore the numbers. Charlotte took out 41000 seats THIS year, God knows how many are tarped. The overnight TV numbers show a decline of 12%. Compared to last year’s 600, which I believe was also down from the year before. If the product is good why is interest in freefall? Check with Brian and get back to us. Or, what the Hell just make something up.

Tommy T.

Hang in there Jerry. I like NASCAR as well…imperfections and all. It really is the only motorsport organization local, regional, national or international that offers such a degree of competiveness that it can field 15-20 legitimate possible winners week-in/week-out. Take heart in knowing those that agree with you are reading but less apt to comment as they choose not to become targets of the ‘haters’ and their never-ending vitriol.

In addition, keep in mind that those that take the time and effort to post negative comments week after week, year after year to declare and reinforce their dislike of NASCAR racing clearly cannot be wired properly. There is no rational explanation for their obsession of a form of entertainment that causes them so much angst…when of course they could just walk away and find something that provides them enjoyment.

salb

As to the number of laps a leader would be ahead of the field ‘back in the day’, remember that drivers had to race their way back onto the lead lap, not get a ‘wave around’. The number of cars on the lead lap at the finish of races now is artificially inflated by the ‘Lucky Dog’ and ‘wave around’ rules now.

Bill B

I’m glad Matt pointed out that the New Hampshire race was run with restrictor plates. Man, steam was coming out of my ears when I read that. I guess Jerry didn’t actually see that race.
I remember being at the spring Dover race in, maybe 2000, when Bobby Labonte lapped all but two drivers (Martin and Gordon, I believe) and it was pretty exciting watching him tear through the field. Trust me, “number of cars on the lead lap at the end”, is a useless statistic with respect to how good a race was to watch as a spectator.

MPM

If memory serves that was the spring race of 1999. Only Gordon finished on the lead lap behind Labonte. I believe that Gordon was leading towards the end of the race but had to pit for a splash of fuel with five to go handing the lead and win to Labonte. No the amount of cars on the lead lap doesn’t always determine the quality of the racing. David Pearson was the only driver to finish on the lead lap in the 76 Daytona 500 and they’re STILL talking about that one.

J. Smith

Chris Economaki promoted racing this way: “Step right up Today ONLY come watch daredevils of the dirt oval defy and cheat death at every corner in a 50 lap competition of skill and bravery”. Back then it was true. Today, NASCAR has all but removed the element of danger. The feeling of imminent danger was a palpable part of the Indy race and added entertainment for me (I watched every lap). Of course NASCAR can’t go backwards on safety, I’m just saying that it’s just another thing that makes me fast forward through NASCAR races to catch the highlights.

J. Smith

I didn’t say completely removed danger. We all agree and I’m sure stats would back up that the show is safer than ever. I didn’t even hear about the Johnson incident, guess I fast forwarded through it.

Upstate24fan

I recently watched a replay of the 1994 Brickyard 400 and Buddy Baker talked about “areopush” multiple times through out the race. It will always be a factor, but the rules going forward need to emphasize mechanical grip over areo to give drivers a fighting chance of passing the leader.

spot1

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, there have been times when it is indeed better to be running in second on the last lap rather than in the lead. In 1983 and 1984, Cale Yarborough (remember him??) was running second both years on the last lap when he made slingshot passes by himself on the backstretch to grab the lead and the win. He actually could pull out all by himself and pass the lead car.

MPM

Unintended Ironic Line of the week. To quote from the above

Remember, I suck as a write,

Like Lynyrd Skynyrd used to sing “You got that write, you sure got that write.” (There’s supposed to be an “r” on the end of that word if I’m being too subtle here. All write?

I’m presuming you drive Jerry. I’m presuming you have a car. But then you know what they say about the word “presume” it make a pre out of u and me. If you don’t go have a seat in the passenger seat of a friends car. I’m presuming you have a friend. Read the fine print on the outside rear-view mirror. “Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.” We’re not talking history here, Jer-Meister. Or is last Sunday already history. I’m presuming you watched the Indy 500. (Dang, I’m one presumptuous SOB today) How was it the second or even third place car was able to pull out of line and blast past the cars ahead of him? The draft Jer. It’s not ancient history. It can be done. It should be done. The Indy 500 was a pretty durn good race.

Years ago Coca-Cola had a marketing boondoggle. (No, I’m not talking about their call to to sponsor the 600 the next six years.) They tried to market “New Coke.” And just about everyone hated the new stuff and longed for the old stuff. Coke had two options
A) Heed the call of long time consumers and give them what they wanted, Classic Coke.
B) Tell those complaining the old stuff was never that good anyway.

As for NASCAR we’ll see which route they take. Because we’re living in the future and none of this has happened yet.

MPM

Yep. Last Sunday must be history. There’s already a revisionist version being touted. If Power didn’t make a mistake JPM wouldn’t have won. And if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their butts on the ground when they hopped. I guess when Kanaan went from third to first in the length of a straight both drivers ahead of him made mistakes. The draft does exist. Harvick was wrong. Deal with it.

Thanks for your concern. I’m having a very good day. It’s 90 here and i spent some time on a big two wheeler out on the blue highways of Lancaster County. You needn’t concern yourself with my being able to enjoy myself. I get along just fine without you.

If you’ve got editing privileges please use them to correct the gaffe about Dieringer’s record in your column. That’s bothering me like a bad tooth. And as we’ve established my enjoyment is your primary concern. So pass me a Coke, would you? A Classic Coke if you would. I don’t care for the new stuff.

spot1

Jerry:

1). Don’t ever assume you have me figured out. That’s an impossible chore.

2). I have yet to make a Brian France ass joke. Don’t hang that on me.

3). Both years were at Daytona.

4). I have been watching NA$CAR since around 1974, which probably is longer than you have been breathing. I have seen the “sport” go from something you rarely saw on TV to something ESPN helped bring to life and could watch every week. What NA$CAR has become, under the “leadership” of your butt-buddy Brian (hey, you said I’ve been making butt jokes so may as well make one) is nothing but a joke. It’s not a sport anymore, it’s entertainment but the aero-dependent cars on mile and a half tracks are not that entertaining because when one gets out front, they can check out on the field. Even Sunday night (back into history), how many times did you see that happen?

5). I do not care if I change your opinion or not, it’s not a big deal. But, to get on the case of the readers of this website because they do not share your opinion is beyond idiotic and basically shows what is wrong with “internet journalism” anymore. Maybe you should go back to yesteryear and see how the races were reported then, both in print and on the airwaves.

Good night……………………….

Ivan Balakhonov

I assume Jerry had been given the unpleasant and ungrateful task to be the pro-NA$CAR voice here, on Frontstretch. Defying logic and manipulating facts in order to support his opinions, Jerry provokes heated discussions, thus more clicks to his articles. Profit!

But if he truly believes that NASCAR is doing so many things right, then… OUCH!

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