Race Weekend Central

Beside the Rising Tide: Free-Falling Back

After about 25 years of writing about NASCAR racing, I have my rituals for the night before an event down to a science.

Print the starting lineup. Print the points standings. Dig out the sheet that shows what points the various positions pay. Make sure there are adequate cigarettes to get through the day and any weather delays. Do some basic research into which driver is going for their seventh top 10 in a row (to cite one possible example) or which driver hasn’t had a top five in eight races (to cite another.) Try to turn in early. Accept that that’s usually not possible. Check that the backup keyboard is still stashed safely in place. (I once had a coffee-induced keyboard meltdown that killed the F, D and S keys. Try banging out a 2,000-word column without using any of those letters. My apologies if you read that one.)

Of course, this weekend I had to add another pre-bed task; setting the clock back an hour before letting Jerry Garcia sing me to sleep.

To the best of my knowledge, NASCAR racing is the only sport that drags on long enough to have both spring-forward and fall-back events occur during the season.

I’m not a fan of monkeying with the clock like that. As it turns out, most Americans aren’t anymore. A recent poll I read said that 70 percent or thereabouts of the citizenry would like the foolishness to end. The other 30 percent apparently either have chickens to milk or work in the barbecue industry. I’m told that the barbecue industry really, really likes Daylight Savings Time and the extra evening hours it allows during warmer weather.

I’m good with an extra hour of sleep anytime I can get it, but I’m not so keen on that bitch of a payback we get in March. I will admit I’m not a big fan of needing to wear a sweater and bring a flashlight just to go to my next door neighbor’s home for pre-dinner libations starting this week, and that’s part of the DST package too.

It just seems that that if 70 percent of Americans don’t like the system (and it is really is weird when you have to explain how it works to a young child), Congress could just go ahead and end the biannual pain in the neck. How many topics are there where 70 percent of us agree on anything? Couldn’t we just finally have some bipartisan agreement and progress on a single issue with such overwhelming support to show the system isn’t fatally flawed? No, I suppose the barbecue industry political donations and the Union of Chicken Milkers would never allow that as long as their precious dollars are deciding who runs the most powerful country on earth.

(Speaking of which, campers, in my semiannual political footnote: remember to go out and vote today. I won’t tell you who to vote for or which party [or parties] to support. You’re right-minded adults who have done adequate research on the issues to make an informed decision. Obviously you’re wise enough to come here again and read my column. Everyone is stressing the youth vote this election. If you’re old like me, get out there and vote, too. OK, kids and amateurs, you’ve had your fun. Time to put the helm back in the grownups’ hands again awhile. If you’re running for office and call your opponents childish, playground-insult names, I hope a stage light falls on you at your next debate and splits your head open like an overly ripe watermelon to reveals the excrement within.)

But back to the topic at hand. From the Clash on Feb. 11 until the end of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 is a time span of 280 days. That period of time encompasses all four seasons. Fall-back weekend, spring-forward weekend, various and sundry religious, federal and state holidays, various primaries and elections and all the other stuff that makes up our so-called life.

Back in NASCAR’s glory days, it seemed the sanctioning body could have chosen to run a race at dawn in Nome, Alaska, on Christmas (if in fact the sun does rise in Nome on Christmas) and it would have sold out in a matter of hours. But as I’m fond of saying, “Two bit-piece don’t buy no more, not so much as it did before.” Or perhaps better from the bottle no more.

The Cup schedule has swollen to the point of obscenity even in the face of falling TV ratings and attendance. Yes, you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing, as some of your children found out after pigging down a sack of candy on Halloween last week. The NASCAR season was underway but took a weekend off for Easter earlier this year, which might have been the last time you dealt with sugar-wired urchins bouncing off the wall and acting like miniature barbarians. Did I mention that I think the season is way too long?

We the people, in order to form a more perfect sport, hereby declare the NASCAR season should start after Easter and end prior to Halloween. I think that’s in the 27th Amendment. I’ll ask Justice Kavanagh at the next kegger we both attend.

(On a related note, one of the neighbors 3-year-olds went out for Halloween as Brian France. We found him in the wreckage of his overturned Kozy-Coop sucking on a bottle of Rye and selling off shares in the family business as fast as possible. No, that didn’t really happen.)

As with many sports played entirely outdoors during a long season, sometimes bad weather will delay, shorten or even move an event a day or two. This summer I think a weatherman from Noah’s era would have been left gasping by how much it rained this summer. I recall five such races this year and of course the snow delay at Martinsville Speedway accompanied by an Arctic blast. Yep, that’s how long the NASCAR season is. Some events feature snow and others feature triple-digit temperatures.

Here along the I-95 corridor from Boston to Richmond, which we like to term “the whole universe or at least the only part that matters,” we had 24 days in triple-digit heat and eight measurable snowfalls in March and April alone all during the NASCAR season. I’ve gone outside to scrape ice off my windshield and to take a quick dive into the pool during commercial breaks during races this year.

As with every year, some things have changed and others have remained constant. As of last month, dope is now legal in Canada, and as of forever, stupidity is still rampant in Washington, D.C. Apple launched its new iPhones but even in a booming economy most working people still can’t afford one. Roseanne Barr has checked out, and Tim Allen and Murphy Brown have returned. Megyn Kelly got fired, but inexplicably, Kellyanne Conway still has a job doing something, though nobody is quite sure what– handcrafting “alternative facts,” I suppose.

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time ever and the Boston Red Sox claimed yet another World Series. I’m presuming they still play ice hockey and thus someone won the Stanley Cup. Elton John announced he was retiring, Aretha Franklin died and Taylor Swift is still a thing, though now she is tasked with deciding who wins elections not just posting Instagram photoof her cats. Burt Reynolds hustled his black Trans Am off into eternity still looking fabulous and sporting that mustache.

Yep, a lot has happened since NASCAR kicked off 2018 at Daytona International Speedway. Hell, Bruce Springsteen has had concert tours that lasted less time than a NASCAR season. They had the entire Winter Olympics in South Korea this year in just 16 days. Even at its height of arrogance NASCAR never tried to hold an event in South Korea. Japan, yes, but never South Korea.

As the last weekends of the season wind down, autumn and its riot of vividly colored foliage is in full swing over much of the country. Around here, things are rather bland. I’m told we had too much rain and too high an average temperature this year, so the leaves are just turning brown and falling quickly off the trees, leaving (no pun intended) the usual mess to rake up without the impressionist kaleidoscope colors of a normal fall. Those brown leaves tend to curl up before they fall and resemble tightly knotted fists appealing to the uncaring leaden gray skies above, the knuckles brown and cracked from too many years of laboring under the relentless sun.

Please sir, just one more smoke… one more draft, kind barkeep, and there’s an extra two-bit piece for you in it if you’re quick, a last log tossed on the fire, a few more minutes of laughter with old and trusted friends recalling the same like that have preceded us, a final song and perhaps a quick dance before it’s all over again and the bitter, unexpected treachery of snows in December come calling. My coat, lad, my coat, I think I may have overstayed my welcome this eve.

Yet when I look at next year’s schedule and slate of tracks, there are no real changes. In order to have a more reasonable season length, some races have to go. And some will have to be held on weeknights. Last week Gateway Motorsports park said it is willing to serve as a trial balloon and host a midweek race. That’s awfully nice of the track in that it doesn’t currently have a Cup race slated for the facility. We’re going to need a track that already has a date to conduct the experiment.

280 days just isn’t going to work anymore. Because eventually there will be a fall back without a spring forward and a bitter gray winter January that doesn’t eventually yield to a mild impish May again for some of us.

Just one more before I go. Because as it stands written, “Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there.”

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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Bill B

Yep 70% might agree that they don’t like changing the clock but ask then which way they want it to permanently be and you’ll find 35% want DST permanently in place, 35% want standard time permanently in place, and 30% is undecided. So much for a simple majority.

FYI, since you mentioned Jerry Garcia, did you know the 4 hour documentary entitled “Long Strange Trip” comes out on blu-ray/dvd next week?

The WASHINGTON CAPITALS won the Stanley Cup (I’m guessing you already knew that but were feigning ignorance for effect). GO CAPS!!!!!

As for the schedule length, much like changing the clocks, 70% agree that it’s too long but good luck getting everyone to agree on how long it should be. I’d like it to be 30 races with very few tracks being visited more than once a year (twice at Martinsville and Bristol for sure, the rest are up for debate). I’d still like the season to run from February to the end of October, just with more off weekends. But, as I said, every reader will have their own version of what they think would be best (opinions are like……).

As for changes, I think we all know that the earliest any meaningful changes can be made will be 2020 due to the agreements with the existing tracks that are already in place. Although, IMO, anyone holding their breath waiting for significant changes in 2020 will be disappointed. In the words of Don Henley, “Things in this world change very slowly, if they ever change at all”.

Mike

The incestuous relationship between nascar/isc/smi almost guarantees there’ll be no real schedule change outside of outright bankruptcy. The schedule issue goes well beyond the ordering -Texas, Chicago, Kentucky, Vegas or Chicago, Vegas, Texas, Kentucky? In the end it doesn’t matter since the results are the same. Restated: the racing at said venues suck. But the nascar/isc/smi cabal has too much money invested to do otherwise. in the meantime great racetracks -Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, Nashville Fairgrounds are left behind.

Until the powers that be recognize that in order to save the patient, some serious surgery has to be performed…well, I’m preaching to the choir here. This gray haired, unreconstructed Southern, former fan just doesn’t care anymore.

Dan

Hey Matt a two bit piece will get you 15 minutes of parking in my town. Less time if you are parked within a block of the center of town. The Quarter still has plenty of use here. We’re a tourist town where a major battle was fought. Just sayin’.

Kenny Smith

I would love to see a schedule shake up. The lineup of tracks has become extremely stagnant.

In terms of the time change, we fall back so that the kids aren’t waiting for the bus at the coldest and darkest part of the day. We spring forward so that we don’t waste an hour of daylight sleeping. One of the many things that I dislike but tolerate because I get the reasoning behind it.

phil h

Give me racing every week, there’s 52, sounds good to me!!

DROP THE RAG!!

Don in Connecticut

The way things are breaking, what with all the empty seats and
the lack of a title sponsor, a dozen races may be too many.
Thanks Brian for all your brilliant ideas; the Chase, segments,
playoffs. It all smacks of Wrestlemania.

Steve

“If you’re running for office and call your opponents childish, playground-insult names, I hope a stage light falls on you at your next debate and splits your head open like an overly ripe watermelon to reveals the excrement within.”

Isn’t that pretty much all of them regardless of party affiliation?

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