Odds and Ends Around the Track: Bristol Motor Speedway Spring
There is some sort of NASCAR-history-poetry-in-motion thing that we are discussing Darrell Waltrip before heading to Bristol Motor Speedway. Nobody had more wins there than DW, with 12 in his career and a mind-blowing seven in a row. Nothing ticks me off more than when I see a journalist take a shot at someone who has earned our collective respect. The AP’s Jenna Fryer is an amazing writer. Her job is to break the news. But sometimes, I just wish journalists weren’t as good at their jobs.
DW Deserves More R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Polarizing figures in sports never win everyone over.
Waltrip has laughed all the way to the bank by letting people make fun of his yapping since he first entered the sport in 1972. He embraced his “Jaws” nickname once he realized it would sell more T-shirts. DW has continued being mouthy from the first day they turned his microphone on in the announcer’s booth. He has never stopped being DW.
Waltrip loves NASCAR, and he isn’t shy letting us know that. Did you notice that nobody ever told Barney Hall or Joe Moore that it was time to hang it up? They were not as great in their final years as they were in their so-called primes, but who cares? I would give anything to hear one more race with Barney and Joe in the booth, Dave Moody and Mike Bagley in the corners and Winston Kelley and Steve “The Postman” Post on pit lane.
But nobody dared pick on Hall because he was the Ernie Harwell of NASCAR! I better offer a little history lesson for the young folks. Harwell was the play-by-play voice for the Detroit Tigers baseball team from 1960 through the 1991 season. Since he was no longer the hip voice management thought was needed to attract younger fans to the sport, Harwell was let go and the older fans revolted. After a year of exile with the California Angels, Harwell returned in 1993 and retired on his own terms in 2002.
Jenna Fryer referred to the Fox Sports’ style as a “Cracker-Barrel Down-Home Cornpone yukfest” with all of those adjectives used as sharp knives stuck in the back of a three-time champion who deserved better. Using DW’s trademark “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” in the title was an even cheaper shot!
Thankfully, the Godfather of Motorsports, Dave Moody had DW’s back and removed those knives in a wonderful article that said what many of us “old school fans” wanted to say. I know I am not the target demo that NASCAR needs to attract right now, being a white male in his late 50s.
When I tune into a NASCAR pre-race show on television, I would rather see Bob Pockrass give me a report than Alan Cavanna. It’s not that Cavanna isn’t great at what he does, it is just that Pockrass is a real NASCAR reporter to me. But Cavanna appeals to that younger fan, and I understand that part of the entertainment equation.
Likewise, I understand that maybe it’s time for a change in the NASCAR booth. During my cross-generational sports podcast “Two Guys Talking Sports” on DMICmedia.com, I have learned a lot working with a 20-something sports guy JD as my co-host. I have tried to point out that just because NBA players are bigger, faster and more athletic, that doesn’t mean they are better basketball players than the old-timers.
I have also learned that sports fans have changed. When I was in my teens and 20s, I loved hearing the old-time player stories during baseball games or NASCAR races. In fact, I still do even if they are guys that were long gone before I started following the sport. Maybe the reminiscing about the history of the sport is not as popular with today’s younger fans. Getting old happens to all of us. Waltrip is 72 years old. Mike Joy will turn 70 later this year. They are both closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.
While I understand it’s the job of the journalist to break news, sometimes I wish they would just let people who gave so much to their profession have a chance to leave on their own terms with an announcement at a time of their choosing. Truth be told, I spent more time rooting against DW as a driver than I ever did for him. But love him or hate him he deserves more respect than he has received from NASCAR Nation this week. I guess some people don’t know how to spell that word anymore.
When NASCAR returns to a speedway for qualifying on May 9 at Kansas Speedway, they should bring the officials to the track in a clown car.
NASCAR has managed to screw up the simple act of qualifying for a race. A few years ago, someone in charge at NASCAR got the bright idea that qualifying needed to be a show. Gone were the boring one-car qualifying runs that had been deemed to be the proper way to set the field for years in favor of group qualifying. Now, instead of watching one car at a time, we get to watch 40 cars sitting on pit lane for the first seven minutes of a qualifying session without moving.
NASCAR changed the rules before Texas Motor Speedway when all 12 of the cars in the final round failed to make it to the start/finish line to get a lap in during the session and all 75 fans in attendance at Auto Club Speedway booed. NASCAR failed to officiate the qualifying at Texas when Ryan Newman clogged up the middle lane and wasn’t called for his infraction. NASCAR officials sounded like Wile E. Coyote saying, “Back to the old drawing board.” Don’t worry NASCAR, no matter how you try to fix qualifying so nothing bad happens again, the NASCAR crew chiefs and drivers will figure out a way to screw it up. That is the qualifying conundrum we have nowadays.
Bristol Fantasy Insight
Flashback to Last Week’s Picks
Win: Joey Logano-Finished 17th
Place: Kyle Busch-Finished 10th
Show: Martin Truex Jr.-Finished 12th
Long Shot: Denny Hamlin-WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER
NASCAR really needed to get back to a short track after last week’s latest qualifying debacle. The actual race at Texas was good, so it appears teams and NASCAR are getting this new rule’s package tuned better. Now it’s back to the high banks of Bristol, and while it doesn’t have that beat-and-bang, old-style short track feel like it had years ago, it is always exciting.
It is absolutely impossible to get away from the competition at Bristol. Lapped traffic guarantees an exciting race. Kyle and Kurt Busch have a combined 13 wins there, compared to only two for Kevin Harvick, but you can count on Harvick to be up front all day with a top rating of 188. Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the other top-of-the-ratings-chart guys for this week.
Win: Kevin Harvick-Super consistent here but hasn’t won in the daylight here since 2005
Place: Kyle Busch-Seven career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins at BMS
Show: Kurt Busch-Please God, don’t let it snow this weekend
Long Shot: Jimmie Johnson– (25-to-1 Odds) Give me Johnson at 25-to-1 any track any time