It’s at this time every year that we are afforded a singular moment in which to assess that which has occurred during the NASCAR season and what is on the planning board in the foreseeable future. Maybe it’s the recent election, or the downturn in the economy, but this fan is left with a feeling that change is in the air… and not in the same way that the France Foundation has been executing improvements for the past few years.
I knew it! I just knew it! Like something from an episode of The X-Files, it sat in the middle of the track, looking vaguely like an indeterminate piece of technology. It was big, clearly made of metal and entirely out of place. Awkward shadows hid its true purpose in life. But there was no denying it, there had to be a debris caution.
Like many of you, I am not fortunate enough to be able to attend each race. My weekly dose of high-octane excitement comes to me through the wonders of satellite TV. And this has worked for over the last decade. Yeah… a whole 10 years. Did you know your neighbors’ trees can grow an awful lot in 10 years? Well, it appears that those lovely maples have managed to block my signal… MY signal. That’s right; it’s the one that brings Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. straight to my La-Z-Boy. This is not fair and extremely stressful.
Hold on a second here. There’s a “should” or “deserved” in racing? Not the last time I checked. To confirm, let’s review the definition of the winner in any given race: it’s the car that passes over the start/finish line before any other competitor. Now, there’s no caveats in there; it’s a black and white statement devoid of emotion and heedless of moral obligations. I will grant the possibility that NASCAR might, on the random occasion of swine gliding over Daytona, rearrange the finishing order due to some other worldly divination of the rules. But, for the most part, once those tires take the checkers, the results are set in stone.
It’s not often that we see them on camera; like a rare bird, they dash out of shot, intent on accomplishing the task at hand. But that doesn’t stop our curiosity; instead, we sit at home and wonder why they’re there. What do they do? Is it really important? The fact is, our heroes, the drivers of NASCAR, wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without them. These people are the teams, crews, and support staff for the Sprint Cup circuit.
Congratulations to Danica Patrick for winning her first IRL race! After three years, 50 starts and three podium finishes prior to Saturday’s Twin Ring Motegi 300, her arrival in Victory Lane has long been awaited. Altogether now: three cheers for Danica! There. Are we done patting the little lady on the back?
There were only 10 seconds between the front-running car and second place. Still, Chad Knaus’ words had plenty of wisdom to back them up. Jimmie Johnson had not stopped for gas, and according to calculations, his No. 48 Lowe’s machine was running on nothing more than fumes. Knaus stood on top of the pit box screaming at his driver to please lay off the gas pedal; otherwise, his chances for a win — and the momentum that comes with it — would fall victim to the tragedy of an empty fuel tank.
The move was risky, but the ploy worked. By slowing the pace, Johnson managed to maintain his lead, take the checkered flag, and even do a burnout. Granted, the Polish Victory Lap was less than stellar, as he had to accept a little bit of a push from a wrecker to reach Victory Lane; but clearly, it was worth the wait.
It’s been some years since I became a devout NASCAR fan. Unlike some of my readers out there, I wasn’t raised on the local dirt track at the end of the street. Auto racing came to me through the Wonderful World of Sports, and later via a little cable box on top of the TV. I can only remember being dazzled by the Indy 500, but not by any billboards or the pretty colors on the drivers’ uniforms. In fact, as a young ‘un, I could tell you their names… Rutherford, Unser, and Mears. But not who paid for their appearance on my Saturday afternoon sports program. It was entirely about the “Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat,” nothing more. And so it should be.
This past Thursday night, NASCAR lost a great racer. John Blewett III lost his life in a wreck during the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Thompson International Speedway. He was driving his No. 66 modified at the time of the incident. A champion of several tracks throughout the East, at 33 he was considered a seasoned veteran of the modified circuit. It is at moments such as these, when we are mourning the loss of a competitor, husband and father, that it behooves us to stop and consider the dangers of racing and the choices that are made by racers and fans to continue participating in the sport.
Robby, Robby, Robby, What went wrong during Saturday’s Busch race in Montreal? Does anybody know? I mean, save from Robby Gordon being kicked out of Sunday’s Nextel Cup Pocono race by NASCAR, of course. Was that called for? Well, let’s see what I can decide.