I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a cordial “Howdy” to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR, wherever you are today. Better cinch those belts up one more notch. This could be a bumpy ride before we’re through. This coming weekend, we’re going back to Daytona. This will be the first track on the circuit to be revisited, but as my stablemate, J.L. Steele pointed out, it’s only the 17th race of 36, making the end of the Kentucky race the actual half, but hey, we’re talking NASCAR math here, so whatever Brian says is what Brian means… or maybe not. Really, we can’t blame him for that one, as coming back to Daytona been considered the halfway point of the season for almost as many years as there has been a season.
Anyway, we’re going back, so Joie Chitwood, ready or not, here we come. First up, let’s talk about what we discuss at every track in turn, the SAFER barriers, or lack of same. It was Kyle Busch’s wreck at this track in the February Xfinity race that rekindled the fire to get SAFER in place… every place! Here’s what Google Earth shows at Daytona.
Right from the start, I can tell you that Mr. Google isn’t keeping up with us. This map has an imagery date of January, 2014, so this is what Daytona looked like sometime before Kyle’s crash. On the right-hand side of the picture, the red line on the inside is the wall he hit, after sliding helplessly through all that grass. Yes, grass makes for pretty landscaping, but the only things that should race on it are horses. Grass, especially if damp at all, is like ice beneath the slick wheels of a racecar, and even worse, if some part of the vehicle does dig in, the car is likely to flip into the air as though shot from a cannon. We’ve all seen those “barrel rolls.” Drivers hate them and fans should. No one’s having fun when that happens.
In case you were still hibernating in your cliff dwelling last February, here’s the wreck we’re talking about. It left Kyle with a broken right leg and a broken left foot. That’s about two too many casts for anyone’s liking.
Nasty looking wreck, wasn’t it? Kyle, we’re all glad you’re back and winning races again, and we, the fans that care, are doing our best to get that SAFER barrier everywhere possible, as quickly as possible. Some tracks are cooperating; others… not so much.
Finding out what, if anything, has been done since last we were at Daytona wasn’t an easy task for an old lady in North Georgia. It seems that the Daytona brass declined to discuss the upgrades with even their own local newspaper, the Daytona Beach News Journal. Joie Chitwood did give a tour of the track to Penske Racing driver Joey Logano. (No, I have no idea why) Still leaning on an article found in the Journal’s on-line version, this is what that article says has been done.
The Speedway has realigned part of the inside retaining wall from the road course exit to Turn 1 and expanded paved areas on entrances and exits to pit road. Observations show SAFER barrier was added to that realigned inside wall, to a retaining wall at the pit road exit, along a wall at the Turn 4 exit into pit road and along a section of the outside wall of the backstretch.
The changes seem like “a great thing,” Logano said. “They paved the section we need to keep our control. There’s not much grip in grass, so asphalt is good for us.”
“They changed the angle of the walls along with adding a ton of SAFER barrier also,” he said. “That’s all very good things that we need as drivers, to come to race tracks to be as safe as possible.”
Going even a step further, I’m told that Chitwood had promised that after this weekend’s race, the Speedway will be completing “any remaining installation of SAFER barriers on the outside backstretch wall, and continue to install SAFER on the remaining areas of the property.” Thank you Joie! We can only hope that others on the circuit adopt your “Git-R-Done” attitude and actually get it done. Is anyone in Texas listening…? Eddie?
Alright then… with a feeling of some accomplishment, we can leave that subject, having been promised that everything that can be done at this track either has been done or will be soon. That’s good enough for me. We don’t ask for miracles, only common sense and cooperation.
Now then, how about a small concession for an old lady with a long memory. We’re going to Daytona, but it’s not February and it’s not the Daytona 500. That means that this weekend’s race has to be the Firecracker 400, which in 1963 replaced the Firecracker 250, and it runs on the 4th of July at 10:00 in the morning. What? When? Well, just dang! It’s still the Firecracker to me!
Things have changed a lot in the racing world. Your scribe is well aware of sponsorship and all that bologna, but can someone give me a logical explanation of why, when the 4th of July comes on that rare Saturday this year, we’re not racing on that day? For the youngsters and those up north that may not realize this, there was a really good reason why that race ran in the morning. Oh sure, we fans were always told it was so the good ol’ boys could spend time on the Beach with family, but that was hooey! It was because in July and August in Florida, you can almost bank on pop-up thunder storms every afternoon into the evening. Big Bill France was no fool. I wish I could say the same for the current ruling generation.
And then there’s this… with the 4th of July holiday coming on that rare Saturday, almost everyone in America that gets a day off is getting Friday off, not Monday as happens in other cases. So… the way I see it, we have a race scheduled to start at 8:04 in the evening, with every chance of being at least delayed for track drying, or in a worst case scenario, postponed until Monday, when a large portion of the folks that came to watch it will be back at work. NBC’s got it, and they’re stuck with it, but I’d really love to know whose brand of logic went into that piece of not so clever scheduling. Oh well, at least the fireworks will be free, though a day late.
And in conclusion… a collective sigh is breathed by all as she begins to wind down… let’s go back to Joie Chitwood for just a moment. Joie, you were doing just fine until this ugly subject came up. Please, concentrate for just a minute. I am not the enemy, and I’ve given you props several times for several things, but this crazy idea you let yourself be talked into isn’t going to be added to that list. You know I’m talking about the Confederate Flag, or one of them anyway. I guess you’re quite a bit younger than I am, since I remember your grandfather bringing the thrill shows to the Edgerton Park Arena in Rochester NY when I was still a youngster.
On Wednesday, which it still is as I type this, we ran a full-staff round table discussion on several topics, and this was one of them. In the interest of time… mostly that of my readers… please check my part in that particular part of the discussion. Anyone doing so might learn something. Since that article came on site, I’ve received all manner of comments and each of them was positive. I guarantee, it’s worth the read.
Last night, with that article safely up and running, I saw on Jayski.com your plan to offer a trade of sorts to anyone coming to Daytona with a Confederate Flag. You say you’ll trade them an American Flag for their Confederate Flag. Joie, think about that for a minute please? Anyone I know that has a Confederate Flag also has an American Flag. The South is still part of America, last I knew. Please, find out more about that Flag and what it represents to so many people before taking the NASCAR stance that says “Ban it.” NASCAR was born in the South, grew to astronomical proportions in the South, and only began to backslide with they tried to move the sport of stock car racing nation-wide. Insulting the entire fan base south of the Mason-Dixon Line will be economic suicide for a sport already in the toilet and swirling fast. That’s one bit of fireworks you can avoid. There’s still time.
That advice gentle readers, comes from a lady born and raised in Western New York State, which is almost as far north as you can go without a passport into Canada. If I can understand the real meaning of the Confederate Flag, then everyone else with an IQ higher than his age should at least get a glimmer of the truth. There is no more flag-waving, God Bless America singing person in these United States than this old gal, but I fully understand that the Confederate Flag has done nothing to “offend” anyone.
Over in South Carolina, a young man with obvious mental problems took it upon himself to shoot up a church, killing nine people in the process. Like all of you, my heart aches for all involved, and hopefully that young man will find his senses and some religion in his heart before he dies. But… because one person, quite obviously not “right in the head” wrapped himself in the Confederate Flag, does that somehow make the flag guilty of anything? It is not… and I repeat here for emphasis… NOT a racial symbol. Please, follow the link given earlier and check out what was really behind that flag. It surely wasn’t murdering church-going folks during a service. That idea would never occur to a sane person, so please, let’s all be sane people and not compound that already egregious act of lunacy.
This is America, God Bless Her! It's not North vs South or East vs West. Last time I looked, we are still one nation, UNDER GOD! Where is God Mr. France, when you want to toss aside and "Ban" over a quarter of these "United States" of America? Are you for banning Him too, as His name might "Offend" some of our newer immigrants? Be very careful where you step, for if you tread on the wrong snake, it will bite you. We have a flag for that too, you know. More than one, as a matter of fact… just like the Flag of the Confederacy. This is but one of many.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and breaking custom just a bit, our first song isn’t done by a Country artist, but by an opera singer of some renown. Many will know him better from Chicago Hope, but though a fine actor, singing was always his first love. Here then, to start off our “Happy Birthday America” closing, is Mandy Patinkin, doing what is actually 2 very moving songs that carry a deep message in these troubled times. First song up is called “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, from the musical, South Pacific. The second half is another song that just seems natural in the sequence. It’s called “Children Will Listen.”
Next up is one from Red Foley doing his rendition of “Dixie”, which wasn’t written as a battle song, but a song of pride in one particular part of this great nation. You’ll hear no animosity in Red’s happy and bouncing tempo. I chose this particular offering because the graphic behind it tells a story. Here, you are looking at a map of the 13 states of the Confederacy. Those are the same states Mr. France and gentle readers, which brought stock car racing and NASCAR to be. They are also the very same states from which comes the music you hear here each week. From Virginia to Texas, Country Music comes from somewhere illustrated on that map… a map of Dixleland!
Next in the queue is one with which most of us are familiar. It was arranged in medley form by Mickey Newberry and performed by him as well, but the much better known rendition came from that other “King”, Elvis Presley. For today, I chose neither. This offering of “American Trilogy” comes from Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, as performed on one edition of Country Music Reunion. This one always breaks my heart a bit. That baby’s Daddy should not be bound to die. Let’s heal the wounds, not make them deeper.
And then there’s this one, written by Woody Guthrie and performed beautifully here by the New Christy Minstrels,,, “This Land is Your Land; This Land is My Land.” Hear the message. America does not belong to either North or South… she was made for you and me, and everyone like us… Americans! Let’s treat her like she matters, not rip her apart.
Finally, let’s all wish America… all of it… a very Happy Birthday, as we listen to the strains of “The Songbird of the South”, Miss Kate Smith, singing as only she can, “God Bless America.” Please note as the pictures change, that they come from everywhere in this great land… North, South, East and West. No one is excluded. No one!
See y’all at the Firecracker!
Happy Birthday America!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!