D-Day Demolition Derby at Dover
I bid you welcome gentle readers. What follows is a riotously funny recap of the 2004 June race at Dover. For those not familiar with the Lady in Black or her “loving” nicknames for most of NASCAR’s best, you can find the actual rundown of the race by clicking right about here.
A couple of things I’d like you to note… 43 cars started this race, and another 8 were sent home to try another day. We didn’t lack for cars in 2004. Only 39 cars are entered at Dover this year. What changed that?
Near the end of her diatribe, the Lady sends a personal note to Competition Director, John Darby, discussing the “unavoidable” mess created by placing the leaders behind a pack of cars and yet another pack consisting of all those laps in arrears. This is exactly the situation for which the “Wave-around” was intended, though it’s abused and misused far too often today. The logic is simple. The “leader” should always be the leader.
One other short note and I’ll turn you over to the Lady in Black. I believe this is the race that gave us a very short but memorable conversation between Steve Byrnes and Ken Schrader. As you’ll see, Schrader was in the garage, along with a lot of company on that day. When Steve came in, mic in hand, he asked Kenny, who was standing outside the car, if he would be going back out on track. Kenny, with that half-amused, half-terrified look that I’m sure is patented immediately replied, “I’m afraid so!”
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, happy to be back on the job and coming to you from the soggy mess known as Dover International Speedway, aka the Monster Mile. It’s also referred to as “DIS” and perhaps that is no accident, because this track will DIS you in a hurry if you make a mistake. On Sunday, the kids from Nextbest Cup held race number “Lucky 13” in the Chase for No Sponsorship. Most of the weekend was spent dodging rain showers that shortened or eliminated much of the program. The Craftsman Truck Series raced on Friday afternoon after track drying was completed, much to the delight of a youngster named Chapped ‘n Chaffin who brought home his first series victory.
The gang from the Busch Series had no such luck, managing to drive only 28 laps before the rains came again, and 3 attempts to dry the track only ended in more rain and frustration. Since there wasn’t time for Musco to install lights before dark, the race was postponed until Monday morning. Rain also cancelled early practice for the big Dawgs and shortened Happy Hour as well. Sunday, the appointed day for the major battle, dawned grey and threatening, but it never did rain on the parade, though I’ll bet a lot of folks wish that it had.
The theme of the day was the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944; the day U.S. troops stormed the beaches at Normandy and turned the tide of World War II in our favor. There was of course, much display of patriotic symbols, as is always the case at Dover, and the crowd was treated to a visit by several surviving veterans of one of the most costly battles in history in terms of lives lost. Many NASCAR-related veterans of D-Day were saluted during pre-race festivities, but for some reason (oversight would be my guess) it was never mentioned until the race was more than half over that NASCAR’s own Walter (Bud) Moore was on those beaches that day and returned highly decorated for his efforts. Thanks Bud!
The Star Spangled Banner was placed in the hands and vocal chords of American Idol winner, Clay Aiken, who delivered a very respectful and somber rendition (though extremely slow-paced) until he neared the ending. Then the need for expression apparently took over and the tune went out the proverbial window, giving way to vocal slides and trills. You almost got it right Clay ~ almost.
Out on the track, it was Jeremy Maybe Fast on the pole with Friday Ryan on the outside. When the Boogity flag (Only four more times folks) waved, it was Maybe Fast out to the early lead as the folks behind all searched for a place at the bottom of the track. One brave warrior, Rubby Gordon, went not only two wide, but three wide on the outside, moving him from 24th on the start, to 17th on the first lap, but alas, his car appeared to be looser than a goose and he quickly fell back to where he’d begun.
Stand-in Barrett recorded only two laps around the concrete before retiring to the lounge for the afternoon, but he wasn’t alone for long, as The Good Shepherd and Jesus soon joined him there.
The kids got all the way to lap 12 before Casey Smeared his Target all over the inside wall after a spin worth a score of only 8.75. According to Casey, teammate Jamie McCutey pinched him down and caused all that, but I couldn’t help but notice that the rear deck lid of the car directly behind him bore the word, “Sharpie.”
Some of the boys in the back room took the opportunity to hit the bar for a cold Bud and some adjustments, and right before the green flag, Mutt Kenseth wheeled in for a quickie and help from a pit bull in getting a torn tear-off from his windshield. The One LAP UP (One Lucky Arse PUP) was awarded to Kirk Fillerdine. Nope, I have no clue how someone is a lap down in only 12 laps on a mile track. NASCAR has this minimum speed rule ya know.
At the restart on lap 18, the pylon showed Maybe Fast leading Brian Snickers, Flyin’ Ryan, the Blue Deuce and Stewpot. Within a lap, Snickers had taken the lead, but at lap 26, Maybe Fast reclaimed it. Meanwhile, out back, there was contact between Greg Baffled and Texas Terry but no one seemed the worse for the wear.
On Lap 30, NASCAR delivered a promised Competition Caution because the kids hadn’t had much practice and that would give them a chance to check their Goodyears and catch a cold one. Under the caution flag, Texas Terry gave Baffled a shot in the rear bumper, obviously thanking him for the “bump-draft” earlier. The One LAP UP went to Kirk Fillerdine again. Well, it was another twelve laps, but still, there’s this minimum speed fantasy we keep hearing about.
All of the gang up front took advantage of the Bud break, but seven of the boys in the back room stayed out, since they’d had a beer at lap 12 and that changed the running order just a bit. Up front were Jeff Bootin’ (Lord, that must have felt good), Kevin Havoc and Long Tall Mikey along with others, but they barely had a chance to get rolling when it hit the fan again out back. It was the Busch Leaguer hitting the Candy Man and spinning M&Ms up into Long Gaughan. (Note to Busch: Son, this is becoming a habit and you need to break it.) Everyone else missed the wreck, but Jamie McCutey was heard on the radio requesting a change of underwear. There were only a couple of warriors that headed for the bar that time, Greg Baffled and of course, McCutey. The Candy Cart retired to the garage for five laps worth of repairs, but Gaughan remained on the lead lap at that point. There was no One LAP UP on this bar stop, I guess because Fillerdine hadn’t had the required twelve laps yet.
They got back to circling at lap 45, (Are you noticing the length of these cautions?) and the pylon showed Bootin’, Havoc, Wall-Trip, Texas Terry, Captain Nemo, Stewpot, Mutt, Maybe Fast, Snickers and Flyin’ Ryan. Then we actually got to see some racing for a bit, with the 99 and 29 trying to beat each other for the lead. At lap 49, Stewpot settled that battle, passing Havoc on the outside, then turning square left and passing Bootin’ on the inside, taking the lead and running away with it.
At lap 68, Long Gaughan was black flagged for a left front tire rub and drove to the garage instead of the bar. He would return around lap 98. Somewhere in this time frame, we said good-bye to Kevin Glue, The Rain Man and Kirk Fillerdine, all of whom retired to the lounge for the afternoon. Back up front, the Home Depot Demon was making a mockery of the race, putting some usually impressive cars a lap down. Some of those were teammate Bobby the Bounty Hunter, the Bud Stud and McCutey. When the Bounty Hunter pitted once and then pitted a second time almost immediately, we sensed trouble and he headed to the garage on lap 104 to have a broken rear end replaced. Ouch!
Lap 108 saw the fourth yellow flag wave, this time for debris on the racetrack. (It was real; I saw it) After everyone caught a cold Coors and some cooler tires, there were 17 cars left on the lead lap, including the One LAP UP winner, Rickety Rudd. At the restart, it was Stewpot leading Flyin’ Ryan, Maybe Fast, Flameboy, Hurrikahne, Busch Leaguer, Jeffy’s Mini-me, Mutt, Havoc and the Blue Deuce.
At lap 119, it was Maybe Fast back in the lead once more and three laps later the Bounty Hunter returned to the track with a new rear end but 24 laps in arrears. (Note to Bobby: The old one was cute enough; you really didn’t need a new one) On lap 145, it was Ken Shredder’s turn for bad luck, as he made the trip to the garage so that his pit bulls could replace a broken track bar. After that, we saw a spirited battle for the lead between Stewpot, Flameboy and Maybe Fast with the lead going back to Stewpot shortly before the Army of One would bring out caution flag #5 on lap 158. Captain Nemo spun the Nautilus hard into the inside wall with what appeared to be a bit of help from the Iceman. In fact, the NASCAR brass even contacted the #5 team, advising them to calm their driver down. (Is there a calmer driver on the track than Texas Terry?) Good Ol’ Joe absolved LaBonte from any blame, saying that he had slowed for some reason and caused his own demise.
It was Miller Time for everyone then, and the One LAP UP went to Greg Baffled. They commenced to circling again at lap 164, with Stewpot still in the lead, followed by Mini-me, Flyin’ Ryan, Maybe Fast, Busch Leaguer and the rest of the gang.
Caution #6 came at lap 222 when Jeffy blew a right front Goodyear and extinguished the car with the flames on the outside wall. Those walls, by the way, are not of the SAFER variety, though they are promised here for the September race. Jeffy, among others, dearly wished they had been in place on Sunday. The One LAP UP went to Jeffy’s teammate, Brian Snickers, and after a quick round of Smirnoff Ice Triple Black, the pylon read 20, 48, 9, 2, 12, 19, 6 and 99.
Almost immediately, (lap 233) the yellow rag was waving again, this time for a spring rubber on the track that most likely was put there when the Bud Stud hit the Silver Bullet on the restart. Caution seven’s One LAP UP winner was Long Tall Mikey, making the lead lap count thirteen. Up front, the running order had not changed. How could it, since there’d been precious little running?
Things in Delaware settled down for a bit after that, and the crowd watched Hurrikahne make repeated runs at Stewpot without success. At lap 299, the Blue Deuce fell from the lead lap with a flat right front Goodyear, which he somehow managed to keep off the concrete wall. He would drop from seventh to two laps down. At lap 313, Mutt Kenseth informed his chief Pit Bull that he was either pitting or blowing his own right front, so to the bar he came, giving up his eighth place on the track for a cold Bud. That must have looked like a swell idea to some of the other combatants, as more began heading for the bar. Stewpot missed the swinging door and had to go all the way around again to get into the bar, relinquishing his lead.
At lap 320, it was Ryan, flyin’ around at the entrance to the bar, knocking down the cones, speeding through the pits and running the stop sign exiting the bar, all in an attempt to miss losing a lap on the caution he’d just created. As he circled under the caution flag, the Sunoco in his rolling phone booth gave its last whimper and he was pushed around the track by a very kindly Rickety Rudd. At the barroom door, Long Gaughan took over the pushing process and Ryan finally made it to his pit; well, actually he made it to Rusty’s pit and had to be pushed to his own by the pit bulls.
While all this was going on, NASCAR was scratching their collective heads or perhaps other body parts, trying to figure out who should be where, when (or if) the green flag waved again. The One LAP UP they decided, should go to Mark the Munchkin. Flyin’ Ryan was held for one lap by officials in the pits, but Chief Pit Bull Matt Borland insisted that they had been on a lap alone, so the one lap penalty would simply put them back on the lead lap. He lost that argument and for sure, I’m not about to comment on the ruling. There seemed to be plenty of infractions there to go around.
With a wisdom known only to NASCAR, the field was reset with the leaders buried deep in the middle of the pack, behind not only those on the “tail end” of the lead lap, but all of the lapped cars on the inside lane as well. As soon as the green waved on lap 346, the Mayhem began. Up near the front of this ill-conceived grouping, it appeared that Long Tall Mikey got into the wall, though with or without help I couldn’t tell. Beneath him, Dave Blarney’s spotter told him he was clear, which proved not to be the truth. As Blarney moved up the track, there was Mikey, and that, as they say, was all she wrote. Bear in mind, it took 26 laps of yellow, run at a slow caution speed, to arrive at this foreseeable disaster.
As Blarney and Mikey spun in front of the field, there was a freeway at drive time chain reaction behind them. When all the smoke cleared and the parts stopped flying, there were 18 cars involved in a monumental wreck that rivaled any of the Big Ones seen on the restricted tracks, with most of the leaders involved to some degree.
This was enough finally to bring out a red flag while all the carcasses were carried off the racetrack. At this point, I see my notes contain some profanities, which I will spare you. The fans came to see a race, and all they have seen is a wreck-strewn riot to this point. After the extensive cleanup efforts were completed, the yellow came back out and the survivors began sorting themselves out. Most came back to the bar for refreshments, but Hurrikahne stayed out and held onto the lead. The One LAP UP went that time to Jeffy Bootin’.
They made it all the way to lap 373 the next time, before the Blue Deuce hit the wall. The Deuce continued on, but parts of the car littered the track, so back out came the yellow flag for caution #10. This time, both Hurrikahne and Mark the Munchkin stayed out as the rest came back to the bar for a quickie. The One LAP UP was awarded to the Bud Stud.
They restarted on lap 380, and the car with the Target blew up in a huge plume of smoke but this time no flag waved. That was saved for the following lap when leader Hurrikahne got into the oil slick left by the #41 and went straight into the outside wall. Behind him, Mutt Kenseth, Rubby Gordon, Brian Snickers and others met a similar fate. At lap 383, it was back to red flag conditions for oil cleanup and removal of still more carcasses. On the lead lap would be Munchkin, Stewpot, Bootin’, Bud Stud and Scoot Riggs who received the One LAP UP.
The cars began circling under the yellow flag again at lap 384, but someone somewhere finally grew a brain and kept that yellow out until there were less than ten laps to go, thus ensuring a single file restart. If not for that, we might still be there.
Shortly after the restart, Bud Stud passed Bootin’ for third place and went hunting for Stewpot, but that didn’t happen. At the checkered flag it was Viagra way out in front (pun intended) and the rest of the pylon read 20,8,99,10,15,5,19,22 and 29. Only five of those were on the lead lap, but there were 19 cars out of the race at the finish.
A very classy Mark the Munchkin drove his Ford directly to Victory Lane without doughnuts or smoke shows and reveled in the Gatorade showers that awaited him there. This, his fourth win at Dover, was his first since the 600 in Charlotte in 2002, a 73-race drought. Proving he is not too old for anything, Mark put himself up on the roof of the car, to the horror of Chief Pit Bull Pat Tryson, who didn’t want the measurement to be off in post-race inspection. Upon returning to solid ground, the first person there to congratulate him was that demon from Home Depot, Tony Stewart, who had finished second. All smiles, Tony confided that he was just “Glad to get through this mess.” I think that feeling was shared by every spectator and surely by every competitor. For the most part of a very long afternoon, this wasn’t racin’, it was just wreckin’! Of course, one must remember that this was the “Lucky” 13th race of the season, and it was only three days after the full moon. Cue the theme from “Twilight Zone.”
Before I leave you today, I must add that NASCAR Top Cop, John Darby, commented that the circumstances that precipitated the big wreck were “unavoidable.” Note to John: Nonsense! Get out your pencil and make up a new rule, just as we see done on a weekly basis. When there is a whole passel of cars starting in front of the dang leader, make it a single file restart. Leave the lapped cars out of the equation. Or, of course, you could just put those “tail-enders” on the real tail end of the lead lap, at the end of the longest line. “Unavoidable” should not be in your dictionary.
That’s exactly the way it was in Dover on Sunday. Would I lie to you?
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and we’re continuing with the wonderful series of Grand Ole Opry shows from the 1950s. Wonderful memories for the old folks like me and a peek into the past for the young readers. This one is packed with fabulous talent, so please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!