Leaving Daytona And Headed For Atlanta
I bid you welcome gentle readers, especially those returning after a long winter’s nap called hibernation… or race deprivation… your choice. We also offer a warm welcome to the person assigned to keep us on the straight and narrow where racing in concerned. I’d say that only applies to drag racing; we’re stock car fanatics and make turns… mostly left, but we’re adaptable. In any case, I do hope everyone enjoys the visit today. We’ll be talking about all the expected stuff, though we usually manage to do it in the most unexpected way.
The 2016 Daytona 500 is in the record books and is now part of history, as we drive up the road a piece to Atlanta Motor Speedway, located in the seemingly ever-soggy state of Georgia… but we’ll return to Atlanta in a bit. First, let’s talk a little about Daytona and the race just run on Sunday.
As restrictor plate races go, I’d give it a rating of so-so, but take that with a grain of salt because that sort of racing might excite Brian France, but it’s a parade interrupted by an occasional wreck to me. We’re already certain that whatever “package” was applied to those beautiful rolling billboards on Sunday did nothing to eliminate “aero-push”, though the announcers seemed careful not to let that term escape their lips. Ah, but the ending you say, was worth waiting for. Was it?
It was nice that we were not treated to a “Big One” at Daytona, but the race ran 3 hours and 10 minutes and those last couple of “wild” (Well, for Matt Kenseth anyway) laps took less than 5 of those minutes. How about, we just run the last two laps and get all that excitement up front? Then we can all go on about our Sunday and look forward to racing, this year at least, at a real track, with the new low-downforce package and keep our fingers crossed that it works.
The Daytona 500 did have a few “moments” for the thrill-seekers among us. Matt DiBenedetto took ROTY candidate and reigning Xfinity Champ Chris Buescher into the wall on lap 91 and finished the day for both drivers. The scariest for this old race fan was a trip through the grass for the newest star on the NASCAR horizon, Chase Elliott. He got loose and lost the car, resulting in a trip through the infield landscaping that ripped the front end of his NAPA Chevy into pieces. We were told that the young driver lost consciousness for a bit because the stop was so sudden when the splitter dug in, and all he hit was grass!
We at Race Fans Forever do commend Joie Chitwood and “Daytona International Stadium” for stepping up to the plate with the installation of SAFER barriers everywhere a car can go. The track now sets a shining example for other tracks on the circuit as to how it should be done… and no track is too big to do it. No track! Are you listening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Obviously, it is “feasible” for a track that size… the same size as Daytona, 2.5-miles.
With that said, the rumor before the race was that some of the grass had become asphalt over the off-season. I believe that only included the patch that cost Kyle Busch 11 weeks out of the 2015 schedule when he slid across it in last year’s Xfinity race and hit concrete instead of SAFER. Joie, Lesa, someone… please don’t listen to me; I’m merely an old lady that likes and knows her racing. Listen to your drivers. To a man or woman, they are telling you that at the speeds they travel, and with that splitter thing all but dragging the ground, that grass is far less than safe. Save “pretty” for the facility, but pave the grass. Paint it green if you like, but give the drivers what they ask for; in this case, that would be a chance to finish the race. Along with young Elliott, NASCAR favorites Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, each of whom took a wild slide for life across what could pass for a par-5 green on any golf course before being “injected” into the infield wall would surely agree.
As to the wisdom of allowing a young driver that has been rendered unconscious to go back on the track without completing something akin to the NFL concussion protocol testing… that should become a point of discussion for everyone concerned. In older times, with older cars… the ones before the splitter… neither the driver nor the car were as adversely affected by what used to be a simple spin through the grass. (With a splitter, Dale Earnhardt would never have completed that “Non-pass in the grass” in the 1987 “The Winston.”) The contention here is that head injuries simply should never be the result of grass. No ifs, ands or buts; that’s just stupidity, and it’s not on the part of the driver.
Ah, but how about that finish? That was the stuff dreams are made of, right? I’d say it was the stuff that bumpers were made for! Thanks to some help from Kevin Harvick behind him and the cojones to knock aside teammate Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin squeezed out a victory over Martin Truex Jr. by .01 of a second. Folks, the race wasn’t much to speak of, but they’ll speak of that finish for years to come! We’ve got ourselves a new highlight reel!
Ever since the race ended, I’ve seen clever articles on various sites, all announcing something in the vein of “Joe Gibbs Racing is for Real”, or “JGR Means Business.” Really? You just noticed that what right now is arguably the best team in NASCAR, with 4 extremely impressive drivers and a kid named Erik Jones waiting in the wings, is pretty good? If that were the best I could find to waste ink on, I’d hold off for a better day. Of course they are good! They are the best right now, but that can always change in a heartbeat. That’s why we run 26 races. Why we run those other ten remains a mystery. It’s a “Brian thing.”
Just before we let Daytona fade from view in the rearview, we have to address a couple of quick points that readers have written in about. I already took my little “cheap shot” about calling Daytona a stadium. Call it what you like, but the racing remained disappointingly the same old, same old restrictor plate stuff.
Please, someone look up the meaning of “injector.” I did… in a half-dozen different dictionaries. Nowhere could I find a definition or synonym that comes even close to meaning a door or gate of any kind. To be injected indicates force. Are they holding passersby at gun point to make them enter the “stadium?” Folks, words have meanings, and I promise you that other than a satire, you will not read the word “injector” on these pages unless referring to fuel.
To those offering derogatory thoughts about anyone named Waltrip, no, I don’t know what they have on Brian France, but it must be big. This week, FOX went to the extent of sharing with us some multi-lingual coverage of the end of the race. One of the Hispanic gentlemen was really excited and yelling in words that most did not understand, and I saw one headline state that he “lost it” in calling the end of the race. Hasn’t anyone noticed that we have that weekly when FOX is the broadcasting network? Gridwalk? Could we please get Robin Miller on loan from Indy?
OK, I think that covered most of the insults you’ve asked me to pass on concerning Daytona. Now let’s move on to Atlanta, which has to be my home track even though I’ve never been there. This was the one track we never covered last year with the SAFER barrier maps, as that series first ran right after this race. At that time, the Atlanta map was not impressive, but a lot has changed over a year’s time, and I’m more than happy to say “Well done” to Ed Clark and company at AMS for now being in almost complete compliance with the “SAFER Barriers Everywhere” movement. (Note: This map was rendered by these two aged hands and 10 arthritic fingers. It’s as close to correct as I can make it)
We hope the first question on everyone’s mind is, “Why are we going to Atlanta in February? Isn’t it still cold there?” It’s been the first question in this old mind since the schedule came out and gave Atlanta what seemed like a death sentence, as this old girl only has one spot left on the calendar. Atlanta, from 1960 until Bruton, was proud to be known as the “Perfect Oval”, and she was just that. It was ½-mile through each set of turns and ¼-mile on each straightaway… high banked, 5 lanes wide and faster than your ice cream melts in July or your nose runs in allergy season. Now she’s another Charlotte clone and her glory days lie behind her… but Kansas has 2 races.
It is Tuesday as I type, and well past noon. I am well north of the track and well north of the capital city of Atlanta, but I’m quite literate and can easily attain weather forecasts for the track as well as for my back yard. It’s been constant drizzle for days in Georgia, when it’s not outright pouring rain. Today and tomorrow we are to have thunderstorms… some severe… which is almost always added into our forecasts. A little spice has been added with the possibility of tornadoes forming in some of those storms. That’s one of the joys of living in the “Sunny Southland” but with temps holding in the 50s the next couple of days, I doubt we see those anywhere but near the Gulf coast.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday promise to be sunny and though not warm, not frigid either. Highs will range from 50s well into the 60s… or so it says on Tuesday. It looks as though we can count this year as prayers answered, and go on to pray for a schedule change that might be kinder to this venerable old lady once known as Atlanta International Raceway. (Bruton has this thing about calling all of his tracks “Speedways”, thereby keeping the acronym of Speedway Motorsports Inc. relevant. SMI are the first three letters of Smith. Vanity, thy name is Bruton.)
In closing, our congratulations to Denny Hamlin, winner of the 58th running of the Daytona 500, and condolences to Martin Truex Jr., who came in second by .01 of a second. That has to sting, but Atlanta looms on the horizon…
And now it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout. Last week, we played a request for some of Hank Williams Sr.’s recordings done as “Luke the Drifter”, of which almost all were sad tales, to be sure. Hank wrote and sang a whole lot of sad songs that make one wonder what his life was like behind closed doors… but he also did some really upbeat and quite humorous pieces, and today our focus will be on those.
First up we’ll hear one of my all-time Hank favorites, a little ditty called “Settin’ the Wood on Fire.”
Next, we see and hear Hank as a victim of love as he performs “Howlin’ at the Moon” as only he could.
In this number, Hank takes on the persona of a Cajun lover of both lady and food as he gives us “Jambalaya.”
You won’t find love the theme of this one. It’s a real, true-to-life tale of “Fly Trouble” to which we can all relate.
Finally, I’m going to do it again. This seems like two songs, but listen closely and you’ll find that Hank cheated a bit and he got two for one when he did “Move it on Over” and “Mind Your Own Business.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!