I bid you welcome gentle readers, and thank you for taking this few minutes to spend with us here at Race Fans Forever. It’s been a difficult week for those of us in the racing family, and it is times such as this that reinforce that we are indeed a family. On Tuesday we had to say “goodbye” to one of our own, as motorsports broadcaster and commentator Steve Byrnes was called home after a long battle with the villain we know as cancer. No matter how prepared we think we are, no one is ever truly ready when the final moment comes and a friend or loved one steps over the line from earthbound to heaven bound.
On behalf of everyone here at Race Fans Forever, our prayers, warm thoughts and condolences go out to his wife Karen and son Bryson, along with his parents, Jerry and Claire Byrnes, sister Betsy Byrnes, brother Dan Byrnes and wife Tammy, nephews Tyler, 21, and Dylan Byrnes, 17, and niece Samantha Byrnes, 13.
They tell me that I am the lady with the pretty words, yet sometimes I have none. In the short time since his passing, millions of pretty words have been written and spoken, yet taken altogether, they cannot do justice to the man that was Steve Byrnes. We have lost a treasure this week; a treasure to his family, to his friends and to every one of us in his extended family, the racing family. Sometimes I get the urge to throw a tantrum worthy of Donald Duck, tearing my hair, pounding my fists on the ground and screaming “Why?” at the top of my lungs, but I don’t, because I already know the answer that would come from our Lord would be the same one my own dear Mother would give if presented with that same behavior. “Because I said so!”
And then of course, there was the Cup race at Bristol. It wasn’t a bad race, as races go today, but then I don’t believe there has ever been a bad race at Bristol. Still, the now all too familiar lows in ratings continued, with this one a fair comparison to last year’s also long rain-delayed race. Ratings according to Sports Media Watch are as follows:
This year’s rain-delayed Cup race from Bristol earned a 1.4 overnight rating on Fox Sports 1 Sunday evening, down 22% from rain-delayed coverage of the same race last year (1.8). This year's coverage aired from 6:30-10:30pm, while last year's aired from 7:00-9:45pm. The race was originally scheduled to air on FOX, which earned a 2.9 overnight for less than 15 minutes of live racing - down 29% from a 4.1 for 45 minutes of racing last year.
Gentle readers, it is what it is. Even the rain delays have lost ground to last year’s rain delays. But keep smiling Mr. France. You’re still rich and we still have those glass dashboards to look forward to, so all is not lost… only fans in the stands and viewers at home. “Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin’ wheel spin.”
Closer to home, I received several questions and comments on the fact that last week’s SAFER map of Bristol Motor Speedway showed no SAFER whatsoever in the turns at either end of the track. Again, dear hearts, it is what it is. Bristol upgraded parts of the straightaways to SAFER just before last week’s race, but there are no… let me repeat that… N-O SAFER barriers anywhere in the turns, inside or out. Do you find that sufficient? I don’t either.
And now, while we’re on the subject of SAFER barriers, let’s have a look at the map for the upcoming race at Richmond International Raceway.
All I’m seeing is SAFER barriers on the outside of the turns and the inside of the backstretch; nothing else. Yes, it’s a short track, but it’s the same short track on which a trip to an unprotected wall ended the career of a young driver named Jerry Nadeau. Richmond is a ¾-mile track that has always been described as a short track that thinks it’s a superspeedway. It’s bigger than most short tracks and in this case, bigger means faster. Your scribe doesn’t usually go in for sensationalism, but today I’m going to show you the Nadeau crash… another of those that happened in practice. As you’ll see, the outside of turns one and two now sport SAFER protection… protection that Jerry paid dearly to ensure… but what about the rest of the track?
That wreck happened in a practice session for the May 3 running of the 2003 Pontiac Excitement 400. The SAFER barriers you see on the map were installed before the next race at Richmond, which ran on September 6, 2003. Jerry missed it by only that much, and that is sad, but sadder yet is the fact that in the intervening 12 years, not one inch of SAFER barrier has been added. That, gentle readers, is the problem as I see it. NASCAR sits on its reactive derriere and does nothing until given something to which it can react. Right now, that something is Kyle Busch’s accident in the Xfinity race at Daytona. If left to their own devices, history tells us that NASCAR will make some adjustments, which we’ve already seen, then tell us what jolly good fellows they are and sit back down.
Once again, if anyone thinks that wrecks on a short track are somehow insignificant, please think again. This next film is an excerpt from the 2002 Funai 250 Busch race at Richmond in September. Derrike Cope came away from this with either a broken arm or shoulder, and immediately credited his HANS restraint and “seating”, which I believe was a carbon seat from Randy LaJoie, for being alive at all. To this day, he will tell you that he was lucky. You’ll see why after watching this.
I am not as familiar with the top brass at Richmond as I am with some other tracks, but the website tell me that Dennis Bickmeier is track President. Richmond is an ISC track, which means the France family owns controlling interest. Mr. Bickmeier, we, the fans that care, are asking that you have a serious talk with Lesa France and others at ISC, hopefully taking your cue from the updates being made by Joie Chitwood at Daytona International Speedway. The goal is SAFER barriers everywhere at every track. We believe it’s time Sir, that Richmond joins the move toward saving drivers’ lives. Going “green” looks nice in print, but keeping drivers alive is far more important… wouldn’t you agree?
Enough of sadness and wrecks for today. It’s time for our Classic Country Closeout. If you followed the link I gave you back in the beginning, you’ve seen my personal tribute to Steve Byrnes, so let’s lighten the mood somewhat here at the end of our discussion and try for some smiles. Sounds like a plan to me. Here’s one that is definitely light and airy. It’s the original Troubadour, Ernest Tubb, telling us how things are going to be, “Till My Getup Has Got Up and Gone.”
The next one comes from an often overlooked singer of Classic Country, though I’m not sure why. He had a style all his own and made some great songs, this one included. Here is Lefty Frizzell doing one of his earliest hits, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.”
Even Gentleman Jim Reeves was not about having a bit of vocal fun from time to time. Here is one of those times; a little ditty called “Billy Bayou” by Gentleman Jim. You can surely tap some toes to this one.
This bit of fun comes from Hank Thompson, who filled my young years with so much joy! Hank has probably hundreds of fun songs to his credit, but this might take the prize for the craziest of all. It’s called, “I See Them Everywhere” and if it doesn’t give you at least a giggle, you’d best be checking for a pulse.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!