I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a cordial welcome as well to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR and NASCAR related, wherever this warm summer day might find you. OK folks, what do you think we’re going to discuss today? Pocono is on the horizon, and Indy is in the rearview, where I’m afraid it belongs.
The very first thing on the agenda today, which is Monday as I begin to type, is to offer massive congratulations to Kyle Busch, who since his return to action has made winning races a habit, or maybe even an addiction. Conspiracy theories aside, at some point, everyone will have to acknowledge that this young man is one of the best racers on the tracks today and is working to make that read, “Ever!” In short, the kid is good, and no one but his great Joe Gibbs Racing team is helping him to win.
Looking back over the nine races he’s run, he crashed out twice, finishing 36th at Dover and 43rd at Michigan. (He actually crashed at Daytona as well, but came back from laps down to finish 17th) Even with those stinkers, his average finish since returning stands at 14th. Who out there, driver or critic, could do that while still in recovery from not one but two broken legs. OK, one leg and one foot = 2 full leg casts. OH, and by the way, he not only won the Brickyard 400 on Sunday but also the Xfinity race the day before. This aged fan hasn’t seen that much grit and determination to beat the odds since another great driver took his leave of this planet. His name was Tim Richmond.
We’ll leave Kyle alone now. He doesn’t need an old lady to present his case for him. He’s doing an amazing job of that every time he gets behind the wheel of his #18 Toyota. Oh, and have you all noticed the amazing similarity in length, banking and turns between Indy and Pocono? When we were at the Triangle just a few weeks back, he finished 9th. He’s racing better now.
Of course, I’d be remiss if we didn’t visit that much ballyhooed “high drag package” that was to make everything all better at Indy, rather like Mommy’s kiss on a boo-boo. It might work for Mommy, but it didn’t work too well for NASCAR. I’ve seen a few half-hearted comments about the race, saying it “might have helped a little”, and Jeff Burton seemed to like it. Others, not so much. What good does it do to be able to close faster on the car you see out your windshield, when getting close to him makes your own car uncontrollable? My understanding was that the package would greatly improve passing on the big ol’ flat track. It didn’t. We were also promised that we’d see drafting, similar to Daytona. On a flat track? Didn’t think so and didn’t happen. That package may, and I stress “May” work at Michigan because Michigan has some banking. My jury is still out on that. One track at a time…
Oh, I found a new little font of information between last week and now. It’s a collection of statements on improvement made and planned at various tracks. All tracks were contacted, and I have a list of those that chose not to respond at all. This will be used to our best advantage in the battle to get those SAFER barriers up everywhere on every track. You’ll recall the look we had at the lack of SAFER at Indy, which to me is hugely disappointing, but I guess no one is fond of spending money these days. What’s a human life here and there when we’re talking dollars? The following is the entire statement from IMS last March. The latter part of this was not in the articles I found, but it’s interesting.
SAFER changes: Prior to the 2015 Indianapolis 500, an additional 1,560 feet of SAFER barrier was added around sections of curved wall that serves as emergency vehicle entrance point on backstretch and in short chute to driver's left between Turns 3 and 4. It is not feasible for SAFER barrier to be used completely around the oval due to its overall size and the track's narrow front and back straights, but IMS has installed SAFER barrier based on research from previous accidents and where the most dangerous impacts may occur. The facility has about 9,000 feet of permanent SAFER barrier.
OK, I’m calling BS here! First off, of course it is “feasible;” the “overall size” has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s no bigger than Daytona, and smaller than Talladega. That’s just fact. The straights are too narrow? Really? You have an infield larger than the town I live in. Widen the track if the cars need more room. We’ve seen over and over that drivers don’t crash in the same place. They unerringly seem to find new ones. Just do it!
Gentle readers, let me do a bit of math for you… the old math that everyone can understand. IMS is a 2.5-mile track. If we’re talking linear feet here, and not square feet, which is a very different number, then it’s not arguable that Indy measures approximately 13,200 feet per lap of the track. 5,280 feet are in one mile. Multiply by 2.5. It’s not rocket science. Oh, and that’s just on the outside. Add the inside, which would be slightly smaller I suppose, and we’re somewhere in the area of 26,400 feet to cover the entire track. They are bragging about 9,000, which is just about 1/3 of the track walls’ total length. I’d say this track isn’t even trying, and that’s a shame, considering the last prominent on-track death was from the IndyCar league. Rest in peace Lionheart!
So, in our last look at Indy through the rearview this year, we see a track that produces really poor racing, despite attempts to make it otherwise. We see a track that for all its awesome history and tradition remains for all intents and purposes an open-wheel track, and open-wheel only. We see a track seemingly unwilling to join in the fight for driver safety. We see a track that the drivers cannot race on, and many are becoming very open in their comments on that. We see a track that the fans avoid in larger numbers every year, and quite frankly, we see no hope of any of that changing.
Despite all of the grand traditions of Indy’s history, almost none of them are ours. Yes, kissing the yard of bricks that serves there as the Start/Finish line was started by Dale Jarrett, but aside from that, it’s all IndyCar aka CART aka Champ Car. It’s an open-wheel track, and I believe I’m ready to join the growing number of stock car fans that are calling for IMS to come off the NASCAR schedule. Why not? No one goes there and no one watches.
Alright, let’s move on to Pocono gentle readers. We saw this map only a few weeks back, but allow me to refresh your memories.
SAFER changes: Permanent SAFER barriers in place along all corners and inside walls along back straightaways. "We are always working with NASCAR and other officials on safety at Pocono and the possibility of added areas of SAFER in the future," — Bob Pleban, Pocono Raceway spokesperson.
That of course is the outside of all corners, as the insides of all three are bare concrete. Gentle readers, do you all recall the huge TV that Charlotte erected a few years back, to be followed by Texas a couple of years ago with an ever bigger one? This track, which added no SAFER this year is installing not one but TWO of them… one at each end of the longest straightaway in racing. How nice, but there is not one inch of SAFER barrier on that entire “landing strip.” How many wrecks have we seen over the years that took a car into those long, straight walls? I’m thinking someone has to realign his priorities… Brian Igdalsky.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and this week the songs will be presented by some of our own “Classics.” Today we’ll be hearing selections from an album entitled “NASCAR Goes Country”, originally recorded circa 1985, but that is only my recollection. I have the disc, but can’t find the original recording date. Some of these Good Ol’ Boys could sing! Others… well, not so much. Here’s one that can. This is Cale Yarborough singing his rendition of Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin!”
Next up comes one from an often overlooked talent that has always been part of Darrell Waltrip. Give a listen and enjoy Ol’ DW’s rendition of Billy Swan’s “Let Me Help.” This is good folks!
This one comes from NASCAR royalty, “King” Richard Petty singing what else… Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Again, I think you’ll be surprised.
OK, let me see if I can get this up without breaking up. This is our Gentle Giant, Buddy Baker, singing about “Butter Beans.” If the tune sounds like “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”, well, it is. Playing this today seems good and right… and prophetic. Goodbye for now Buddy. See you later!
Please gentle readers, take a moment to read this wonderfully tender and touching piece by Tom Higgins in today’s Charlotte Observer.
Warning! Tissue Alert!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you! And remember to smile for Buddy...