A Six Pack Down And A Thirty Pack Left To Go
(Or Some Thoughts On The 2017 Season So Far)
I am a believer in NASCAR, regardless of the fact that I disagree with some of their decisions as to what makes ‘good’ racing versus ‘bad’ racing. This sport did not become what it is, or currently isn’t, because a bunch of dummies were in charge. Well, at least for the most part.
First of all, I want to extend my congratulations to Brad Keselowski for his impressive come from behind win Sunday at Martinsville. Kyle Busch had the best car all day, but Brad got to the front when it counted. I do not feel too bad for Busch, getting bumped from the lead when Ricky Stenhouse Jr., fighting to remain on the lead lap, tangled with Kyle and allowed Keselowski into the lead. Mr. Busch, you’ve been around long enough to know that just because you’re hardly ever in Ricky’s position, it doesn’t mean that Ricky doesn’t have the right to race you hard to stay on the lead lap. It’s called racing for a reason. To paraphrase a line from an old sit com, “Work is called work. You have to work. If it wasn’t work, we’d just call it wonderful happy fun time.” Kyle, racing is racing. You fight for every position. Just because you’re in the lead doesn’t mean that cars on the tail end of the lead lap should stay the heck out of your way, unless it’s the last lap, and the driver you are trying to pass won’t actually lose a position.
Ricky finished 10th, by the way. That entanglement with Busch got him a pretty good finish, when the day was done.
Congratulations to Chase Elliot, who won what I think will be the first of many grandfather clocks in the Truck Series race on Saturday. Chase drove a smart race both days, and his first Cup victory is going to come this year, and if not, I will be greatly surprised.
NASCAR has achieved probably as close to manufacturer parity as they can hope for so far in the first six points races of 2017. All 3 brands have won, with Ford with 3 wins, Chevrolet with 2, and Toyota with 1. Compared to the last few years, Ford is getting its best start for a Cup season in a long time. Last year, it seemed that Toyotas dominated, though a Chevy ended up winning the championship. This year, unless NASCAR makes some drastic changes, which can never be ruled out, Ford stands a chance of winning a championship in 2017. Ford hasn’t done that since Brad Keselowski won the whole shooting match in 2012. (Please note, I’m not talking about the Manufacturers’ Championship here, I’m talking about the manufacturer the Cup Champion drives for.)
I can’t say that I’m a fan of the stages yet. The one redeeming value that they might have is that they infuse a bit of excitement in the middle stages of the races, since drivers will fight to be at least in the top 10 at the end of a stage. My main criticism remains that cautions, whether because of accidents, debris, or should they are planned, are not always a good thing in any race. Cautions break the rhythm and momentum of the race. Cautions also breed cautions, as Larry McReynolds will be happy to tell you. One of the most terrifying moments in any race is a restart. You have up to 40 drivers all hard on the gas pedal at the instant the green flag flies. Accidents will and do occur, as we have seen over and over. Adding extra cautions, in my opinion, does not exactly enhance safety. It’s exciting to watch the drivers race for stage points, but I’m not sure it’s worth it from a total safety standpoint.
Speaking of safety, I really don’t understand NASCAR’s fetish with pit road speeding. Drivers are penalized when their speed is even a fraction over the speed limit on pit road, and NASCAR knows about it, because it seems they have loops every few feet now. On Sunday at Martinsville, several drivers were mystified how they could have been speeding, when they had dialed in pit road speed during practice, and several seemed to believe they were under the maximum when NASCAR tagged them for it. I understand why NASCAR does it, but penalizing drivers for going maybe 1 mph over the limit and potentially costing them a win and valuable points seems ludicrous. Most bored police officers, even here in the South will give you a few over the limit before they hit the lights! Safety is all important, but I have a feeling that by the end of 2017 there will be more than a few drivers smarting over some of the speeding penalties they’ve already incurred even this early in the season.
(Editor’s note: NASCAR allows drivers to exceed the posted pit road speed by 5 miles per hour before assessing penalties. Drivers all know this, so 6 mph over the speed limit will garner a penalty every time)
To NASCAR’s credit, I think the actual racing this year has been good. Last week’s race at Martinsville featured some spectacular racing, but then again, Martinsville races have almost always been a delight to watch. I like short tracks, and sometimes wish there more tracks like Martinsville or Bristol on the schedule. I wish Darlington still had another date, but that’s something I’ll save for later. 1.5-mile tracks are NASCAR’s bread and butter, so to speak, at least these days. Texas will be one of those tracks, and generally, the racing in Fort Worth is well worth seeing.
I wish you all a happy week, and hope you’re favorite driver wins at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend! If not, I hope mine does!
Ok, actually I was just being nice. I hope my favorite driver wins. Period.