A Voice for the Fans ~ Echoes of Indy
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and a cordial Hey Y’all to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this half-sunny, half-cloudy day in the hills of North Georgia. It’s past noon on Tuesday, as I commence typing on a keyboard that’s feeling its age and limping much the same as old ladies do, for the same reason.
As some of you might know, the “regular” NASCAR season mercifully has ended after slogging through the rainiest weekend since Biblical times, not located in the tropical rain forests. Over 5” of the wet stuff fell according to the often-cursed weatherman. There was nothing tropical about the past weekend. TV announcers wore what we hereabouts would call their winter coats. The cars never turned a wheel on the big track until following the command to start engines.
Let the fun begin! A 10:00 AM start saw the Xfinity cars take to the track, with almost no one watching or seemingly caring. That race has become a spectator joke when the weather is fine. The few handfuls of crewmen’s families that usually present a pathetic presence in the immense and empty grandstands that grace Indianapolis Motor Speedway were thinned to almost none. That becomes even sadder when compared to a sprint car race on Thursday evening on the brand new dirt track inside turn 3 of the giant flat track. That one packed the nearby grandstands… and drew 115 entrants from teams wanting to be part of that inaugural run. (Xfinity will cut back to only 38 cars per race in 2019.) Justin Allgaier led the most laps in the crash-filled race and took the checkers as well. An early wreck let us know that it was anything but safe to traverse the grass at track’s edge. During a wreck brought on by Ty Dillon running out of talent and spinning out of control circa lap 22, a couple of cars were forced down to the grass, immediately and dramatically shattering parts and pieces of splitters in all directions. This scribe has mentioned a time or twelve that one or the other has to go. It simply makes no sense to have both splitters and grass on the same track… and yes, I have my preference.
Then, after a short break, it was time for the Cup race and one thing about it became annoying to the max, being repeated over and over and over again until one old lady was literally screaming at her TV about it.
This was a NASCAR race, not an IndyCar race. It was the Brickyard 400, not the Indy 500! As such, this race is NOT one of NASCAR’s “Crown Jewel” races. For decades, those have been the Daytona 500, the Talladega 500, the World 600 and the Southern 500. That’s it! Those were the Winston Million races as well. The Brickyard 400, with its empty and mocking grandstands, is in no way a Crown Jewel race, and saying it all those times does not and will not make it so. Please come better prepared next time.
The Cup race went pretty much as expected, with a few casualties relating to having had no practice the entire weekend. Brake issues that would most likely have been found and tended to in a normal practice instead claimed Bubba Wallace and Martin Truex Jr. The end was kind of fun to watch as Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski gave a great imitation of Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven at Darlington back in 2003. The latter pair managed what at the time was the closest finish in NASCAR history, with much beating and banging on one another as they raced toward the checkered flag. Brad and Denny got the beating and banging part down pat, but in the end, Denny wound up third on the day, with Erik Jones getting a nose in there between the gladiators. Brad gathered both American and checkered flags and gave what folks were there a massive smoke show in celebration of Team Penske’s first win in the Brickyard 400. Nope, that doesn’t make it a Crown Jewel race either! If the fans were consulted… fat chance… it would be the first race replaced with something… anything else.
Please understand; I’m not being mean or trite in saying that. The simple fact is that 3400-pound cars can NOT race efficiently on a track that’s flat as a platter. The laws of physics intervene and make it so. Indy Cars are MUCH lighter, and carry twice the rubber that the stock cars do. If one were to pare a stock car down by, oh say a ton, and put twice the rubber on where it meets the road, then we could perhaps race effectively on that track. As it is, when you sling close to two tons of machine into any square corner on the Speedway, that car wants to climb the wall and keep on going. That is proven fact, according to Sir Isaac Newton. Then there is this; it’s traveling on the narrowest of tires, and that prevents it from digging in and turning effectively at anything like straightaway speed.
At tracks with a high degree of banking in the corners, the banking directs the behemoths back down the track using gravity, and on some tracks they can make the turns with little or no braking at all. Still, since the 2019 schedule has been out since last April, we’ll be returning to Indy another time at least.
That ends our freshman physics lesson for today, but let’s return to the end of the race for a moment. About the time that Brad was putting on a smoke show on track, Denny Hamlin was weeping into an array of microphones about how unfair it was of Landon Cassill and Jeffrey Earnhardt to wreck and spoil his afternoon, describing them as “meaningless guys, laps down.” Well Denny, it would be a pretty darn boring race if you were the only one allowed on track! Yep, that would make the “crowd” at Indy on Monday look huge by comparison to the one or two folks that might turn out to watch you circle the track alone. And y’all thought Kyle Busch was a whiner? This guy holds the patent on whining. Someone pass him a crying towel please!
Photo: Scott Page ~ ESPN
So now we’re off to Las Vegas and a second race at that desert venue; not my favorite but half a ladder up from New Hampshire! The “Chase”, “Playoff”, or whatever field is set. Does it occur to anyone that sixteen cars is 40% of the full field of 40? At that rate, it’s hard for even a semi-decent car NOT to make the initial field. NASCAR might want to go back to the original 10, which is still a full quarter of the field… but then again, why stop there? The old system of letting everyone play right to the end was and is the fairest way to crown a Champion… and the Latford scoring system worked fine for over 30 years. Just thinking out loud, you understand.
Get well Kasey Kahne! Your health comes before anything else. Take the best possible care of Tanner’s dad!
As I type, the monster hurricane called Florence is bearing down on the southeastern coast, veering right, then left and back again, looking for the most opportune place to land and disrupt lives and property. Evacuation is wise. Riding it out could come at a steep price. Be prudent; property can be replaced; lives cannot. Thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and today we have a real treasure for all lovers of the classics… almost a full hour of hit songs by “Gentleman” Jim Reeves. It was a shame that such a smooth and beautiful voice was silenced well before its time, but thankfully we at least have that beautiful voice recorded for the ages. As I close, Jim is singing “Scarlet Ribbons”, my mother’s favorite song. Please enjoy…
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling.
It looks so good on you!