A Voice for the Fans ~ From This Fan's Point of View
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always a cordial “Hey there” to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR related on this hot, humid and hazy day in North Georgia. It’s Wednesday morning as I pull my chair up to the keyboard. Tonight, we’ll be watching what promises to be the most entertaining race of the entire NASCAR season, despite the fact that it runs mid-week, is located in the middle of nowhere, and is populated by trucks, not cars. No one cares. It violates all of NASCAR’s hard and fast rules about timing and location, and still manages to sell out annually. I wonder if anyone has ever broached the subject to NASCAR that just maybe they’re a wee bit mistaken about some of those “rules.” Oh, wait! That would be me… hundreds of times! All that common sense just going to waste because no one is listening.
Eldora is as close as we come to truly going back to our roots. It matters little that the race is between trucks running on dirt. It holds the distinction of being the only race in the three top series where qualifying actually matters. Tonight, we’ll see 39 drivers attempt to make the top 32 in speed, which means that 7 of them will have made the trip only to leave with a broken heart and a promise that “We’ll get ‘em next year.” That in itself is refreshing to this old race fan… and it all happens on dirt! Dirt is where we came from and despite the protestations by those that sit in high places in Daytona Beach, the fans think it’s fun to commune with nature a bit, be pelted by little marbles of hard dirt and to go home to a much-needed shower… or maybe two… to relieve oneself of the dust accumulated from a long afternoon and evening of dirt racing.
Alas, as I type, I cannot reflect on a race that has yet to be run. Maybe next week. There is one good point that seems to so far have gone unnoticed. Always before, the race immediately following Eldora has been that shameful excuse for racing that is Xfinity cars at Indy. Talk about a trip from the penthouse to the outhouse and that has been the perfect example. In three days, we went from a standing room only crowd at Eldora to a convention of the last three Maytag repairmen, leaving unoccupied a vast majority of the circa 250,000 seats at IMS. (Indy never cites exact attendance, but does have portable grandstands that can be quickly erected to seat more if ticket sales warrant) No amount of painting them multi-colors or tearing them out could hope to hide the emptiness of that grand colosseum of racing when that race comes to town.
Instead, this year we’ll be traveling to a far less grand track, the platter-flat replacement for North Wilkesboro that is located in Loudon, New Hampshire. That’s a track that will make even the detractors grateful for Stage Racing… just to break the monotony. For the Xfinity race at Indy, there is a quick fix. Put it back across town at Lucas Oil Raceway, forever known to this scribe as IRP. (Indianapolis Raceway Park) If I ran NASCAR for a day, I’d arrange to have all three series racing there instead of the big Speedway… and I’d lower the exorbitant sanctioning fees now being demanded from any track desiring to host any of the big-three NASCAR series. That’s one of those dirty little secrets that’s never talked about… some tracks don’t want NASCAR because they can run other series with far less expense, which equalizes the bottom line. Others, notably the track formerly known as Phoenix Raceway, pay to play the big series, but at the expense of no longer running the K&N series or the sprint/midget/silver crown “Copper Classic” that used to run there annually. Of course, ISM is an ISC-owned track, so sanctioning fees are merely a matter of taking the money from the left pocket and transferring it to the right pocket. It never leaves the France family.
For the track in New Hampshire, there is no quick fix to be seen. It’s already lost one of its two races, as owner Bruton Smith and son Marcus moved the date to their track in Las Vegas, where apparently they can sell more seats and can carry two Cup races. Poor little NHMS presents a tougher fix. It desperately cries out for some banking. The only flat track we go to that treats fans to a good stock-car race is pretty little Martinsville, and that’s because she’s short enough to make bump and run not only permissible, but expected. Looked at from a distance, Martinsville and New Hampshire look very much alike, one being a half-mile and the other a full mile. Bump and run doesn’t have the same result when performed at twice the speed, so we don’t see much of that at New Hampshire. Between the lack of any banking and the aero-dependent cars of today, passing usually occurs in the pits, with the rest of the race being run parade-style. From a fan’s point of view, it has never begun to come close to being a sufficient reason to give up North Wilkesboro.
May she rest in peace!
If Marcus Smith is reading this, I’d just like to say that you have the reins, and both of those two tracks are in desperate need of repair. If I could make the decision, I’d go with the one that would once again be the oldest track on the schedule, from the original Strictly Stock schedule in 1948 and drop this after-thought where the folks all talk funny, saying NASCAH and Lobstah… though the entire state has only a few miles of actual coastline.
Maybe, if we’re lucky race fans, Denny Hamlin might win the race, and once again receive the giant live lobster as his “Trophy!” Denny has a morbid fear and loathing of lobsters, saying “It’s just a big scorpion.” Actually Denny, a lobster is a crustacean and is first cousin to your friendly neighborhood cockroach! YUM! Let that sink in! Can I have yours?
A quick addition… the race at Eldora was everything it promised to be. The “lake” had been removed and the track was in beautiful condition for an afternoon and evening of good racing. Kudos to Tony Stewart for a job well done and to young Chase Briscoe for bringing home the win Wednesday night. Perennial dirt favorite, Norm Benning, qualified well and started in 18th place. Sadly, he was involved in the crash that sent the race into overtime, so with just 3 laps remaining on the evening, Norm was relegated to a spot on Brock Beard’s “Last Car” review. Maybe next year! (Norm is a spry 66-years young)
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and today I’ve chosen a short but oh so sweet TV show starring Hank Thompson. This is dated 1987, and by that time Hank had been singing for about 40 years. He is one of my all-time favorites and I own maybe a dozen of his albums.
And as an extra, here’s an interview done with Hank by Ralph Emery, “The Dean of Country Music Broadcasters.” Please enjoy:
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling.
It looks so good on you!