A Voice For The Fans ~ Leaving Sparta For Loudon
I bid you welcome, gentle readers, and included in that is our assigned NASCAR reader of the day, thought to be tucked snuggly away in the Fan and Media Espionage Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hi there, and welcome to where the fans that care hang out when not at the track.
Before we leave the Kentucky cookie cutter, there are some things your scribe would like to say about the weekend just past. This was NASCAR’s trial balloon using the new aero package, albeit without the new, softer tires that were supposed to be a part of it, but someone forgot to tell Goodyear in time. Even without the softer tires, the test returned a positive reading, as both drivers and fans were surprised and pleased at how well things went and how good the racing was on track.
Kyle Busch took the checkers for his second win of what to him is almost a brand new season, having been laid up by injuries sustained in a crash into a concrete wall at Daytona until his return at Charlotte for the 600. The folks whose business it is to draw up polls love Kyle this year. Will he make the Chase? Won’t he make the Chase? Does anyone out there care if he makes the Chase? Does anyone out there care if there even IS a Chase? Internet polls hold for me the same validity as Internet voting; that is to say, absolutely none!
The important part of Saturday night was that for the first time in I can’t remember when, we saw a good race at a 1.5-mile track. That, gentle readers, is not just a good thing, but a great thing! Having said that… the next time NASCAR plans to use that aero package again won’t be until Darlington on Labor Day Weekend. (Yes, I do enjoy typing that) So, when we’ve apparently stumbled on a way to markedly improve the on-track “product” (No, I don’t enjoy typing that one, and do so a bit mockingly), let’s wait 7 weeks before we try it again. “NASCAR logic” at its oxymoronic finest! Oh yes, and Brian Z. France has already weighed in, saying he wants to see more drafting and pack racing.
"What we're really looking for is, how tight is the racing? How many lead changes are there? How much passing through the field is going on? How many more teams are competitive by a given package? What accomplishes those goals the best? That's how we go about sorting it out. We're going to try some things coming up here at Indy (with a high-drag package). I'll tell you what we didn't see that we would like to see more of, is more drafting. We didn't see as much of that as we would have liked and more pack racing. You saw that on the restarts but not quite as much (as we'd prefer). There were a lot of things we liked; definitely an improvement on the races that have happened at Kentucky."
Gentle readers, forgive me, but that tiny tirade immediately following what the fans and drivers have all felt was some of the best racing in years, brings a visual to me of a man making a complete fool of himself, riding a pig through the streets of Daytona Beach, furiously waving a beer in the air and screaming, “More pack racing! More wrecks! More cars in the stands! Whoopee!”
Now, what do you suppose the first thing I read was this Monday morning? Still at Kentucky, the GM, Mark Simendinger is wringing his hands out loud over a decision he must make… whether to pave the track or leave it alone. Um… Mark, you had a great race once the track was dry. A GREAT RACE! How often do you get that much rain in July? I’d’ say this wet July is about as rare as lips on a woodpecker… but don’t let me color your decision. I’m sure you’ll come up with something brilliant. Oh, and while you’re at it, please add SAFER barriers to your “to do” list. That is sadly lacking at Kentucky Speedway. And there we have the perfect segue to something else I caught at Kentucky. I actually posted this as a comment on last week’s article, but by the time I did, that article was stale and no one was reading it anymore.
Think SAFER doesn't matter? If you watched the finish of the truck race last night (Thursday), you saw Ben Kennedy's #11 Truck get not exactly airborne, but "helped" to climb a wall by contact with others. There is video of the wreck, which included a spectacular ride atop the SAFER barrier. Last night, I tweeted that he rode that SAFER like a bull... for a full 8 seconds. That was meant to be humorous, and not said until we were sure Ben would be just fine.
There was something in there that you did not see unless you were extremely observant, because a good shot of it was only played once, and never repeated. I "thought" I saw it, but then all subsequent video was shown from another vantage point. Then, someone on Twitter posted a very poor quality picture, I'm guessing taken from that first video, with a view from the infield side of the track rather than the grandstand side.
I just happen to have that picture, along with one that I've blown to close-up of the track itself, showing exactly where the SAFER barrier begins in turn one, and approximately where Ben's Truck made impact... SHORT OF THE SAFER BARRIER! FoxSports1, in the person of one Michael Waltrip, made a huge deal of where he contacted the SAFER and then climbed aboard, but never once mentioned or showed again exactly where and into what that first impact occurred.
The video of the wreck can be found here:
There are several on YouTube and the number will undoubtedly increase throughout the day. Wrecks of that magnitude are big sellers, or so I'm told.
The first picture in queue is the screenshot I made from a detailed map found on http://www.nextracemap.com/. That site is great for seeing things more clearly than on Google Earth, but they have their own graphics all over it, which tend to sometimes block exactly what I might want to show. When you watch the video, if you do so in stop-start manner, you'll see that when the truck first makes impact with the wall, you can just see the SAFER coming into the picture to your right. The video will give you reference to the picture. Take careful note of where you see the yellow line at pit-out! Great reference point. I've indicated in red, the approximate point of impact, and in green, where the SAFER begins. As Maxwell Smart might say... "Missed it by that much!"
The second picture is the one from Twitter. It's a bit blurry, as I am certain it came from a motion shot. It shows enough to clearly prove that the truck hit where the SAFER barrier was NOT. No one can say for sure, but the “likelihood” is that had there been SAFER at the first point of impact, the truck would not have been cast back into traffic as quickly, and that whole ride atop the barrier would never have occurred.
Still think they're not important everywhere?
If the only spot on a track not protected by SAFER were up a flagpole, some dang driver would find a way to get a car/truck up that flagpole!
And that, gentle readers will bring us to the upcoming race at Loudon, New Hampshire. Jim had this map waiting for me this Monday morning when I awoke, and one look almost sent be screaming back to my pillow and pulling the blanket over my head!
Right off the bat, this is not acceptable in any way, shape or means. This has to be some sort of a joke! All of the red is not even showing, as it should continue all the way through both turns on the inside, meaning there is NO SAFER barriers on the inside walls of this track, anywhere! This is the track that claimed the lives of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin back in 2000. The meager bit of SAFER barriers we see indicated here were erected in 2003, which is right in keeping with the schedule of availability at the time. I have read every bit of track activity as recorded on Jayski.com, and combed the track’s own website searching for the erection of additional SAFER, but there has been none.
To say this is not one of my favorite tracks would be akin to saying that a frog and a fly are not close friends… a gross understatement. Aside from the fact that two of our brightest young lights were snuffed out at this flat mile, the racing here is, in a word, putrid! As much as we all loved Kentucky last week, we shall all wallow in deep disappointment at the parade about to unfold in New Hampshire. That fact however, has nothing to do with the map we’re looking at today.
This track was the property of the Bahre family and run by Bob Bahre until his retirement at the end of 2007. At that time, the track was sold to Speedway Motorsports Inc., aka Bruton Smith. Now, Bruton also has retired, so Marcus, I’m sorry to say that the sins of the father shall be visited upon the son. We spoke last week about Kentucky needing some help, but my good man, Loudon is a mess! Do you realize how many years have passed since 2003, without one single inch of SAFER being added to this track that has already claimed two lives? It’s been 8 years since your father took over ownership of this old girl, and in those 8 years, all he did was take in the money. You are literate, and you know racing, therefore you have to know that this is so far below expectations that it’s dragging in the mud.
Without going to somewhere neither of us wants to be, my first suggestion would be a new GM for this one. Hopefully, someone that puts the track first and other things in their proper order of priority. Right now, if I were you and owned this track, I’d be ashamed to let people know it. “Magic Mile?” Tragic Mile would be more accurate, don’t you think?
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and today we’ll be hearing a few of those songs that sent a singer soaring to new heights before plummeting off the charts and out of sight. First up is one I heard a friend mention recently. This song was huge; alas, its singer never really became a household word, at least in most households. This is Henson Cargill, doing the song that made him famous… “Skip a Rope.”
Next up we have another gentleman that had a hit song, but whose name isn’t often written in a list of Country favorites. This is Ernie Ashworth, with his hit rendition of “Talk Back Trembling Lips.” (Yes, it was also done by Johnny Tillotson and later by George Jones, but this was the big seller)
Alright then, it looks as though we’ve developed a theme here, so let’s hear one from the distaff side. Talk about one-hit wonders, and this gal has to be right near the top of the list. She is Jeannie C. Riley, and she made a huge contribution to Country Music with this one, entitled, “Harper Valley PTA.”
Please allow me to explain that by “one hit wonder”, I don’t mean to imply or even hint that these artists only recorded one song; merely that one of their offerings got a much higher rating than any of the others. Anyone that’s ever worked in any sort of show business knows that it takes many years to become an “Overnight success.”
Next up is one from another lady we never heard a lot about in later days, but we sure knew who she was when Bobbie Gentry gave us “Ode to Billy Joe.” What was it he was throwing off that bridge, anyway?
Lastly, this one has been one of my favorites for all the years it’s been around. Sonny James had a big hit with it, but this version was first and best, in this lady’s humble opinion. Here then is James Gilreath singing “Little Band of Gold.” Please enjoy, and come back next time for more racing and more great old Country Music.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!