Sincere prayers and warm wishes go out for Steve Byrnes today. It is said that the Lord never gives us more than we can handle, but it surely seems that Steve has his full load right now. We’re here, and willing to lift and carry you over the rough spots. God bless and keep you Steve.
I bid you welcome gentle readers. It’s Tuesday morning, and yet another in a long string of rainy days in North Georgia as I pull up to the keyboard with full realization that I have absolutely nothing of any importance to say. As that is often the case, I never let it deter me from typing anyway.
As has been my habit for many years, since NASCAR doesn’t race on Easter, I watch a race. Granted, it’s an old race, and I probably recall who won it long before it has run to its halfway point, but nonetheless, it’s a race. This year it was actually two races; one on purpose and the other quite by accident. The first race was the 1985 summer race at the grand old Riverside track in California. Note: They all become “grand” when they no longer exist or are no longer functioning as a racing venue. My “old” races used to be limited to those in my rather extensive collection of VCR tapes, but in the past few years, YouTube has become more and more the place to go to find old races. I asked for “road courses” and found a 30-year old race, the winner of which I actually could not recall.
That one was one of those old “American Cavalcade of Sports” productions hosted by the always gorgeous, no matter the age, Ed Bruce, (Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys) ably supported by Steve Evans and Brock Yates. The actual time of the race was 2:23, but the edited version took only half the time, clearly pointing out that as race fans, we have always been deprived of what stick and ball fans take for granted… a whole game or race or whatever. In 1985, we got half. Today, we get even less… but we pay more… a lot more! This one however, though short, was free for the viewing. Please notice that I’m not telling you who won, just in case you might care to watch it yourself and enjoy a chance to say “Hello” to some very old friends.
Since that race was so short in duration, what was a girl to do with all that extra time on Sunday afternoon? Of course, this “girl” just ordered up another race. I gave the same criterion, and saw one from 1987 that said “Budweiser” and my commercially sensitive mind went directly to Watkins Glen, where for years we watched “The Bud at the Glen.” It was a road course, and joined with cars already on track, so it took a minute or two to recognize something far more familiar on Sunday than Watkins Glen. It was 1987 alright, but it wasn’t in New York. It was back in California for another race at Riverside.
Once my aged mind processed that data, I knew instantly who won the race and what the significance of that win was. At that point, I guess I could have shut it down, but instead I kept watching all the way to the end, as Tim Richmond scored his second win of 1987… in only two starts that year… and the final victory of his sadly shortened career. As always, there were tears at the end, knowing full well how the story would go from that victory to his death two years later, alone and forsaken by most of those that claimed to be friends. Indeed, August 13, 1989 will live in hearts and memories of those that were around then, as the day of NASCAR’s greatest shame. If you’d still like to watch Tim’s last win, even though I gave away the ending, it’s right here, free for the viewing…
So much then for “What I did on my Easter vacation.” Let’s move now to the upcoming race in the great state of Texas, where everything is said to be “Bigger and better.” First off, let’s look at a map of Texas Motor Speedway and exactly where the SAFER barriers are, and more importantly, where they are not.
Well gentle readers, I’m not sure what’s better about this picture, but for certain, “Bigger” is represented in red, meaning no SAFER protection for a driver if his car strikes any wall delineated in red, which is about half of the outside and almost all of the inside, excepting a small portion just past turn 2 on the backstretch that just looks out of place. Though I don’t know this to be true, my instinct and common sense both tell me that some unlucky driver must have hit there and NASCAR, or maybe IndyCar, insisted that TMS add a SAFER barrier to that spot.
In a recent conversation about the seemingly ill-fated Jeff Gordon, who has proved over and over again that no spot is crash-proof when a car is out of control, Texas Motor Speedway President, Eddie Gossage, said slightly less than half of the outside wall at TMS has the SAFER barrier on the 1 1/2-mile high-banked track. He also said that Texas hasn't been part of the discussion for more barriers. Well, Mr. Gossage, we are the fans that care, and we are about to make Texas Motor Speedway an integral part of the discussion about SAFER barriers everywhere. Even as I type, your sister SMI track in Bristol Tennessee is adding SAFER to several sections of wall, to be in place before their race, just eight days after your race this weekend. Is the concrete at Texas softer than it is at Bristol? I don’t believe so.
Race fans, here is a look at what SAFER can do. The crash and ensuing barrel rolls I’m about to show you happened at Texas in 2008. Thankfully, the car you will see here hit a SAFER protected wall, and not the unforgiving concrete that waited only a short way down the track. Don’t worry, this driver is racing this weekend, and walked away from this horrendous crash.
Mr. Gossage, instead of considering yourself and the track you tend to be somewhere above the conversations on SAFER barriers, please take a minute to consider Kyle Busch, who has not driven a Cup race yet this year because he met with concrete instead of SAFER at Daytona, sustaining serious injuries to both legs. Next, consider Denny Hamlin, whose career was put on hold for almost two years due to a broken back sustained by hitting an unprotected wall at Fontana. Lastly, please consider the man about whom you said, "The last thing you want to do is have anybody get hurt, particularly a guy like Jeff [Gordon] who's so important to you. He's been finding walls that nobody's ever found in their history of these places."
The next time that man who is “so important to you” has to be lifted into and/or out of a racecar because his back is in spasms, think about your own words and get those SAFER barriers in place anywhere that a driver… Jeff or any other… might have the misfortune to make contact. If there is a way that a car can make it to a given spot, then that car can hit it. Before thinking it can’t happen at your track, you might want to consult Mark Martin about an abutment at the end of a wall… behind pit road at Michigan! It’s not about planning for what has happened, but about aborting what might happen. We’ll never know exactly how many lives have been saved or crippling injuries averted by the SAFER system, and that, Sir, is a good thing. Think about it, and please come join in the conversation that makes driver safety a paramount concern.
And now gentle readers, it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout and I’ve played so many artists and songs for you that it’s becoming difficult to think of new things to share. Oh, there are millions of songs to be played, but I also try to keep variety and the story line fresh with each new presentation. Today, I’ve chosen a couple of artists from “Grandma’s day” that were and still are remarkable in that one has only to hear a word or two of any song and the singer is instantly recognized.
Such a man was Burl Ives, arguably the best story teller ever known. This first song is an antique, even in Classic Country. Folks my age may recall the original, as done by the Carter Family, well before I was born, but when you hear it done by Burl Ives, there is no doubt in your mind who is singing “Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.” His voice and style are unmistakable.
This next offering dates back to before the Civil War, 1846 if what I’ve read is to be believed, but it’s one that Burl owned from first note. This version, my personal favorite, comes from circa 1947, and is done with able assistance from the Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxine and Laverne. This is “The Blue Tail Fly” or “Jimmy Crack Corn.”
Once started down this path, I could happily play you folk songs by the Master of folk songs all day long, but if I expect Jim to put this in print, I’d best be moving along to another remarkable voice, known and loved by all… that of the incomparable Walter Brennan. (Jim feels unjustly blamed and wishes it to be known to all that he is not responsible for the content or lack thereof, especially to those who love these videos which are so entertaining. Big Hugs, Mama!) It would be an error to refer to Walter as a singer; he was not. He did recitations, but he did them like no other. The very first song I did for you on our very first Closeout was “Old Shep” by Red Foley, the guy that wrote it. Walter’s version is nothing at all like Red’s, but it will jerk the tears from your eyes all the same.
Ah yes, Walter Brennan was the reciter of “Old Rivers”, known and loved by all, and he was also “Grandpappy Amos” of the family known as “The Real McCoys.” He was even Will Sonnett, with both sons and guns… but most of all, he was just Walter Brennan, and as such he was both lovable and delightful. Here then, as our closing song for the day, is Walter offering “A Tribute to a Dog.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!