A Voice for the Fans ~ One Last Ride
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always, a cordial Howdy to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this beautiful day. Your scribe has something a tad bit different to share with y’all today, and we’ll get to that in a minute or two. But first, let’s have a word or six about Phoenix.
The elephant in the living room of course, is that mean little Chase Elliott put sweet Denny Hamlin in the wall and ruined his day. OH WAIT! That never happened, though the media conned many into expecting that it would. They almost promised it! What did happen, in no way resembled what happened at Martinsville… when mean old Denny pushed young Chase into the turn and rode him until the car spun and smacked the SAFER hard enough to end his day.
At Phoenix, Chase took Denny up the track. He didn’t slam him or push him… or try to turn him. Denny had choices. He could have backed out and been around to race some more, or he could have forced the issue. He chose the latter and hit the wall… the wall did NOT reach out and hit him. It was there, stationary, the entire time.
He didn’t hit it hard, but just enough to injure a tire on the prissy little plastic cars we see on track today. Once upon a time, cars were built to withstand far more than an incidental little brush with the wall. Good grief, I can remember when they’d go to Darlington and line the right side of the car (inside of course) with 2x4s because earning that Darlington stripe was the fastest way around that old girl. They rubbed and bounced off and didn’t flatten tires or rip the stem off. No one questioned that and no one failed inspection because of an imaginary weight gain or 2x4s not previously approved by NASCAR. Nope, even though it’s funny, that’s not a joke.
Chase Elliott looked to be the winner, but with about 10 laps to go, Matt Kenseth apparently employed his Toyota “push to pass” gadget and found speed he hasn’t had all year. Chase’s day will come, but in a spiteful sort of way it was good to see Matt in Victory Lane… at what might well be his next to last race. Still, he was all smiles during his interviews. When asked about the Champagne soaking he gave team owner Joe Gibbs, Matt flashed a devilish grin and quipped, “What’s he gonna do, fire me?” Bravo Matt! Bravo!
And so we are off to Homestead, where ALL we shall hear about are the Final Four… a basketball term to be sure. Under the reign of Brian we have everything that the stick and ball sports have, except of course, a stick and ball. And still the ratings sink and attendance stinks. At what point does a rational person realize that it’s not working?
Ah yes… the final four… Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are in it by virtue of winning a single race each. Martin Truex Jr. is in it because he led the points all year long and amassed so many of them he couldn’t be locked out… even after they took them all away after Richmond. He didn’t care; he just did it all over again. Best car all year? Indisputably yes! The fourth driver in the final four is Brad Keselowski.
Matt won at Phoenix but wasn’t eligible due to an extra man over the wall a couple races back. He had been in the playoffs, but NASCAR PARKED him for the rest of the race for committing that unpardonable mortal sin… an extra man! That’s like amputating an arm to cure a hangnail! Chase finished second and was eligible, but he didn’t have enough of what my friend Matt McLaughlin calls “Fairy dust points.” What did Brad do to qualify for the Final Four? Why he finished 16th! That sound you just heard was Big Bill France, tossing and turning in his grave!
If you watch the race at Homestead, try to ignore the entire NBC commentary and pray the cameras pan the field now and then or all you’ll know about when it’s over is where those four “all-important” gentlemen finished. Remember, they don’t have to win. Anyone can do that, but won’t get much time in the spotlight if he or she is not among that anointed few. That’s always been the case… the winner of the race is summarily ignored as NASCAR now has its Champion for the season… except we don’t have that anymore. As far as NASCAR is concerned, the season can rot in Hell. They have a Homestead Champion and they are by God proud of that.
Bread and Circuses! Dog and Pony Show! All of the above! Most of those reading this know that on my website we celebrate the Season Championship following race #26! That’s when Brian shuffles the points and deals them out again, giving his elevated 16 that used to be 12 after it was 10, a fresh start and no one else can play but everyone is expected to race. We have become the laughing stock of the entire racing world and can no doubt add much of the business world to that as well. Be sure to note the title of that piece from Forbes.
Enough of that. There are more important things within Sunday’s race, and the top story on everyone’s mind is that we’ll be bidding a fond farewell to Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, 14 years straight and soon to be 15, I think it’s safe to say. To all the fans out there with tears running down your cheeks, please see the bright side of the story. Junior is retiring with a new wife and a baby girl on the way. He has a very bright future ahead of him and the absolute last thing he needs is one more concussion.
Now gentle readers, as promised earlier, I came bearing gifts. Well, not exactly, as I didn’t write this, but it surely qualifies as a beautiful gift to the racing world and I’m thankful to be able to share it with you all today. The following are the lyrics to a yet unsung song, written for this occasion by a gentleman named Dale Shannon. Even without the music, this is touching and beautiful.
Yes, I confess, the first time I read the words, I wept… for any number of reasons. Again, let me assert that Dale Jr. is not going away. He’s made this year a farewell tour, but we’ll see him again in the booth next year. He still runs JR Motorsports, so like Tony, we’ll no doubt see him at the track on Saturdays as well. We’ll know when Amy delivers their baby girl and everything will be wonderful for them. This scribe wishes them a lifetime of health and happiness as they begin a new chapter as a complete family.
Junior, God bless and Godspeed.
May your life be all that you ever dreamed it could be. Like you, I wish your
Dad could have been here to see it all unfold, but I know he’s watched every
step from above.
To Dale Shannon, writer of beautiful songs, on behalf of everyone reading here, we thank you from the bottom of our race-loving hearts for sharing your treasure with us.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and today we have another wonderful old Country show, this one featuring Marty Robbins and Hank Snow. Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!