A Voice for the Fans ~ Someone Ought to Say It!
Everyone at Race Fans Forever sends thoughts and prayers to the many folks still suffering the lingering effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course, a warm and cordial greeting to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR. Bet you this one makes it WAY up the ladder!
Well folks, aside from the Throwback Weekend at Darlington, which is now but a distant memory, is anyone really having fun? As those that watched can attest, the race at Richmond was turned into a 400-lap joke and that joke came close to being on Matt Kenseth. At least two totally unnecessary cautions flew far too easily… on lap 88 a puff of brake smoke from Kenseth’s car? Really? Has tire smoke somehow been reclassified as “debris?” Ditto the late caution for a brush with the SAFER barrier by Derrike Cope, who has now been relieved of his ride with Premium Motorsports. (Don’t let the name fool you) It’s unknown if his current notoriety played any part in his dismissal.
NASCAR of course, says they prefer to err on the side of safety. So… where oh where was all this supposed caring about safety when they opened Pit Road with a dang ambulance parked at the entrance? That’s when the brakes started locking up for real, and the loser of that unnecessary little traffic jam was Matt Kenseth. When it’s not your night, it’s just not your night.
Saturday night was so bad it made NASCAR look like the equivalent of a Brownie Scout convention without a leader. We heard apologies from many higher-ups… Brent Dewar, Scott Miller, David Hoots, Steve O’Donnell, all of whom decided it was just a perfect storm that came to fruition… and of course it was the ambulance driver’s fault. Guess what! Someone dispatched that ambulance after a spin by Danica Patrick from which she kept right on going. Man, talk about a Cluster!
Harkening back to Copegate on lap 398 for a moment, Derrike was the last car running at the finish albeit 16 laps behind the winner. He finished in 36th position, 2 spots ahead of the hapless Matt Kenseth who was long since out of the race through no fault of anyone but NASCAR officiating. What was all that uproar we heard in 2013 about altering the outcome of a race… especially this race, the deciding factor in who gets press coverage and who is ignored for the next 10 races?
Then of course, there was the late race or “overtime” restart that is always the [desired] outcome of the late-race caution. Then leader Martin Truex Jr., who had won one stage and pretty well dominated the last half of the race was beaten on that restart by young Kyle Larson, who went on to win the race. Truex would go on to finish a disappointing 20th after having been punted into the SAFER by the bumper of #11, Denny Hamlin… he of the double dose of encumbered wins the preceding week. That brought out the final yellow flag of the day, but since it happened on the last lap, the race ended under caution anyway. Denny finished 5th.
Now, at a time when NASCAR had hoped we would all be as excited as can be about going to that boring cookie-cutter track nowhere near Chicago for the first race of the Chase/Playoffs or whatever, all the talk is still about the mess at Richmond. Come on gentle readers! Can those of you over 30 remember the last time you were genuinely excited over a NASCAR race, whether in the Chase or just another race? I can! It was when Terry Labonte won the Southern 500 in 2003… drove to the flagstand and took a lap with the checkers, waving and saluting the fans… a grandstand and infield FULL of them! No smoke show; no burnout; no doughnuts… with or without Subway’s permission. I miss seeing class acts such as that!
Do you know what also caught my eye and full attention once the Richmond race finally ended without death or dismemberment? A whole lot of my contemporaries didn’t rush out this time to defend the poor beleaguered sanctioning body. Nope! They turned on them like a half-wild pack of coy-dogs. When I see usual apologists from the NASCAR-can-do-no-wrong ranks such as Dave Moody and Bob Pockrass and many others telling us that it was inexcusable and unforgivable to have that number of screw-ups all piled atop one another, then I know the message has finally gotten out. They’re looking beyond whoever signs their paychecks and seeing what I’ve been talking about for years!
Yet still, those good men haven’t acknowledged exactly where the blame for it all belongs. I have no such problem or compunction!
Remember that Brownie convention I mentioned a bit earlier… the one with no leader? There is a reason that NASCAR resembles that convention! We also have NO LEADER! We have the third generation of a family that conceived and raised the sport of stock car racing like a child, tending it, feeding it, nurturing it, and keeping it warm and safe as it grew. Through no fault of his, Billy France contracted cancer and passed away shortly after retiring, leaving his son Brian to continue the care of the family “Baby”, NASCAR. Since then, the man has not only botched the job, but dropped the baby… dropped that baby from the #2 sport in America to somewhere down in the honorable mentions or participation trophies.
When all that muddled mess was going on at Richmond, did anyone hear the name Brian France? Anyone? Didn’t think so. It was the final race of the “Regular season.” The setup race for his “Playoffs.” He’s the one always hungry for “Excitement” and “Enhancing” the racing… wanting every race to end in a 7th game, 9th inning, tie score scenario. I’d wonder what “Encumbered” his presence at such a race, but I already know the answer. He doesn’t like racing and is almost never at a track… the direct opposite of the hands-on approach taken by the men that built NASCAR to its prior grandeur and glory.
Things such as those handy late cautions to bunch up the field for what he hopes will be a game-changing wreck to heighten the “Excitement” of the final couple of laps are all his idea. Anyone else is acting on orders or wishes from the top… NASCAR’s emperor, Brian Z. France. There is an old expression, traceable at least back to President Harry S. Truman, who kept the sign on his desk in the Oval Office… “The Buck Stops Here.”
While we hear the underlings and the not-so-underlings passing the buck back and forth and of course, down to the ambulance driver, let’s pass that buck to the top, where it really belongs. No one takes a deep breath in NASCAR without first consulting Brian Z. France. For years we’ve listened to his glowing speeches, most of which made little or no sense, about how wonderfully the sport was growing. Growing while ripping out grandstands that used to be full? Growing as the TV ratings continue in free-fall toward a crash landing?
Come on fellow journalists! Speak up! Don’t hide behind a helpless little old lady. Speak the name and assign the blame! If we were over the top and prospering, his name would be in lights on Broadway! He’d see to that. Well, we’re in the toilet and the water is swirling. Isn’t it time that someone took his finger off the flusher? Surely there has to be some way to supplant that hapless man at the helm of the sinking ship. Billy must have left a provision for illness or insanity somewhere in there. This scribe doesn’t know the ins and outs of laws governing heredity, but it would seem there must be a way of dealing with total incompetence, bordering on insanity. That might be looked into a lot quicker if the NASCAR media were to speak the name of the problem! Save the baby!
Just one song for our Classic Country Closeout this week, but it’s the one that came immediately to mind while writing this article. They say there is a Country song for every situation, and I’m sure there is. This is Hoyt Axton singing “You’re the Hangnail in My Life.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!