A Voice for the Fans ~ Those Silly Ol’ Lug Nuts
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course our always cordial welcome goes out to that lucky person assigned by NASCAR to read here today and keep us in line. We wish you luck…
I read something on Friday that instantly resonated with my logic and common sense, and the more the speaker continued, the more sense he made. Chip Ganassi says that NASCAR’s new fascination with lug nuts is “Silly.” Bravo Chip, for calling a spade a spade, and not only that but calling it a silly spade!
This scribe has no intention of borrowing so much as a word from any other writer, but quotes are quotes, and they do not change with time. What is spoken is recorded and preserved within quotation marks and cannot be copyrighted or patented. With that in mind, I’d like to present several sentences spoken by racing great in several venues, Chip Ganassi, to journalist and interviewer Claire B. Lang on Sirius XM Radio last week.
“I just think the whole lug nut thing is a silly thing. We’re in a major sport that on any given weekend we have over 100,000 people that show up and watch and it’s the most-watched sport on television sometimes on the weekend and we’re sitting here talking about lug nuts. Are you kidding me? Please! They need to move the conversation. I’m saying NASCAR needs to move the conversation to something a little more relevant than lug nuts.’’
When asked about replacing Kyle Larson’s crew chief Chad Johnston this week after NASCAR placed him on suspension through the Michigan race because it was found in post-race inspection that a lug
nut was not installed in a “secure manner”, this was his response.
“We have qualified people that will be there. That’s the other thing is these suspensions; you can have the guy on the phone; you can have him on the computer, but he can’t be at the track. What’s the point of being suspended? You really could probably suspend everybody on the team except the pit crew. It’s silliness. It’s complete silliness.’’
Let’s face it gentle readers, this “Lug nut affair” is one of NASCAR’s in-your-face responses to criticism. Tony Stewart was bold enough to step out of line (Well, there’s a surprise for you!) and chide them for not policing the way lug nuts are affixed to the wheels. His point was that now, without a NASCAR official in each pit, teams were leaving loose one… two and maybe even three, depending on how long the car must remain on track.
In my humble opinion, once one driver took a trip into the SAFER (Hopefully) barrier in a crash caused by a wheel departing his/her car due to lack of lug nuts, the drivers themselves would have been on the crews like a herd of frogs on a swarm of June bugs to get those nuts tight every single time. However, rather than wait for that to happen, NASCAR took a familiar “Oh Yeah?” approach, fined Tony for speaking, or maybe for breathing, and drew up a set of new rules concerning lug nuts that makes all the sense of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”… the epitome of no sense at all!
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
All right then! I think that made my point. Because NASCAR has never been known to be wrong, let alone apologize for anything, they made a terminal disease out of a hangnail. If General Washington had responded in like fashion upon hearing that the “Redcoats” always went into battle with every button on those coats sewn firmly in place, we’d still be sewing fancy buttons on shabby farm-wear and bowing to Her Majesty, the Queen. William Shakespeare called it “Much ado about nothing.”
Continuing now to the rest of Chip Ganassi’s oration, we’ll find one point that I have reiterated time and again, and refreshingly, another point that I had never even considered, and I’ll wager that most of you had not either.
"I think all sports are challenged with how to grow their sport," he said. "We're on the back-end of the baby-boom generation. All these sports were built on the baby-boom generation and there just aren't the fans following any sport as much as they used to. There just aren't the people behind the baby-boom generation that are watching television or watching sports. There seems to be this trend toward participation sports, not viewing sports."
That gentle readers, is the point to which your scribe had never given serious thought. As a pre-war baby, I come from the other side of that huge generation. Usually, that meant that everything I had to fight to get or couldn’t have was given to them merely by the sheer strength of their numbers. I, and others like me, fell smack dab in-between the Great Depression and WWII, which meant we were also between the “Greatest Generation” and the “Baby Boomers”, but we had no name. We just were.
Still, when thinking it over, Chip makes a veritable mountain of sense in saying that. The Greatest Generation is gone, save for a very few, and they are leaving daily. My generation, whatever you might call it, is also fading. Most of my friends today are of that Baby Boomer category, as too many of those I grew up with never stayed to grow as old as I have. We look at folks the age of a couple of our own writers here at Race Fans Forever, Dave Fulton and Frank Buhrman, and that generation as well is beginning to thin. Most no longer go to the races, and if they do, most choose local races where they can afford to have fun like they used to… watching the races, not listening to ear-splitting music that hurts their no longer keen sense of hearing.
Let’s move on now to Chip’s final comment, and this point your scribe has made over and over again through many years. The age of the automobile is over. In the 1950s, when NASCAR was young and so was I, we lived for those new cars that were once again rolling off the assembly lines in Detroit! American steel was once again being used to construct American cars! The war was over and the age of the Automobile had begun. If you didn’t live it, maybe you can’t really appreciate it, but I lived it and we lived, quite literally, for our cars. A driver’s license was our rite of passage, our ticket to adulthood and freedom. That is just a small insight into what Chip is feeling and saying here.
“We need to do a good job of telling young people that cars are still fun. I think sometimes between the government and Detroit … we teach young people that cars are really just transportation things from Point A to Point B and pretty soon you’ll be able to do it with a driverless car. I think we’re missing the point here. There are a hell of a lot of people out there that need to realize that cars can still be fun to drive. That driving of a car can be appreciated and can be respected and can be applauded. That’s what racing is all about.’’
Good luck with that one Chip. They either don’t get it or don’t understand. Maybe if the manufacturers once again made cars pretty or macho, depending on the target customer and made them in colors other than shades of grey it might help. Matching interiors were also a very nice touch. If that ever comes to pass, the first move made by NASCAR is to make the term “stock car” relevant again. Folks in my time loved the idea that a car greatly resembling the one in their driveway could also be seen racing on tracks across America. Today, the term is a sad joke.
The little guitar tells us it’s time now for our Classic Country Closeout and I thought it would be in keeping with this article to share a few of the songs we were listening to in those early 1950s, when the cars and the teenagers were all much younger. In the very early 50s, one singer almost completely eclipsed all the rest. You might remember him or have heard some of his songs. His name was Hank Williams, probably the greatest singer and songwriter of the Classic era. Here first is Hawkshaw Hawkins to do a song called “The Life of Hank Williams.”
The music behind that recitation is borrowed from one of Hank’s earlier recordings called “Help Me Understand.” This one was recorded on a “Luke the Drifter” album, a pseudonym used by Hank when singing very sad or very pointed songs.
Also mentioned by Hawkshaw was Hank’s last hit, which hit #1 concurrent with his death. Ironically, it’s called, “I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive.”
Next we’ll hear one of the hundreds of songs Hank both wrote and sang. This one has lasted over all the intervening years and Country Music artists are still recording it today. This is, “I Saw the Light.”
In closing, we’ll be hearing Jack Cardwell’s recording of “The Death of Hank Williams.” I was only 14 when Hank died and this song followed shortly after. In the video that accompanies the song, you’ll see one of those too-beautiful-to-be-believed automobiles from that era… a 1953 baby blue Cadillac convertible. No wonder we loved the cars of that era, and the singers as well.
One more thought… Hawkshaw Hawkins was married to Country Music superstar Jean Shepard. He died in the same Camden Tennessee plane crash that also claimed the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas, in March of 1963. They had one small son, Donni, and Jean was pregnant at the time with their second son, Harold Franklin Hawkins Jr. After the death of Hawkshaw, Marty Robbins wrote this song for Jean. Singing it must have been the hardest thing anyone could do, but she did sing it. Here is Jean Shepard singing, “Two Little Boys.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!