I bid you welcome gentle readers, and hope you spent some quality time watching parts or all of the Rolex 24 at Daytona this past weekend. The two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entries put on quite a show throughout, until the 01 team [Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam] fell out with transmission problems with about two hours left in the race. The 02 team took the checkers, with great drives by Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, familiar names to all, I’d hope. Finishing second was a surprised Action Racing Express team, [Joao Balboa, Sebastien Bourdais and Christian Fittipaldi] which acquired the position when the always strong Wayne Taylor Racing team [Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor] left a driver in too long and had to pit for a driver change in the waning minutes of the race. Yep, they have rules for the Sports Cars too, and Taylor’s team was bitten by one of them.
By way of explanation, up until last year, this series was actually two, the Grand-Am series, which ran 2 classes in the Rolex 24 each year, Daytona Prototypes (DP) and Grand Touring (GT), and the American Le Mans Series. (ALMS), which ran its own races. That was the result of a split back in the 1990s, much like CHAMP Car and IndyCar, with much the same result. Nobody won. Last year, the two agreed to bury the hatchet elsewhere but the other's back, and together they formed the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship. Now everyone races in the Rolex 24; something that I've always found a bit confusing, but lots of folks like it that way.
My apologies to the other three classes that raced this weekend. I am a bit on in years, as they say, and I can only follow one class at a time. My chosen class is the Daytona Prototypes, where the drivers’ names are familiar and pronounceable. All in all, it would have been a grand start to Speedweeks at Daytona, if only we’d kept the original date for the Daytona 500. Instead, all I can say is, “Enjoy the array of new commercials this coming weekend.” Oh yes, and don’t miss the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies this coming Friday.
Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA
Meanwhile, up in the Queen’s City of Charlotte North Carolina, it’s NASCAR Media Week, and true to form, there to kick it off with an enlightened oration of eloquent execution and polished profundity was NASCAR’s HMWIC, Brian France. Your scribe watched that performance with great hope, quickly fading through varying shades of disbelief to disappointment, then dimming to despair and finally reaching a nadir of total disgust.
For the past three or four years, I’ve parsed comments made in our “State of the Sport” address, and for longer than that, I’ve spoken from this keyboard as your “Voice for the Fans,” and been more than happy to do so. In that time, the former has never changed, save for the date and year of delivery. Mr. France plays the same song on the same out-of-tune instrument, day after day, year after year. However, the latter is about to change. You see, Mr. France and I have reached a loggerhead; a spot where it is no longer reasonable to communicate, as we represent diametrically opposing views. I represent the truth, and he… well, I’m darned if I can figure out what he represents.
The following is a direct quote taken from Mr. France’s opening salvo, before doing a Q&A with members of the media, most of whom lobbed in softballs, with the few legitimate hardballs being averted by an answer in muddled English almost unintelligible. Please read this next carefully and tell me how many folks you know that fit his description of “the fans.” For every hundred that come here to read, I might hear from one that might. That’s 1%, in anyone’s math, and that 1% is apparently what matters. You, me and the rest of the 99% count for nothing, so the heading on these columns will read differently after today. Fear not; I’m not leaving; I’m merely going to write under a new Title. If this is what he gets from the fans, then this scribe is not their voice. I would have been, but they’ve never talked to me, though the forum is always open here for all to opine.
What, no standing ovation? No overwhelming agreement with the man that inherited the show? That is just a tiny paragraph taken from about an hour of speechifying, morale building, blatant bragging and much patting of backs, all from men representing an entity whose product continues to lose ground in both attendance and ratings. As a girlfriend pointed out (With tongue firmly planted in cheek) while we watched together, “At least their Green thing is doing well. There is that!” One of the greatest accomplishments, though to date unfinished, is the tax-payer funded project of “Daytona Rising.” Apparently the stated aim of spending $400 Million of your dollars is to attain the ability to call Daytona International Speedway a “Stadium.” OK, whatever floats your boat.
For anyone that missed the conference, which probably includes most of the gainfully employed in America, here’s a video of it from FOX. I’m not sure what happened there. It started right on time on nascar.com, where we watched it, but this video actually begins at 7:10. Once the press conference begins, please pay special attention to an early question asking Brian France to compare himself as a businessman with his Father and Grandfather… the two astute and devoted gentlemen that worked through their lifetimes to amass the fortune with which he was endowed. Perhaps they weren’t as smart as we thought, at least in the world according to Brian.
Alright, enough of that. My tummy grows dyspeptic and my temperament as well. Let’s return for just a moment to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies mentioned in the beginning. They will air on Friday evening, January 30, on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). There will be an introductory program at 7:00 EST followed by the Ceremonies themselves at 8:00 EST. Being inducted into the class of 2015 will be “Little Joe” Weatherly, Wendell Scott, Fred Lorenzen, Rex White, and Bill Elliott. For my young friends out there, if any of those names are not familiar to you, either read up… you’ll enjoy it, I promise… or come ask Mama to tell you about them. I’m always happy to oblige any request from a young fan… or an old one for that matter.
And that will bring us to our Classic Country Closeout for this visit. Most everyone that comes here knows that Classic Country had many faces, one of the most prominent in the very early days being a combination of sadness and death. Sad, to be sure, but so many of them were also beautiful in their own right. I’m not speaking of the Gospel songs, but those that told of home and family, but most of all, of loss. First up today is one from the 1920s, originally offered by the Carter Family, but done for you here by the Wilburn Brothers, Doyle and Teddy, chosen because it’s a much softer version of a song I’d make my theme song if it were that I ever needed one. Please enjoy, “Give Me the Roses While I Live.”
Next, we’ll hear one from the King of Crying, Hank Williams. A short while back I played for you, “I Just Told Mama Goodbye”, the “B” side of his huge hit, “Wedding Bells.” This is another “Mama” song, and I’ve chosen it for my friend Dawn, who told her Mama goodbye last July. The dreams keep her close dear friend. They are visits from beyond. After 20 years, I still welcome a visit from Mom. Here then is Hank, singing, “I Dreamed About Mama Last Night.” Please enjoy…
And lastly, old Hank sang under another name at times… that of Luke the Drifter. Most any song from his Drifter days would fit this category, but for today I’ve chosen one called “Pictures from Life’s Other Side.” This one reminds us all how lucky we really are, not to be in one of those pictures.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!