Chasing and Whining
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and our usual cordial greeting goes out to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this warm, sunny day in the hills of North Georgia. Before launching into this week’s tirade, your humble scribe sends prayers and healing thoughts to the family and friends of legendary driver, Mike Stefanik, who perished in a plane crash on September 15, 2019. May he rest in peace and race now on Heaven’s Raceway.
Video from NASCAR on NBC
Now then, have you noticed? It’s September; the Chase/Playoffs/Whatever have started and it’s time to be excited. At least that’s what the folks on my TV tell me. So why am I not excited? Why am I not chomping at the bit in anticipation of the nine races left? I think it’s because I’m old and remember a time when we did get excited… not for some sham of a playoff when we’re only playing off against ourselves… but for the end of the season and the crowning of a real Champion.
I recall one year especially, 1991. As we got to this time of year, one driver seemed imbued with new strength and determination. Harry Gant, at age 51, won consecutive races at Darlington, Richmond, Dover and Martinsville. In the next race, he led 350 laps of the 400-lap distance at North Wilkesboro before losing his brakes and having Dale Earnhardt slip by him for the win. Harry was second. There was all manner of screaming and cheering for 51-year-old Handsome Harry and buttons were circulated among NASCAR fans that read, “Life begins at 51!” That dear race fans, was FUN! No, Harry didn’t take the Championship. He finished 4th behind Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd and Davey Allison. You see, back then, just getting hot at the “right time” as they say today, wasn’t enough. The Latford point system sought for and rewarded consistency. Today, it all boils down to the winner at Homestead. Check that… it doesn’t even have to be a winner. The eligible “field” is down to four at Homestead and the highest finishing of those 4 is somehow called our season Champion. All I see that giving us is a Homestead Champion, sort of. This scribe is far more into a Champion of all 36 races, and may the best man win!
We’ve all heard talk about or even watched a replay of the finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992. That was the race I’ve described as “A Defining Moment” and it truly was, in so many ways. It was the final race for the “King”, Richard Petty, and the very first race for a youngster named Jeff Gordon. Going into the race, there were SIX drivers with a chance to take the Championship… Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Kyle Petty and Mark Martin. Guess maybe next week I’ll haul that one out and freshen it up for another run. It’s one that I never entrusted to the Lady in Black. That one was all PattyKay. It was fun writing it and fun remembering. It’s the perfect example of why we don’t NEED Playoffs to choose a NASCAR Champion. No phony “Game seven moment” created to simulate excitement can ever equal the real thing. Guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve seen the real thing.
Today, the excitement seems to center entirely on the TV screen, with folks shoving microphones in front of the faces of drivers that are not in the best of moods after not performing up to par in the race du jour. Allow me to establish something before continuing. Kyle Busch is probably the single best driver in NASCAR today. Deal with it! That’s just fact. Sadly, he is also the nastiest tempered driver this scribe has ever seen. Listening to him doing interviews after any race, even if he won, can be unpleasant at best. When he didn’t win, like this past week, no one wants to hear that constant whine! He was quite honest in stating that he was only there so as not to get fined. Most of the drivel that escapes his lips in times such as that, no one wants to hear, so why bother? Just let him go to his motorhome and pout quietly.
Everything that went wrong in the race was someone else’s fault… according to Kyle. The final straw was an unfortunate, and apparently unnecessary meeting of bumpers between KB and young Garrett Smithley. If I can work my magic, here’s a video of what happened.
Clearly, the #24 of William Byron, directly ahead of Busch’s #18, got around the slower car by going to the low side. Busch claims he expected Smithley to go high, so he drove directly into his rear bumper because the youngster held his line, as they are instructed to do when the leaders are passing. Had Busch merely followed Byron, there would have been no problem. The only problem I see here is that Busch hit him because he never tried to avoid doing so.
You be the judge and tell me how you see it. Right now, I want to duck back to the discussion about the “Chase for No Sponsorship” as my alter ego, The Lady in Black so adequately described it. On Tuesday your scribe was dragged rather unwillingly into a discussion on that subject, during which I and several friends were informed that the “Majority” of fans are in favor of the Chase/Playoffs, so therefore our opinions were all wrong and didn’t count. Has anyone out there seen any proof of this supposed “Majority” regarding who it consists of and where they are? As close as we got was a veiled reference to the NASCAR Fan Council. I know a great number of folks on that council, and a great many more that used to be but left in disgust. If you, dear readers, can come up with a convincing reference on that then I’ll shut up and go quietly… but the key word there is “convincing.” Among all my friends, I think I know 2 that find merit in the phony playoffs… and one was my partner on this website… but you could never be sure with Jim. His favorite game was playing Devil’s advocate and having fun while doing it.
OK, that’s enough grumbling for today. Let’s get right to our Classic Country Closeout, which this week features my all-time favorite Country entertainer, Red Foley! This episode played on Christmas Eve, 1955. Please enjoy this Christmas party in September.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!