I bid you welcome gentle readers, and hope that everyone reading enjoyed the long Holiday weekend and the serious overdose of racing that comes each year on the most solemn of America’s Holidays… Memorial Day. Everyone with the tiniest interest in racing knows by now that a late race pit stop for Lewis Hamilton snatched Defeat from the jaws of Victory in Monaco and handed the win to teammate, Nico Rosberg. No, Hamilton was not elated or joyful at finishing 3rd in a race he had dominated.
Next, an impressive back to front performance (twice) saw Juan Pablo Montoya drinking the milk in the Indianapolis Victory Lane after a great race with lots of speed and lots of passing. (Unfortunately, lots of wrecks as well, including a mishap on pit road that injured 2 crewmen) Finally, after 600 l-o-n-g miles, it was Cousin Carl Edwards doing backflips on the Charlotte front stretch and praising a gas-mileage gamble that paid off. In the wings was a heartbroken Martin Truex Jr., knowing all too well how Hamilton felt that morning.
That pretty much sums up Sunday, with all that racing built around a whole lot of patriotism and well watered with tears and “Thank-yous” for those that gave all. Now I guess we’re all ready for some racing at the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware, and yes (!) it’s a DAYTIME race!
But wait; not so fast if you please. There are things I’d like to discuss with you, and they concern six-time Champion, Jimmie Johnson and his almost identical twin slides at Charlotte. In the first instance, both car and driver escaped unscathed. In the reprise, that was not the case. In case you missed it… as in “already in bed”, here’s a replay, in living color. By the way, I love what Charlotte has done. They have painted all of their SAFER barriers bright yellow. Class act Marcus! If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Now, with our memories refreshed, here’s what Jimmie had to say about that slide-ride in a late-race Q&A session:
Q) YOU HIT THE SAFER BARRIER THAT HAS BEEN ADDED SINCE OCTOBER. DID YOU KNOW THAT? HOW CLOSE DID YOU COME TO HITTING THE OPENING ON PIT ROAD?
Johnson: "I could see the SAFER barrier and I could see that opening and I could see the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) pit. I was frightened I was going to get through that hole. It wouldn't have been pretty for me, but to have teams and stuff there that was something I was staring at sliding for a long ways. I was very thankful the SAFER barrier was there and wish we could find a way to extend a wall out and redirect the car away from that opening or close that opening up."
Gentle readers, if that doesn’t give you a bit of a chill, it should. Upon reading that, the first thing I did was watch that short video again… that time through Jimmie’s eyes. On the video, you can hear the FOX broadcast team telling us that the second time was just a little different from the first slide. What they couldn’t see then was that oh-so-important view through Jimmie’s eyes. Yes, his angle to the wall was different. Right near the end of the slide, he changed the angle with a hard left into the fast-diminishing SAFER barrier rather than allow the car to travel out of control onto and even behind pit road, where pit crews were working and perhaps not paying attention to a car coming off the track and straight into their “office” as it were.
Jimmie, as I’m sure you’re aware, some folks say they don’t much care for you because you win too much. Being a fan of the late Dale Earnhardt, I’ve never understood that mindset, but today it’s in hopes that a lot of those folks are reading here that I say, “Thank you! Jimmie, you are a man among men. Had you allowed that sliding car to enter the pit road area, it could have resulted in serious injuries or worse to those who were there and taken unawares. Instead, you took yourself into the wall, trusting that the SAFER barrier would cushion the blow and no one… including yourself… would be injured.” We’re all happy it worked out that way.
Speaking of SAFER barriers, which I seem to do a lot these days, and pit road entrances, let’s take a look at the track hosting the next race, Dover International Speedway.
Dover’s walls appear to be no more than half protected, with both outer straightaways showing red and both inner turns as well. Your scribe finds that they put up a brand new catch fence over the off-season, but I can find nothing regarding SAFER barriers. While watching Jimmie’s wreck at the entrance to the Charlotte pit road, I recalled seeing something on the Dover map that my partner Jim prepared for me. Do you see the green line indicating a SAFER barrier along the inner side of the front stretch and reaching back into turn four? At the very tip of that barrier, on the left side or turn-4 end, you can see something that on this picture appears small and black.
Another trip to Google Earth and a lot of patience produced a blowup of that area that shows whatever that is far more clearly. Now gentle readers, the $64,000 question is… What IS that?
As close as I can tell, it’s either tires or barrels of something, stacked or placed in 4 rows of 2 and 3 singles, probably with an eye toward protecting drivers from hitting that exposed abutment full on… or maybe providing a hiding place for my dear friend, The Orange Cone, who hangs around the entrance to pit road a lot. The more I look at that, the more frightening it becomes. Over the years, this fan has seen a couple of drivers hit one of those things, and the results are never pretty. It makes me wonder if there isn’t some way to end that wall with a short perpendicular stretch of SAFER instead of tapering off to a concrete point.
See where the SAFER ends, right at the entry line to pit road? I’m suggesting, or maybe just thinking out loud, a T-section of SAFER going the other way, right there. I’m not an engineer, but sometimes I wish I were. Common sense tells us there has to be a better way. Of course, common sense isn’t nearly as common as it used to be. (Dean, if you’re reading today, any comment, public or private would be greatly appreciated.)
Dover is a long way from North Georgia, so I am not very familiar with the chain of command up there. I do know the name Denis McGlynn, who is president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, which along with the track in Dover, at one time ran Memphis Motorsports Park and the Nashville Superspeedway… the big one, not the Fairgrounds track. The former was sold but the ¾-mile oval track is currently not in operation. Nashville Superspeedway has been “sort of” sold for at least a year, to an entity known as NeXovations, Inc. Some funds, I’m told, have changed hands, but in small dribs and drabs, serving only as earnest money as negotiations and red tape stretch on and on. This past January, Michael Tatoian was announced as the new President of Dover International Speedway, but still reporting to Denis McGlynn.
Gentlemen, whoever is running the show, I do hope you’ve been keeping abreast of the fact that a huge push is on for all tracks to upgrade their walls to SAFER barriers everywhere. This is coming from concern by drivers, car owners and media combined, in response to the serious injuries sustained by Kyle Busch in the Xfinity race at Daytona in February. I can find nothing on your website that indicates when the SAFER you do have was installed, and I find nothing anywhere about you having done any upgrades to it. As always, it is possible that the map is out of date. If that is the case, complaints should be directed to Google. We only print them here; they create them, and this one did not come with an imagery date.
In closing, please allow me to implore that you give serious and immediate consideration to adding SAFER barriers to the unprotected walls as soon as possible and practical, and please gentlemen, look into something more effective than whatever it is you have stacked at the end of that abutment that shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and this week we’re going to get deep into the old Country sound, somewhere between storytelling and blue grass wailing. Here, for openers, are the Osborne Brothers, Sonny and Bobby, with one I just love because it’s so sad but true. Please enjoy, “Georgia Mules and Country Boys.” I’m not sure why, but every time I hear this one, my mind conjures up a picture of Junior Johnson.
Next up, it’s time to expose all of you to the ultimate test of “fandom” when it comes to Classic Country. This is Tex Ritter, at either his absolute best or absolute worst. The song is from the album of the same name, one of the very first actual vinyl LP albums I ever owned… “Blood on the Saddle.”
And then, as was his way, Tex would switch immediately from deep gloom and despair to the peaks of hilarity like a ride on a runaway elevator. Here is Tex with “Boll Weevil”, and no, this is not that bouncy little thing that Brenda Lee did back in the 50s. This one is much older, and far better, in my humble opinion.
Alright then… start those toes to tapping as we hear the banjo strings tuning up to give us Grandpa Jones calling out “Old Rattler.” Lawd, it doesn’t get more Country than this!
To close out this session, let’s hear from Hank Thompson, always one of Mama’s favorites, doing his version of something we know is a joke… “Mama Don’t Allow No Music Played ‘Round Here.”
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!