I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course that extends as well to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this warm, sunny day in the hills of North Georgia. If you’re thinking this is about the 300th rundown of Monday’s race at Michigan, you’re mistaken. It’s Michigan all right, but this race was run 15 years ago and on Sunday, as planned. This was one of those weeks where having a late column does not work to my advantage, so instead I’ve invited my alter ego, The Lady in Black, to give you her recap of the June Michigan race in 2004.
Because the Lady uses nicknames that might not be familiar to the younger or newer fans that read here, (Or those closer to my age with short memories) I always include the results from the race itself, so if you’re stumped as to whom she’s talking about, you can check for yourself. The race can be found here: https://www.racing-reference.info/race/2004_DHL_400/W Now, without further ado, here’s the Lady in Black.
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, coming to you this week from the Irish Hills of Michigan, where battle #15 of the Chase for No Sponsorship was waged on Sunday. The day dawned sunny and cool; a perfect day for racing, and even FOX could find no reason to move up the start time this week, so the folks at home actually got to see a pre-race show. Like them, some 150,000 fans in the stands heard Elizabeth Fornal deliver a so-so version of the National Anthem, accompanied by jet fighters from the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan National Guard. Those in attendance however, were spared having to watch “As the Stomach Turns” with Jeannie Zelasko and 10 Laps with the Busch League Kid. (Does anyone really care whether it’s boxers or briefs?)
Since it was Fathers’ Day, it was only fitting that NASCAR’s “Father of the Year”, King Richard Petty, give the command to start the engines; then we were ready to go racing. For the first time ever in NASCAR history, the top three cars in the line-up were all from the same team, Hendrick Motor Sports. On the pole, it was the car with the flames and to his outside was rookie teammate Brian Snickers. Directly behind Flameboy, in third place, was teammate Jeffy’s Mini-me in the Lowe’s rolling hardware store.
As those lads and the rest of the gang came to the Boogity flag (only twice more), everyone picked up speed but the Pfizer Riser Ford of Mark the Munchkin, who backed up sharply through the field and headed for the lounge, minus one transmission. (They just don’t build ‘em like they used to) Still on lap one, Long Gaughan hit the brakes in an effort to avoid hitting a butterfly and was immediately collected by Rubby Gordon, who performed a Cingular pirouette that involved Jeremy Mayfail’s front bumper and the Busch League Kid’s right side door.
All that action of course, was enough to bring out the first caution of the afternoon, on a big, wide, two-mile oval that is noted for very few cautions, if any. Ah, but then this is NASCAR, where anything can and usually does happen. Since they really hadn’t even gotten started, there was no one to award the One LAP UP (One Lucky Arse PUP) to, and only three of the boys in the back room even stopped in for a cold one. Those were Texas Terry, Dave Blarney and Stewpot, who started out back because he ticked off the Godfather by walking out on his morning speech.
They went back to circling at lap #4 (Way to speed things up NASCAR) with Flameboy leading Snickers, Flyin’ Ryan, Mini-me and Mayfail. Within ten laps, the car with the flames drove around Rubby Gordon, whose car was a bit worse for the wear and tear of the first lap. At lap 20, the Munchkin came back to the party, this time with all of his parts operational. Somewhere in that time frame, Kirk Fillerdine retired to the lounge with “handling problems” after having turned only 13 slow laps.
At lap 23, Flyin’ Ryan hit the bar for a cold Bud while the pit bulls removed some saran wrap and some tape from his grill. That made the car run cooler, but it also made it one lap down to the rest of the combatants. Four laps later, Rubby took his Cingular wreck to the garage for repairs and on lap 34, the yellow waved a second time, this time for some sort of rubber on the track, aka Monsieur Debris, that Frenchman on the backstretch.
That gave all the kids a welcome chance to hit the bar for a Coors Lite and Kevin Glue received the One LAP UP award. Can’t Cope retired to the lounge for the afternoon, having lost his spark, and Rubby Gordon returned to the fray, some 13 laps in arrears.
They restarted on lap 38, with Flameboy still in the lead, followed by Bobby the Bounty Hunter, Still Employed Mikey, Snickers and Mini-me. At lap 44, Casey Merely came to the bar for what he thought was a flat tire, but he was back for another beer in three laps. The pit bulls decided that it was a broken chain on the front sway bar and that little chain cost him nine laps on the afternoon.
After that, things settled down and the warriors were content to just turn circles until it was time for a green flag round of beer breaks. At lap 71, we said good-bye to Kevin Glue, who wasted his One LAP UP by overheating and cooking his engine. Five laps later, the Good Shepherd took Jesus to the lounge with handling problems.
By lap 80, we saw the leader, Flameboy stop in for a brewski along with most of the others. They tried to have a barbeque in the Blarney pits, but NASCAR made them put out the fire. Ricochet Craven ran his Tide Ride dry, but managed to coast slowly into the bar.
No sooner had they completed their bar stops than we had to bid adieu to two more of our combatants. Ken Shredder’s engine went BAM, and the car with the flames, which had led almost every lap up to that point, went up in a huge plume of smoke, reminding us all that they always run the best right before they blow up.
It was getting a bit warmer, so several trooped back to the bar for Miller Time and the One LAP UP went that time to Flyin’ Ryan. On the restart at lap 94, we saw some new soldiers at the front of the battle, since they hadn’t felt the need to grab a beer. It was the Blue Deuce out front, followed by Scotch ‘n Soda Wimmer, Long Gaughan, the Big Brown Truck, Jamie McCutey and the Army of One. However, out in front of all of those was Scoot Riggs, fighting to make up a lap the old-fashioned way, by earning it.
They had some fun at the front of the pack for a bit, with the Big Brown Truck taking over the top spot, only to relinquish it a few laps later to Long Gaughan. At lap 116, Jamie McCutey blew an engine and took the car with the star to the lounge for the afternoon.
That was a good excuse for another Bud Break for the whole gang and the One LAP UP went to Hurrikahne, who was “Doin’ the Dew” on Sunday in a sharp new multi-tone green paint scheme. Obviously, though it looked sharp, it hadn’t been very fast up to that point but Chief Pit Bull Tommy Want-a-win was still thrashing on it.
They began circling again on lap 121, with the Candy Man leading Long Gaughan, Mad Dog Kenseth, the Army of One and the Silver Bullet. It only took about seven laps for that Silver Bullet to streak into the lead, followed by the Army of One. On lap 138, a bit of smoke was noticeable from the Blue Deuce and that warrior was slowed by the loss of a cylinder. Lap 142 saw the Zewo Hewo suffer a similar fate and we were starting to think that by the end, they might all finish marking time instead of marching forward.
At lap 149, caution # 5 waved for another Frenchman on the backstretch and it was a Bud Break for all combatants. The One LAP UP was awarded to the all-white car of Jeffy Bootin’ and everyone began to worry whether they could make it to the end on that tank of gas. Those fears would soon be allayed.
They rejoined the battle at lap 155 (They’re getting longer), with the Silver Bullet still in front, leading the Army of One, Candy Man, Mad Dog and the Big Brown Truck. Long Gaughan slapped the SAFER barrier, causing a bit of right rear damage, but kept on truckin’.
On lap 159, Ricochet Craven ricocheted off the turn 3 wall, to bring out caution #6. The One LAP UP that time went to Scotch ‘n Soda Wimmer, and after a quick Miller Time, they lined back up with the Silver Bullet in front of Candy Man, the Army of One, the Big Brown Truck, Mad Dog and Flyin’ Ryan. They started lap 164 in that order, but with Casey Merely, who was nine laps down, on the inside. He was evidently feeling quite frisky and raced with each of the leaders in turn until Big Daddy NASCAR went and had a talk with his Chief Pit Bull, who then explained the facts of life to the lad and he backed off.
Lap 175 saw the seventh yellow rag of the day wave when the Army of One went up in smoke and Captain Nemo retired to the lounge. Toad Bodine had developed a vibration and decided that joining Nemo would be a good idea, so scratch two more from the field. The One LAP UP went to Scoot Riggs that time, and among the leaders, the only one who was thirsty for a cold Coors Lite was the Silver Bullet. (Appropriately enough)
When they restarted on lap 178, the pylon read Brown Truck, Flyin’ Ryan, Candy Man, Mad Dog and the Busch League Kid. Almost immediately, Flyin’ Ryan moved to the lead, while they were mixing it up behind him. The two hard chargers then were the Silver Bullet and Mini-me, both of whom were on new tires.
They managed to get all the way to lap 194 before Stewpot got loose and tapped Greg Baffled into the wall, spinning both cars. If you’re counting, that was caution #8 and the #8 pitted for a bit of the sponsor’s product and some new Goodyears because one of his was flat. Some others actually pitted as well, though there were precious few laps left to race.
When they went back into battle on lap 197, it was still Flyin’ Ryan up front, but the trailers now were the Big Brown Truck, Mini-me, Silver Bullet and Hurrikahne. Mini-me got a horrible restart, while Hurrikahne came up through the field like a hot knife through butter, to be in second place when the white flag waved. Somewhere toward the back, Baffled spun again, but there was no caution. However, as Flyin’ Ryan and Hurrikahne were racing to the checkered flag, Pajama Jones wrecked about a mile away from them and the dang flag came out for that.
So it was that after racing 399 miles, both the combatants and the fans were once more cheated out of seeing a race finish because of the ridiculous rule about freezing the field.
Note to NASCAR: It was the last dang lap of the “race.” Once they get to that start/finish line, everyone is going to slow down anyway. To freeze the last half-mile of a race is simply not acceptable. There is a reason that it’s called “Racing!” Let ‘em race!
Flyin’ Ryan treated the fans to a great smoke show, if you like smoke shows, and headed for Victory Lane where he was greeted by his ever-so-proud Father, there to help him celebrate Fathers’ Day and his first victory of 2004. The two hugged and laughed amid showers of Gatorade, and still managed to get in all of the sponsor plugs. This boy is good!
For Hurrikahne, it was yet another day of being the bridesmaid instead of the bride, but he took it in stride and was very complimentary toward the winner. There’s a lot of class in this lad and his day is coming.
In the final analysis, there were twelve cars out of the race and twenty-four on the lead lap. The pylon, at the end of the race read 12/9/88/48/38/40/17/18/25/15. Though there were more cautions than is usual for Michigan, most were of shorter duration than we’ve begrudgingly become accustomed to this year. As always on this big ol’ gal, we saw three and four-wide racing all through the day. What a shame to take an almost perfect day and ruin it within sight of the checkered flag.
That’s exactly the way it was at Michigan on Sunday. Would I lie to you?~LIB
Wasn’t that more fun than this year’s version of racing with restricted engines and high downforce? Now it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout and this week let’s share a special presentation of the talents of Whispering Bill Anderson! Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!