Saying Goodbye to 2019
I bid you welcome gentle readers, as we come down to the final racing of the 2019 season. There’s so much going on in all areas of the sport that it’s really tough to know on what to focus. The Good Ship NASCAR now has its own “Official Vodka” was the big news this morning. (Wednesday) Once upon a time, hard liquor was not allowed on cars and even beer was questionable. Today, anything goes, and the sanctioning body leads the troops into battle with entire races being “owned” by hard booze in many flavors. I think I liked it better when we at least pretended to be a bit sanctimonious. In truth, every time I see NASCAR grab another sponsor, I get the feeling that said sponsor would have been better on the hood of a racecar than becoming an “Official Partner” of the already bloated sanctioning body. But… that’s just me!
Did you enjoy the race at Phoenix? Yes, they called that a race, though it seemed much more to be a salute to the great Denny Hamlin. NBC all but guaranteed us before the green flag fell that this was going to be Denny’s year. So far, they might be correct, but then, Denny has gotten this far before, only to falter at the starting gate and lose it all at Homestead. Since he’s not on my list of favorites, I wish him well in repeating that performance another time.
And speaking of NBC, I don’t believe they will be with me in 2020. For my part, no race is enhanced by all the screaming and yelling that emits from that crew as each one tries to talk over… shout over or scream over the other two or three. There’s been much discussion about this in the circles where I travel and none of it was complimentary. They create a virtual cacophony of sound that is ear-piercing and seems to have no end. I actually LIKE every one of them individually, but someone brought together a bad mix of vocal ranges there. Jeff Burton does not have the voice to sound good behind any microphone. Actually, I’d much prefer his brother Ward to Jeff as an announcer/color analyst. His voice is a full range deeper than Jeff’s and though he does have a slight impediment, I’ve always been able to understand him. Jeff just goes directly for High “C” and stays there for two or three hours.
Then of course, there is Junior, who on the broadcasts, sounds almost identical to Jeff, though when away from that setting the two sound nothing alike. I believe that is because they are both screaming their southern accents in soprano range. Steve Letarte joins those two and becomes hyper-active, adding little or nothing of value to the conversation, most of which cannot be understood anyway. Ric Allen is by nature and design the calmest of the crew. He’s the trained professional broadcaster that is supposed to keep the rest in line, but he’s sadly outnumbered, so just sits back and lets them all yell and scream.
NBC, you really might want to take a closer look at what you are offering the viewing and listening public. There is a reason for the sharp drop in TV viewing and I think you’ll find it has little to do with an uninvolved generation or the death of the car culture. It has far more to do with the sloppy and loud delivery of your programming, which insults the viewers and causes many to switch to NFL, NHL or just go work in the garden.
The FOX Network is now a work in progress, as DW has departed the broadcast booth, which leaves Jeff Gordon working with Mike Joy. That could go either way, and no predictions here. Gordon is as smooth as they come, a well-spoken lad with good thoughts and ideas. Joy is a couple generations ahead of Gordon and quite frankly makes far more mistakes than he used to. This pairing remains to be seen before judgments can be made. On the good side, neither one screams!
And then we have the “Package!” I still say it’s a “set-up” not a package! It offers a variety of horse powers and some special aero features, depending on the track. At all tracks it involves a spoiler about the size of the car itself. The purpose behind it is/was to make it easier to pass. In that aspect, it has failed miserably. I’d like to proffer the thought that when all cars are identical as well as all engines, therein lies the reason that it’s difficult to pass. Put more settings back in the hands of the crew chiefs and let them make their own decisions on what they feel is best. THEN we’ll see passing.
At any rate, it seems we are stuck with it through the 2020 season. Then, in 2021, there will be the new “Gen-7” car with a new engine. NASCAR, please tell us again how all that fits into your supposed aim to “save the teams money.” In early days, we were promised sweeping changes, but that promise has slowly been whittled down to small changes and a rearrangement of the same old tracks. The fans say they want to see more short tracks and road courses. That translates to “We hate 1.5-mile tracks! They’re boring!”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I get that almost all tracks now belong to either ISC (NASCAR) or SMI (Bruton/Marcus Smith & Company). But I also get, which no one else seems to even consider, is that with very little effort and minimum reconstruction, every large track on the circuit can become a short track at the will of the owner. We see it at Charlotte, Atlanta and Pocono and surely others could follow suit. Same goes for road courses… many tracks already have a place for or even an actual road course within the boundaries of the oval course. Daytona, Pocono, and Charlotte are all in use now. Keep your tracks and your $Millions. Sure, I’d love to go back to the Fairgrounds in Nashville, but we could also go just up the road a piece and watch a short track race configured within the confines of Kentucky Speedway.
With that, it’s time to end the rant and move on to Homestead-Miami and whatever awaits the race fans over our final weekend of this year, 2019. This scribe is tired and really looking forward to some off-season rest. I’m sure that will change as we hit January, which I refer to as the only month of the year that has 90 days. Please enjoy the music I’ve chosen for our Classic Country Closeout this week… Actually, it’s a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry offered in two parts. Please enjoy:
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!