I bid you welcome gentle readers. It’s yet another cold and rainy day in North Georgia as I pull me up to the keyboard. I’m really starting to think that I’ve somehow been spirited away from Georgia and moved, house, dog and all, to somewhere in the Seattle suburbs. You all saw the “lovely” weather we had for the Atlanta race, and it continues… since sometime last October. My Gram would have said, “Might as well laugh at it. You can’t change it.”
As I type, we’re still looking forward, to varying degrees, to a race/parade at the little flat mile in Phoenix. What’s to giggle about there? Well, against all odds and most logic, it seems they have geared the cars so that shifting becomes an option… on a short track? Next thing we’ll hear is that it’s a great idea to put a salt lick atop a banana split… with the same amount of logic applied. Oh, for everyone out there under 35 that doesn’t know who Carroll Shelby was, shifting is a process for selecting and moving through the gears in a transmission at the driver’s pleasure rather than letting the car decide. It involves a third foot pedal called a “clutch” and requires precise timing to be done right. “Missing a shift” can produce disastrous results.
Yesterday, I saw an article informing me that Joie Chitwood is moving right ahead with plans to adorn Daytona International Speedway in SAFER barrier as early as it can be done. It probably won’t be done entirely by the time we return in July, but by next year’s Daytona 500 the theme of “SAFER everywhere” should be unveiled right along with “Daytona Rising.” All other tracks, please take note! This should be you! No, nothing laughable there, but it does bring a warm smile at the thought of at least one track out of 23 getting it right without a fight.
I’ve no clue if this is funny or sad, but if Kevin Harvick didn’t win at Phoenix, he should have. By the time you’re reading this, Phoenix will be in the rear view mirror and we’ll be on our way to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This track has certainly had its ups and downs since coming on the circuit in 1997, starting with one race per year, moving to two and then being “demoted” back to one. Folks that have been around for a bit will remember when the track was criticized for low attendance and that brought forth a rather laughable defense from track head honcho, Gillian Zucker, who offered the implausible explanation that folks were there to fill all those empty seats; they were simply downstairs shopping. Oh please!
For years, the racing at Auto Club, formerly known as California Speedway, was on the laughable side itself, more often than not resembling a parade, not a race. The track considered several options for improvement, most of which could be classified as laughable. Probably the funniest one was to add copious banking and run the cars with restrictor plates. Yep, we sure need more of that… NOT! Anyway, none of it ever happened. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. complained about the low attendance from what he termed “A Hollywood crowd that could care less”, Ms. Zucker’s immediate retort was, “I don’t tell him how to drive his car; I don’t expect him to tell me how to run my race track.” Gentle readers, I think that comparison is best left for another time, but it really is funny!
On the bright side, time and aging pavement have done what neither man nor Gillian Zucker could accomplish. Racing at the Michigan clone has greatly improved over the past couple of years, all on its own. Still, this scribe sees a dark shadow hovering over the track in Fontana. This was the site, only two years ago, of an impact with an inside wall on the last lap of the race, when two young competitors were racing for the win and one of them never finished. Kyle Busch won what had been a hotly contested race to the checkers, while Denny Hamlin, after contact with Joey Logano, careened into the inside wall only to find no forgiving SAFER barrier in place to catch his speeding Toyota. The result for Denny was a broken back; a compressed fracture of the L1 vertebra to be exact. Let’s take a look at Denny’s crash, paying close attention to the car stopping abruptly on contact with the rigid cement wall and ricocheting off that wall in the opposite direction.
Next up on our matinee schedule, here we have a quite detailed explanation of what is entailed in the construction of the SAFER barriers, how and why they work.
Then, as promised, we have a Google Earth map detailing exactly where those SAFER barriers are and are not on the track in Fontana.
Gentle readers, I’m confused by what I’m seeing on this map. My understanding is that Denny crashed in turn 4, within sight of the start/finish line. In still photos, it’s shown to be very near the pit road entrance. We’ve been told by our empirical leader, Brian France, that at least the area where that impact occurred has since been blessed with SAFER barriers, but I’m not seeing them indicated on this map. It’s entirely possible that Google is a bit behind in updating, so please give the benefit of the doubt to a small area of the inside wall coming to pit road, probably matching the tiny area of green seen on the inside of the exit from pit road.
Just before Christmas last year, ISC appointed David Allen to take over the reins as President of Auto Club Speedway, replacing the departing Ms. Zucker, who left, we are told, to join the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Gillian, I would have thought you a bit long in the tooth and short in stature for such sport, but I do wish you well.
Welcome to your first race in your new position David. You’ve come just in time to set right something that has been wrong far too long and at far too many racing facilities across this great country in the sport of stock car racing. We, the fans that care, strongly suggest that just as Mr. Chitwood is doing in Daytona, you follow suit and begin upgrading those unforgiving walls immediately following this year’s race. By this time next year, Auto Club can and should be a much SAFER place to race.
One more thing I’ve found genuinely laughable this past week was a statement from Eddie Gossage of Texas Motor Speedway, indicating that he believes the NFL is to blame for Kurt Busch’s recent problems.
“The NFL’s bungling in having so many characters of ill repute playing their game has changed it for everybody. It’s unfair to [Busch] that just on an accusation he gets kicked out of a way to make a living. It just doesn’t make sense to me. But the NFL’s policy is the same way.”
“If I wanted to beat somebody in the Super Bowl, I’d just stick a chick on the elevator with the quarterback the night before the game, accuse him of something and he can’t play the next day. Think about that? So I’m not sure that’s the best policy either, but you’ve got to clean up things.”
Is that funny? Sure it is, but it’s a bit scary because it’s also true. Your turn in our spotlight is coming soon Eddie. Until then, you just keep telling it as you see it… and you just might want to invest in a hearing aid because, yes, Texas is included in any and every discussion of SAFER barriers.
Well, it’s still raining, so I’m still laughing, with the consolation that the sun is shining in Phoenix. Isn’t the sun always shining in Phoenix? Time now for our Classic Country Closeout for this week, and no, I won’t open with, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” That would just be too obvious.
This week we’re just going to go with my instinct and enjoy whatever pops into my mind, so hop on the wagon and off we go! First up is one from my teen years called, “Gonna Find Me a Bluebird” by Marvin Rainwater. Others recorded this one, but none quite like Marvin. I’m not sure if he is the whistler on this one or if that was someone else. Either way, it’s beautiful; a talent I wish I had.
Here’s another by one of my favorite singers of that era, Sonny James. This wasn’t one of his biggest hits, but it was with me. Please enjoy this happy and bouncy version of “True Love’s a Blessing.” I dare you not to tap your toes and hum along.
A little-known singer of the same era was James Gilreath, but he made the charts in a big way with this cut of “Little Band of Gold.” The song is catchy; the beat is infectious, but what I always loved best was that horn leading the instrumental parts… trombone, I think. If you’re old enough to have ever heard a Salvation Army Band, then you’ve heard that style and sound before. Do enjoy:
One more, so we don’t anger Jim. This one was a hit for two of my favorites at the same time. Okay, the secret is out. On this occasion, I favored this rendition over that of Marty Robbins. No, that’s not sacrilegious; it’s just the truth. Here then is “Singing the Blues”, as done not by Marty, but by Guy Mitchell.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!