The End of the Season and Some Sad Farewells
I bid you welcome, gentle readers, and a cordial greeting as well to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this bright, sunny fall day in the hills of North Georgia. The first thing I’d like to share with you all are the results of my young friend Trevor’s attempt at the Myrtle Beach 400. Things started off in a bad way, when his #8 dropped a clutch. They were able to replace it with another, but it caused him to miss the qualifying runs, so he had to take a provisional to get in, after being in the top-5 in practice.
Ah, but this kid is the real deal. After starting 38th, by the half-time break, he was running in 12th. He had the car and the talent, but not the luck. On the restart after the break, with brand new tires and ready to move ahead, there was a big wreck involving several cars, and his was one of them. That messed up his pretty #8 and killed his radiator, ending his night and season.
The wreck had nothing to do with him, but we all know that the innocent get crashed along with the guilty. He remained upbeat and eager when we talked on Sunday, already looking forward to 2019 and anxious to get on with the racing.
At this point, it’s time to acknowledge the Champions of the Truck Series and Xfinity Series. Congratulations to Brett Moffitt for taking the Truck race and Championship at Homestead and to Tyler Reddick for winning the Xfinity race and Championship. This scribe is still no fan of crowning a Champion by the results of a single race, but it’s the current format and we’re stuck with it until someone that matters sees the fallacy in that.
And then on Sunday, it was time to decide the 2018 Cup Champion. From the pomp, circumstance and incredibly superlative adjectives emitted from my television, you’d have thought we were electing God! The pre-race “stuff” was long enough to run another 400 laps, and perhaps we should have. My ears were assaulted through pre-race by someone I'm sure would be quite at home on WWE. Must we live up to that often-made comparison?
The start of race was delayed over half an hour in order to carry the end closer to prime time for NBC, and then further delayed for an errant parachutist getting caught up in the catch fence and dangling helplessly there until help arrived. (Insert that joke about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane here) Then it was delayed again for oil on the track, courtesy of the #95 from Leavine Family Racing. NBC, I hope we didn't interrupt your Sunday night session of disrespect for our National Anthem.
(Our Anthem was "almost" an A+! Delivered by the obviously trained voice of Senior Master Sergeant Ryan Carson, it was spot-on… except… vocal coaches need to stress that the words perilous and peril-less would be the antithesis to one another, if the latter were even a word, yet it's heard all too often from some of the best vocalists.)
The race itself was a typical Homestead, a rather boring race. Then, coming close to the end, a strange thing happened. Three of the four in line for the Cup had pitted. Kyle Busch elected to stay out in the lead, and the laps wound down… and down… and down. Then there was a spin resulting in light damage from wall contact and the yellow flew. NBC's screamers announced over and over what a break that was for Kyle Busch. What no one mentioned was that the spinner was Kyle's teammate, albeit temporarily, Daniel Suarez, and the guy that helped him into the wall was Brad Keselowski, Joey’s teammate. My mind immediately went to a spin at Richmond in 2013 that changed the lineup of those eligible for the Championship.
Earlier in the day, I had defended the pit stall selection as being insignificant, which it proved to be. Did it occur to no one but me that the final spin might actually have been of the "Team orders" variety? That’s another problem with this phony method of choosing a Champion by a single race; fans are left with questions in their minds as to the legitimacy of some moves. The late caution seemed the undoing of both Harvick and Truex, who would have been one-two in the running order once Busch was forced to pit. The even later restart helped only Joey Logano, who had led the most laps on the day and had the fastest car on short runs. Starting with 15 to go seemingly handed the race to the #22 and he didn’t disappoint. He drove it home to victory and his first Championship.
Congratulations Champ! I still disagree with the format, but it’s the prevailing one and under the existing rules, you won it fair and square.
It seems that some folks don’t much care for Joey Logano. I don’t get that, but I guess that is their prerogative. I just wish the haters could just hate quietly and let the race fans enjoy the last race of this season in peace. This scribe has come to the conclusion that social media is what’s killing sports in America, with NASCAR leading the list of those assaulted.
Once the race was over, I heard a plethora of negative comments, not toward drivers but toward NASCAR in general. I don't understand that, and probably don't want to. The attitude of "My driver didn't win so I'm never coming back tells me that person was never a race fan to begin with. Real fans can’t simply walk away. Racing isn’t just a sport; it’s a lifestyle! If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. Go somewhere else and do something else. During the race, one fan complained to me about some of the more vocal negative attitudes. My answer to him was, “Some folks are never happy unless they’re unhappy or making someone else unhappy!” He got a huge laugh out of that, then asked permission to use it, which of course, I gave.
Racing is FUN! No, not every race is a barn-burner and in reality there are very few “Game-7 moments”, but that’s part of the allure. All the efforts to script it and make every lap exciting are wasted. The empty seats and low ratings should be screaming that to the powers-that-be. Part of the fun is the anticipation of what might come next.
There is a long list of changes for the 2019 season, but others have already listed them. The one person leaving that I hate to see go is team owner of the Furniture Row Racing team, Barney Visser. Barney, thank you from the bottom of my aged heart for all you’ve done for the sport of stock car racing. Your Championship for the 2017 season is perhaps the greatest Cinderella story of all-time. Someone should have intervened and told the other party, “No, you can’t do that!” Sadly, they did not. I understand your decision, but will miss seeing you out there with your team. You Sir, are a man of distinction and a sportsman through and through. My God bless your footsteps wherever they might take you. You will be sorely missed.
And on that note, it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout and there was no doubt what this one would be. Last week, the world bade a sad farewell to one of the greatest musicians and Country performers of all time when we lost Roy Clark. He was so much more than a clown on Hee Haw, though he made that role come alive also. Roy, you will be missed more than you could know and through the tears in my eyes I say “Godspeed” dear man, maker of beautiful music with magic fingers.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling.
It looks so good on you!