Twisted Sheet Metal and How A Race Should End
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always, a cordial “Howdy” to our assigned reader of NASCAR stuff. Did we all have fun at Daytona this past weekend? If nothing else, having Friday and Saturday night races made for a very relaxing Sunday. Ah, but now it is Monday and we’re still doing the Holiday thing. I do wish everyone a very Happy Independence Day, so please allow me to toss in a little note from John Adams, our second President, back in what we now refer to as Revolutionary times. Sadly, I doubt that many of you reading today even begin to understand what the American Revolution was all about and how you and I benefit greatly from it today. Click on the picture to enlarge.
And with that, we’ll end today’s lecture and talk about racing… which is not what the 4th of July is all about. As always, I thought that Daytona International Speedway did a very nice job of not only promoting patriotism, but honoring this nation’s most recent recipients of the Medal of Honor… or the Congressional Medal of Honor as most call it, though I was informed that is a misnomer. Either way, those folks have done things that I’ll never do and have been rewarded with the highest honor bestowed by our government and to my mind, that’s what matters… not what we opt to call the medal.
NASCAR has from its inception been a staunch advocate of patriotism, and in these troubled times, it’s nice to see that remains the case. One of these days, I’ll start a little war of my own and we’ll discuss that “other flag” that is no longer supposed to be flown… but not today. Today it’s the Stars and Stripes Forever, and thank you Mr. Sousa for that inspiring march!
Gentle readers, that was just a bit of a digression from what I came to talk with you about today, but that happens when they race on the big tracks. Just about everyone reading this already knows my thoughts and opinions on plate racing, yet I always feel the need to reinforce them whenever the opportunity arises.
Moving right along, did everyone enjoy the ending of Friday night’s Xfinity race? For those that missed it, or preferred to forget, I’ll enlighten or remind you. As noted, it was a wreck-strewn race at best, with 8 cautions in its 103-lap extended distance. That averages out to just over 12 laps run between cautions. The penultimate yellow flag waved on lap 98, and every race fan knows what that means in NASCAR… Green-White-Checkers. (That’s 2 laps, not 3 as too many assume without counting) The janitorial crew spent almost 4 laps cleaning up the most recent mess, and the green waved again on lap 102.
The cars completed that lap and took the white flag… and here’s where it got messy. Well behind the leaders, someone spun out on the backstretch and soon attracted a lot of company, as generally will happen in a plate race. The leaders were within sight of the checkers and no yellow had waved… and then, there it was. Yellow ended the race… leaders Aric Almirola and Justin Allgaier ran neck and neck, or would have if they were riding horses, all the way to the finish. Remember, the wreck was on the backstretch and the race for the win is to the checkered flag in the frontstretch tri-oval.
NASCAR explained that when the wreck grew in proportion, they were afraid they might have to roll emergency equipment to the scene and to do so, cars on the track must be slowed. This brought about a very sad ending to the race, and it’s the second time we’ve seen this exact drama play out in the Xfinity ranks this year. The “crowd” at the track and the viewers at home all watched a great race to the checkered flag, saw that Justin Allgaier crossed the line first and in most minds, that was the end of the race.
NASCAR however, had a different thought. The way the rule is written, when the yellow comes out… even on the last lap of the race… the field is “frozen” in time at that point. It looks good on paper, but for practical purposes, this scribe will always maintain that actually freezing a multi-car field at a precise second in time is impossible. Too many variables enter into the equation, and they are all dependent upon human intervention. In this case, the caution, if at all necessary, was put out far too long after the wreck to do much but confuse both fans and drivers. The leaders of the race were already streaking to the “start/finish” line and there were absolutely no obstructions between them and it. As noted, at the line, it was Allgaier just ahead of Almirola, yet in the end, the win was given to Almirola on the strength of a “frozen field.”
Author’s note: 12 years ago, in May of 2004, your scribe wrote a column for Insider Racing News entitled “Fresh Tomatoes and Fields Should Not be Frozen.” The following is one short paragraph from that article, describing my feelings on “freezing the field.” Nothing has happened in the intervening years to change my mind.
“Perhaps that scenario might work if there were some divine intervention that was able to establish the precise second that all action on the field ceases to count, but alas, God seems to be busy elsewhere and probably cares very little about who is leading whom at some immeasurable point in time.”
Rather than go through the machinations of checking unseen and possibly mythical scoring loops, photo evidence, yada, yada, yada, there is a much simpler way to handle this problem when it occurs. In the circumstances of Friday night’s race or any others that present a like situation, just revert to “Saturday night rules...” go back to the last GREEN FLAG LAP! There you have a definitive placement at the start/finish line. Never mind trying to convince the world that one of two or even three drivers was the winner at some obscure spot on the track. Let the "start/finish" line live up to its name and make the call for you. (ASA used to have a rule that called for 5 consecutive green laps before a race could end, but they didn’t race on giant tracks with restrictor plates. I can see all manner of problems arising from that idea.)
In all honesty, I had to look up who was ahead at the last green flag lap. I guess it was David Ragan, but it doesn't matter. Whoever led the last green flag lap (which in this case would have been the lap ending with the white flag, lap 102) should have been the winner on Friday night... no question in my mind. As it is, there are too many questions in too many minds. That is not the way to run or end a race in what purports to be an "elite" racing series. I can't cite another sanctioning body that decides winning and losing in such an arbitrary way. I felt that way back in 2004 when we first saw this, and I feel that way today. I know I'm not alone in that, but sadly, no one that matters will listen or care. It is what it is... so tell me, why are there so many empty seats these days that even creative coloring can't hide them?
That little guitar means it’s time now for our Classic Country Closeout. (And the crowd goes wild)
First up, we have another request from my young protégé, Jeremiah Thalheimer. The next race he’ll be working is in Idaho, so he wanted to hear a song… Classic Country yet… about Idaho. Um… DUH! I did find a great old song, done by Ed Bruce and filmed in Idaho. Here is “The Last Cowboy Song.” I do have an idea though. How about Jeremiah writes more articles and he can play his own songs? Sounds like a plan to me.
As long as we started with a cowboy song, I guess we’ll stay there. Surely, there’s nothing more Classic in Country Music than the songs of cowboys in the old West. The one I’ve chosen next is an old saw, sung here by Doc Watson. Here is “When the Work’s All Done this Fall.”
As usual, there is no lack of songs about this week’s topic. The problem is deciding which ones to play and what artist should perform that choice. “Little Joe the Wrangler” has been heard by anyone that ever listened to Country, and it’s been sung by so many good singers it’s hard to choose, but the version by the Sons of the Pioneers is excellent and it’s Bob Nolan at his best.
This song has been done by many great artists, and in truth, this wasn’t the biggest hit release of “Shifting Whispering Sands.” That honor belonged to Rusty Draper, but this one by Jim Reeves has always been my favorite. Please enjoy…
We just can’t listen to songs of the old West and not hear one from Tex Ritter. This is one I have on his “Sing Cowboy Sing” album. (The original release) It’s always good to go out with a happy song, and I think even those not inclined toward Classic Country will enjoy Tex’ version (The only version ever worth listening to) of “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle.”
(Snuck an extra in here. Jim won’t notice. It’s a live performance of “Cattle Call” by Eddy Arnold. Shhh!!)
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!