I bid you welcome gentle readers, and to our assigned NASCAR reader, if you’ve been around a long while, you can take today off because you’ve read this one before.
Gentle readers, your scribe is tired! Old and tired, and that makes it a special kind of tired. No, I’m healthy enough, and I get whatever amount of sleep this creaking old frame finds necessary to face another day, but I’m tired of never having something good about which to write. I used to look forward to pulling up to this keyboard and telling tales of great races run by great drivers… not all of whom were winners, but there were things about each one that made him… and an occasional her… a winner to me. That’s the way it ought to be. If one is to write about a sport, it’s imperative that person at least understand and like that sport.
Well, I understand it, twisted as it’s become, though for all this world, I can no longer say that I like it. So, instead of beating that dead horse, which has no chance of rising as long as that certain person is in charge, today we’ll be sharing a race from the last year there was a full season of meaningful racing and a genuine Champion, otherwise known as BC… Before the Chase! This is and was the Charlotte fall race from 2003, the year before the great fall from grace began.
For those among us that are not familiar with the escapades of the Lady in Black, or for those of us with short or fading memories, a click right around here someplace will take you to the actual race results and help it all make sense. While there, you might notice that the races back then had a full complement of 43 cars. Four more attempted to qualify for this race, but were too slow, making it a total of 47 cars. Today, we run 40, and 36 of those are guaranteed to start, no matter what. The greatest magic trick associated with that is that only 40 cars show up each week. Any guesses on the odds of that happening without interference by a human hand? This “New NASCAR” gives new meaning to the words “controlled environment”, and this one has nothing whatsoever to do with sterilization or sanitation, but everything to do with manipulation.
All right then, enough of my whining and mewling. Here’s your chance to read about racing when racing was better… not best, mind you, but better. I think we’d have to go back maybe another 20 years to approach the best part, but alas, that is not possible, except through the telling of stories of yesteryear. Anyone know a good storyteller?
Here, without further ado, is the Lady in Black, spinning her own brand of yarn for your enjoyment. Both she and I hope you do enjoy it.
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, coming to you this week from just outside the Queen’s City of Charlotte, North Carolina, in the heart of stock car racing country. They tell me that I’m supposed to call it “Lowe’s” now, but I’ve been all over the area and can’t find a town with that name. It’s been “Charlotte” since 1960, so forgive me if I lapse into the familiar from time to time.
The kids from Winston Cup pulled into town a day early this week, to prepare for racing under the lights on Saturday night. Thursday night’s qualifying was undisturbed by weather, but true to form, it moved in on Friday and the Busch Leaguers had to postpone their Friday night race until Saturday morning. Double your pleasure, double your fun…. Oops! Wrong twins! The Busch race was won by Sniffles, doing a bit of Busch whacking and pulling out to a 12-second lead at the checkers. (Ho-hum)Out in Texas, at Bruton’s other track it was Brendan Gone, boringly but predictably winning the truck race there for the fourth consecutive time.
The National Anthem was destroyed this week by someone named Monica, who sounded rather like a Blue-tick Hound sitting on a burr. Strike Fighter Squadron 37 sent four FA-18 Hornets over the track in an effort to silence her, but danged if she didn’t wait until they were gone to attempt the last few notes. The planes, streaking flames behind them, looked awesome against the evening sky.
This week, we were treated to something very special to my heart, before the battle commenced on the track. Positioned at the front of the about to be snarling pack was the #3 Chevrolet, with car owner Richard Childress at the wheel. When Carmen Electra gave a command to start the engine of that car alone, it roared to life amidst a hushed silence, and then pandemonium broke out in the stands. Richard had said not to be sad, but to remember the great times and be happy that we had them. That proved to be impossible, given the fact that we could see Richard in the car, wiping away his own tears.
When that car pulled out onto the track to lead the rest for four pace laps, the crowd of 160,000 was on its feet and cheering. Flash bulbs going off everywhere made the stands resemble the Milky Way, and it seemed that everyone was waving three fingers in the familiar Dale Earnhardt salute. After being joined at the front for a lap by Jeff Gordon, the active driver participating in the Victory Lap salute to Winston, Richard took the car to the start-finish line, spun it around and gave us one heck of a smoke show. I suspect that lessons from Harvick may have been involved there. J
When it was time to go racing, it was Friday Ryan on the pole (Of course) with Flameboy on the outside. That Rainbow team must have run out of money, because instead of flames the car appeared to be sporting a hood done in primer grey. Go back to the flames!
At the drop of the green rag, it was the New Man out to the lead, which he held for 17 laps. Then the other half of the sophomore class, Jeffy’s Mini-me, passed for the lead and behind him was Dollar Biyull, coming fast. By lap 23, Mini had put a lap on Can’t Cope’s ice cream truck and nine laps later Cope pulled it into the lounge for an extended stay.
Somewhere near lap 60, the gang started trickling into the bar for beer and tires. One of the first to order up was Flameboy, and the last to join the party were the Bounty Hunter and Steve Park-it. When all had been served, it was still Mini-me in the lead, followed by Stewpot, Dollar Bill and the car without the flames.
At lap 87, everyone got a second chance for a Bud break when the Busch League kid spun his Sharpie and lost a lap before getting it headed in the right direction. NASCAR issued an invitation to the blue deuce to come back for another round, since he’d left so hastily after the first one, and the One LAP UP (One Lucky Arse PUP) was Sterling Silver. The restart on lap 95 showed Jeffy’s Mini-me still on the point, with Stewpot, Bobby Lobotomy, Dollar Biyull and Mutt Kennel in tow, and only 19 cars still on the lead lap.
After that, things quieted down considerably and they got into that old “middle of a long race” rhythm, with most just circling the track. Around lap 110 and beyond, there was a good dog-fight going on between Mutt Kennel and Kreatin’ Havoc, who are first and second in points right now. Havoc got the best of that battle, but the war is far from over. Some twenty laps later, The Home Depot Rolling Hardware Store took over the lead. We’d see a lot of that throughout the evening.
Another round of green flag beer breaks began around lap 149, and they had barely gotten back to serious circling when at lap 161, the Candy Man and Mule Skinner came to a meeting of fenders on the track. Each, of course, blamed the other, and when it was over, Mule Skinner took the Army of One to the lounge while the Candy Man soldiered on. Only some of the boys from the back room stopped for a quickie under that caution, since most had just had refreshments. The One LAP UP once again went to the Silver Bullet, who obviously hadn’t known what to do with the last one. Somewhere on that break, Steve Park-it went to join Mule Skinner in the lounge for a bit. At the restart, it was still the Home Depot Demon leading Dollar Biyull, the Bounty Hunter, Flyin’ Ryan and Jiminy McCricket.
The gang had just gotten back to racing when the yellow flew again at lap 169. This time it was Robber Gordon striking the wall in Cingular fashion and retiring to the lounge for repairs. The ensuing Miller Time gave everyone a good laugh, as Jeffy’s Mini-me was the only one to drive into the bar. Now, there’s nothing funny about that until you consider the fact that he was the only one on pit road and still managed to miss his bar stool. Where I come from, they call that a brain-fart. The One LAP UP award went to Sniffles (Yep, the same one who had won by 12 seconds earlier in the day). The only change in the running order was that his adventures on pit road put Mini-me in seventeenth instead of second place.
Moving right along to lap 205, (You didn’t miss anything) we saw the Candy Man involved in another altercation that he claimed wasn’t his fault, this time with Toad Bodiddley. He stuffed the nose of that bag of candy right up the exhaust pipe of the Coast Guard car and got the desired results when Toad got loose and spun out. They might both have still been okay, but Candy Man didn’t duck low enough and caught the rear fender of Toad’s car on his way by. That resulted in an even bigger spin for Bodiddley and a disastrous trip for the Candy Man, splattering M&Ms all over the wall. That would be good enough for last place at the end of the evening.
The man in the stilt house was forced to go to work once more, and the recipient of the One LAP UP was Germy Mayfield. It was Coors and tires for everyone, and when they got back to the fray, it was the Awesome One leading Stewpot, the Bounty Hunter, Rocket Ryan and the Bud Stud.
At lap 221, Casey Smeared his engine and retired to the lounge to keep the Candy Man company. All the rest of the rolling wounded were back on the track at that time, but one wouldn’t be for long. At lap 232, the final caution of the evening waved when Curtains Busch hit the wall and flattened a Goodyear. No one had the good manners to let him get to the bar, so he had to make another lap. Before he got that done, the flat tire managed to beat the fender right off the car and that set up another meeting with the wall. His Sharpie wasn’t looking too sharp about that time and he retired to the lounge, to fight another day. The final winner of the One LAP UP was Ricochet Craven. The whole gang headed in for a leisurely Bud break, and danged if Crusty Rusty didn’t get another invitation to return to the bar. That lad needs to put his right foot on a diet!
They turned a few more circles, with the Home Depot Demon still leading the rest. Flyin’ Ryan reported that he was nursing a vibration, and at lap 268, his chief Pit Bull decided that they were within the beer window and brought him in for four tires and a cold one. It was great to be at a track where new tires were faster than old ones. That’s the way it was when I was a young lass. The Rolling Phone Booth just sliced through the field like a hot knife through butter, and by the time all the rest had stopped at the bar the Rocket Man was about eight seconds ahead of Stewpot, with 36 laps yet to be run.
Ah, but what goes around, comes around, and now it was Stewpot with the new tires and the New Man with older ones. Within 12 laps, that lead was down to 1.6 seconds and closing. At lap 313, Cow Patty took the toilet paper car to the lounge, minus an engine. As the laps rolled by, the battle up front was becoming intense. By lap 321, there was only .2 of a second between those first two cars. Flyin’ Ryan fought his best fight, but with seven laps to go, the lead went to the Home Depot Demon. That was the way they would cross the finish line. Behind Stewpot and Flyin’ Ryan, it was Jeffy’s Mini-me, the Awesome One, the car without the flames, Bobby Lobotomy and the car with the star.
To the delight of the fans in the stands, Stewpot ripped up major sections of Humpy’s landscaping. After that, we were treated to a major smoke show from Smoke.
On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this race a nine. (One has to leave room for something like that championship deciding race at Atlanta in 1992) The tires behaved predictably for a change and gas mileage had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. We’ve seen far too many races lately that only rate a two or three. Besides, there is some sort of poetic justice in seeing Home Depot victorious at a track they call Lowe’s.
That’s exactly the way it was at Charlotte on Saturday night under the lights. Would I lie to you?
One final thought before we go to our Classic Country Closeout. As I type, there is a large and dangerous hurricane named Matthew spinning in the area of the Caribbean and planning landfall somewhere between North Florida and the entire South Carolina coast. After landfall, the beast is thought to continue up the coast, wreaking havoc as he goes. I know many of my gentle readers live in or near the threatened area, and I have many friends that do as well. Please, be reasonable and be safe! Get out of Dodge before the roads are so hopelessly clogged that you can’t. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in any way. God bless and keep you, every one.
That pretty little songbird is a tiny tribute to a giant talent in Country Music, who left us last week. Rest in Peace Jean Shepard. You were and always will be this old lady’s favorite “girl” singer.
Neither Jean nor her songs need my introduction, and those of you that didn’t know Jean or her songs… well, you’ve stopped reading anyway, so without further speechifying, gentle readers, here is Jean Shepard.
“Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar”
“I Learned it All from You” “I Thought of You”
“You’re Calling Me Sweetheart Again”
“Then He Touched Me”
“I’ll Hold You in My Heart”
“The Waltz of the Angels”
“Yesteryear in Nashville ~ Jean Shepard”
Poor quality video but great story line.
“Jean Shepard Tells it like it is”
In this short video, one can tell that Jean had been very ill… possibly had suffered a stroke. *Tissue Alert! It’s short, but it’s Jean as you’ve never seen her. God, I loved that lady!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!