When It’s Wet at The Track and Dry at The Computer, You Start Thinking
I’m not supposed to be at this laptop at this moment. I’m supposed to be at the races. Problem is, I got a little more than five miles from the track, and the sky opened up. I decided to pull over into a vacant parking lot and keep tabs on the track website while catching up on other stuff, and while I was on the “other stuff,” the haulers started coming by.
Wasn’t quite this bad where I was, but it might as well have been, as far as the chances of getting any racing started.
That’s one of life’s crappiest feelings, isn’t it? You’re heading for the track, and the cars and haulers start passing you, going the other way. That could be the ultimate test for somebody who’s determined to stop “cussing.”
I could hardly blame the track. I had just driven through a real gully-washer, which dumped more water than any dirt track could deal with, so the only question was whether it was localized enough that it had missed the track. Now I had my answer.
In the middle of all this, the vision came to me of a NASCAR Air Titan trying to work on a muddy dirt track. How many miles do you think some of the mud might go?
Then another thought, still bizarre but not quite so much so as the Air Titan: how much do you think it would cost to cover a track with a tarp? How many people would it take to put it down and take it up? It might work.
Do you suppose anybody has ever tried this with a racetrack?
The craziness didn’t stop there: If road courses use rain tires, why couldn’t dirt tracks use mud cars? Wouldn’t matter, actually, because the fans wouldn’t come out to watch a race in the rain (even though many of those same people put up with all sorts of nasty weather to watch football).
So, I guess I can’t prevent rainouts. Some sports stadiums have retractable roofs, but I have a feeling one that could cover a superspeedway might cost a bit more than today’s attendance and TV dollars could fund. I really do like the tarp idea, but if it’s so do-able, why hasn’t anybody tried it?
That conclusion sent the brain in another direction, namely this: I mentioned “mud cars,” which would be something built differently from current “non-mud cars,” and then I remembered an article I’d read from the RacinBoys website (via Jayski link, of course) by Lee Spencer:
Spencer talks about the advantage a dirt racing background can give someone in NASCAR, but she also notes that more dirt tracks are unlikely to join Eldora’s truck race in the “premier” series schedules, because the car owners don’t want to have to develop another car just for one race.
My immediate response to that was, “Well, if the cars were cheaper and easier to build, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, right?”
Right, indeed, but while those car owners wouldn’t be excited about the expense of building a dirt car in today’s rule environment, they probably wouldn’t like my idea of slashing costs, either, because that might threaten their positions in the sport.
Think about it. If it was easy (and cheap) to build a competitive Cup/Xfinity/Gander Truck vehicle, then somebody might actually beat the current owners at their game. It’s already happening a little bit with the trucks, where you frequently see the smaller teams poking their noses into the victory lane or even championship parties. Do you really think anybody at the top of the heap in Cup racing would like to see that happen?
When Bill Rexford won the NASCAR Grand National (Cup) Championship in 1950 for car owner Julian Buesink, the race cars looked pretty much like they’d just come off of one of Buesink’s car lots. Getting a car onto the track is a completely different matter today, and it keeps new ownership talent from challenging the status quo.
Even though I wasn’t there, one of my most cherished moments in this sport was that 1974 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville, when Emmanuel Zervakis built a ’72 Monte Carlo that Sonny Hutchins put on the outside front row and then outdragged pole-sitter Richard Petty at the green flag and led the first 79 laps of the race.
That couldn’t happen today, because Zervakis couldn’t bring together the assortment of expensive specialists needed to put a 2019 Cup car out there and make it fast. I think that sucks, but I suspect the owners have no problem with it, because it protects their franchise against upstart challengers.
Limited resources didn’t stop Emmanuel Zervakis and Sonny Hutchins at Martinsville 45 years ago, but things are a lot different today.
I want cheap, simple cars that open the sport up to all comers, but I’m pretty sure the owners want cars that are complex enough to limit competition to current club members. Which of us do you think NASCAR is likely to side with?
The contingent favoring expensive, complex cars that limit how many participants we have may turn out to be right, but I don’t think so.
We could make a bet on it, maybe waiting 25 years to see who turned out to be right. I’ll put up big money for that, because I’m not very likely to be around then, and even if I am, I probably won’t remember making the bet.
Since I’m on the road, I think I’ll skip “Loose Lug Nuts” this week, except for this. The USAC National Midget Tour is running an Eastern swing, and at the first-ever (I think) stop at Action Track USA at the Kutztown, Pa., Fairgrounds, Kyle Larson and young Zeb Wise put on a show that will remind you just how exciting racing can be. Check out this video and think about Larson’s comment afterward . . . that Wise had more balls.
FYI, the next night, at my beloved Path Valley Speedway, Chad Boat got the win, with Wise finishing sixth and Larson 13th. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s niece, Karsyn Elledge, had a rough night and ended up 21st.