When Rednecks Ran NASCAR
Good day gentle readers, and a good day to you as well, Mr. or Ms. assigned reader over in the Queen's City of Charlotte NC. Bet you thought this was going to be a serious column, didn’t you? Nope! Not a chance! This is another from the archives of Insider Racing News, and it’s all for laughs.
Today we're trying something just a bit different. Remember when you were a child and the favorite game of every day was "Pretend?" Some called it "Make believe", but it's the same game, just a different name. Well, that's what we'll be playing today. Come on! Be a kid again for a short while! We'll have fun; I promise!
Because it's my column and I get to make the rules for the game, let's set the timeline for this as January, 2004. I choose that time period because it marks the beginning of what we race fans have come to know as "The Changing of the Guard." In this little exercise, it may be necessary to cast your mind back to that time period to understand this with any sort of reason or comprehension, but really, nothing much has changed in the intervening years, except that now we are once again allowed to utter the word "Redneck." There was a time, back in that 2004 era, when that word could not be spoken in NASCAR circles, let alone adorn the hood of a racecar, lest it cast us in a bad light. *Ahem*
Imagine if you will, a motorsports journalist seated at the keyboard in her office, contemplating what to write about and hoping she can find a thought that 35 others haven't already expressed. She stares at the blank screen before her and then alters her gaze to the window beside her that overlooks a summer day in Georgia, cloudy and dark, but the rain has stopped for now. Finding no inspiration to write among the plants and trees, her eyes slowly return to the blank screen as her mind wafts away to that semi-trancelike state we call oblivion.
In that dream world found just the other side of consciousness, she is faced by the very thing that worries her the most, all of the recent problems and changes in NASCAR, her sport of choice. Then slowly, through the haze, images begin to appear and the mist lifts until at last she can see things as they might be in the future and there is just a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth.
Directly in front of her, she sees the President of NASCAR, Jeff Foxworthy, as he prepares to address the Board of Directors meeting that is being held in a cavernous room where all the board members have walkie-talkies. At the head of the table sits a man with a not-too-bright look about him, his mouth gaping open as he stares at the ceiling. She realizes that she is looking at Gomer Pyle and that he is now the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR.
At his right is seated the recently retired Chairman and father figure, Andy Taylor. Further, down the table she sees the Director of Operations, or Top Cop, as we are fond of calling that position, sporting a black cowboy hat. At his feet sits a forlorn looking Bassett Hound (Aren’t they all?) that is obviously the brighter of the pair. This would be Roscoe P. Coltrane and his trusty sidekick, Flash. Others seated for the meeting, representing various departments of the giant sports monopoly, included Jed Clampett (Director of Finances), Cooter Davenport (Head of Research and Development), Goober Pyle (Personnel Director), Enos Strate (Deputy Director of Research) and Uncle Jesse Duke (Refreshments Chairperson). Representing the drivers’ union was the guy that used to drive the #55 NAPA sponsored Chevrolet, Jethro Bodine (No relation) and the Sergeant at Arms was Barney Fife.
About then the journalist realized that she held a palm pilot in her hand and folks were addressing her as “Madam Secretary”, so she began to take the minutes of the meeting.
The meeting was called to order when Chairman Gomer Pyle slammed his gavel down on the table, showering wood chips in all directions. Immediately, the retired Chairman, Andy Taylor, suggested that the meeting be run henceforth by President Foxworthy, knowing what an infernal mess Gomer would make of it. Gomer said, “Gaw-lee Andy! That shore is a swell idea” and gave the floor to Foxworthy.
President Foxworthy presented the first order of business; that of dealing with the archenemy of NASCAR, Boss Hogg, whose evil forces had once tried to take control of all the billions of dollars involved in the sport while masquerading behind the name of Francis Ferko. Foxworthy dispatched Fife to go and bring the accused to the table. Fife tripped over Flash on his way to the hallway, but managed not to shoot anyone, and returned presently with Boss Hogg, someone you can be sure has never been seen in the same room with Bruton Smith.
It didn’t take that collection of good ‘ol boys very long to convict Hogg of whatever they thought he was guilty of, simply by turning their thumbs down in unison. "Evidence? We don’t need no steenkin’ evidence!" As punishment for his sins, Hogg was banished to spend all of his years in a small county in Georgia called “Hazzard” and never again to set foot inside a NASCAR track. Jethro Bodine asked for and received permission to drive Hogg to Hazzard County, since he had business there anyway. That business was the purchase of a Dodge Charger named “General Lee.” (He’d always loved that horn that played, “Dixie.”)
Once that “redneck” version of justice was complete, Foxworthy introduced the next order of business… that of bringing NASCAR back to its roots. After a flurry of conversation involving several versions of the southern drawl, it was decided that any track west of the Mississippi or north of the Mason-Dixon Line would be closed immediately. They would be replaced on the schedule by venerable old southern tracks including (But not limited to) North Wilkesboro Speedway, "The Rock", Hickory Motor Speedway, Bowman Gray Stadium, South Boston Raceway, Myrtle Beach Raceway, Greenville-Pickens Speedway and Nashville Fairgrounds.
It was further decided that any track that necessitated a restrictor plate on a V-8 engine would cease to function. Such tracks would be plowed under and used only for the purpose of growing tobacco in memory of R.J. Reynolds and all that company did for stock car racing. After that, the decision was made to change the configuration of any track that closely resembled one that had been built before it, and then they passed a resolution to ban the term, “Cookie cutter” from the Official Dictionary of NASCAR.
At this point, the Refreshments Chairman, Jesse Duke, passed around a quart Mason jar from which each attendee took a long swallow of the clear liquid it held. Jesse could be heard softly intoning, “Mighty, mighty pleasin’, Pappy’s corn squeezin’.” Thus refreshed, the boys were ready for the next item on the agenda.
It was pointed out by President Foxworthy that without the big tracks and with the addition of many “short tracks” that probably the sleek, look-alike cars of the day were not what should be raced. Roscoe P. Coltrane suggested a plan that involved help from the Governors of several states. That proved no problem, as all of the Governors were southern and understood the purpose. Coltrane’s plan was to have each of the Governors issue an edict in his state that any Camaro, Mustang, Duster, Charger or other “muscle car” that had been “up on blocks” in a front yard for more than a year would automatically become the property of NASCAR. They called it a beautification program.
Now NASCAR had what the good ol’ boys considered the proper cars on the right tracks to produce great racing for the fans. The next vote taken was to sell for scrap metal, all of the templates that made life darn near impossible for a crew chief. Another vote proclaimed that henceforth, it would be illegal to monkey around with a point system that had been working just fine for more than thirty years. An addendum to that resolution declared chasing anything but the set-up of your car… or a chicken for the supper pot… would not be tolerated, and a Championship would once more be based on points from an entire season of racing.
Next, they turned their attention to the concession stands and discussed the food being sold at the elite tracks of the day. It was unanimously decided that Sushi along with any other sort of nouveau cuisine would cease being available within the confines of any NASCAR track, as would anything that purported to be “low-carb.” Mandated to be carried by all vendors were at least two varieties of pork barbeque, chilidogs, boiled peanuts, Vienna sausages, R.C. Cola and Moon Pies.
As the final order of business, they looked at what has become of on-track entertainment, particularly the pre-race ceremonies. Unanimous once more, they decreed that the National Anthem, from that day forward, would be sung only by folks that knew both the words and the tune and used both, while keeping their right hand over their heart as a sign of respect for flag and country.
After accomplishing all of that, Foxworthy thought they had done a good day’s work, and made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Chairman Pyle, who hadn’t really been there anyway. As Jesse Duke passed around the Mason jar one more time, a knock at the door stirred the journalist from her reverie and she opened her eyes to find herself staring at a screen filled with the words you have just read. Of course, all that you’ve read was just a daydream of sorts, and never really happened, but it might leave some of us wondering why not.
Note to my Northern and Western readers… It's a joke! Please take it as such. We that live here in the land Brian forgot often wax nostalgic for the way things used to be. We just spent a weekend in Indianapolis, where we heard repeatedly about the history of IndyCar and drivers named Foyt, Andretti, Unser, Mears and many others, but very little history of the sport presenting the race we were watching. The figures came out with regard to TV ratings and who was watching where. As one would expect, the highest geographic rating came from Indianapolis, but I found the other nine rather interesting:
(Editor’s note: These figures are from 2004. I could not find comparable figures for the 2017 Brickyard 400)
“The rest of the top five markets were Greensboro, N.C., (10.1), Greenville, S.C., (9.4), Charlotte, N.C., (9.1) and Norfolk, Va., (8.3). Rounding out the top 10 were Jacksonville, Fla., (8.2), Nashville, Tenn., (8.1), Birmingham, Ala., (7.8), Richmond, Va., (7.7) and Knoxville, Tenn., (7.2)" Anyone notice a consistent theme there? We're allowed to poke fun at ourselves, and that's what this one was all about. I hope everyone enjoyed the laugh.
That tender sentiment tells us it’s time for our Classic Country Closeout, and today we’re going back to one of those wonderful shows with the Stars of the 1950s, the “Golden Age of Country.” Like all of them, this one has a truly star-studded cast. Please enjoy.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!