Monday, August 26, 2013

Green Flag! Green Flag!




We are two races out from the Chase, which is NASCAR's versions of the play-offs. Twelve drivers will make it and race for the championship. Some are sure bets but there is a battle royal going on among teams for the last several positions. Who is in and who is out changes from one week to the next so it is a tense and stressful time for several drivers and their fans.

Luckily for me, my driver, Jimmie Johnson, has been locked in for a couple of weeks now. Lucky for him too, since he's had two disastrous weeks. At Michigan, where he seems to be cursed, he had an engine fail and didn't finish. At Bristol, last weekend, he was wrecked and limped around to come home, I'm not sure exactly where, 36th, I think - I turned off the t.v. as soon as the race was over.

Here are some questions I have that NASCAR reporters never seem to ask:

* Where are all those fans who clamor every year for the reigning points leader at the end of the season to get a bonus? When it is anyone but Jimmie, their cries fill the airwaves on the Sirius radio NASCAR channel. This year, crickets. Will we start hearing them again if someone overtakes Jimmie for the top spot in the last two races?

* What is it with the reverence for Mark Martin? Okay, I get that he is old and respected and that he's been around forever and that he's a good driver, even a great one in his day, but is he really the person you would have chosen to fill the seat in the 14 for Tony Stewart? He's started 17 races so far in 2012 and has zero wins, one pole, 1 top five, 4 top tens, led 98 laps. His average starting position is 15th; his average finishing position is 20th. What am I missing here?

* Why are the ones who bitch about all the coverage of Danica always the ones who bring up Danica? I can read an article that doesn't mention her name and eventually, someone will interject a comment about her totally apropos of nothing. They especially love it if they can think of a vile new nickname to call her. Are there more 7th and 8th grade fans of NASCAR than I'm aware of? It's as if her very existence rubs them raw.

Of course, one excuse is that she "taking a seat from a deserving driver" and that's not fair. She got where she is with sex appeal. So what? Not everyone is lucky enough to be Austen or Ty Dillon. Not everyone has a Grandpa who owns a team and has had the benefit of the best equipment and the best advice and the best contacts their entire lives. If people are dedicated to a goal, they follow whatever road they have to follow. Some have a much smoother way than others but they all have to prove themselves in the end. I probably admire the ones who had to cut a trail through the wilderness a little more than those who have been on a glide path from the git-go.

* Why do I so often hear about Kyle Busch that he is "arguably the most talented driver in NASCAR"? I'd certainly argue with that designation. Doesn't "most talented" come with achievement? Kyle is an excellent driver, I'm not disputing that. But he has yet to win a Sprint Cup championship. He still lacks a Daytona 500 or a Brickyard 400. Until any or all of those things happen, I'll hold off on honoring him as the "most talented". Yes, he swarps'em in Nationwide and Trucks but only the races in which you challenge your peers count for full credit.

* Wow, doesn't anyone else think that Tony Stewart lacks something in the loyalty department? Two years ago, it was Darian Grubb. Okay, I realize the first part of their season didn't set the world on fire but is a few months together a fair test of their potential? They did go ahead and win a championship. Did Tony jump the gun on Darian?

Then this year, he kicked his supposedly super-close friend, Ryan Newman, to the curb despite a fairly decent record, especially considering that none of the Stewart-Haas car were up to speed. Well, all right, I realize NASCAR is a business and revolves around sponsorship, etc, etc. I've heard that a million times. But now we find out that SHR has offered a ride to Kurt Busch. They don't have a sponsor for him either but Gene Haas is willing to sponsor Kurt himself. So what does that say about why they told Ryan that he was out of a job? Obviously, it wasn't true. If I was Ryan, I'd be hurt and pissed and he probably is although he most likely  won't say so. For their sins, I hope the Kurt/SHR combination (if it happens) ends up with the same mediocre statistics the Tony Stewart Steve/Addington match up has had so far.