Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Now please don't confuse me with Hillary Clinton, but its true I've suddenly gotten into NASCAR. How could this happen to some left wing Jew kid out in the middle of nowhere?

I'll tell ya its like this. I've long kinda suspected that I should look into NASCAR. After all it seems to be the sport of note for untold numbers of working Americans and all. These are the same Americans that so many "liberal" types look down on as rabble. Well, since as you noted, if you read my post last week "THE LAWSON FILE: LIMOUSINE LIBERALS THEN AND NOW," I've long had a problem with that crowd so whatever they're looking down on has got to be worth checking out.

My father-in-law whom I greatly admire has long been a fan so I've caught bits and pieces while visiting (and once went with him to the local NASCAR track when for I think his 68th birthday or something, he got to roar around at 100+ miles per hour one sunny day).

So a while back I read about this book "One Helluva Ride: How NASCAR Swept the Nation" which sounded pretty interesting...and it turns out it is. The history of NASCAR is a history of part of this nation which no one teaches in college. They ought to though.

So I started to learn about it and last Saturday night really experienced my first NASCA experience (on TV) the Lowery 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. I was somewhat mesmerized with the whole thing. Who knows why? But I think I'm hooked.

The ending was something to see...As the NASCAR web site reports racing for the lead with two laps remaining in the scheduled 400-lap event, KyleBusch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.(who happens to be the big favorite) bumped and banged until Busch eventually turned Earnhardt around (see picture) and sent Earnhardt's chances of ending a 71-race winless streak spinning into oblivion (Note: Clint Boyer actually ending up winning).

Thousands upon thousands of Earnhardt fans in attendance howled in protest. Others no doubt unwisely hurled 12-ounce projectiles at their television sets. Kyle Busch's name was widely cursed throughout this land.

Ironically, Earnhardt, Jr.'s dad the original Dale Earnhardt was one of the toughest racers on the track until he died in a last-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, the fourth NASCAR driver to die in a nine month period that began with the death of Adam Petty in May 2000. That crash by the way forced NASCAR to adopt some long needed safety measures long advocated by the drivers to protect them and their fans.

Earnhardt once had his share of haters, too. Junior Johnson, the former driver and car owner, once became infuriated at Earnhardt for wrecking his driver, Darrell Waltrip, and swears even today that nothing was ever the same again for the two of them. Dale Inman, legendary crew chief for Richard Petty, got so incensed at Earnhardt over another incident that for a while afterward, he refused to speak to him.

The senior Earnhardt is probably now remembered as one of the greatest drivers ever and also one of the most popular.

Kyle Bush was just trying to win a race. I guarantee you if Earnhardt Jr. had hit Kyle Bush there would have been no outcry from his fans. Even a total rookie like me knows that (but that's another story).

As Joe Menzer writes, "Getting booed loudly and by large numbers, as Busch surely will this Saturday night at Darlington and even more so again later this month when the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 are held at Lowe's Motor Speedway, is in many ways a sign of respect."

"It's nothing new to this sport," Busch said.

(Remember that when you get down to the end of this posting)

Anyway, the deal with NASCAR is interesting. Unlike most sports it is entirely owned by one family. They set the rules. That is a big problem. The bosses in total control always is. As someone wrote recently, "When a driver, car owner, track owner or anyone with a concern approaches them. It is as if they will let you talk. Express your concern, but then they will dismiss you like you had never said anything."

Drivers have attempted a couple of times to come together (once even using the dreaded word back then in the South "union") but both attempts failed. The second time though largely because Richard Petty, perhaps, the most successful stock-car race driver in history was a leader the drivers got some results. What was called the Professional Drivers Association (note: not union) made a variety of demands that the way things worked be changed and also raised the very real issue that the Talladega race track was not safe to race on. What this group of drivers accomplished has certainly benefited drivers ever since.

But still the Professional Drivers Association failed because Bill France (whose family owns NASCAR to this day) let it be known that if the top drivers wanted to race in NASCAR, they had to race by his rules. France brought in scab drivers to race at the inaugural race at Talladega when top drivers boycotted.

Since these drivers wanted to race, they folded their union and went back to racing on NASCAR terms.

Every since then NASCAR has just run stock car racing on their terms.

It's America, stupid. NASCAR is America.

You gotta fight to get it right in America and that's how its always been out in the NASCAR world, too . Today a number of drivers have again expressed a variety of concerns especially once more safety issues. We'll see where that goes.

But now back to our story.

Most of the drivers, especially in the early days, were just guys ( almost all white guys)...they weren't rich and they weren't polished, and they weren't huge college athletes, just an ornery bunch of fellows. And other ordinary Americans could relate to them as they could to no other professinal athletes.

NASCAR like America has been infused with racism and sexism. No doubt about. Is it changing today? A little, but that fight still has to take place if anyone cares. Of course, you have to keep in mind that there won't be a big fight about it if there isn't really that much interest in the communities which would have to lead the fight. But whatever. When push comes to shove it is just motor racing, business, but still just a motor racing at heart.

It ain't world peace.

Anyway, to come back around to something, I just want to tell any of you who care that I'm with Donna below. Once the checkered flags wave, its drivers, crews, cars...no one is any more special than anyone else. That's the way it should be...in NASCAR and everywhere else.

I'll only add this to her comments. NASCAR is also about drama and controversy and fans loving drivers and drivers loving fans (unlike just about any other sport really race drivers are generally good to their fans). The adrenalin is gonna flow and everyone is gonna yell at everyone else.

And that's cool with me.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to catch up and learn how it all works having finally figured out that it ain't just cars going around in circles.

And meanwhile some of my family and friends think I've lost my mind...

The following opinion is from Donna and appears on the blog Life Is One Big Road Race.

What’s NASCAR Coming To?

Okay, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve only been into Nascar for a little over three years now. I’m not as knowledgeable as those who have been fans longer, and I still learn more about it weekly. But, it doesn’t take a moron to see that something’s wrong after this past weekend’s race at Richmond. And this is where I may surprise a few people — I am not talking about Kyle Busch.

Well, wait, maybe I am, in a way, in the sense that he’s getting the short end of the stick here in a big way. My point is that if anyone who gets into a wreck with Little E is black-balled, and the fans all have to stand and extend their middle finger (IQ anyone? Or their biggest appendage?), there’s something wrong. And when NASCAR commentators like Jimmy Spencer take up the cause to bash the other drive *solely because it was Little E that he hit,* I almost want to turn the channel.

I love NASCAR. I am a diehard Jamie McMurray fan, whether or not he’s a major winner, and I love being at the races. I can quote stats, I know the tracks, and we travel to several every year. For us, it’s a family interest, and if we’re not at the track, we’re at home watching it on the big screen, Bose cranked, buffet in the kitchen, and friends yelling at the TV with us. But I don’t love this crap that’s happening right now. I’m really disappointed, though it won’t get me anywhere. I’m one of “those” people, the ones that aren’t fans of Little E. Really, there are some of us out here. If there weren’t, what would be the point of racing? Why not just hand Little E the championship and call it a season?

Oh, that’s right…Little E hasn’t won in over two years. Eh, maybe he would have won this past weekend if he’d not come down into Kyle while Kyle was coming up and racing him hard (isn’t that racing? had it been anyone else, would we be hearing this trash talk now?) and maybe not. Clint Bowyer was doing a pretty good job of running away with the lead, and I doubt Little E would have caught him.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a Kyle fan. He’s got some serious maturing to do. He’ll do anything to win, and I joke that he’d wreck his own mother if she was on that track if it got him the win, though maybe that’s not far off the mark. But he’s a good driver, and he’s got a lot of wins as testimony. Does he deserve the win any less than Little E? Or did we want everyone to just pull over so Little E could finally cross that finish line first? Anyway, I digress…Kyle needs to get some fear and respect growing there, but I don’t think any of that had anything to do with Little E’s wreck this past weekend, and I think Little E fans (not all, but many) are looking for someone to blame rather than just throwing out that “that’s racing, boys” phrase that we hear after most wrecks, and what we’d hear applied if it was the other way around.

Long story short — Little E’s one of 43 drivers out there. If a driver doesn’t want to get hit, then he’d best get in the lead way away from everyone else or suck up to the fact that he’s not immune. If we fans are supposed to laud him as some newly found NASCAR idol, one to be avoided on the track just because his daddy was a good driver, or just because he needs a win, no thanks, I’ll turn over my NASCAR pin now.

Let’s back to racing. They’re all drivers, most of them good, and most deserving of a win. Keep your middle fingers back around your beer where they belong, and stop making the sport about one person…who just happens to not have won in a very, very long time.

1 comment:

Holly Cara said...

Great to hear you liked the book "One Helluva Ride: How NASCAR Swept the Nation." This book was published in February by Villard Books and is available on amazon and in stores. The writer is Liz Clarke, who is a sports writer with the Washington Post. I highly recommend this book for NASCAR fans and non-fans alike - it is fascinating!!