Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 17, 2015, 2:56 p.m. A dry spell is ahead for those who love NASCAR short-track racing. It’s all the more reason to savor these next two weekends. Not only is it “Bristol, baby.” The following race is at Richmond. Martinsville was two weeks ago. Afterwards, there won’t be another short-track race until Aug. 22, at Bristol again, and then it’s on to Darlington, which isn’t a short track but is unique, and Richmond again in the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.
Back before NASCAR officials turned Darlington into a rubber ball to bounce around the schedule, the end of the summer was, hands down, my favorite part of the schedule. I expect it to be the case again now that order has been restored. This week I’ve put a lot of thought into what makes short tracks so special and intermediate tracks so routine at this point in NASCAR history. I wrote one blog this week on how the number of probable winners seems greatly narrowed on the tracks that comprise a plurality of the schedule and another on my belief that the so-called “double-file restarts” have hurt racing at those tracks. Part of it, though, is that I love the three short tracks on the schedule.
“Whenever you run really [well], you want to feel like the driver made a huge difference,” Matt Kenseth said Friday. “I don’t know that the driver makes any more or less of a difference here than a lot of other tracks. Certainly there are some tracks – Daytona and Talladega, places like that — where going fast doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with talent, but I think every track is very unique, but no matter how good you think you are at a certain track, if your car doesn’t do what you need it to do, you’re not going to run up front. It’s just too competitive. “Every week we all work as hard as we can to try to make the cars as fast as we can and try to make them drive as [well] as we can. Certainly, when we get to short tracks, they’re less dependent on aerodynamics and even the engine, to a certain extent. If you feel like you have a deficit in those areas, then it doesn’t make as big of a difference at a short track, but I’m not so sure that we have a deficit in those areas. I think each track is important, and you try to make as much of a difference as you can everywhere.” Kenseth is a tactful fellow. Without putting words in his mouth, or trying to replace some of them with others, I believe what Kenseth was saying, or perhaps intimating, was that, yes, the driver does make more of a difference on short tracks. There are more good drivers than good cars at the Atlantas, the Fontanas, the Vegases, the Texases, etc., of the NASCAR world. It doesn’t mean that Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, the two drivers with two victories so far, are unlikely to win on Sunday at the track that considers itself a “Colosseum” like unto Rome, where chariots raced in antiquity. What it means is that Martin Truex Jr. has a better shot to win in a season in which he has repeatedly proved he can run in the top 10.
Fans like to ask, “Why don’t they build more short tracks?” Short tracks are untidy. They involve bumping and rubbing and all the parts of racing that occurred everywhere in Days of Thunder but not in real life. Short tracks fit Bristol, Tennessee, and Richmond and Martinsville, Virginia. They don’t fit Las Vegas any more than Del McCoury Band is likely to sell out the casinos. Vegas is “Elvis, baby,” or, rather, his class of impersonators. It’s not just racing. It’s culture. Short tracks involve camping out and spending little waking time without a beer in the hand and Lynyrd Skynyrd playing. Would the pre-race concert at Chicagoland Speedway be Old Crow Medicine Show? Doubtful. God, I wish I was there to see it. It’s said that Bristol isn’t what it used to be. At the moment, what the hell is? Thanks for reading my blogs here, and I hope you’ll sample the short fiction I post regularly at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. Please consider buying my books, two of them novels, one of them on music, and the rest on NASCAR, at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1