What I mainly am is frustrated.
Here it is, several hours after the Great American Race, and I’ve tried to think through what I saw on TV, and it still just ties me in knots.
I left the house and rode around, listening to SiriusXM’s postrace coverage, and I felt sympathy for Brad Gillie, who was anchoring the show from the Texas Motor Speedway media center while Claire B. Lang reported from Daytona Beach.
Gillie was trying to put a happy face on the Daytona 500 in the face of a passel of callers who were mostly displeased. Actually, I was amused at sort of an odd alternation of opinions. While I was listening, most everyone who either was there or watching on TV was raising hell, and the truckers who listened to the race on MRN were raising hell at all the callers who were raising hell.
That’s by and large, I think, because the truckers didn’t see it.
I’m an admirer of the skill MRN’s team puts into the broadcasts, but it’s a house organ. It’s the same way that the Atlanta Braves broadcast team puts a happy face on what the Braves do. The job is to sell tickets and promote the sport. MRN could broadcast the Little Bighorn and make it look like Custer won in a romp. An old saying of mine is, “Those lengths on radio are railroad cars.”
I heard a replay of the final moments, which went something like this:
“Earnhardt looks high, he looks low, Junior makes a charge! But Jimmie Johnson is going to hold on to win the 55th Daytona 500!”
I can’t say what Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eyes were doing, but I didn’t see much of a run in what his car could do to catch Jimmie Johnson off the fourth turn of the final lap. In a race like this one, MRN had a huge edge over Fox because the Fox spin doctors were hampered by viewers who could see it.
Last week, I tweeted that I had seldom seen any race that wasn’t interesting. This one was, too. Every time the cars change, the racing changes at Daytona and Talladega in ways that are unexpected. Unfortunately, the unexpected this time was the preponderance not of pack but single-file racing. Not only could hardly anyone pass, but the pickings were so slim that hardly anyone tried. The tipoff that Johnson was going to win was the fact that he was able to advance the bottom line during the penultimate green-flag sequence. That was interesting. Maybe it would have been different and better had more of the plate-racing gurus – Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, et al. – been around to inject some boldness in the outcome.
I really expected the racing to be better in the 500 than the Sprint Unlimited, but the reverse ended up being true. It was as if what the drivers learned was that getting out of line was futile. It played into Danica Patrick’s hands because she was meticulous and careful, but even she got shuffled back several positions at the end.
All is not lost, though. I think the new Gen6 car will be a lot like its predecessor at Phoenix, New Hampshire, Pocono, Dover, the short tracks and the road courses. The car was designed with intermediate tracks in mind, and I think it’s too early to pass judgment until Las Vegas in two weeks. If the racing improves at those tracks, the balance will be positive because nearly 40 percent of the races are on those tracks. The new cars look cooler, but that will not be enough if the racing, on average, doesn’t get better.
All this week NASCAR officials will be in damage control, getting irritable at any suggestion that the Daytona 500 was a bad race, then they’ll prove it was by changing the rules package for the first Talladega race.
I’m damned glad I won’t have to put up with it.
The NASCAR line will be typically superfluous: At the end of the day, everything is a work in progress, and it is what it is. Oh, by the way, aren’t the emperor’s new clothes lovely? And the attendance, which we won’t report, is, oh, “way up.”
Me? I’m taking a break. I’ll try to interest you folks with other topics for the next little while.