Underrated If There Is Such a Thing

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

This is what broadcasters call "three wide." (Getty Images for NASCAR)

This is what broadcasters call “three wide.” (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Friday, May 30, 2014, 5:10 p.m.

I’ve been monitoring events at Dover International Speedway, which is to note that I have been writing and reading while the announcers prattle on. Like many NASCAR fans, I subconsciously measure how many minutes off the “live” qualifying is from what is “live” on Twitter. As I don’t consider Twitter another dimension in time and space, I assume it’s TV that plays fast and loose with the language and truth.

But what do I know? People on TV are rumored to have jobs.

At the risk of my own distortion, I’ve always considered Dover to be a bit underrated. I say that because in order for one track to be underrated, another has to be overrated, and I can’t think of many tracks that are overrated. It’s similar to that most absurd of college-athletics designations, the “mid-major.” In order for there to be a mid-major, there must be a low-major, and based on exhaustive study of broadcasters and reporters, I can find the existence of no such schools.

It would make much more sense to call Dover International Speedway a mid-major, but we’ll abide no cross-dressing here.

Aside: I just checked my home page, and a headline referred to “the Thai Coup Chief.” I think I had that in Southern Pines one time. It came with soup.

5:42 p.m.

One fascination of mine that regular readers of this blog may note is the oft-repeated citing of alleged truths that are statistically invalid. One is that older drivers are as good as they ever were. It’s inspirational to watch athletes defy ever-increasing odds, but it’s a game they cannot win.

Another is the empty contention that racing is more competitive than it has ever been before.

Competition, n.

  1. The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry.
  2. A test of skill or ability; a contest.
  3. Rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market.
I just never had Kasey Kahne pegged as a fireman. That's all. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I just never had Kasey Kahne pegged as a fireman. That’s all. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The level of competition cannot be the best ever when one driver, Jimmie Johnson, wins six championships in a span of eight years. It cannot be the best ever when one driver, Kyle Busch, wins every race in the Camping World Truck Series. As this is written, Busch is going for his fourth in a row this year and fifth in a row dating back to last season.

It is, however, more competitive, at least in terms of degree of difficulty, for drivers not named Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch.

Then there’s my belief that anyone inducted into a Hall of Fame must be famous. I’m not referring to the NASCAR Hall of Fame … yet.

Dover International Speedway

Dover International Speedway

6:00 p.m.

Yes, I like Dover. I find the sight of race cars diving into its gigantic, concrete turns breathtaking. It becomes somewhat less so when they do it 800 times, as they will on Sunday, but I liken it a bit to watching fighter planes peel off in formation.

Nice people work at Dover, though I’m sure there are new ones since I last visited. I’ve known several sets. They’ve all been friendly and helpful. The area is unique. I miss going to Camden Yards or Citizens Bank Park on Friday or Saturday night. I miss the slots casino, where, believe it or not, I usually won more than I lost. I miss playing music outside the little bar at the side entrance. I miss the cuisine, which is heavy on the crabs of Chesapeake Bay.

The track is high-banked and fast enough to support 400 miles. It’s the right distance. I remember when it was 500 miles and people in the press box achieved startling improvement in their crossword-puzzle skills.

I’ve been working on a stock-car-themed short story since I got back from the road trip. I finished it this morning, just in time to beat a contest deadline. It’s posted now at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and I hope it’s a trip back in time you’ll enjoy. It’s rated “R,” by the way, or, at least, that’s what kind of movie it would make. It’s a look back to the different breed of racers who were around when I got started watching them.

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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6 Responses to Underrated If There Is Such a Thing

  1. Wayne says:

    My first 500 mile race was Dover, June of 1971. 500 laps without a caution flag. Race average was about 5 MPH below the pole speed. Bobby Allison won in the Coca-Cola Mercury prepared by Holman-Moody. I still have my ticket stub, just down the front straight off turn 4, $7 got me in. Monte, I always appreciate the perspective you offer. It is sorely lacking elsewhere.

  2. Monte says:

    That was the following season of my first 500-miler, at Darlington in 1970. Buddy Baker won in a Cotton Owens Dodge Daytona.

  3. Dave Fulton says:

    Back in the old days of asphalt and 500 miles, Dover Downs was a a tough place to blow an engine or crash out early. Seemed the afternoon would never end and there was no way out of that infield.

  4. Al Torney says:

    Dover is 65 miles from me and I no longer attend. Seems I fell asleep during the last 3 races I attended. It was a good idea to reduce them to a 400 milers.

    Dover cannot have a tunnel because of the water table.

    I also was there for the Allison romp. I really liked the red and gold Coca Cola cars, even the Chevys. Bobby’s Late Model Sportsman cars sported similar paint schemes.

    I thought the racing was better on asphalt. Might be my imagination but I can remember Big E and Mark running side by side for several laps for the lead on more then one occasion.

  5. JT says:

    Your reference to older (40+) drivers being in a race against time they cannot win is spot-on. Greg Biffle, in his contract year at RFR, is having to come to terms with that fact while the top teams seem to be hiring younger (hungrier & cheaper) drivers.

  6. Monte says:

    The water table has always been the excuse. Several prominent Dover employees have admitted privately to me that it is ridiculous.
    Daytona, of course, is much closer to the ocean.

Comments are closed.