Save the Goose!

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Kevin doesn't worry. He's happy. (HHP/John Galloway photo for Chevrolet)

Kevin doesn’t worry. He’s happy. (HHP/John Galloway photo for Chevrolet)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 25, 2015, 11:53 a.m.

On May 21, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in what NASCAR officials call “a driver availability,” i.e., a media conference, Kevin Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, said, “Wait a second. Let’s clarify the ‘aero push.’ Does anybody watch Formula One? It’s been there for years. It’s in IndyCars. It’s in racing. If you run behind one of your colleagues … you’re going to have an aero push.

“It’s never going to get fixed.”

In other words, live with it.

Kurt Busch leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Kurt Busch leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“It’s always going to exist in racing,” Harvick added. “It’s never going to not exist. Your car is never going to run as fast behind another car as it does by itself. It’s just impossible. … I think these cars, over the last 20 years, have become more sensitive in aero push. I just think, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was probably there; they just didn’t know, and we almost know too much about everything that’s going on now.

“I could make my car run fast behind other cars last week, but it’s just a totally different way of driving the car when you’re behind somebody than it is when you’re driving by yourself. Denny Hamlin (winner of the Sprint All-Star Race) made a good move, and he kind of caught me off guard. I felt like I had options to run all the way up against the wall, or I could run on the bottom. I could maneuver my car. It’s just that he kind of caught me off guard at the right time, and I was committed to the middle. … When you’re behind a car, you can’t overdrive it. It’s just something that’s always going to exist. It’s impossible to fix.”

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

In a way, this is certainly true, but in another, it’s a rationalization. It’s a matter of degree. Maybe it’s impossible to fix, but one would think it’s possible to control. Harvick was being honest, but there has to be hope.

In Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, a race of automobiles more aerodynamically and technologically advanced than those racing in NASCAR, the racing was extraordinary. For practically the entire distance, at least three cars dueled for the lead. They looked like earthbound fighter jets engaging in spectacular dogfights. They made NASCAR look bad. They made fans dread the Coca-Cola 600 that followed it on Sunday night, and, while the Charlotte race was a little better than the previous year, it required several cups of coffee to stay awake and sit through it. The Indianapolis 500 required a glass of milk – and, yes, for the winner, a quart – to settle one’s nerves.

In front of their TV sets, many NASCAR fans were pumping their fists the same way Juan Pablo Montoya was when he crossed the finish line. Their second emotion was fear, and embarrassment, that Charlotte was going to pale in comparison, and, sure enough, it did.

Carl Edwards knows how to throw a damn fine celebration. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Carl Edwards knows how to throw a damn fine celebration. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Carl Edwards won Charlotte on strategy. Montoya won Indy on guts.

NASCAR hasn’t fixed its problems. By and large, it’s tried to hide them by changing rules. Understandably, officials are defensive about this, and they cite all sorts of numbers about lead changes, cars on the lead lap, etc. Numbers do lie because if these rules – these bells of wave-arounds and whistles of debris – had been in place in 1975, lots of cars would have been on the lead lap, too. It’s like saying the Revolutionary War would have been different had the British had bombers.

Remember this guy? He showed out at Indy. (John Clark photo)

Remember this guy? He showed out at Indy. (John Clark photo)

Many fans are the same way. They say, “Get rid of these mile-and-a-half tracks. Give us more short tracks. Give us more road courses.”

They ignore the fact that intermediate tracks, the ones on which almost half of the races are contested, used to be better. Look at the history of the all-star race, once known as The Winston and now carrying Sprint’s name. They used to provide memories that live today of Dale Earnhardt outdueling Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace wrecking Darrell Waltrip (“I hope he chokes on that $200,000”) and Charlotte’s first night race, when winner Davey Allison had to be taken to a hospital instead of to Victory Lane.

Now it’s hard to remember what happened in the all-star races of the past decade. It’s hard to remember what happened last week.

It’s the same track.

If nothing can be done about the racing, then nothing can be done about the sport’s gradual, excruciating decline. Many of the fans who loved NASCAR now merely like it. The ones who liked it don’t even check on it while they’re watching the NBA or NHL playoffs. One of my best friends used to fly a Tony Stewart flag at his business. This morning he told me he didn’t watch one minute of the race. He was home, but watching LeBron.

I often get accused of “going negative.” If so, it’s not because I hate NASCAR. It’s because I’ve loved it since my earliest memory, and it disgusts me to see what it has become. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t write about it at all.

During the 1990s, NASCAR officials began open season on the goose that was laying its golden eggs. She’s a tough, old bird, but she’s weary and wounded. She’s staggering, and someone had better cease fire and call in the medics.

I’d appreciate your consideration of my books, which are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

My short stories, essays and book reviews are at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

 

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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23 Responses to Save the Goose!

  1. Andy says:

    Junior Johnson enjoyed running on somebody’s bumper and now drivers avoid it. Someone in NASCAR needs to find out what happened to drafting and get it back.

    The Indy 500 is a somewhat special race and the competition is stronger than at other oval tracks. Charlotte will never be able to overcome that, nor the tradition associated with the race. And next year is the 100th so watch out.

    I’ve always watched both Indycars and NASCAR. I used to prefer NASCAR but as the cars got less stock and we began to get ten or twelve cars running together with no passing, I drifted away. Right now Indycar is the best racing on tv for me. I watch every race. I watch about a third of the NASCAR races. I stopped watching the Clashes & All-Stars about a decade ago when they became irrelevant.

  2. Lucky says:

    This aero nonsense is killing this sport. This was another snoozefest and to add insult to injury a non factor all day pulls off a win like he was in the mix all day. What a disappointment. Carl freaking Edwards…nah. What the hell. I am curious as in a few races like this with so little laps to go..a 4 tire pit stop is the norm? Really? I am not paid the big bucks so who am I, but it does seem to set the frontrunners (all day)put back quit a bit, knowing that once the race off of pit road is determined and the few car shuffle after the restart, most are dead ducks. Is there really racing anymore? This race stunk, and even a bigger disappointment as to who won, was Toyo due according to Brian? Now we have to listen as to how “Carl” is back? Really? Strange race, a very strange race. Getting fed up more and more. So sad, I really did and want to love this sport again. BZF is clueless……….

  3. Hank says:

    “I often get accused of “going negative.” If so, it’s not because I hate NASCAR. It’s because I’ve loved it since my earliest memory, and it disgusts me to see what it has become. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t write about it at all.”

    You nailed how I feel, Monte. I’ve been fortunate to do some work with a few websites covering late model racing, and I was talking to a colleague at Bowman Gray Stadium. We both felt the same way you do. It hurts to see what I’ve loved as long as I can remember turn to nothing short of a sleep aid and the car salesmen on television try to tell everyone how wonderful it is, and if you don’t understand that, then you’re part of the problem.

    I remember when fuel mileage races were the duds..now they bring the excitement because once the restart settles after 3-5 laps, it’s all over but the crying until we get another yellow for a hot dog wrapper. Unless there’s a car sideways on the last lap in front of the field, then it’s a scramble to the checkers in hope of a big wipeout for a good promo for next week’s race.

  4. Fed Up says:

    Great column and well said sir. After 50 plus years of
    being a fan, I have turned to being a casual observer. I
    tune to a muted Race Buddy on my computer and watch
    other sports. I can view the race if anything happens and don’t
    have to listen to Waltrips and Myers all night. I think the sound
    man may have cured part of the FOX announcer problem.
    They just blast the passing car noise and over ride the babble.
    Keep those columns coming.

  5. Ron Widman says:

    I think you guys need to unwrap some old NASCAR races and watch them again w/ the same critical eye you are watching the new stuff with. Iam a old race fan. First NASCAR race for me was Daytona on the beach 1951 (I was 5) . My favorite and still is motorcycles. But I like most forms of motorsport . Indy car used to be #1 as far as automobiles are concerned but I lost interest as the cars started looking like big spiders on the track and foreign drivers became more prominent which was money generated and left out the maybe more talented dirt car drivers. Day in and day out local dirt tracks still give the best bang for buck. I watched Indy this year again and it was ok ? Lots of crashing for such expensive equipment. It would seem to me that for that money they could generate great racing without the multiple crashes. Yes everyone that goes to a race enjoys to a certain degree a crash (not injuries ) once in awhile, crash fest are no fun. Then there was Charlotte yes Monte it’s the same track but the pavement is way different. I’ve been to
    Charlotte for the fall race and will return cause I want to see the museum and Charlotte is great place to watch a race. The racing today is way way way better than it was 10, 20, 30 yrs ago. Quit wining and go to a race. What is on TV is better than not being there and the coverage is so so much better than what we had but we got it and be happy. On to the stick and ball bunch. I’m from St Louis so it’s a law to be a Cardinals fan not a baseball fan. I go to a few games a year never watch it on TV nice if I need a nap. Used to be a NFL fan but the handling of that band of crooks drug addicts, wife beaters etc finally hit my limit with the reinstatemet of one Michael Vick . I have not renewed my season tickets for the Rams and will welcome their departure from our fair city. I never watch football on TV another instant nap. That leaves the Blues hockey in our town. Probably the best behaved bunch of brawlers on TV that I don’t watch. I will watch almost any type of Motorsport on TV but stay as faraway from Indy car street races as possible I’m sure they are fun to drive ( what isn’t with your foot on the wood ? NASCAR is fairly free of drug addicts and they seem to deal with the ones that get caught harshly which is as it should be in all sports that pay so well. It is a privilege to participate and if you don’t appreciate what you have you don’t deserve it. Which pretty much is where you winers are when you complain about the great coverage NASCAR. I’m sure if you played with your remote long enough you could find coverage of tiddlywinks or darts ?

  6. Monte says:

    We all have the right to our opinions. I do not begrudge you yours. I’ve watched racing all my life, too.

  7. Brian says:

    Monte, you absolutely wrote my thoughts again. Just a thought also on the empty seats, they are emptier today because of all the changes, The Chase,New Age Double Wide restarts etc.. I lost enthusiasm, I no longer go to as many races, I don’t take my 3 sons, they don’t take there 12 buddies. Multiply me and my 6-8 buddies, their kids, their kids friends and we very quickly get nearly 100 empty seats. NASCAR put all its hopes into new fans and in the process turned off the very people they already had. Now I feel better, having vented.

  8. mrclause says:

    Yup, we did have our snoozers in the old days, but, we also had real racers in the cars, in the pits, a lot in the stands as well. Then racers were full time pretty much blue collar dirty hands folks that lived racing 24/7/365. There weren’t any millionaire drivers or crew chiefs and few owners that could be classified as such. Tow vehicles sure weren’t plush, meals were hot dogs, beans, bologna, 8 crew members in a van driving hundreds of miles, if they were lucky one night in a cheap motel 5 to a room to shower. And folks, these really were the good old days.
    Today we have multimillionaire owners, drivers, crew chiefs, computer programs to build and set up a half million dollar race car, gone is what I miss most alongside the actual race, is the creative innovation, the human process of making something better and faster than the competition. I miss the drive and desire of Earnhardt, Elliot, the Allisons, even the cry babies like the Waltrips, the Ricky Rudds who’d tape their bruised and swollen eyes open to race. Drivers and teams that would chase people away from their wrecked cars to get back in to rejoin the race. That wouldn’t quit after going nearly 3 laps down to come back under green to win the race. The crew chief that pushed people away from their car on a wrecker because they were bending his hood and in his mind he was going back racing. I miss Ms Maam who used her purse to intervene in a fight her family was in with a rather large opponent and yup she was effective, probably because of the rather heavy pistol inside the purse she was swinging.
    Today I see drivers like Hamlin who IMO stupidly makes other things more important than actually preparing himself for a 600 mile race a day later then cries because of his knee hurting, of a headache, of a neck spasm. This is not a racer in the truest sense of the word. The sports most dedicated raced in spite of some pretty severe injuries and thankfully there are some of those hard core racers out there to day. Play hurt, only look as far as Keslowski, Stewart, a handful of others, that easily would fit in back in the day. Who today will go for the win on the last lap or two at all costs and get slammed for doing it, like him or not, it’s Bad Brad. He’ll do it every opportunity, why do you think Penske hired him?
    I miss big Bill and Bill Jr who knew and understood their product, their fans, their show. I’m sad because the third generation totally has no clue what so ever. He could care less about the goose, his only interest is the golden egg. He has taken NASCAR away from it’s fans, turned it into something unrecognizable to it’s roots.
    So for those of you that think the NASCAR of today is great racing then you just don’t know the real NASCAR or real racing. Those of us who were really there, those of us with a few years, a few miles, on us know what we are missing. We had a great thing that became a part of us and we had that stolen by BZF and the golden egg.
    Sorry for the looooong rant Monte, it’s just become easy to do.

  9. Tim S. says:

    Aero push can be fixed. The necessary changes aren’t going to be made as long as NASCAR makes a billion dollars a year no matter what’s on-track.

    Better racing on a 1.5 miler now than 30 years ago? That’s debatable. I think people confuse three-wide at the pit-out line with three-wide at-speed. A pass is a pass, especially if it’s “their” driver.

  10. John says:

    There were some compelling storylines from the World 600:

    – It looks like all of the kung-fu and assassin skills of Kurt Busch’s ex will not be able to fend off the IRS agents who are now hot on her tail.

    – Judging from the blimp cam, it appeared that plenty of good seats were still available for the World 600, so the fans had room to stretch out.

    – Based on the #48’s 40th-place finish, it was apparent that aliens had abducted Jimmy Johnson & Chad Knaus during the pre-race ceremony.

    – Danica outran her boyfriend once again.

    – At least Carl Edwards won with Subway (a generally-recognizable brand name) sponsoring his car, rather than having to explain exactly what the heck Arris is/does in his post-race presser.

    – Race fans got to spend at least 4 hours of their Memorial Day Weekend listening to the entertaining “racers’ insight” of the Waltrip Brothers.

  11. Cheryl says:

    As always, you hit the nail on the head! I used to love the 600. Went every year from 1989 through 2002. But the aero push has turned Charlotte into just another boring 1 1/2 mile track. When NA$CAR and BF came up with the Chase, we voted with our $ and gave up all our tickets (we attended 12 races a year at one point). People claim I’m negative about racing, but it’s so frustrating to compare what it’s become today to what it was back in the 80s and 90s. I still watch most of them, but they are a poor imitation of what once made me love racing.

  12. Tony Geinzer says:

    Monte, I wish out of everything, couldn’t more tracks do like Darlington and paint the walls Winston Red and White? I know Big Tobacco will eventually get too broke to pay their settlement like Greece doing Europe like the Indians and their Treaties, to Older Americans, but, let’s not negotiate with the Track Painter and say we did.

  13. Dennis says:

    Pretty much echo everyone’s comments. A fan since the 70’s. The racing we have now is inferior. The dominant car often can’t win the race when it gets mired in dirty air. Cars that hug the ground like a slot car doesn’t excite. Look back at races 20 and 30 years ago where the cars were up off the ground and you could see them bounce. Cars that looked like something out of the showroom. Cars with bias ply tires that would allow the car to do a 4 wheel drift. Cars that relied on mechanical grip so they could actually pass.

    We do have more cameras but that cuts both ways. The camera director misuses them by going to ground cam and in car shots during the first couple laps of a restart thus blinding the fan from actually seeing the two and three wide action through out the field.

    I just shake my head when I think about where we were and where we are.

  14. Heather says:

    Well said as always. As Canadians we used to travel days to watch the spring race at Atlanta each year plus Michigan or Bristol if we could manage it. This year we spent two months in Florida and were within an easy drive of both Daytona and Atlanta. We went to neither. We find the actual racing less exciting and the drivers less engaging. Cost for tickets is one thing but camping or hotels are exorbitant. Canadian TV no longer provides any practice or qualifying or truck racing. Race coverage is centered on only the top few and drivers who could catch our interest like Truex Wise or Cassell hardly get mentioned. Announcers are annoying for the most part. Sad to see something that was once such a big interest to our family fade away.

  15. Wil Wielgosz says:

    What NASCAR is waiting for is beyond me! I went to my first race in 1967 when I was four years old. I used to attend 6-8 races a year and starting going to Charlotte in 1968 and missed one up until 1992. I have not been to a race in six years and don’t plan on it this year. I’m not looking for the “good ole days”, just better racing.

  16. Motoroney says:

    Ever since common templates and then the car of tomorrow and the claw and don’t touch the body it’s been sliding into the hole they took all the fun out of it the cat and mouse games the innovation the one up manship when almost every team built their own cars and engines it was way more interesting… Not to mention corporate sponsors and double secret probation Brian France did miss anything!!!???

  17. Monte says:

    You’re like me, Will. My first race was in 1965 at age 7. Of course, I went to, oh, 80 percent of them during the 20 years I was a beat reporter.
    It’s amusing when people criticize me sometimes and suggest I haven’t been around long enough. I saw Richard Petty win twice … on dirt.
    Thanks for writing.

  18. Tim says:

    Agree 100% Monte. Last week I watch parts of the 1994 and 1997 Coke 600. It was night and day how much better the racing was. Cars were swapping positions lap to lap and cars were much slower through the corners. People talk about competition and how many cars finish on the lead lap but those numbers are artificially increased by cautions and the lucky dog.

  19. Dave in Ohio says:

    Na$car has achieved their goal of parity (they call it competitiveness, but we’ll call it like we see it), and oh how boring it is. They have the cars so micromanaged they might as well sell them in a box kit like soap box derby cars. Oh wait, I forgot, they kind of do already. It’s just that you have to roll your kit car over to the r&d center for microtech before they let it on the track.

    I’d love to go back to the old days of the tire wars. Wouldn’t that be fun? Run any brand you want, any compound you want, just spec the tire size. The tire companies would be back to giving the teams free or discounted tires to run their brand instead of price gouging as the sole supplier. You want to roll the dice and throw on a sticky compound that will take you to the front, but lasts 20 laps? More power to you. Go the other way with a hard tire that will last half the race? Cool, up to you. Oh, but wait, Na$car rakes in millions from Goodyear to mandate their tires and decal placement at the expense of the teams, so that will never happen.

    Also fun would be more road races, and less cookie cutters. Here’s how to do it. If a race track wants to hose more than one race a year, it must be a road race. Just imagine the Firecracker 400 on the Daytona road course. Or a second Indy date on the F1 circuit. Most of the big tracks already have some form of an infield road course, or could build one. Finally road courses with stadium seating. How much better could it get for the fans than that? Daytona, Indy, Texas, Charlotte, Atlanta, Vegas, California, and Homestead all have one.

  20. Dave Fulton says:

    I turned off the World 600 from 8-9:30, choosing to watch the live telecast of the National Memorial Day Concert from DC. It was a wise choice.

    I’ve been going to Charlotte since the 60s, but have never found the racing particularly great, except in the old Late Model Sportsman division. The on-track product at Charlotte in the 600 has become abysmal television watching.

    Perhaps they should return to a lunchtime start.

  21. Al Torney says:

    Remember the bumper stickers and tees that said “When the green flag drops the bullshit stops”. Not if you’re watching NASCAR on Fox or listening to Sirhius radio. You can only fool the people for so long and then they will revolt. The revolution in NASCAR began in 2006 and continues at a slow pace today. The comments on this blog tell the story. Unfortunately the NASCAR hierarchy only reads what their shills have to say. They tell us they listen to the fans but I stopped believing that bullshit 10 years ago and joined the revolution.

  22. Kyle R says:

    Yep, you hit the nail on the head throughout this one, Monte. I got into NASCAR about 2000 and watched it pretty religiously for 6 or 7 years, but my interest has waned since. I live less than 20 minutes from Kansas Speedway and haven’t even been interested to go more than once in the last ten years.

    For me, the races are just too dang long and there are too many of them too. The series I watch now, more than any other, is Formula One. F1 has plenty of its own problems (the cars have gotten less exciting and slower, for one) but I still find it far more compelling. I can sit down and watch the almost-always-entertaining qualifying, plus the prerace, plus the race itself, in about the same amount of time it takes to watch a NASCAR race. With only 19 races, it’s got barely half the calendar NASCAR does, which makes it more of a must-watch for me too.

  23. jc says:

    Ditto ditto ditto.

    More racing and passing going on on a train when people head for the dining car.

    No more good old boys tweaking their cars to get the advantage…too many rules. Got to have a lawyer/engineer on the team to decipher the rulebook.

    No street cars or engines just advertising masquerading as racing. (Could advertising be the reason cable is losing subscribers to streaming.)

    Autonomous racing got here before Google’s autonomous cars.

    Why do manufacturers waste their money on Nascar or Indycar?
    Sure cant buy anything remotely like either. Nascar racing has become so over regulated that there is no racing.
    Motogp has the racing. Check Youtube

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