Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 16, 2015, 2:45 p.m.
Sunday didn’t wind up being laid out in the manner I’d envisioned. Sunday missed deadline. Sunday spilled over into Monday.
A 312-mile NASCAR race near Phoenix, Arizona, of all places, was delayed all afternoon and halted prematurely due to rain. I had planned to be done with the chores of producing a weekly Bleacher Report column — writing, advise and consent with the home office, assembling quotes from emails, choosing photos, a statistical table, adding items from Twitter and YouTube, the usual — by about the middle of the second quarter of the Sunday night football game.
The race leaned heavily on midnight. I got through about three. I’m not even sure who played in the football game. I was too keyed up to sleep and went to bed at four.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race for no good reason other than knowing how to be on pit road when a caution flag, one of only two in the whole race, waved. Either he or crew chief Greg Ives must moonlight as psychics.
Somebody had to win. Somebody had to finish second, and, surprise, it was Kevin Harvick for the 12th time this year.
Had the 93 laps that were washed away forever been run, much would have undoubtedly turned out differently. Mother Nature is rarely inclined to compromise, though, so chalk up the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 to the vagaries of what might have been rather than those of what did. The night wasn’t particularly heroic.
It was particularly soggy. It could have been the Quicken Loans Race for Wetness 500, and if “500” had meant miles and not kilometers, 219 laps wouldn’t have been enough to end it.
Thank God for the metric system.
Instead of the race rising to a competitive crescendo in the waning laps, it waned early and Chase survival wound up being a matter of free passes and wave-arounds.
Earnhardt could have won the race in a Zamboni, though track position might have been tough before the rain.
In a season in which the Roger Penske-owned Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski flashed strength, and a Chase with Joe Gibbs’ stable of Toyotas — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin — and Penske’s Fords combining for five victories in the first six races, a turnabout occurred without the benefit of fair play.
Now it’s down to four drivers, all even, as football referees say, “by rule.” Three of them — Jeff Gordon, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — drive Chevrolets, which have clinched the manufacturer championship for the 13th year in a row, and the season’s three biggest race winners — Logano (6), Kenseth (5) and Jimmie Johnson (5) — haven’t gone home but they’re going to be listed in the history of this season as footnotes.
If winning the championship were still based on season-long performance, the finalists would be, following the mode of regular-season allocation, first (Harvick), fifth (Truex), 10th (Gordon) and 20th (Kyle Busch).
But it’s not, and it hasn’t been since 2003, and it’s not going to come back, and the best that can be hoped is that NASCAR won’t try to jazz it up even more with caution flags for fireworks displays, bonus points behind Door No. 3, demerits for remarks detrimental to the sport of stock car racing, discarded finishes, debris scattered like confetti (oh, wait, they have that already) and a championship conducted under the auspices of DraftKings.
That way the fans can share in the bucks!
With the exception of no Fords being left to contend, the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami is destined to produce fodder for inspirational stories. Gordon could bow out a champion. Harvick could make it two in a row. For Kyle Busch, it would be like finding the Holy Grail, and Truex is from a single-car team, and if he wins it, it will seem afterward as if he was born in a log cabin and taught himself to read and write just in time to cure cancer and bring peace to the Middle East.
Then, basking in the rosy glow of the Holidays, everyone will forget how much the racing sucked.
Reading my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, will help you forget how much the racing sucked. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes
If you think it would be cool for me to get another KindleScout novel published, you can help by nominating my latest, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. Click here. Then once more, and you’re done. If it wins, you’ll get a free download. The campaign runs through Saturday, November 21. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/A20FEF33PZP1
My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, was about a chase, and my second, The Intangibles, is set back in 1968, when men were men and air conditioning was for sissies. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
Each week I write a NASCAR column at Bleacher Report. Here’s the latest: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2589829-weather-favors-dale-earnhardt-jr-at-phoenix-and-shapes-the-chase-finals