In the Cold Arizona Rain

Many NASCAR fans wanted the Phoenix race to end this way, but not exactly this way. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Many NASCAR fans wanted the Phoenix race to end this way, but not exactly this way. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

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.

Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) and Kevin Harvick have won three races this year. Harvick has finished second 12 times. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)

Both Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left) and Kevin Harvick have won three races this year. Harvick has finished second 12 times. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevy Racing)

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.

 

Jeff Gordon is seeking a fifth championship and first since 2001. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Jeff Gordon is seeking a fifth championship and first since 2001. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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.

The potential Cinderella champion is Martin Truex Jr. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

The potential Cinderella champion is Martin Truex Jr. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

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.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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

Intangibles1

(Joe Font cover design)

(Joe Font cover design)

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

 

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 In the Cold Arizona Rain

  1. Gina says:

    Hey Monte, well I’m not sure that the fans forget how much the racing “sucked” as you put it from year to year these days. Maybe some time ago they did but when there are years and years of the same old, same old with not much excitement to enjoy, eventually even the staunchest fans become tired. Gordon takes one last ride at Homestead and becomes a commentator and there are more than a few of his fans who plan to do the same. Brian France wanted to attract the casual fan, well, IMO, he didn’t attract them, he created them by annoying the diehards so much they simply weren’t interested in sustaining their commitment.

  2. Mike says:

    I’m jealous of friends in the Carolinas –because that’s where the former USAR ProCup Series, now the CARS Tour, is found exclusively…

  3. Bill B says:

    Yep, that about covers it. The race was hyped as “must see television” and ended up delivering the same thrill as “Al Capone’s vault” from many years back.

  4. John says:

    I feel sorry for NBC Sports. They have suffered with rain delays, bad races and having to defend dumb race control decisions by NASCAR. They have also been required to “speak no evil” about the continued deterioration of “The Chase”, while being pushed by their NASCAR “partner” to shamelessly hype it.

    There was an interesting article on one of the advertising sites that speculated that, while NBC’s TV ratings for “The Chase (2015)” were near historic lows, they must be looking forward to next season because it hopefully will improve. So that is one way to look at the current situation as “a glass half-full”.

  5. Gina says:

    I don’t feel sorry for NBC, they knew what they were buying and still threw a bunch of money at Brian France. Maybe since the tv partners were part of the reason for the chase being implemented in the first place, they should have put pressure on Brian before they signed the deal and mentioned that maybe this isn’t such a great idea.

  6. Bobi says:

    I wish I could forget how much the racing sucks but every week when I tune in, I’m sadly reminded all over again. Every week brings more disappointment, but ever the optimist, I continue to watch (I think I’m living the definition of insanity!) However, much as I was looking forward to the Phoenix race, I went to bed after 100 laps and I did not regret my decision. I HATE the Chase but considering the implications of this race, IMHO, it should have been run on Monday in it’s entirety.

Comments are closed.