Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 10:09 a.m.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — second year in and I’m still having to think MENCS to put the words in the right order — is off to a rip-roaring start.
There’s nothing unusual about that. It happens every year. The Daytona 500 is a tough act to follow. Austin Dillon won it on the last lap by knocking Aric Almirola out of the way. Some fans raised hell about it, and that’s the purpose of social media. Harry Hogge (Days of Thunder) said, “He didn’t wreck you, Cole. He rubbed you. And rubbin’ is racin’.”
In the past twenty-eight years, wreckin’ has become racin’. Some fans don’t believe it. I saw the amendments to the constitution all day long yesterday. Blockin’ is racin’. Blockin’ ain’t racin’. Wreckin’ ain’t racin’. Wreckin’ is racin’. Anything goes on the last lap. I didn’t read anyone who tweeted “thank the good Lord for a good, safe race.”
It used to be that songs were made of heart and soul and music / But this year you won’t find them on the charts / You know, someone decided to dispose of all that useless beauty / Sad, but that’s the state of the art.
A Texas songwriter named Brian Burns wrote those words. Brian and I have spent some time together at a friend’s festival I used to attend. For all that, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about NASCAR. Those are just the words that occurred to me this morning. I don’t know exactly why.
I guess it’s just the state of the art. Times change. Tastes change. Racing’s just one area. Music’s another. Or maybe I’m just getting old and can’t give up the past. I’m still interested, though. I’m trying to adapt. A NASCAR driver told me one time, “Man, you just gotta change with the times, or else, you’re gonna get left behind.”
He was right, though I prefer to call it “perspective.”
One man’s rubbin’ is another man’s wreckin’. It just depends on which man it is doing the driving, not to mention the tweeting.
Maybe Dillon meant to swoop down a split second earlier. Maybe he meant his bump to be a nudge. Maybe he meant to turn Almirola’s car around the other way and not directly into the wall. Maybe the cars have gotten so safe now that it’s six one, half dozen another. I’m glad Dillon went for it. I’m glad he didn’t just draft Almirola into victory lane, but if I was a betting man, and the matter was provable, I’d bet that what Dillon said or thought when he glanced into the rear-view mirror was the same as me watching on TV.
Winning the Daytona 500 is forever. All that’s more forever is winning the championship. It takes more than a third of one lap to determine that, though various arguments can be made as to whether that requires one race, ten, or 36. It depends on whether the analysis is based on four drivers, sixteen or forty.
A heap more rubbin’, and a heap more wreckin’, and a heap more racin’ lies ahead.
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