NASCAR Needs Others to Pick Up the Pace

Crew members push the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr., which then won everything but the land-speed record. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 15, 2018, 11:04 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Who could possibly dislike Martin Truex Jr.? He’s a pleasant fellow who laughs easily, gives to charity, is kind and agreeable to those around him, and, most pertinent to the subject at hand, drives a Toyota somewhat Camry with great verve.

Fans who dislike Truex mostly do so for lateral reasons. They don’t like Toyotas, or they don’t like people from New Jersey, or they don’t like Truex preventing their own favorite drivers from winning. They hold it against Truex when he does what he is supposed to do, which is to win races without being unduly concerned about stinking up the show.

A stunk-up show tends to reduce the variables that can prevent a deserving driver from winning.

On Saturday night, near the banks of the Ohio River, in front of crowds of fans and television viewers whose numbers were not the best, Truex put a garish whipping on the rest of NASCAR’s best and fastest.

Kevin Harvick pits during the Quaker State 400. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Truex was really good, and, without any blame in the matter, made many others look bad by comparison. He was suitably sheepish.

Really, the last three years [I]have been just having the time of my life, and [I’m] just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner,” he said. “Barney Visser gives us all the tools we need, and [we’ve had] great partners throughout the years to continue to build this team up.

They call it The Streak.(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

[I] just feel really lucky. I’ve been on the other side of it before, where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle, so it’s amazing to be on this side of it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they’ve done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it’s my first because you never know when they’re going to come to an end. You never know when you’re going to have your last one. You never know what’s going to happen next. [I’m] just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so bad-ass, I can’t even explain it. They’re amazing. [I’m] really lucky to be a part of that.”

Among people and entities made to look bad by Truex were other drivers and teams, NASCAR commercials that led fans to believe the race was going to be something akin to an action-adventure film, announcers trying desperately to make it look like anyone else could plausibly win and television viewers wishing they had dropped by the liquor store on Saturday afternoon.

Martin Truex Jr. won for the fourth time. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Truex led only 174 out of 267 laps, mostly because occasionally, he had to pit, and sometimes he didn’t make it out of the pits first.

On Twitter, a frequent refrain was, NASCAR has to do something!

(Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

No, it doesn’t. NASCAR has done quite enough. Other teams have to do something. In the movie True Grit, after Rooster Cogburn shoots a rat dead in the presence of young Mattie Ross of Dardanelle in Yell County, Ark., she tells the tomcat in Cogburn’s untidy abode, “This is supposed to be your job,” and she could have been sitting in the Kentucky Speedway grandstands.

It’s not Truex every week. Sometimes it’s Kyle Busch. Sometimes it’s Kevin Harvick. Twice it’s even been Clint Bowyer. Three drivers have combined to win 14 of the season’s 18 races, and five have won 16 of them.

Victory lanes have had the level of privacy this year normally associated with Mount Rushmore.



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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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