Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 19, 2018, 10:50 a.m.
When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns home from its West Coast mini-tour, it’s The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. Fontana, California, to Martinsville, Virginia, is “swimming pools, movie stars,” one week and “then one day, he was shooting at some food” the next.
Jed Clampett, of course, was one lucky fellow as very few people ever discovered oil while shooting at a rabbit. He missed the rabbit, but, somehow, “up through the ground come a bubblin’ crude.”
In fairness, Fontana isn’t exactly Beverly Hills, and Martinsville isn’t exactly Petticoat Junction. It isn’t even the same sitcom.
In California, Kevin Harvick didn’t win four straight. Martin Truex reminded everyone why he’s the reigning champion. Now Mike Joy doesn’t have to tell us that the odds of winning four straight would be about the same as the odds of winning the Powerball if race cars were numbered ping-pong balls in a vacuum tube and not, uh, race cars on a track.
Harvick isn’t a ping-pong ball, and now that Don Rickles has died, he isn’t even a hockey puck.
On balance, a senseless mistake in California notwithstanding, Harvick is still dominating the sport. The guy on the throne served notice that he doesn’t plan on vacating it. Truex dominated in Harvick’s absence. Martinsville Speedway offers the first prospect since Daytona of others getting into the act.
Auto Club Speedway is long, sleek and sophisticated. Martinsville is short, coarse and unshaven. From this vantage, NASCAR better fits the latter.
“Things change so fast, and you have the off-season and you never know if you will lose your mojo,” Truex said.
Now Truex knows he won’t lose his mojo.
Imagine going to the county fair and riding the bumper cars, but, instead of trying to wreck everyone else, the riders try to avoid wrecking. This is similar to a race at Martinsville Speedway, and it is a righteous place for such endeavors.
Martinsville is where people invent words that rhyme. Rammin’ and bammin’ and frammin’.
Frammin’? A fram was a ship used in Arctic and Antarctic regions by Norwegian explorers between 1893 and 1912. But wait! Merriam-Webster has a verb “fram” that means “pound, beat.” Whew. They really do have rammin’ and bammin’ and frammin’ at Martinsville. Those Norwegian boats must have been sturdy.
Fans sometimes say NASCAR needs to visit more short tracks, this in spite of the fact that many of them are closing across the country every year. Perhaps the track in Martinsville is not catered to the fans of Fontana. Perhaps, to the Southern California tastes, the track in Southern Virginia would seem untidy, untoward, unimaginative, unsophisticated and immodern.
In other words, my mind says tracks should match the atmosphere of their areas and, together, offer appeal to a wide variety of tastes, but my heart relishes the next race at the throwback track in the middle of nowhere.
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