It Stands On Its Merits

Tony Stewart, who won the pole in Texas, hasn't won yet. In 2000, he won none of the first 10 races but three of the next 16. (HHP/Tim Parks photo for Chevrolet)

Tony Stewart, who won the pole in Texas, hasn’t won yet. In 2000, he won none of the first 10 races but three of the next 16. (HHP/Tim Parks photo for Chevrolet)

Gotta an indie bookstore!

Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 10:45 a.m.

The NASCAR season to date has been spectacular in that something memorable has happened in each of the seven Sprint Cup races. A different driver has won each. Some of the excitement has been contrived, but, after all this is NASCAR.

The season has been dominated by weather. Only Mother Nature has won more than once.

Joey Logano, come on down! (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Joey Logano, come on down! (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

The simple majesty of the season is, however, insufficient. Good isn’t enough. Neither is “as is.” NASCAR officials, and many without formal affiliation, must persist with delusions of grandeur.

What if a different driver continues to win every week? The obvious answer is that, if so, by season’s end, Danica Patrick will have won. Hang in there, Parker Kligerman. Your time is nigh.

In 2000, different drivers won the first 10 races. They were, in order, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Ward Burton, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Jeremy Mayfield. The first two-time winner was … Earnhardt Jr., who won for the second time in his career at Richmond after getting his first at Texas.

To fill the Chase with winners, after 26 races this year, 16 different drivers will have to win, and one of them would have to be the point leader. If the point leader is winless – Nos. 1 and 2 are now – then it would take 15 winners.

There are already seven winners. On the surface, one would think, well, it only takes eight or nine more. This is as unsustainable as deficit spending, in fact, less so, because deficit spending has been going on for decades, both in our government and our personal finances. If you really are morally opposed to deficit spending, don’t buy a house.

Back to 2000, when 10 different drivers won the first 10 races. By the time the 26th race had rolled around, Wallace had four victories, and Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, Gordon and Tony Stewart had all won three.

Stewart hadn’t won any of the first 10 races. Two-time winners were Earnhardt Jr. and Mayfield. Single winners were Jarrett, Earnhardt Sr., Ward Burton, Martin, Matt Kenseth and Steve Park. The total winners after 26 races – it was in New Hampshire – were 13.

It’s not happening. If it does, something is fishy. Period. Define “fishy”? A teammate with a victory allows one without to win, or he doesn’t try quite as hard to catch him. That may not happen, and we may not know it if it does. Bonus points for winning have value, but, then again, so does being in the Chase, and the value is in money, not points. Points are just potential money, not cash on the barrelhead. Until the Chase, points are play money, or at the very most, Bargain Bucks.

Funny. Jimmie Johnson doesn't look like a 300-pound gorilla. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Funny. Jimmie Johnson doesn’t look like a 300-pound gorilla. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

And who keeps cash on a barrelhead? Besides the Louvin Brothers, neither of whom is alive?

It’s newsworthy that there have been seven different winners in the first seven races, the most since 2003 (nine). It’s a coincidence, though. It isn’t surprising that Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano have won. It is surprising that Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth haven’t. I’ll hazard a prediction. By regular season’s end, Johnson and Kenseth will have victories and likely more than one. I’d put multiple-victory money on Kyle Busch and Keselowski, too.

It wasn’t too long ago that some fans thought Earnhardt Jr. would finish first or second in every race.

It’s all been great. Can’t we just appreciate what’s happened so far for what it is?

The best depiction of this festival of optimism is a quote from Robert Kennedy, who said, “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why? … I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

It’s a nice thought, but this is NASCAR, not Camelot, and it was written by George Bernard Shaw, not Kennedy (who credited him at the time, which is something NASCAR would never do).

If you’re interested in a broader range of my writings – oh, short fiction and the like – take a look at from time to time.

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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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8 Responses to It Stands On Its Merits

  1. Andy D says:

    When they said that the Air Titan dryers would be at every race, I thought it would have a large positive affect on the races and attendance. I’m surprised that the timing of the rain has made them less effective and forced two races into the next day.

  2. Al Torney says:

    That certainly was a contrived finish Monday. I even read a report that Kurt hit the wall and threw debris all over the track. The replay showed that Busch did not hit the wall and got to the apron safely. Even Jaws questioned the caution. However all is well as it did create a contrived finish. As a fan I want to see the best car win if my favorite driver can’t win it. Gordon ran wll all day but did not have a winning car at the end. Logano had the best car at the end and deserved the win plain and simple. The race should have ended under caution in my eyes. To take the win from Logano like they attempted to was not racing at its best.

    Being a naysayer from the git go I think NASCAR (the gang of three: Brian, Mike and Robin) seem to still have it in for Brad and Penske for K’s remarks about the foolishness going on in the garage last year. Like they say “paybacks are a bitch”.

    For the record, I personally don’t care for Brad or Joey. In addition I give a good argument as to why Penske and a handfull of others destroyed open wheel racing in the U.S. And it is not because of CART. So he is on my do not like list too.

  3. Wayne says:

    I too am not a Logano fan, but what NASCAR tried to do to him was just PLAIN WRONG. He was almost at the finish line when they threw the yellow. They should have let him cross it then throw the yellow.fair has to be fair in life and what NASCAR did was a real bag job. I agree with Al, if NASCAR continues this type of behavior they will lose fans as we want fairness above everything else.

  4. Monte says:

    I have only one thing to add. I agree that the yellow flag should not have been thrown with Logano just a few hundred feet from wrapping it up. But, in fairness, Busch’s tire did come apart on the opposite side, turns 3-4, after spinning in 1-2. Bodywork and shredded rubber did fly off his car on the way back around. However, that’s really just a footnote.

  5. Tony Geinzer says:

    I’d appreciate a Summer and Summer Texas Date, not the Tennessee Titans!

  6. Bill B says:

    I wish they’d get rid of that GWC. All it usually does is take the win away from someone that deserves it and gives it to someone else in the last two laps. It used to be more fair, with respect to the driver that deserved the win most by virtue of kicking everyone’s ass actually winning the race, before the GWC.

  7. Jeff says:

    To Bill B.

    I indeed wish they never instituted the Green, White, Checkered into Cup racing. It was always used in the Trucks and was unlimited also. There was a time at Gateway(I believe) where they had 6 attempts at a GWC before they had a winner. Yikes. But when they put the GWC into Cup and Nationwide, they amended it for the Trucks too. But after a Cup race in 2004 at Pocono ended in yellow and a cooler nearly hit the flag man and a couple/few other races earlier that season also ended with a yellow flag and bad fan behavior ensued, NASCAR decided they had to virtually guarantee a green flag finish. I think those reactions to the yellow flag finishes had more to do with the winners of those races than the races actually ending in yellow. NASCAR should never have let a few idiots change their policies, but after they got rid of racing to the yellow in late 2003, they decided to do something.

    Actually back in 1998 at Richmond, is where NASCAR decided to start red flagging races if they were near the end and it was clear that they weren’t going to get the track rid of crash debris under yellow and before the final lap. That’s where NASCAR started these kind of mistakes. Also, it was FOX’s announcers that asked for these double file restarts for all the races because they beat their chests about how great they were for the All Star race. NASCAR should have left well enough alone. They actually did something smart earlier that year and that was to keep lap down cars away from the leaders in the final 20 laps on restarts, instead of just the final 10 laps like it had been for many years prior. With double file restarts, they blew that up completely.

    And yes, we NASCAR fans do want fairness and some of these late cautions or not even late cautions, kill me. Not literally, but ya’s get my point. I understand that racing back to the yellow is kinda barbaric in today’s world(I guess), but NASCAR had better rules back in 2001(when big network deals kicked in) and earlier. It’s gotten overly contrived with too many yellows. Crazily timed yellows. Inconsistent yellows. Lucky Dogs(I know, people were stupid enough to give laps back pre Lucky Dog), Wave Arounds, etc.

    Bottom line I still love the sport and as I get older(45 now), I less worry about the little things that mean nothing, but amount to just bitching for bitching’s sakes. I refuse to let things like my complaints about certain yellow flags take away from the thrill I get in watching racing. It’s still a passion, even with the flaws it might have. We only get one go round on this life and to be bitter and not enjoy things while we can is simply now worth it to me. Jeff 🙂

  8. Monte says:

    You’ve got it all in perspective, Jeff.

Comments are closed.