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.
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.
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 wellpilgrim.wordpress.com from time to time.