Jeff Gordon Wins, and That’s All

Jeff Gordon won at Dover. Somebody had to. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Jeff Gordon won at Dover. Somebody had to. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 28, 2014, 2:20 p.m.

The Sprint Cup race – What was it? The Oscar’s Back Rub 400 or something? — at Dover (Delaware) International Speedway has begun. I didn’t watch much of the advance coverage. I was making sure the Carolina Panthers were doomed. Now I’m anxious to see what unexpected developments take place before the Etch a Sketch shakes.

Sixteen drivers with a chance at the championship! It’s outrageous. Something must be done, and with every misstep in this race, it will. Four more will be irrelevant next week. NASCAR officials, who obviously ended last season worried about nothing happening, set up a method of selecting a championship that supposedly makes nothing impossible. Someone today may not have enough gas in his (or Danica Patrick’s) tank. The Chase, however, will have staying power. There is no other way.

Now it’s just a matter of watching the race and seeing what happens.

Otherwise, it’s all become so soulless.

3:09 p.m.

“Points as they run.” I’m not a big fan, but I understand the interest.

Just don’t make it ridiculous. Don’t make it a forum of empty hype.

For instance, perhaps it’s not appropriate to proclaim that three drivers are even for the final Chase spot on lap 100. The race has to reach lap 200 before it could even be official, and there are no points until the race is over, and it can’t be over until the halfway point.

The extreme examples are, say, when one driver is leading, pits and briefly falls to, oh, twelfth position. When announcers first say, “He has fallen out of the Chase!” and, then, when everyone else pits, say he has “charged back into position to advance,” there are many appropriate words to describe it, some of which are “stupid,” “misleading,” “insincere,” and “stupid.”

To paraphrase Blazing Saddles:

“You said ‘stupid’ twice.”

“I like stupid.”

4:32 p.m.

Little things I don’t propose to change but could do without:

The mismatched rear panel of Matt Kenseth’s Toyotas. I know it’s deemed clever by the marketers – slapping those associate-sponsor colors on – but it makes the No. 20 look like the NASCAR equivalent of a pink-butted hyena. The Toyota Hyena has a wide variety of butts in various hues.

Misspelled words that are brand names: Dover used to have a Heluva Good! 400. The worst one ever was Talladega’s Humminbird Fishfinders 500K. I couldn’t cut it down because then it would really look like I couldn’t spell. I suppose I should’ve called it the Fishfinders 500.

There aren’t as many fishfinders out there now as there were in the old days.

This guy was happy, anyway. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

This guy was happy, anyway. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Little things I miss:

The gorgeous, metallic blue of Brad Keselowski’s car. Sometimes it’s red. Sometimes it’s yellow. Sometimes it’s white. It’s never as pretty. It seems like, now, every team is Oregon.

Benny Parsons, more and more now since I started watching on TV. Bob Jenkins, too.

Bill Brodrick, the Hat Guy. Bob Latford, providing facts in the press box. The calming presence of Dick Thompson at Martinsville and Herman Hickman at Rockingham.

When did fun go out of style? Maybe it didn’t, and I got old and forgot what it was.

4:52 p.m.

This race is like a guy saying, “Hey, this is funny” and then telling a joke. If it’s funny, he doesn’t have to say so. He also doesn’t have to use “emojis,” or “emoticons,” or “LOLs and ROFLMAOs,” either.

Announcers keep telling me how exciting this is, or, otherwise, I’d never know.

I’ve been pondering this ever since I saw what I thought was impossible: a bad race at Richmond. I’d never seen one until the regular-season finale.

They’re racing so carefully at Dover, it seems like arthroscopic surgery instead of car racing.

This may liven up at the end, but, right now, it looks like they all shun intimacy. No one wants to touch anyone.

I don’t think I’m alone here. I talk about races often with a close friend. Most every one we’ve discussed lately has involved him falling asleep at some point and either awakening just in time for the end or missing it.

When I was coming along, racing wasn’t something one watched while lying in a hammock.

5:16 p.m.

Jeff Gordon likes to win. He wins a lot. He gets a lot of money and a trophy. Perhaps some of that money will help him win the championship.

It means nothing tangible.

As Yogi Berra said, “That place is so crowded nobody goes there anymore.”

I apologize for criticizing the endless “points as they run” babble. If they hadn’t talked about it, there’d have been no need for audio.

5:42 p.m.

Somehow, Kevin Harvick manages not to win. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Somehow, Kevin Harvick manages not to win. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Greg Biffle didn’t make it. Neither did Aric Almirola. Nor A.J. Allmendinger. Kurt Busch is out.

No surprises. There, either.

Gordon (Hendrick) won, followed by Brad Keselowski (Penske), Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick) and Joey Logano (Penske).

The opening round probably wasn’t intended to be pure survival of the fittest, but it was.

The Chase may improve the mathematical skills of fans. So far, that’s the plus.

I think my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, are better than today’s race, but then again, I would. If I hadn’t written them, I might have read them during that race. You can probably get one, or both, in time for next week’s race, at amazon.com.

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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15 Responses to Jeff Gordon Wins, and That’s All

  1. Deep Throat says:

    Let’s say you went back to the beginning of the season and averaged up each Chase driver’s finish at each of the tracks that are configured very similarly to Chicagoland (Kansas and Kentucky are the two other 1.5 mile tri-ovals), New Hampshire (Dover and the first NH race represent the other two short ovals), and Dover (we’ve already been through this part, pay attention). Say you completely ignored the whole “winner moves on” thing. And say you added up the points each driver would have scored if they finished in their similar-track season-average position in each of the first three Chase races.

    What would you have ended up with?

    Well, you would have ended up with my Chase grid, but that’s not the point. You’d’ve (can you double contractions? I can.) ended up with a grid where Biff, Kurt, AJ and Almirola got bounced and everyone else went to Kansas tied for 12th.

    You also would have ended up with proof of your thesis: mathematically, winning has meant nothing so far.

    Which is what we have here: failure to deviate at all from the numerology. So yeah, for anyone who is paying attention, this Chase is all about arithmetic so far. (Now to be honest, I picked the order of the last four using my heart, not my brain… watch me screw it up there by pulling for ol’ six time to do something (else) amazing. (Disclaimer: I couldn’t stand him until he got within’ spitting distance of The King’s championship record, but to root against him at this point is just being a hater, a lesson I learned by being born in Boston.)

    P.S. – I bought The Audacity of Dope twice by accident with my Kindle. Then I read it and I kinda feel like buying it about eight more times. You got a knack for this writing thing, buddy, and I’m gonna try to buy The Intangibles before I fly back home from this business trip. Keep it rollin and I’ll keep reading.

  2. Monte says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I’ll have some more fiction out before too long. Spread the word. I appreciate it.

  3. Gary says:

    I had some grand sons over to watch the race. They are occasional fans. Thoroughly bored and totally baffled by the points stuff and then asked what a “chase” was, and if it meant single lines of cars chasing each other.

    Back to football for them, especially since it started an hour before the race.

    Football stadiums are packed, race tracks are not.

  4. MarkM says:

    There was a NASCAR race ran Sunday!?! Oh right, it was Dover & I had to work yesterday, so no great loss, & certainly not a race to waste DVR space on.

    We can blame NASCAR, The Chase, Mike Helton, Brian France, Rick Hendrick & Jack Roush & their entire multi-team concept, the alignment of the sun, moon & starts, or anything else we find handy, but I now truly feel NASCAR would have eventually become irrelevant anyway, just perhaps not as rapidly as it has. Looking back, my interest in it began waning slightly in the mid 90s, after 30 years of being a rabid fan. Now I watch a handful of races on TV each year, (I think this year it’s been 3-4, I really can’t remember), no longer attend any races, & just don’t care how they tinker with the formula as they fritter the sport away into oblivion.

  5. Bill B says:

    Surprise!!! Three guys who happened to win once during the year and one who backed in barely on points but otherwise had crappy seasons are the first to be eliminated. The question everyone should be asking is why were they eligible to win the championship in the first place? 16 contenders is just stupid. Personally, if there must be a chase, I feel only the top 5 in points should get the opportunity but then it would be hard to make a grid and who has ever heard of “the sweet 5”?

  6. Andy D says:

    Oh, I see that we’re eliminating in alphabetical order this year. That means that Kyle, Junior, Edwards and Gordon are out next.

  7. John C. says:

    Monte, what does it say about Kurt’s status within his team when his owner/ teamate and another teammate pass him late in the race and take two points away that eventually kicked him out of the chase? That tells me that Tony never wanted him to begin with. Just thought that was a little interesting twist within that organization. It seemed to go unnoticed in the TV booth and after the race. No one asked Kurt how he felt about that.

  8. Mike Ray says:

    Great article and so true,thanks Monte!

  9. Harry M says:

    I miss Benny Parsons and Bob Jenkins, too!

  10. Tim Krantz says:

    Boy, am I glad I put downspouts on my home, then watched the race at 4x speed and muted. Your commentary is spot on.

  11. GinaV24 says:

    I almost laughed out loud at the Toyota hyena comment. LOL, no fun hasn’t gone out of fashion and no, I don’t think you are too old for it, but fun sure has been eliminated from NASCAR racing unless all you need for that is a crapshoot demolition derby style championship idea. So winning really doesn’t mean a thing, now its all even again in this round and the drivers who barely made it in are once more equal in points with the guys who have been running well all year. Seems kind of stupid, stupid, stupid (see I said it 3X) to me. Apparently Dover had a uptick in people going to the race. We were there and boy was I sorry I wasted my $ and time. As you said, other than Gordon winning (which since he is my favorite was wonderful), it was a snoozer of an afternoon. The race should have been sponsored by no doze or sleep number beds, both of which I would have taken a sample of had it been offered about 50 laps into the race.

  12. Tim S. says:

    Next to “the racing is more exciting now than ever in the history of wheeled competition,” a favorite statement of the NASCAR Kool-Aid gulpers is that “it’s completely different in person” (often stated by people who are paid handsomely to be there or can go for free whenever they want). GinaV24 went, and the glow of her favorite’s win didn’t chase away the same boredom felt by many people who watched or listened electronically. Even among the most confident bigwigs, that should raise some eyebrows.

  13. Monte says:

    Harvick and Stewart finished five and four spots ahead of Kurt, respectively. That suggests that he wasn’t good enough to merit slowing down and dropping, well, five and four spots, respectively, themselves. It seems to me like, look, we’d try to help you, but it wouldn’t do any good.
    Whether what happened is a problem is something that probably won’t be known until we see where it, if it is anything, goes from here.

  14. Robert Bourne says:

    been awhile since I have been here…. the oncoming rush to retirement (more accurately semi retirement, I am having a tough time kicking the work habit) kept me occupied…so it is nice to get a Monte “fix”…. this article pretty much summed it up…. one footnote however… because of a family wedding I went to the Richmond race instead of my usual Martinsville Autumn trek so I was an eyewitness to that debacle….I am tempted to strike the wedded couple from my Christmas Card list or maybe toilet paper their new abode in a fit of revenge…

  15. Catherine Alexandria says:

    Great article. The sport is not “soulless” it’s worse: It’s heartless. The driver’s tiptoe around the track like it’s a sterile open heart surgery theater. They needn’t bother, the sport is already dead on the table. Almost all the articles and discussions about NASCAR these days are fans or former fans talking about how bad it’s become or trying to diagnose what the problem is. We may disagree on what the problem is, but we can all agree that the problem exists.

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