Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, March 7, 2015, 8:45 p.m.
Furman, which is where I went to college, just pulled off its second straight upset in the Southern Conference men’s basketball tournament. A part of me wants to take off for Asheville tomorrow to watch the Paladins play the winner of VMI-Mercer (yet to be played when I wrote this).
Fortunately, a part of me also realizes there is a Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas tomorrow, and a two-hour drive will require another Furman upset.
I watched Austin Dillon dominate all but the final few laps of the Xfinity Series race, and win it, anyway. Once again, NASCAR provided us with five spine-tingling laps to compensate for a race that was otherwise moribund.
It is my understanding that the pole winner of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 will start in the rear because of a practice crash begun by Danica Patrick. Jeff Gordon’s Chevy, as it turns out, is attracted by more than just concrete walls.
It occurs to me that another link to my Bleacher Report column on Patrick is in order, particularly as it benefits struggling writers to have their stories clicked as often as possible: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2362005-no-end-in-sight-for-danica-patricks-search-for-sprint-cup-success
The Xfinity Series race had no particular mystery attached to it because that series hasn’t revamped its technical specifications as Sprint Cup has. It was a similar race to last year and last week and probably the next time it visits an intermediate track.
I was just thinking today (which, as we all know, is dangerous). In all the material I read about the Cup changes – less horsepower and less downforce, in the interest of more racing – I never heard anyone suggest that the cars would go faster, yet that is exactly what has happened. Speeds were up at Atlanta and are at a record rate in Las Vegas.
In other words, I don’t recall anyone saying, “The first thing we want to do is speed the cars up.” I’m pretty sure I did hear, “The first thing we need to do is slow the cars down.”
Not even a veteran NASCAR skeptic expected the speeds to be higher. Not even he expected NASCAR to screw that up.
I think I heard someone say, “What this is going to do is make the driver more important.” That, I think, may have happened. One effect could be that the best drivers will win even more often than they already did.
Since so many observant fans have been certain for approximately a decade that Jimmie Johnson is nothing special as a driver, and practically anyone could win six championships in that car, with that crew chief, they must have been shocked, appalled and crestfallen by Johnson’s victory last week.
Oh, I forgot. That Chad Knaus must be cheating again.
The new rules are literally new, as Larry McReynolds might say, just as once he might have said they would change the whole complexity of Sunday’s race. If Johnson and Knaus, the NASCAR equivalents of Stanley and Livingstone, discovered the source of the Nile first, then it still must be conceded that other explorers will get there soon.
In other words, I think it entirely possible that someone other than Johnson or Joey Logano will plant a flag in Sin City. Perhaps someone other than Kevin Harvick will finish second.
What remains to be seen is if this year’s racing actually gets better. I’d hate for NASCAR officials to mandate that the teams save even more money by starting over from scratch again next winter.
It’s early yet. Real early. That is a good thing.
If you’re interested in my various books, most of which are about racing but fiction reared its ugly head in the past two, here most of them are in exchange for some form of money, though not much: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1