Woody: Gentleman, Start Your Ringers
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Well, it’s off to Snore-noma for Sunday’s race at Infineon Raceway, a meandering 1.99-mile road course shaped like a NASCAR fuel can.
I’ve never been a fan of road-course racing. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different from the traditional oval-track tussles most of us old-time (read: ancient) fans grew up on down South. By the same token, I’m sure most folks out in Sonoma, California, don’t care for hot-buttered grits and Charlie Daniels.
Yes, I realize that NASCAR has been running a handful of road races for decades. For a lot of years I traveled to Riverside, Calif., to cover Darrell Waltrip’s season-ending championship showdowns with Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and other titans of the era.
Back then there were no TV press box monitors, which meant it was impossible to keep up with what was going on down there on the long and winding road.
Cars would rumble past the press box, disappear over a sand dune, and a few minutes later re-appear at the other end of the track – or at least most of them would. Sometimes a car or two would be missing and we’d have no idea what had happened to it. Wreck? Engine? Beamed up by aliens?
Now, thanks to the unblinking eye in the TV tower, we know if someone is mired up to their hubcaps in a back-stretch sand pit. But other than that, not much has changed.
Also, I’ve never liked the notion of bringing in ringers for the road courses. Ringers are fine in horseshoes but not in racing.
What’s next – using designated hitters for short-track races?
As bad as ringers are, at least NASCAR has had the gumption not to follow the IRL’s goofy lead and designate duel championships – one for road courses and one for round tracks.
Then again, if enough team keep bringing in road-racing ringers, maybe having a separate championship would be the fair thing to do. NASCAR could award a Regular Racers championship along with a Road Ringers title.
I used to think road racing was about as exciting as watching somebody stuck in a sand pit, but I have to admit that some of the recent races have been fairly exciting. It’s fun to see the regulars mix it up with the ringers.
So I’ll take back that “Snore-noma” crack and give the roadies the benefit of the doubt going into Sunday’s race. With the increased pressure created by the urgency of the Championship Chase, we might be treated to some outbreaks of road rage.
And considering how much complaining some drivers have been doing lately, maybe a visit to California’s whine country is appropriate.
Nevertheless, I’ll be glad when the circuit returns to circles. I like my stock car racing like my pork chops – spicy, round and Southern fried.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments