Woody: Caution Free, Action Free
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
At one point during the record 201 caution-free laps of (ahem) racing last Sunday at New Hampshire Speedway I flipped off the TV (mechanically speaking) and went outdoors.
I watched the grass grow for awhile. Then I found some paint and watched it dry. Both were considerably more entertaining than what I’d been watching.
When I finally went back inside and turned on the TV, I found I’d missed all the excitement: Kasey Kahne’s car had quit running and Juan Montoya and Jeff Gordon had scratched their fenders. Wow. Be still, my heart.
That was about it until the final 20 or so laps when business finally picked up.
It was one of the most boring races I’ve ever almost sat through, so naturally I wasn’t surprised when many fellow scribes started twittering over such an exhibition of skill and finesse.
Some of the same pundits who were distressed over the wreck-o-rama at Sonoma the previous week loved the lap-logger in Loudon. I thought the race was as flat as the track, but they seemed thrilled over the fact that almost nothing at all happened.
I don’t get their “nice-is-right” attitude, but then I don’t see the big deal over Lady Gaga either.
I’m not saying there has to be a pileup in every corner on every lap, but I don’t understand how watching polite young gentlemen endlessly mince around in carefree circles is supposed to pop your Pacemaker.
I don’t know how TV ratings are compiled, but it would be interesting to know how many viewers stuck with the telecast during the long stretches of non-racing. I have a buddy who’s a life-long NASCAR fan and he has started tuning out. He tries to plan it so he tunes in for the final laps and that’s it. NASCAR has become the NBA on wheels – catch the finish and you’ve seen it all.
I realize that it takes skill to drive a car in fast circles inside a concrete barrier, but there’s supposed to be more to racing than that. It also takes skill to drive in rush-hour traffic, four-wide, pedal-down, nose-to-tail, but nobody’s going to buy a ticket to watch the morning commute.
After 40 years of covering NASCAR I’m not giving up. What’s the viewing alternative – watch some guy from Guyana bounce a ball off his noggin?
I’ll continue to tune in, hoping to catch an occasional glimpse of racing the way it used to be – like this spring’s Talladega classic or the action-packed road-rage special at Sonoma a couple of weeks ago. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll start racing at Bristol again.
But I’ve become resigned to the fact that such bursts of action and excitement are the exception rather than the rule.
Today it’s all about the “big picture” and protecting a position in the point standings, about staying out of trouble and not forcing the issue, about riding around for three hours, then (maybe) racing for three minutes at the end.
I’ll continue to tune in periodically to see if I’m missing anything – if by some chance a race might have broken out – but meanwhile I’ve got more exciting ways to spend my time. There’s grass growing in the back yard and paint drying on the barn.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments