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Woody: As Exciting As Watching A Tank Dry

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 27 2011

Tony Stewart appears to have mastered the boring art of saving fuel during Sprint Cup Chase races. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody |Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Tony Stewart should change his nickname from “Smoke” to “Fumes.”

After going winless through NASCAR’s regular season, Stewart has won back-to-back Chase races by getting superior gas mileage.

Or at least that’s what I hear; I didn’t watch much of last Sunday’s race at New Hampshire or the previous week’s event at Chicagoland. There was some paint drying on the barn and I went out to watch it. It was about as exciting as watching the races, and without the banal commentary and commercials.

I don’t know what the solution is, but NASCAR better find one soon. Many more races like the last two and its playoff TV ratings will be competing with celebrity bowling.

I’m not sure what we’ve been watching the last couple of weeks but its not racing. In racing, somebody passes someone once in awhile instead of just driving around in circles until everybody runs out of gas.

Drivers insist there’s lots of drama involved in a fuel-mileage race and I suppose that’s true

Tony Stewart gets ready to pass fuel-depleted Clint Bowyer at New Hampshire. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

from their vantage point. If I’m going down the interstate on a dark and stormy night, my gas gauge reads “Empty” and the next exit is 10 miles down the road, it’ll be fairly interesting from my perspective. But I don’t expect someone to buy a ticket or watch on TV to see if I can make it.

Maybe I’m just getting absent-minded, but during my previous 40 years of covering NASCAR it seemed like the racing used to be a tad more intense and competitive. Back then they had something called “passing.” Sometimes drivers bumped into each other in the process. It tended to make the races more interesting. Now it’s all about pit stops and fuel conservation.

If your idea of excitement is watching somebody change a tire you ought to hang out at the corner filling station. The restroom lines are shorter and you won’t have to fight race traffic.

I recall an era when fans argued over who was the fastest racer. I suppose a few years from now there will be heated debates about which of today’s NASCAR drivers got the best gas mileage.

I’m kidding – well, sort of. Tony Stewart is a tough, hard-nosed driver and sputtering to victory is probably not the way he prefers to win races. But a win is a win, and after going 0-26 during the regular season, getting two in a row is a relief.

I don’t blame Tony or anyone else for taking them any way they can get them. But it sure is boring to watch.

And another peeve: After his wins, Stewart gave credit to his engines provided by Hendrick Motorsports. That’s same Hendrick Motorsports for whom three Chase drivers race –Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

I suppose it’s a business decision, selling engines to the enemy, but I’ll never understand the mindset of helping the competition beat your drivers. But that’s what Hendrick has done the last two weeks, providing Tony with the wherewithal to beat Johnson, Gordon and Earnhardt and souring their championship chances in the process.

That’s another reason why it seems like Tony’s rivals would be fuming.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 27 2011
5 Comments

5 Comments »

  • Dick says:

    …………..and the incessant bleatings from the announcer’s box about “THREE WIDE. OMG!!!” and other innocuous nonsense in an effort to pump up viewer enthusiasm for an otherwise ho humm, cookie cutter race are j-u-s-t about to make me go the next step and execute my “mute” button option! (I already DVR every race so I can FF all but green flag laps)

  • MarkM says:

    Not defending Nascar in any way, but if you have indeed covered Nascar for 40 years then you should not only be used to the occasional fuel mileage races, but should be able to recall several of them over the years. In my 48 years of following the sport, (along with a short period writing about it), I can recall many of them in the past, especially at Michigan. That doesn’t mean that I like them, but they have been a part of the sport for longer than either of us have been interested in it.

    If you’re going to write something to stir people up about the issues Nascar faces these days, try doing an article that’s not about something that’s happened for many years, but instead focus on things that are wrong & more recent..

    This was somewhat pathetic in it’s attempts to stir people up, especially those of us that still have working long term & short term memory skills, that can think in a linear fashion & don’t need to find something to gripe about & criticize Nascar over on a regular basis.

  • SB says:

    Thank you for being one of the few in the media who admits that mileage races are NOT exciting. Until they can come up with a tire that falls off in efficiency over the course of a run, we are doomed to seeing aidentical cars running identical speeds trying to save enough gas to make it to the checkered flag. This is not the type of racing that made Nascar popular, but it may help explain why it’s numbers are fading so badly.

  • Terrell Davis says:

    Yawn….oh, sorry ’bout that Woody, but I just woke up from “watching” Sunday’s race. Must have been a higher dose sedative than usual.
    I read your story and totally agree. This mileage thing has gotten out of hand. Mileage has played a part in races before and obviously it will again. But week after week after week after week….well you get the point.
    Let’s have a few races like we’ve seen in NASCAR’s better days…..fender to fender, swapping paint on the last lap to see who wins! Come on NASCAR, give ‘em bigger fuel tanks and more horsepower….let those ponies run!

    • David Joiner says:

      The NASCAR modified races televised on SPEED channel Saturday at New Hampshire had far superior competitive racing compared to Sundays NASCAR Sprint Cup race. There were 17 lead changes to occur during the 100 lap event. You had 6 or more front running cars swapping positions and bump drafting throughout the race until a lap 97 caution that allowed Ron Silk to sprint away on the restart from the remaining field. I’ll spend my NASCAR racing money at Bristol next year and watch some real racing at Wednesday’s modified race instead of going to the Saturday Sprint Cup race. You won’t need a coffee break to stay awake for the modifieds.