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Pedley: Not A Pretty Sight

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 15 2009
At least victory lane at Michigan was crowded with happy people Sunday. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

At least victory lane at Michigan was crowded with happy people Sunday. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

In today’s Monday Morning Memo we find:

* It was a sight that few would have imagined a couple years ago: large chunks of empty grandstands at Michigan International Speedway on Sprint Cup race day. At Michigan, for gosh sakes, there in world capital of all things automobile. There, where the holy trinity is Ford, GM and Chrysler.

A dozen years ago I marveled at those grandstands on NASCAR race days. They were filled to the point of looking unsafe with dedicated race fans.

Many of those fans oozed special pride because it was their work and their reputations which were put on display on NASCAR weekends.

Stock-car racing may have been born in the Southeast, but it was fed and clothed by Detroit. And a couple times of year, the people who made it all possible streamed from the factories out to the track in Brooklyn to the west where their rocking and stomping put serious stress on the foundations and underpinnings of those crowed grandstands.

But there, on Sunday, the red-and-yellow paint schemes of those grandstands easily showed through the thin veils of race fans.

Plenty of good seats, as they say, were still available when the LifeLock 400 got rolling.

Incredible sight. Thought-provoking sight.

Those empty grandstands are, of course, so much more than just empty grandstands. They are symbols and reminders of the situation which has hit a region of the nation which not long ago stood for American strength, prosperity and economic vitality.

Detroit and the area around it used to be Ground Zero of the American dream.

Detroit and the area around it is now Ground Zero of vulgar American economic decay.

Each of the empty seats at MIS – and tens of thousands more – stand as metaphors for a man or a woman in the Detroit area who now has no job.

Race fans from outside of the area did not have tour the gloomy areas of downtown Detroit or the wilting near-by factory towns like Flint to get socked in the face by the sad state of the American auto industry. Not this weekend.

This weekend all they had to do was read the internet to get drilled by the news that GM is withdrawing financial support for the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series.

(Remember the days when American business would use the occasion of a major event coming to its hometown to announce good news?)

It was not light reading.

Sorry, but I missed the pre-race invocation on Sunday.

But my hope is that in addition to wishing the best that day for the gainfully employed, well-compensated drivers and crews at MIS, the person delivering the prayer also included the people who were not there: Those men, women and children who could not afford to be there because their jobs had been taken away.

Please, no jokes about: Gee, are you a grandstands half full or half empty kind of person. Not today.

Memo to self: Here is hoping we never see red and yellow again at Michigan unless it is on Mark Martin’s car in Victory Lane.

* Word also came out of Michigan over the weekend that NASCAR would welcome participation from more foreign-based carmakers. Talking to reporters, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said there have been very preliminary talks with other manufacturers about coming on board.

France would not name brand names.

I like it. Others will not. Like the guy who kept calling me when I worked for a newspaper and use disgustingly racist remarks and say things like “Remember Pearl Harbor” after Toyota joined NASCAR.

Of course, you take those kind of calls for what they are – hey, the guy would call at hours he knew I would not be at my desk and would only leave anonymous voice mails. (Wonder if the guy still hates England for the Boston Massacre. Stinkin’ red coats.)

The inclusion of Toyota trucks and cars, many of which are manufactured in the United States and have led to the employment many thousands of Americans, have bettered the sport of NASCAR, I’m thinking.

An as it pertains to the situation in Detroit: Look inward for reasons for that.

Memo to self: Hold onto that Yugo stock.

* So Kid Rock was at Michigan, eh? Stop me if you have heard this one but I like the story so much I tell it a lot.

It was at Carb Day at Indy a couple years ago. Kid Rock was giving a free concert. The scene was, well; they sell beer during Carb Day.

RacinToday writer Larry Woody and I were standing on the balcony outside of the media center surveying. Police were leading handcuffed celebrators to free rooms downtown by the score.

Woody wondered allowed, “So just how drunk do you have to be to get kicked out of a Kid Rock concert?”

A philosophical query for the ages.

Memo to self: Always watch Kid Rock concerts from fourth-floor balconies.

* I put my hours in watching Le Mans on Speed over the weekend. Big thanks to the network for keeping it on during the overnight hours instead of handing programming off to Ron Popeil.

Not that there is any prejudice against television commercials. In fact, there was a beauty which was showed fairly often during the race.

It was the one in which a red Audi slowly moves through the Italian town of Maranello, which is home to Ferrari. As the German car rolls through town, parents cover their kids eyes, a mechanic spits at the Audi and young Italians chase it on a motor scooter issuing those vaguely obscene, wild, Mediterranean hand and arm gestures.

Subtle, as those not into sports cars will have missed it, but classic.

Memo to self: Visit Maranello sometime soon but leave the Beemer behind.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 15 2009
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