Sitting At The Intersection Of NASCAR And Apollo 11

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 20 2019
Yes, it really happened 50 years ago.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Many years back, an old college friend and road racing freak asked me about NASCAR’s version of going fast. What’s it like “covering the Gomers?” the guy, who was a pure science guy in school, wondered.

The implication of his question/statement was that NASCAR drivers were all barefoot and slack-jawed.

I assured him that they are not stupid people. On the contrary. You can’t be brain dead and drive a 3,400-pound car at 200 mph. Not if you want to continue on living.

Like drivers in other forms of racing – such as Formula 1 where many drivers were formally educated in subjects such as engineering and physics – NASCAR drivers need to be possessed of quick wits, discipline and extraordinary abilities to concentrate.

What the stereotypical group of NASCAR drivers to whom my friend was seemingly referring were and are, is not educated. During the times of life when my friend was preparing for college, and then studying physical chemistry and microbiology at the University of Wisconsin, the “Gomers” were immersing themselves in car culture and racing.

They were hanging out in garages and auto shops. They were reading – as was I – car magazines. They were working – as was a gearhead friend of mine from the high school days – at gas stations and tire stores. Then, they were driving karts, midgets, ARCA and ASA in hopes of someday winning Daytona.

None of this should be confused with being stupid. Gearheads just had different dreams and took the traditional routes to get there.

I thought about all this back in February when I happened upon an internet story by a writer at a site called For The Win.

In the wake of reports that NBA star Steph Curry said that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax, that it never really happened, the FTW reporter began asking NASCAR drivers if they thought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had actually walked on the moon 50 years ago.

Some of their answers underscored my beliefs that some drivers spent lots of time around cars and tracks and not much time in libraries and class rooms.

Several, like seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and past champs like Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano had the take of: Of course Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969.

But several also said no way.

Like Kyle Busch. Busch based his belief that the landing was a hoax on the belief that the technology to pull off such a feat simply did not exist in 1969. And Brad Keselowski said he thinks it might have happened but was not sure based on the same lack-of-available-technology reason.

Ryan Blaney said the landing could easily have been faked and opined “No one will ever know if we actually did or not, except for Mr. Buzz Aldrin.”

(Apparently Blaney was not aware that Armstrong also walked on the moon and that Michael Collins Michael orbited the moon in the Columbia spacecraft during those walks. Aldrin and Collins are still alive by the way, Ryan. All have written very good books about Apollo 11 that you may want to read.)

In 2019, I seldom urge people to watch television. But my firm hope is that Busch and Blaney are taking advantage of a number of very good programs that have aired in recent days on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

In addition to the astronauts, many of the scientists, physicists and engineers who designed and built the hardware and software (thank you, Margaret Hamilton) that took humans to the moon and back, many of the mathematicians who plotted the routes, and many of the people who sat in front of the consoles at Mission Control in Houston are still alive today.

And the story they have to tell and the archival videos and audio that producers for such shows as PBS’s Nova and CNN’s Apollo 11 uncovered, is fascinating and convincing for anyone out there who takes pride in being an honest thinker.

And know this: the technology and scientific brain power was absolutely there to execute the landing and return in 1969. Make no mistake, those men and women scientists wearing their thick-rimmed black eyeglasses and white short sleeve shirts and thin black neckties seen in grainy black- and-white video and heard in crackling audio were unbelievably cleaver, superbly educated and intellectually brilliant beyond Steph Curry’s comprehension.

As a science lover and younger brother of a very smart dude who spent his career as a research physicist at UW-Madison, I can say that with dead-bang certainty.

Driver Clint Bowyer had a message that Blaney and Busch might want to hear.

Asked if he thought the landing was real by the FTW reporter, Bowyer said, “I just watched a movie about that, and I really liked it. I think all of us should know more about that than we (do) and I definitely know I should know more. I’m unfortunately learning the things I should have been learning when I was younger and should have been paying attention to when I was in school through movies and things like that.”

Well said.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 20 2019
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