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Texas’ Woes Reflect NASCAR’s Woes

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 6 2019
There used to be butts in them thar seats. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

There is that old saying that is usually attributed to moms or aunts or somebody who bakes really good pies: If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything. Glad mom won’t be reading the following.

Races at Texas Motor Speedway used to be big deals. While those races never reached the status of crown jewels and were not uniformly exciting to watch, they did have a whiff of specialness about them.

Contributing were that modern, impressive, colossus of a facility; the speeds on that banking; the infield fan scene; and the little touches that SMI and Eddie Gossage added (blazing six-guns and Stetson hats) as seasoning.

Traffic in and out was aggravating and baffling. But even that lent an air of big deal to the events at TMS.

The bet here is that track and NASCAR officials would give about anything to once again see long lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic snarling the Interstate and county roads around the facility.

Because that would mean that Texas motor racing fans still loved their track and the sport of stock car racing.

Seeing all those empty seats on Sunday in a place that used to see zero empty seats, in a place where pride of ownership bordered on smug haughtiness, is just one more indication of how far NASCAR has fallen.

Everything’s big in Texas except, these days, crowds at TMS.

But it wasn’t just empty seats by the tens of thousands at Texas – so many that even NBC Sports super shill Rick Allen couldn’t bring himself to praise the crowd – that put racing’s woes on primetime display.

Among the things Sunday that so anger long-time followers of NASCAR were:

– Four hours of racing when three hours is too long to sit in front of a television set on a wonderful early November day. Somebody at NASCAR or NBC Sports needs to pull TMS brass aside and tell them that only one event on the schedule should be a 500-miler – the first one on the schedule.

Contributing to the total run time is that modern testimonial to desperation on the part of NASCAR – stage racing. Really, fans are demanding an additional 20 minutes of caution breaks between stages? Here’s an idea: instead of stopping the race between stages (if they insist on carrying forward this non-tradition), keep the cars running. Score them for points as the cross the timing line but eliminate the pit stops and 10 minutes of commercials that accompany them.

– The gimmick du jour. In this case, glue. Really, NASCAR is at the point where they need to coat the track with adhesive in an attempt to make the racing better?

Remember 21 years ago when NASCAR was spitting goobers over the belief that Jeff Gordon was soaking his tires in order to increase grip? Now, in the desperate scramble to lure fans back to the sport, NASCAR is soaking the tracks. Shouldn’t “the best drivers in the world” be able to deal with slick asphalt? Wouldn’t non-optimal track conditions put space between the talented and the unexperienced ride-buyers?

To be sure, TMS is and has been, a personal favorite. Maybe my favorite big oval. And that’s what makes writing the above so tough.

###

Some of us fans like watching racing on Sunday afternoons – not Harvick-family videos.

Enough of Keelan already.

It’s tough to tell when this movement by athletes to trot out their sweet angel offspring began but it is easy to tell when it should end – yesterday.

In the 21st Century, everything from shoes to cars to food to children have become fashion statements. Things to show how cool, sophisticated and/or special you are. It’s bad enough that fans have to sit through 50-second strings of sponsorship groveling post race. When Harvick wins, we now have to sit through five minutes of baby talk from both dad and Marty Snider and company.

Geez, just hope that a driver with a family the size of the Osmonds never wins a race.

Hmmm I don’t remember seeing David Pearson’s kids post races. I remember a man acting like a man.

###

The wait for Jimmie Johnson to prove to his detractors that he still has the talent and the want-to to win races goes on. For a while on, it looked like Sunday would be that day. Nope.

He was running among the leaders early on and then he wasn’t. Driver error caused a spin and that was it.

How does a seven-time champion who is not really all that old suddenly become non competitive? A good hard look also has to be leveled at the current machinery. It could be that Johnson is not adapting to the new low horsepower, high downforce generation of cars.

It’s happened before. A couple decades ago, champion Bobby Labonte suddenly looked lost. Jeff Gordon went through a swoon a couple years later. The words were that Labonte had a tough time with coil binding and Gordon with bump stops.

For all the grief that Kyle Busch takes because of his role as head whine merchant vis a vis the gen current cars, there is truth in his tales.

###

Two NBC Sports regular features should be considered for planned extinction.

If the segments in which Rutledge Wood goes out and interviews drunks ever were compelling or humorous, they aren’t any more. Maybe there is a rule stating that race broadcast must include face time by bland, bearded, doughy schlubs and that could explain “Rut”.

The thing before the race where Jeff Burton takes a celebrity for a high speed ride has gotten old. You see one panicked, screaming movie star or musical “artist” peeing on themself, you’ve seen them all.

Scary was the time Al Unser Jr. hustled me into a presumably rented mini van with lousy suspension and jerky brakes, put the hammer (such as it was) down and purposely scrapped the walls at a small oval near Colorado Springs. His one hand that was on the steering wheel had a cigarette clamped between two of fingers while the left arm was resting on the driver’s side window sill truck-driver style. It would have had Burton screaming in panic.

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OK, here’s one for moms and pie-bakers:

Sports car racing is something that NASCAR no longer is: Interesting. Interesting cars, interesting drivers, interesting races, interesting storylines.O

Lexus announced on Monday that Kyle Busch will co-drive one of its GT cars in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

This is interesting. Busch is undoubtedly one of the great wheelmen in stock-car racing history. Though he can be a bit of a punk, he’s shown himself to be not just a great driver, but also a throwback to a time when being versatile behind the wheel mattered.

Now we get to see how versatile KyBu is. He will co-drive a Lexus RC F GT3 fielded by AIM Vasser Sullivan.

Busch was anything put punky in talking about the Rolex gig.

“To have the chance to run in such an iconic race as the Rolex 24 is certainly something I’ve thought about and wanted to do,” he said. “My partnership with Toyota and the history we’ve had together has been incredible. I would love to continue that history and maybe get my own Daytona Rolex to add to my trophy collection.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 6 2019
9 Comments

9 Comments »

  • Paul Canavin says:

    Thanks for recognizing how worthless R. Wood is to anything. Ever since he first showed up I have wondered why anyone finds him in any way talented let alone entertaining. Not a good idea to interview, and I use that term loosely, to inebriated fans at a car race where most of them likely have to drive home. Never seen one designated driver.

  • Clyde says:

    Eliminate splitters (and all sheet metal below bumper height), and lower the rear spoilers to 2 inches. Get rid of the “shark fins” on the left rear. None of these things are on street cars. If the drivers can’t drive stocker appearing cars, then that is on them. I believe it would make for a much more interesting and entertaining show.

  • cb says:

    WOW!!!! talk about hitting the nail on the head. Great article

  • Jonathan Ingram says:

    Nice piece by a veteran writer, who is also an editor, website owner and friend. Sometimes TV and racing don’t mix well. Usually, it’s because a producer assumes fans are so dedicated they’ll watch anything; their goal is to spread the appeal with schlub-time, baby talk, celebrity schmoozing. That approach is an insult to the racing and fans as well as condescending. These producers must think the intense racing approach on NBC at IndyCar that has been successful results from some cool factor missing in NASCAR. The racing is cool — and I’m OK with anything that makes drivers race all-out, which is what you get with stages, or generates more passing by changing cars or track. The worst problem NASCAR has are fans who want to see racing like it was decades ago and find it easy to complain about life moving on. Keep making races shorter—and go back to the 1960s—is OK and the only concession to the past that appeals to me and would work in the present.

  • Sophie says:

    It’s rare for me to agree with anything written about NASCAR, but Pedley has nailed it with his scathing review of the current state of affairs in the sport. I am so tired of “super shill” Rick Allen and the high-pitched whines of Burton and Junior that I watch the races with the mute button on 90% of the time. And if anything shows the desperation of the POTB, it is putting glue on the track and making the cars “easy to drive.” I guess that’s why 0-for-lifetime drivers like DiBenedetto can run with the leaders. In addition to the liberal use of the mute, I also switch channels the instant the checkers flies, because I don’t need to see obnoxious little brats in Victory Lane (that includes both the drivers and their offspring). Brian France may have harmed the sport, but his successors are trying to deliver the death blow.

  • sb says:

    Glad that someone else has finally notices that, if you have to put glue on the track for cars to race, there is something inherently wrongvwith the product…the cars, the rules, the aero. fix the cars, not the tracks.

  • Dave Fehr says:

    Lower the downforce, more power back in the engines, let the drivers and the car tuners find out where the limits are and then we can give the follow the leader sport a name……let’s call it “racing”

  • John says:

    TV ratings are a funny thing. A big driver is what subsidiary the race is broadcast on. Its hard to compare TV ratings between a Texas race on NBC and one on NBCSN. I’ve watched racing for 63 years…there is no need to manufacture excitement with stages or Playoffs. There will NEVER be parity. Parity is not a good thing…if everyone is a hero, then nobody is a hero.
    To be honest, I am not the least bit interested in the day to day lives of racing people. After all, they are ‘one trick ponies’ and, therefore, aren’t very interesting people. And that’s ok. I want to see them race cars well, not parade their wives and brats around, take me to their favorite fishin’ hole, or blather on and on about their childhoods and hobbies. I feel the same way about the Olympics…show me the damn competition, not drivel about their cat or their homeless, drug addict sister. I want sports, not human drama.
    Great article.

  • Anne says:

    Yup, sick to death of Keelan Harvick. Thanks for somebody else noticing the obsession. Stop already!

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