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Pedley: Some Birds Not Meant To Fly

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 22 2009
Big, heavy cars take to the track at Infineon Raceway. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Big, heavy cars take to the track at Infineon Raceway. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

In the Monday Morning Memo today we find:

* How can you not find what you saw Sunday at Infineon Raceway entertaining? You may not want to call it racing, especially of the NASCAR variety. But as entertainment, it got an 7.3 on the hoot-o-meter.

Sprint Cup cars weigh 3,450 pounds. That’s without the driver, so, with Tony Stewart on board that brings the weight to…never mind. And, seriously, a lot of the car’s weight comes from a big V-8 engine sitting right over the front wheels.

The cars have these very high centers of gravity. They have relatively thin tires and their brakes are in no way up to the stresses put on them at an 11-turn road course that features significant elevation changes.

Then there is the fact that there are 43 of those cars on the track at the same time and they are being guided by drivers of varying road-racing abilities.

Add it all up and, that’s entertainment.

Watching Sunday’s race was like watching one of those schticks they feature during the halftime shows of basketball games. The ones where they make little kids put on, like, size-23 untied shoes and have the tykes attempt to dribble basketballs the length of the court.

It’s hilarious.

Or how about dizzy bat?: That thing where people place their foreheads on the butt end of a baseball bat, pivot around it in circles for 30 seconds and then attempt to walk. Except in NASCAR road racing, the pivot goes on for a couple hours.

Slap your knee raw, man.

This is not a rip on the drivers. Nor is it a rip on NASCAR or stock-car racing or road racing.

What it is is a statement on racing those big old iron cars on road courses.

There is a certain beauty to racing a Formula One car, IndyCar, a prototype or even a GT sports car around a place like Infineon. They flow through the curves and power up the inclines, engines emitting joyous sounds the whole time. There is a sense of poetry in all of that.

But the fact is, it is virtually impossible to exhibit style and/or grace when muscling a NASCAR Car of Tomorrow, Car of Yesterday, Car of Today around Infineon or any other road-racing circuit.

My gosh, Juan Pablo Montoya, one of the great road racers of our time, can’t do it. And if JPM can’t, and Robby Gordon can’t and Ron Fellows can’t, nobody can. The great Ayrton Senna could not have done it.

Sorry, Reed.

But entertaining watching them try? You bet it is.

Granted, it could get tedious if done every week. But twice a year is perfect.

Then again, that television program which shows home videos of people falling down, babies puking, and guys getting hit in the groin with sticks and golf balls is on five times a day, it seems, every day and it is still gets classic laughs.

Yes, keep racing the twisties, NASCAR.

Memo to self: Call NHRA about racing on road courses.

* Richard was not the only Petty to be proud of on Sunday. Kyle Petty has quickly become the best in the glass-booth biz.

His color commentary is both witty and insightful. He is Darrell Waltrip on decaf. Love the subtle way he puts his fellow homework-adverse broadcasters in their place.

Memo to self: Invite Kyle Petty to write column for website at usual rate.

*NASCAR may want to give the Milwaukee Mile a look-see when it comes to redistributing its Sprint Cup races.

Saturday’s Nationwide Series event there was quite good. There just seems to be something about the geometry of that wide, flat oval that promotes side-by-side racing. The Camping World Trucks race there was a dog on Saturday, but that can be traced more to the problems the series is having than the track.

Drivers have always liked the place. That goes for IndyCars as well as stock cars.

It has a nice northern Richmond feel to it as well. It’s old. Classy old. It has been hosting racing since the early 1900s but has aged wonderfully.

The fan base is very saavy up there, too. People in that part of the country love racing. Always have. Just ask Matt Kenseth. Or Scott Wimmer. Or a Sauter, any old Sauter. It’s the land of Dick Trickle and Dave Marcis and Alan Kulwicki. Because the season is short, the local tracks run about five days a week.

Of course, most of the older fans there still call the place State Fair Park.

Memo to self: Send marketing at Milwaukee Mile the standard advertising contract.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 22 2009
6 Comments

6 Comments »

  • pb says:

    Robby Gordon…where to start. Yeah, you could really feel the anguish on Sunday with the in car shots. It’s not that he can’t win, but a lot of times he does it to himself. Sunday was bad luck on a pit gamble. I still remember the race in Sonoma about 9 years ago when he was so preoccupied racing a car a stinkin’ lap down that he let the second place car pass him and win. I’ll give him credit for racing about anything that rolls, but a lot of Robby’s problems are self-inflicted.

  • Jimbo says:

    Got to agree with you, Jim. Good article. “Danny” is very observant and I agree with him as well. As for “Moose”, guess he must be new to auto racing.

  • danny says:

    It’s not that Robby Gordon “can’t” it’s the fact that NA$car WON’T give Robby a chance to win. The timing on the caution flag with Robby leading was,as usual,suspect. This might not look like a big deal on it’s own, but if you look at the number of times Robby has been on the losing end of caution flags compared to other drivers, there is something WAY WAY WAY out of proportion. What driver has had the caution come out while pitting under green more than 2 times in a race? 3 times in 2 weeks? 6 times in 3 races? Sonoma wasn’t an isolated incident.If the caution had not come out Robby would have received a speeding penalty on pit road – to pay for leading the race in a series that doesn’t want him.Just like the penalty at Lowes for finishing in the top 5. It’s sad. I think he has to have the best coping mechanism to keep coming back when all the cards are stacked against him. I honestly don’t know how he is able to put these things behind hime each week. It’s so sad that the fans have everything they say they want in a driver, but won’t be able to appreciate Robby until it’s too late and he’s gone.

    • Jim Pedley says:

      Danny:
      Robby Gordon is a favorite subject of mine. You bring up a couple of the reasons for this. Yes, he always seems to have bad “luck”. And the television shots of him inside his car on Sunday when the yellow came out were incredible. Gripping. Talk about feeling his pain. The other thing you mention I like also. This guy is the ultimate non-quitter. Year after year, he just claws away. Love that. If you want to get into subjects like his career and driving abilities, I am at your service.
      Jim

  • Moose says:

    Dick Trickle.

    Slap your knee raw, Man!