Friday, July 20, 2007

Close Racing

I used to be a big fan of stock car racing. Well, I still am, but there isn’t any stock car racing to be found any more. What used to be NASCAR Grand National became the Winston Cup, which actually made it better for a while. Then it went downhill, became less and less stock cars and less and less racing, and finally it became the Nextel Cup and I have no idea what it is now. But it certainly doesn’t use stock cars, and it certainly isn’t racing.

Marty Smith at ESPN.COM disagrees with me. In an article today he claims racing is better than ever. The gist of his theory is that in the past races were won by large margins, often one or more full laps, and now the margins are fractions of seconds.

So races are best when all of the cars are identical and all of them are moving at precisely the same speed? That sounds like a high speed parade to me, not a race. A race is when some cars are faster than others and when one car goes faster than another and passes it.

Perhaps he was not excited by those early days races, but I was. I found them highly exciting. Watching one guy blowing the doors off of all the other cars on the track was, in fact, quite a kick.

Actually, his picture makes him look a bit on the youthful side and in his article he says “I hear from my Dad…” so I wonder if he was ever actually at one of those races that he decries. (Did I just suggest he might not know what he’s talking about?)

The large margins might have gotten boring if it was the same guy every time but, guess what, it never was. In fact, the guy that won by three laps may have been two laps down at one point during that same race. Marty fails to mention that.

I recall a race at Talledega when Bill Elliott had a oil line problem and got two laps behind the rest of the field. He got his car fixed and drove really fast, passing cars right and left, made up the two laps and took the lead without the benefit of a caution. The crowd went crazy. He was just incredibly faster than anybody else, and it was exciting as all get out.

Now NASCAR has introduced the “Car of Tomorrow” (some call it the
“Crap of Today”) which looks nothing like any car made by any manufacturer in this or any other country. It has a wing on the back, drives like a dump truck and it has, to me, pretty much completed the divorcement of NASCAR from stock car racing.

NANCAR: National Association for Not-stock Counterfeit Auto Racing

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