Sunday, November 01, 2009

In the "Yeah, Right" Department

I was at one time a big fan of stock car racing. I probably would be if they still raced stock cars, meaning a car bought from a dealer's stock, rather than these blobs with a huge wing on the back and decals on them to identify the supposed manufacturer. They are so aerodynamically fragile that they cannot pass each other, so it's hard to call what they do "racing."

They are having their high speed parade at Talledega this week, which used to be one of my very favorite tracks. Bill Elliott set a stock car speed record there that still stands, and Dale Earnhardt used to keep appearing at the front of the pack sort of by magic. It was at Talledega that Dale's car got completely sideways without wrecking at more than 200 mph and, when asked on the radio if he was okay, he replied that he was okay but that the car was "a little loose."

Then drivers started "bump drafting," a form of cheating where one car, a teammate or driver with similar interest, physically pushes another for faster speed. Unfortunately, while it does make cars go faster, it is awesomely dangerous. The rear car often slams into the front car hard enough to wreck him, particularly when the rear car is stupid enough to do it in the turns. Usually a dozen or more cars pile into the wreck, and more often than not the pusher comes out unscathed. Needless to say, the other dozen or so drivers, whose cars are rubble, are a little pissed off.

NASCAR keeps saying they are going to penalize drivers who "overdo" the bump drafting, and this year they have said that they are really going to clamp down and disallow it altogether. Yeah, right. If they really wanted to prevent it, they could reduce the reinforcement allowed in the noses of the cars so that anyone pushing on the car in front of them would get the front of their own car smashed in.

The other maneuver is "blocking," where if someone behind you is coming up and tries to pass, you swerve in front of him to prevent him from passing. It sounds stupid and dangerous, doesn't it? Especially at 210 miles per hour in a car that you cannot see out of and have to have somebody up in the grandstand describing to you the positions of other nearby race cars, which are also doing 210 mph?

Think about it; swerving at 200+ mph in front of an oncoming car that you cannot see, hoping that a guy half a mile away looking through binoculars is giving you the "swerve now" signal at precisely the right moment.

That's why other forms of racing ban the practice and impose penalties on drivers who violate the rule. Not NASCAR, whose drivers not only okay it, they regard it as exemplary behavior. When a massive wreck results, the blocking driver merely blames the driver who was trying to pass him and claims that blocking is his prerogative to protect his win. Except that he didn't win, of course, both he and the guy who was trying to pass him for the win wrecked and somebody else won. That seems to escape these geniuses. Everything is somebody else's fault.

All of which is why I barely pay any attention these days.

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