Saturday, October 14, 2006

Let's stop talking about what's wrong with racing and look at ... well, the racing

So I am watching the end of the Busch Series race from Lowe’s Motor Speedway at Charlotte Friday night and I find myself wondering about something.
Every couple of days or so, I get an e-mail from a NASCAR fan or read something on a bulletin board about how the guys racing at the top level of stock-car racing don’t race as hard as people used to race.
Really? I wonder what races they’ve been watching lately.Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth at Dover? Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega? Casey Mears and Carl Edwards and then Dave Blaney and Kenseth in the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte?
I think it’s time we stopped talking about what’s wrong with racing for just a minute or two and say a word or two about what these guys have been up to.
I would suggest we start with "Wow."
The fact that the first and/or second place cars have wrecked three times in the waning laps in the past two NASCAR races – the Vickers-Johnson-Earnhardt Jr. incident at Talladega and the Edwards-Mears and Blaney-Kenseth ones in the Busch race Friday night – tells me that some drivers in race cars these days care a whole lot about finishing first.
This is not about saying who did what or who said what or who’s mad at who. Forget all of that middle-school drama. What I want to appreciate for a minute here is the sheer "want-to" factor that has been on display.
Yes, Vickers made a mistake at Talladega and Mears made one at Charlotte, taking out guys who were leading races. But they both made those mistakes going for wins, and race fans ought to be happy to at least know that’s what they were trying to do.
Blaney and Kenseth went door-to-door for the win in the Charlotte Busch race, just like Kenseth and Burton did in the Cup race at Dover. Kenseth eventually ran out of gas at Dover and he wrecked trying to hold on to win at Charlotte, but don’t tell me that son of a gun doesn’t hang it out trying to win.
Let’s also pause a minute to brag on Dave Blaney. He’s been running markedly better in the Cup races lately and his win at Charlotte was an example of things finally falling his way. Here’s a word of warning to those of you who don’t think Toyota’s Cup driver roster in 2007 looks all that formidable. Give Blaney race cars with the kind of financial and engineering support Bill Davis Racing is going to get from Toyota and you might be surprised at how that teams winds up running next season.It’s late Friday night – actually, early Saturday morning – as I write this. The Bank of America 500 at Charlotte could wind up being a runaway snooze fest, but even if that happens it wouldn’t change the fact that race fans have seen some pretty cool stuff in the past few weeks.
I just thought that was something I should point out.


SPK said...

I believe that people see what they want to see, and after the 3 red flags last night I saw one amazing run for a win!

All drivers should want it as bad as Blaney and Vickers (last week) wanted it - and I think we'd be watching different races. Did you see the happiness in Blaney's eyes in victory lane? I haven't seen that kind of raw emotion in a long time.

If that was Kenseth in victory lane (again) he would have mumbled a little bit about crew and said it was a great race - but I would have gone to bed saying "Ho hum."

Not last night!

Anonymous said...

The last two races have been great! More like in the 80's when things happened and not just yawn-fests we have endured the last few years. Drivers take other drivers out, that happens, but standing up the last laps of to watch a race on TV is racing! Let's hope for a good one tonight.

Monkeesfan said...

I've been watching racing for over two decades and the complaints about drivers not racing hard have a lot of validity even with Dover's surprising finish and the always-superior competition we see at Talladega.

While we've seen some surprising finishes lately - from Jeff Burton's rally at Dover to Cale & Donnie Redux at Talladega to Dave Blaney's Charlotte BGN win - for the most part the racing over the last 25 years has not lived up to its potential. Talladega has averaged over 40 lead changes a race this decade, and this is supposed to be the norm for all the tracks.

Certainly ten wrecks and three red flags - one for a scoring screwup that sounds like yet another reason to drop freezing the field and go back to racing to the stripe - at Charlotte's Busch bash isn't a lot of people's idea of a great race.

As for drivers making mistakes while going for wins, we need to stop pretending that this was the case with Brian Vickers at Talladega. Matt Kenseth losing it off Four at Charlotte is a mistake; Ernie Irvan plowing through the quad-oval grass going for the win in the 1994 All-Star Race was a mistake. What Vickers did was a cheapshot.

Yes there has been some surprisingly good racing the last several weeks, but it remains the case that what we see at Talladega is supposed to be the sport's norm, not the exception.

TalkGeorge said...


Thank you! I'm so tired of so many people holding on to yesterday, not just in racing but in general.

Nascar is great...just enjoy it fans!

Anonymous said...

Well, when you look at the racing it is pretty plain to see why all the talk is about what's wrong with it.The races you refer to use to be the norm,now there the rare exception.Wins mean so little now in the overall scheme of things that the basic concept of having a race has been turned upside down. That is just not GOOD Racing.

okla21fan said...

"good ole days" syndrome lives!

(and ESPN broadcasts were 'better' back in the day as well. riiiiiiight. ESPN had just as many comercials, missed just as many restarts, had announcers that 'spoke' by never really added to the race coverage, and so on)

the product on the track today is just as competative as is was 30 years ago. (maybe more, since now 25 cars have a legitimate chances to win each week, instead of 10 or so from 30 years ago)

okla21fan said...

ezrider714 said...
"Wins mean so little now in the overall scheme of things that the basic concept of having a race has been turned upside down."

Just looking at the driver with the most wins this season. Khane is in 8th in Chase points and 160 back with 6 season wins. Under the old system he would be 10th in the points and 595 points back. So to say the any 'old' system rewarded wins doesnt hold much water either.

Monkeesfan said...

With the Winston Cup cars idle Sunday, other areas offered racing for fans to sample, and NASCAR's oldest touring division saw the deciding blow of its championship season in stunning fashion.

Anonymous said...

i dont think the discrepancy between the racing of yesteryear and today has to do with the drivers and their desire as much as it has to do with the cars.

In years past, the cars were "Stock" cars that were ratcheted up a notch or 2 for racing. I beg you to find a legitimate part on the Chevy, Ford, or Dodge that you can get on your monte carlo, fusion, or charger...

And in that time, the uniqueness of the cars has gone away. Because the cars were stock, you bought a Chevy or Ford on Monday if you were a Chevy or Ford fan. Now, nobody cares. Its not a Ford engine, its a Rousch engine. Its a fabricated body, not a Dodge body.

Stick em all in Hudsons and Fords and see what happens!

Monkeesfan said...

anonymous, you're partly right, though the racing in the 1970s and a good portion of the 1980s was great with racecars that had long since evolved to pure racing machines. Thast the racecars evolved into pure racecars per se isn't the problem as much as having too much - too much horsepower, too little tire, and a weakened draft.

As for driver desire, the points-racing mentality of the last 20-plus years is part of the issue; the reward for racing regardless of finish has also dulled desire by drivers to go for the win; the incentive to fight harder to win just isn't there.

Mike said...

I totally agree with David regarding Blaney. Aside from Jarrett's provisional, Blaney is the only Toyota driver inside the top 35. That alone gives BDR a huge head start. They also have Mayfield essentially an R&D driver for the rest of the year working on the new Camry. BDR is definitely in the best shape of the Toyota teams. I can see Blaney's team making a run at top 15 in the points.