Sunday, April 2, 2017

One Helluva Good Race; Sorry You Missed It

by PattyKay Lilley

I bid you welcome gentle readers, to some musings from the mind of a very old race fan. Did you watch any of the race at Fontana last Sunday? Oh, you were the one! It would seem from the ratings (2.9 in the overnights) that you and I were pretty much alone. Everyone else was either watching freakishly tall men drop a ball down into a net or shopping somewhere… probably for spring plantings in my area. I no longer do that. I put my yard on notice several years ago that there will be no more annuals, only perennials, and it’s survival of the fittest. Want water? Pray for it; because I’m not wandering amidst the pine straw to bring a hose to you. Pine straw is slippery and I’m about as steady on my feet as those cars are out on the track with this low or often no downforce “package.” (Buzz Word)

Remember when I told you I wasn’t concerned about the “creative” new scoring system? Well, apparently I lied… but only to a point. I guess “concern” isn’t the correct word. Let’s say I’m puzzled, confused, disenchanted… heck, I’m just plain lost. Clicking right about here will bring up the stats from the Fontana race. Just cast an eye over to the right where you’ll find the points earned for that race. Down toward the end of the lineup, they read as points should, high to low, but up at the top, where the points are important, we see an exercise in futility for some, while Dame Fortune smiles brightly on others. Case in point, Brad Keselowski finished 2nd and garnered 36 points for his trouble. The ONLY drivers in the top ten that Brad beat were Daniel Suarez (7th for 30 points) and Ryan Blaney (9th for 30 points). Aside from the winner, Larson, that means that 7 of the top-10 drivers outscored the second place car. HUH?

Recall if you will that with the Latford system, it was possible for the second place car to tie for points with the winner, if he led the most laps in the race. That is the small anomaly that had some of us asking that the win be worth more points… simply to eliminate the possibility of a tie. Remember, the name of the game we’re playing is racing! A race, disallowing the genetic definition, has always been defined as a contest of speed, where he who gets there first is the winner. No more, apparently. Just grab you a pair of Stages (Buzz Word) and you enhance (Buzz Word) your score enough to whup the winner. Gentle readers, that just ain’t right!

With all that said… without calling names, mind you, there are still times when change (Buzz Word) can be a good thing, and that’s really what your scribe came to talk about today. It just took me several paragraphs and the letting out of a large buildup of steam to get around to it.

The race at Fontana made me acutely aware of what promises to be a good change in the sport, regardless of scoring gimmicks and other games people play. Way back when the Chase (Buzz Word no more) was the Chase, never to be called Playoffs (Buzz Word 13 years later) I shared with you my method of dealing with that bit of lunacy. Ever since, this scribe watches each race on its own merits. Scoring doesn’t matter much to me, and the more they mess with it and distort it, the less I care.

There was a time when I felt the race(s) at Fontana were nothing but a joke. NASCAR took the Southern 500 out of Darlington and sent it to Southern California instead. I hated that track and everything it stood for. It took over a decade to right that wrong, and since no one came to see the races there anyway, one of her races was taken… for Kansas’ second race I think. But despite the politics and lies (They’re all downstairs shopping), something has quietly happened to that now 20-year-old track. The pavement has matured. She’s now full of cracks and sealer to patch the cracks, and wouldn’t you know? Just like Atlanta… the racing there has gotten better with every crack and patch. Finally, after all this time, she races much like the track she was patterned after, Michigan. Five lanes wide and side by side!

But no, that is not the change I meant. The one I am enjoying most is the one on the track… the changing of the guard! I was happy as a clam, whatever that means, watching the youth movement come to the fore on that now great racing surface. Names like Larson, Elliott, Logano, Blaney, Jones, Suarez, Dillon and Dillon were putting it right to names that have ruled the headlines of late… Harvick, Johnson, Busch, Busch, Kenseth, Keselowski, Earnhardt and the rest. No fear; just grab a gear! Pick a lane and make the pass!

I’d feared that racing would suffer with the loss of prominent names such as Gordon, Stewart and Edwards, but I’m here to tell you, if what we watched on Sunday is any harbinger of things to come, racing is just fine and is as healthy as ever. I truly feel sorry for those folks that chose not to put on the race on Sunday. If you ever were a race fan, that race would have grabbed you by the collar and reminded you why! Even the chosen mutilator of our National Anthem couldn’t dim the light of the racing we watched at Fontana! (Honey, it is far from alright to make the Star Spangled Banner “Your own.” That song belongs to me; to us; to America… and you can’t have it!)

Being of some age, as you well know, the race in Fontana took me on a mind trip… a sentimental journey if you will, back to somewhere in the mid-80s, when the young comers were named Earnhardt, Wallace, Gant, Richmond, Rudd, Elliott, Labonte, Allison, Kulwicki, and many more. The old guard… Petty, Yarborough, Pearson, Allison and the rest were fading and the youth movement was on and evident. That's happening today, right before our very eyes. Watch it and enjoy it. Sometimes change is insidious… creeping in slowly and almost unnoticed, but when it comes over us like a wave crashing up on the beach and carrying the starfish back into the water as it ebbs, it is a grand and glorious thing to behold. It doesn't happen often enough, and we might never see it again, but it's here now… an official changing of the guard! See y’all at Martinsville!


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