First I want to take a minute to think about Jason Leffler, & Danish driver Allan Simonsen, who lost his life at Le Mans. No matter how many safety features that are built into cars, of whatever type. When you drive cars at the limit, the danger is always there, & everyone who straps in, & buckles on a helmet, knows it.I do love road racing! First I got to watch the end of the 24 hours of Le Mans. Seemed to be a wine country, road racing kind of day. As a loyal diesel driver (overall winner) & a Porsche aficionado (class winner) it doesn't get any better than that.
If you're like me, more than a little jaded by the NASCAR, cookie cutter parade. Then one of NASCAR's all too infrequent forays into Road Racing is just what the Dr. ordered.
This got interesting, for me early on. When the entry list came out it showed Jacques Villeneuve in James Finch's 51. We promptly had several drivers weighing in on his past indiscretions in the Nationwide Series. I get it, but one thing I found particularly interesting. Here we have Villeneuve, Indy 500, winner, Record holder for most F1 wins by a rookie, 4, now shared with Louis Hamilton, F1 World Champion, won going head to head with then 2 time Champion, Michael Schumacher. Being dissed by Queen Danica. This is a driver that's won exactly 1 race at the top level in any series. Sounds like someone's been reading their own press releases.
In addition to Jacques, we had Victor Gonzalez Jr. in the 36, Tony Drissi, in the 87, Paulie Harraka, in the 52, Alex Kennedy in the 19. What was this, the rent a ride week?
I'm sure that all of these drivers come with solid road racing credits, but with the cars they were in. Michael Schumacher, couldn't have done much better. In addition to the newcomers we also had Boris Said, & Ron Fellows, both these guys had to have an extremely, frustrating day. Being used to top notch rides to match their talents, this wasn't one of those days. I was really surprised that Ron wasn't able to get more out of the 33.
Things got interesting on pit road, before they even got onto the track. Someone stopped unexpectedly, & Paulie, nailed him solidly. I can understand pre race jitters, & nerves, but in this case they seem to have been well founded.
I remember an instance where Mark Martin wrecked while warming his tires, before the green flag. But I don't ever remember a wreck before the cars even got on the track. Then we had Jacques 51 car up on jack stands. Don't think the talking heads, (thankfully no Waltrips) ever said, but I learned from PRN, that it was hung up in second gear, the song Beep Beep, immediately came to mind. Whatever the deal was, it lead to an early retirement, before Jacques could make any new friends.
Them we had the start delayed because Bobby Labonte's 47 puked out it's coolant on pit road, this was getting stranger, & stranger. Due to the cleanup delay, the crew was able to either change the radiator, or fix the leak, in time for the start. Just in time for the car to die on track, before the first lap was completed. I will have the picture stuck in my mind of Bobby sitting dejectedly on the car waiting for a tow. Kind of brings to mind the line from the Gambler, about knowing when to fold 'em. It's really sad to see a Champion go out like this. They put A J, in the car last week, & will again next week, to get some feedback. Wonder what kind of feedback Bobby gave them about this fiasco.
We watched the early laps, while the BJ Thomas line about "raindrops falling on my head" ran through my mind. Makes me wish that NASCAR trusted their drivers enough to equip the cars with wipers, tail lights, & rain tires, & just let them race. Even the "big boy" road racing series, are smart enough to realize that sometimes the rain is just too heavy to race in, but sprinkles? Come on NASCAR, if you're going to road race, then commit to it, quit half assing around!
We were treated to some 3 wide racing, in places that they shouldn't have been able to get away with it, but somehow, they did. I'm really impressed by how much improvement that the drivers have made in their road skills. We were reminded several time during the broadcast, that this wasn't Junior's favorite track, that his finishes weren't good on road courses, etc, etc. We are also treated from time to time that it still isn't too late for Junior to win a Championship, ( but it is.)
Today with the amount of help available, there's really no excuse for any driver not to have the skills to get it done on the twisties. The fact that a few still don't, to me, shows a lack of commitment to the so-called, big picture.
One thing I noticed early, & put in my notes, was that Truex, was putting on a clinic for good, smooth passes. You didn't see him beating on anyone, or leaning on them. He was making clean passes, the kind that wasn't going to make anyone mad in the process.
Speaking of smooth passes, Montoya, was making passes also, but they weren't always so smooth. One of his early ones, sent Kyle into the spin cycle. Kyle might have been a little upset, by this. But by the end of the race he was probably getting used to it. Not one of his better days.
You can't watch a NASCAR race, without seeing way too many commercials. Two that really stuck in my mind, were the Mikes Hard Lemonade ones, & the Hopper, spoken with a harsh New England accent, The Hoppah! I finally decided Mikes were just really strange, but the Hoppah, was annoying as all hell. If I had their network, I'd cancel it!. As I've always been attracted to strange, I might just try a Mikes sometime.
I was particularly impressed with Kurt Busch, I'd think it would be particularly hard to drive a road course, after shooting yourself in both feet. But he pulled it off. When you have to go to the back, on a road course, that's a real penalty. The thing he had going for him, was that he had his trouble early enough to recover, & his recovery wasn't just good, it was great. He also gave a grownup interview afterward. So I have to give him props, all the way around.
Speaking of having trouble, & having recovery time. Jamie Mac. was trying to take care of his stuff, but he finally got bit. His real problem was that it happened late, & he wasn't able to get come back. Seems like a variation on the same story week after week.
Montoya was on a real charge late, but he ran out of fuel, (the only one to do so) & fell from 2nd, to 35th. Chip has made a lot of noise about turning his teams around, & they both are showing good speed, evidenced by the pole run. But they're still at least a tick off, & in Cup, that's not even close to being good enough.
Petty's operation seems to fall into the same category.
Queen Danica had a bad day, but then she really hasn't had many good ones.
We were even treated to some TV love for Jeff Burton, & that was before he & Tony mixed it up.
Speaking of TV love, & the lack thereof. We were shown an action shot, that showed a car sliding through the shot. They then cut back to the leader running around by himself. Absolutely no mention of the accident. After a while they cut back to the 19 car sitting stalled. No star power at work there.
Another thing that caught my eye, & I've been seeing it all year, it just never really registered before, was how much the uniformed NASCAR officials resembled Pillsbury Dough Boys. One even tried a weak trot, but it was more like trotting in place. Come on NASCAR, the crews all have fitness coaches, maybe it's time the pit road officials followed suit. Maybe they could practice the 15 yard jog, & cut down on the 12oz, curls.
At the end of the day, the day belonged to Martin Truex Jr. He's shown that he had the chops before. This time he had the luck to go with it. I was a little surprised that there wasn't a late yellow, but I guess race control finally decided to "let them play." He took a giant step, toward putting himself in the Chase. Well done to both Martin, & the entire 56 crew. A driver who wins on both the road tracks, & the ovals, can take his place on the top of the pyramid.
Come on NASCAR, get your head out of the dark place, look at your races, your numbers, & listen to your fans. Ditch a cookie cutter, & give us another Road Race, (maybe Road America, or Road Atlanta) & put it in the Chase!