Way back in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, comedian Andy Griffith put out a comedy record. On that record was a monologue called, “What It Was, Was Football.” It was a satire on someone attending their first football game and the narrator’s description of the action. It was a funny look at what we considered the norm for the sport. I can only imagine what that routine would be if Griffith described what we saw on April 17, 2011 at Talladega, Alabama.
What it was wasn’t racing. In racing, every man is for himself. For some reason (safety for the fans being the most quoted reason), the powers that be have created this monster that requires two cars to run in tandem. In tight formation, the car in the back must push the other driver to go fast. Everyone does it because they have to so they can keep up. The driver behind can see nothing ahead of him and must trust the driver in front to let him know what’s going on. They switch—car in back to the front and the front car to the rear—for cooling purposes, but that’s the way the run for 500 miles. It’s madness.
I firmly believe the fastest car probably didn’t win at the end, but we don’t really have enough information to know. No one ran alone all day unless they lost their partner to a wreck, which did happen on Sunday.
I’m sure the fans loved it. If you did a poll, I guess most would say that it was the most exciting race of the season, but I don’t consider that racing. Sure, it was fun to watch and there was an exciting, close finish to boot, but it’s so contrived that doesn’t even resemble what racing is to me. If you happen to be in the front of the two car pack, you win. The only time you can pull out to try to pass is for it to be the last lap. In the tri-oval.
It’s like a lot of things that has bastardized our sport. There is a long list of things that have bothered me for years, and the top of the list is the Lucky Dog. You don’t have to race to make up a lap. I thought this was racing. Sure, it’s done for safety, but what about restrictor-plate racing? Is that safe? Another is the pass around. Sure, it’s less confusing for fans, but is it racing when you get to make up almost a lap because you’re in front of the leader? Isn’t that rewarding mediocrity most of the time? Once upon a time Bill Elliott made up multiple laps at Talladega by being fast. That apparently doesn’t matter anymore in the name of a close finish.
So, as you can now tell, I’m a traditionalist and a grouchy old man. I didn’t see a race on Sunday. I saw an entertaining spectacle. To each his own, I guess, but if I were NASCAR, I’d be looking for solutions like Matt Kenseth and others mentioned today.
Of course, I’m not NASCAR and with the fans cheering wildly, don’t look for any changes.