RESPECT

I’ve been hanging around short tracks since the late 50’s – mostly between 68 and 84. I watched the “Gary and Larry Show” weekend after weekend. I saw Opperman and Patterson and all the early outlaws break into and out of USAC. I saw Jeff Gordon run the dirt. Short tracks weren’t quite as deadly as they had been a few years earlier but the specter still hung over the banks. I cannot remember a driver getting out of a wrecked car and walking across a track to confront a moving car. I think that for the most past the wrecked driver was so relieved to be unhurt that the instinct was only to get the hell over the wall or into the infield as quickly as possible. I saw a lot of fights in the pits long after the checks and the trophies were distributed.

The first time I can remember a driver getting out of a car and confronting a moving vehicle was in NASCAR. I’ve seen Tony Stewart do it several times. Last Saturday Kevin Ward Jr. did just what his hero, Tony Stewart, would have done if the situation was reversed.

I think driver safety is the single most important issue in racing today and I don’t mean to imply anything to the contrary. However, it is clear that the level of safety currently existing, even at the weekend racer level, is such that drivers have completely lost respect for the danger they encounter each and every time they strap in.

What’s missing from racing is RESPECT – respect for speed, respect for danger, respect for one another.

TRAGIC

I have been sitting here for over 4 hours trying to understand what happened last night at Canandaigua Speedway with Tony Stewart and the death of Kevin Ward Jr. I didn’t want to watch the video but I did – it’s inconclusive. Nobody knows what was going through Tony’s head at the time and nobody ever will unless he chooses to tell us. I assume he had a radio and a spotter, if so what was communicated at the time might cast some light on the situation. What do we know? It was completely avoidable and I think that says it all.

This incident will cast a long shadow over racing; NASCAR; Sprint Car racing; Stewart-Haas and it’s sponsors; Tony Stewart; and especially the Ward family and friends for years to come. RIP Kevin.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Details of earlier announcement of the withdrawal of National Guard sponsorship include some very serious implications. Information released by the Guard at least implies that motorsports is not an effective advertising medium. The real impact of this is that losing a sponsor is one thing but losing a sponsor because the sponsor has data that shows that it’s advertising dollars were totally ineffective is quite another thing. Will there be collateral damage? Will other current sponsors or potential sponsors be swayed by these statistics? Priority one has to be getting butts back in the seats and in front of the TVs not short term profitability.

MID OHIO – JUST ANOTHER ECONOMY RUN

A good race but hardly one for the ages. SFR needs an exorcist, I don’t know who’s fault that was!!! Newgarden needs to do some real soul searching, notwithstanding the penalty he put Kanaan in the toolies for absolutely no reason in the first corner. He has the raw skills but he’s brainless. That was OK when he was a rookie but it’s time to grow up.

Dixon did a great job extending a lead while saving fuel, once again the fastest car did not win the race – the computer on the pit box did. Just once more I’d like to see a “balls to the wall” race where fuel mileage, pit speed limits, computers, race control or lighting bolts did not determine the results.

Unless they put a “Silver Crown” race at DuQuoin in the schedule that will never happen.

THE ROAD MORE TRAVELLED

I have been a fan of Jeff Gordon since I first saw him race a winged sprint car when he was still a teenager. While I tend to be curmudgeonly and cynical about the current state of racing this article is meant to sincere. Jeff won his fifth Brickyard 400 this past weekend and seems bound for another Cup Championship. One might say that this win was another of the many “coincidences” in the history of NASCAR I’ll leave that angle to others in this particular case.

I know this next statement will raise many hackles but I will say it anyway. Jeff Gordon is the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR. He was the harbinger of the greatest era in NASCAR (though the glow is fading fast). Jeff opened the eyes of many open wheel fans to stock car racing and TV contracts grew, attendance peaked, driver salaries maxed, and NASCAR became a household word. For American drivers the road to NASCAR became “the road more travelled.” Open wheel racing became an also-ran.

But what might have been if Jeff had stayed with his roots. This is all purely conjecture on my part but it is fun to speculate. I certainly don’t think that if Jeff had climbed the open wheel ladder to IndyCar or F1 he would have completely changed the course of racing history, no one driver could do that, but I think he would have succeeded and many more fans and drivers would have followed. Even further, what would have been Jeff’s results? Once again this is pure conjecture. Would he have won multiple Indy 500s? Could he have been a multiple World Champion? I think yes. The question is, would this have been a greater legacy? I also think yes to that.

I’m sure that Jeff has no regrets. He took what some would say a safer, more secure path, but we need to remember that he was a pioneer venturing into somewhat unknown territory. Clearly Jeff’s career is not over and the talent is still there. Good luck to him in the future. His NASCAR legacy is unsurpassed and nothing can change that. It’s just intriguing to consider what his career, IndyCar, and F1 might look like today if he had chosen the other path.

© throughthecatchfence 2014

NEW SCORING TOWER – SAME OLD SPEC CARS

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has unveiled it’s new scoring pylon. A new high tower to score the same old spec cars year after year. Apparently this new tower is capable of projecting advertising and thus bring more dollars into the Speedway coffers and help offset the catastrophic losses of the IRL era. High tech scoring towers don’t bring fans to the track the racing does. The money could be better spent investing in the series by increasing purses or reducing sanctioning fees. Another clear cut example of IMS’s misplaced priorities and myopic vision.