By Jim Pedley | Senior Writer
There is that old saying that is usually attributed to moms or aunts or somebody who bakes really good pies: If you canât say something good about someone, donât say anything. Glad mom wonât be reading the following.
Races at Texas Motor Speedway used to be big deals. While those races never reached the status of crown jewels and were not uniformly exciting to watch, they did have a whiff of specialness about them.
Contributing were that modern, impressive, colossus of a facility; the speeds on that banking; the infield fan scene; and the little touches that SMI and Eddie Gossage added (blazing six-guns and Stetson hats) as seasoning.
Traffic in and out was aggravating and baffling. But even that lent an air of big deal to the events at TMS.
The bet here is that track and NASCAR officials would give about anything to once again see long lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic snarling the Interstate and county roads around the facility.
Because that would mean that Texas motor racing fans still loved their track and the sport of stock car racing.
Seeing all those empty seats on Sunday in a place that used to see zero empty seats, in a place where pride of ownership bordered on smug haughtiness, is just one more indication of how far NASCAR has fallen.
Everythingâs big in Texas except, these days, crowds at TMS.
But it wasnât just empty seats by the tens of thousands at Texas â so many that even NBC Sports super shill Rick Allen couldnât bring himself to praise the crowd â that put racingâs woes on primetime display.
Among the things Sunday that so anger long-time followers of NASCAR were:
â Four hours of racing when three hours is too long to sit in front of a television set on a wonderful early November day. Somebody at NASCAR or NBC Sports needs to pull TMS brass aside and tell them that only one event on the schedule should be a 500-miler â the first one on the schedule.
Contributing to the total run time is that modern testimonial to desperation on the part of NASCAR â stage racing. Really, fans are demanding an additional 20 minutes of caution breaks between stages? Hereâs an idea: instead of stopping the race between stages (if they insist on carrying forward this non-tradition), keep the cars running. Score them for points as the cross the timing line but eliminate the pit stops and 10 minutes of commercials that accompany them.
â The gimmick du jour. In this case, glue. Really, NASCAR is at the point where they need to coat the track with adhesive in an attempt to make the racing better?
Remember 21 years ago when NASCAR was spitting goobers over the belief that Jeff Gordon was soaking his tires in order to increase grip? Now, in the desperate scramble to lure fans back to the sport, NASCAR is soaking the tracks. Shouldnât âthe best drivers in the worldâ be able to deal with slick asphalt? Wouldnât non-optimal track conditions put space between the talented and the unexperienced ride-buyers?
To be sure, TMS is and has been, a personal favorite. Maybe my favorite big oval. And thatâs what makes writing the above so tough.
Some of us fans like watching racing on Sunday afternoons â not Harvick-family videos.
Enough of Keelan already.
Itâs tough to tell when this movement by athletes to trot out their sweet angel offspring began but it is easy to tell when it should end â yesterday.
In the 21st Century, everything from shoes to cars to food to children have become fashion statements. Things to show how cool, sophisticated and/or special you are. Itâs bad enough that fans have to sit through 50-second strings of sponsorship groveling post race. When Harvick wins, we now have to sit through five minutes of baby talk from both dad and Marty Snider and company.
Geez, just hope that a driver with a family the size of the Osmonds never wins a race.
Hmmm I donât remember seeing David Pearsonâs kids post races. I remember a man acting like a man.
The wait for Jimmie Johnson to prove to his detractors that he still has the talent and the want-to to win races goes on. For a while on, it looked like Sunday would be that day. Nope.
He was running among the leaders early on and then he wasnât. Driver error caused a spin and that was it.
How does a seven-time champion who is not really all that old suddenly become non competitive? A good hard look also has to be leveled at the current machinery. It could be that Johnson is not adapting to the new low horsepower, high downforce generation of cars.
Itâs happened before. A couple decades ago, champion Bobby Labonte suddenly looked lost. Jeff Gordon went through a swoon a couple years later. The words were that Labonte had a tough time with coil binding and Gordon with bump stops.
For all the grief that Kyle Busch takes because of his role as head whine merchant vis a vis the gen current cars, there is truth in his tales.
Two NBC Sports regular features should be considered for planned extinction.
If the segments in which Rutledge Wood goes out and interviews drunks ever were compelling or humorous, they arenât any more. Maybe there is a rule stating that race broadcast must include face time by bland, bearded, doughy schlubs and that could explain âRutâ.
The thing before the race where Jeff Burton takes a celebrity for a high speed ride has gotten old. You see one panicked, screaming movie star or musical âartistâ peeing on themself, youâve seen them all.
Scary was the time Al Unser Jr. hustled me into a presumably rented mini van with lousy suspension and jerky brakes, put the hammer (such as it was) down and purposely scrapped the walls at a small oval near Colorado Springs. His one hand that was on the steering wheel had a cigarette clamped between two of fingers while the left arm was resting on the driverâs side window sill truck-driver style. It would have had Burton screaming in panic.
OK, hereâs one for moms and pie-bakers:
Sports car racing is something that NASCAR no longer is: Interesting. Interesting cars, interesting drivers, interesting races, interesting storylines.O
Lexus announced on Monday that Kyle Busch will co-drive one of its GT cars in next yearâs Rolex 24 at Daytona.
This is interesting. Busch is undoubtedly one of the great wheelmen in stock-car racing history. Though he can be a bit of a punk, heâs shown himself to be not just a great driver, but also a throwback to a time when being versatile behind the wheel mattered.
Now we get to see how versatile KyBu is. He will co-drive a Lexus RC F GT3 fielded by AIM Vasser Sullivan.
Busch was anything put punky in talking about the Rolex gig.
âTo have the chance to run in such an iconic race as the Rolex 24 is certainly something Iâve thought about and wanted to do,â he said. âMy partnership with Toyota and the history weâve had together has been incredible. I would love to continue that history and maybe get my own Daytona Rolex to add to my trophy collection.â