A Voice For The Fans ~ Pocono Weekend
by: PattyKay Lilley
Good day gentle readers! Is there something on your mind that you’d like to talk about? If so, you’ve come to the right place. That’s what this column is all about. I’ll start you off today with my thoughts and observations of recent occurrences and shenanigans, and you can take it from there.
Kurt Busch – Let’s begin this week with a few words … very few… about the “Hot topic” du jour, Kurt Busch, the discussion and the suspension. Kurt Busch is not popular. Wow! Ya think? But in this case, this aged fan finds that the punishment far outstripped the crime because there was no crime. If I hear once more that he “threatened” Bob Pockrass, I may threaten someone my own self. He stated that he “would like to” beat the [stuffing] out of him. We all know at least one someone about whom we feel that way. It is not a capital offense or a mortal sin.
If you listen very carefully to the endless playing of that video, you will not hear a question mark at the end of Mr. Pockrass’ statement the second time. He asked it once and Kurt gave him a “no comment” by simply ignoring him. That should have been the end of it. Move on; nothing to see here. Reporters know that Kurt is easily baited, and some of them play on such a weakness. Is it any wonder that the term “Media” has become something close to derogatory these days? Enough of that subject…
R.I.P Cotton Owens – The racing world received some very sad news this week with the passing of Everett “Cotton” Owens. Godspeed Cotton! You ran a great race and you will always be a winner to me.
Go-Daddy Hauler – A few days ago, the souvenir hauler of Danica Patrick was involved in a highway accident with another semi while on its way to Pocono. There were no reported injuries to my knowledge, but with a picture of the wreck widely circulated, the wreck drew snickers and giggles anywhere and everywhere.
Sure, boys will be boys I guess, but I come from a time when if that were to happen to a driver, the other drivers and teams, along with many of the fans, would be taking up collections and donating things to ease the loss. Money and goods were precious in those days, and NASCAR was indeed like a family. When someone was hurting, the family gathered round, offering comfort and relief. Today, a badly damaged hauler draws only laughter. The next time someone asks the difference between NASCAR today and NASCAR yesterday, think about that.
Ground Hog at Pocono – During a practice session at Pocono this weekend, Stephen Leicht, driver of the #33 “Little Joe’s Auto” Chevy, reported to his crew that he thought he had “hit a beaver on the backstretch.” Pocono has a backstretch? Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Chevy, stated that what flew up into the air in front of his car and evidently over the wall, was not a beaver but a GROUND HOG!
OK, you’re ahead of me here, aren’t you? Yes, there was a bit of levity in the TNT booth as they and a large portion of the listening audience let their minds go immediately to a certain cartoon rodent that resides on another network. Farewell Digger! It was bound to happen, the way you kept popping up right in front of the cars.
Testing – Someone please “unconfuse” me. When NASCAR decided to play F1 and banned testing at all of the tracks on which they race, teams and drivers cried buckets of tears about it, especially those teams with prospective rookies in the ranks, which of course, was all of the big teams. Now, mostly because of the new craze for repaving asphalt tracks all over the country, NASCAR is easing up on that ban and allowing practice sessions at least on those tracks with a new surface.
NASCAR set testing dates immediately preceding the races at newly paved tracks, expressly so that teams would not have to make a second trip. We’ve all seen with Goodyear testing, that the results of a test over the winter months will not produce any knowledge of value when applied to a race in July. Think Daytona here and prepare for all the tire compound complaints at the Firecracker 400.
Now, once again teams and drivers are all teary-eyed. Why? Because this week was too long. Oh, poor babies. Deal with it! This old three-cornered gal has been patched and repatched for years. Sure, she had “character.” She also had potholes and patches that provided a reason for biannual whining and weeping about the unraceable parts of the track. There was one spot dead in the middle of the racing groove through turn 3 that got so bad that the racing groove actually moved up the track for several years as drivers struggled to avoid one of the biggest reasons for crashes in that corner.
C’mon gang! You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The track will be fine. Never mind all the whine; the Pocono Mountains are not famous for cheese that I know of. Go get you one of those strawberry-banana slushees instead. They are DELISH!
Oh, and next week, if you don’t care to spend an extra day away from home, or wherever else you’d rather be, I believe that testing is optional, not mandatory. Stay home and take your chances with the new surface at Michigan.
**Note** The delay in qualifying was not the fault of the track, but an issue of poor maintenance. Once cleaned, qualifying proceeded without problems.
IndyCars at Texas – This was just a random thought I formed while watching the pre-race show. NBCSP (The Network formerly known as VERSUS) conducted at least a dozen driver interviews regarding their feelings about racing on a high-banked oval after losing Dan Wheldon last fall at Las Vegas. Every single driver mentioned the need to get rid of “pack racing.” All agreed that reducing downforce would put the driver “back in the car.” In short, if the cars can all run flat-out, 4-wide and field-deep, that is NOT racing; that is a recipe for disaster.
Hmm… I do believe I’ve heard that somewhere before, and I do believe I wrote those words… several times. To a man, drivers agreed that IndyCar has responded and done what they asked. Note to self: Save the rest of that rant for Daytona next month.
Plethora of Pit Penalties at Pocono – How about that bunch of lead-footed Louies at Pocono this weekend? They set a new record for speeding penalties by picking up 22 of them. If I heard correctly, all but one of them (Jeff Gordon) was for “too fast exiting”, with the hog’s share of those occurring in the final loop. Drivers and crew chiefs are crying “Foul”, while NASCAR suggests that there was a massive epidemic of brain-fade in the garage, causing everyone to discard without reading, the memo that told about the timing loops being “rearranged” with the repaving. Sounds like business as usual in the NASCAR garage to me. SNAFU
Conspiracy Theories Abound – And then of course, there was the race itself. Personally, having been there many times and always enjoying the best seats in the house, I love that old track. Many of you do not share that opinion, and that is your privilege. I never fail to feel a shiver when the cars spread out 8 or 9-wide across that landing strip they call the frontstretch. This weekend though, I must have watched a different race from many of you.
I thought that Sunday’s race was probably the best race of the year, but reading some of the Forum boards last night and this morning tells me that I might be pretty much alone in my thinking. I have never bought into the theory that it’s even possible to “fix” a Cup race, as there are just too many variables to spoil the best laid plans.
Along with Pitroadgate, folks see problems with almost any caution thrown during the race, with the one caused by Kasey Kahne’s attempt to take down the walls probably taking top honors. The last one, with 9 or 10 laps to go, is catching a lot of flack also. TNT reported it as a piece of metal in turn 2, and I have no reason in the world to doubt them.
Would I have liked to see Mark Martin win at Pocono after being a bridesmaid so many times over? Heck yes, I would have! But despite all the hype about Home Depot being somehow paid off with Joey’s win, I’m not buying that either. The kid had a fast car and earned an extra point for most laps led, with 49. His teammates were also fast until one popped an engine (probably too hard on the shifter) and the other didn’t quite measure up at the end, but led 21 laps on his way to a top-5 finish. Joey passed Mark very properly, and it wasn’t one of those occasions where Mark was just being a gentleman. At the end, Joey simply had the better car, made the pass with ease and rode off into the sunset on his trusty orange steed.
Fire at will. The next shot is yours.
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