Quit painting lipstick on pigs. A pig is a pig, no matter whether it has lipstick or pearls; it’s still a pig even if you tell me it’s a boar or a sow. It’s still a pig when it’s sitting on your plate in that delicious form known to us as “bacon.”
Sunday night my social media greeted me with the usual fleet of posts related to the results of that day’s NASCAR race. I wasn’t too surprised to see that Ryan Blaney had won his first Cup Series (I refuse to use the terms “Premier” or “Monster Energy”) race, though it’s different he did it at Pocono and under perfectly normal circumstances. The joy for the Wood Brothers team was explosive, and it got me thinking…
That isn’t really the Wood Brothers. At the end of the day, it’s a Penske-provided Ford engine and chassis, and they have Penske engineers working with them to, more or less produce a carbon copy of the cars Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are driving. The car is built at the Wood Brothers shop and crewed at the track by the Wood Brothers with employees chosen by the Wood Brothers, but in the current era of NASCAR the Penske-provided machinery way overwhelms any disadvantage created by being otherwise prepared by the Wood Brothers.
Look at the sport: Furniture Row Racing is a Colorado-based extension of Joe Gibbs Racing, complete with Gibbs equipment and a driver running a Gibbs-funded 2nd car just to be able to circumvent the 4 car rule. Hendrick Motorsports, until this season, had an effective 8 car operation as the Stewart-Haas cars were de facto Hendrick cars with, in this scenario, stark performance differences created by the men at the shop on their computers. When SHR was “ahead” the Hendrick cars were still winning many races albeit with both teams only, at the time, having two competitive drivers.
Can you imagine how different the sport would be if the current sport had the 60s factory team structure or vice versa? I counted 10 factory Chevrolets, 9 factory Fords, and 6 factory Toyotas in Sunday’s race, and I acknowledge that the level of support varies. In the 60s and 70s, there were Dodge, Plymouth, Ford, Mercury, AMC, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Buick at different points. At most points, one would find 4-5 of those fielding competitive cars.
What would 1963 or 1964 look like if Plymouth, Pontiac, Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, and Mercury each had (a) 4 factory cars and (b) at least 2 cars in satellite teams running the entire 55 or 62 race car slaughter? I count 20 or so regular drivers winning races in the ±1 year around 1963; add in several drivers from other series who won and a few drivers came really close. Even under such circumstances, you’re still 9-20 cars shy of having a comparable factory commitment to today. You have to count guys Crawfish Crider and Larry Thomas for good measure.
Let’s flip it: what would today look like if Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. were the only Chevy drivers, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex the only Toyota drivers, and Brad K. the only Ford driver? Everybody else has to either (a) run full-time for himself with zero factory support or (b) run only select races at Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Michigan for factory teams. We can use the masculine since Danica Patrick would never survive under such circumstances.
It’s all about painting that lipstick nice and thick on that pig. The thicker you paint it, the more blemishes will be hidden. But once you blob lipstick in enough places, it begins to look more and more like the makeup drawer threw up then someone hiding blemishes. It becomes an uglier pig than before. Drown it enough, and it’ll eventually look like a walking, oinking blob of lipstick.