The Legendtorial for tonight is sort of mish-mosh of observations over the past couple of weeks and things I just want to get off my chest. No, I'm not going to get involved in all the political goings-on that are permeating our country at present, but I do want to express some views on events of recent occurrence in our world of stock car racing.
First, let me begin by saying congratulations to Kyle Busch for your win in Sonoma. You earned it and you proved that you are back. Now all you have to do is work your way up to 30th or better in the points to make The Chase. Somehow, I feel that is a sure bet with your talent and the benevolence of the NASCAR rulers. I would be shocked to see you miss The Chase even if you have to "itch" your way in. I also think it is a remarkable recovery you have made from your accident in Daytona and I am very, very sincerely happy about that. I am even happier that FOX Sports won't be covering the rest of the season so D.W. can constantly remind us of your miraculous recovery. You did well, Kyle, but I do remember The King driving with a broken neck and several other times when he had broken ribs, shoulders, and pretty much overall banged up. I remember Davey Allison driving with a broken wrist in a number of races after a horrific crash at Pocono. Don't mean to be taking anything away from you Kyle, I just want D.W. to stop going on as if you arose from the dead after four months. You are a race driver, and a darn good one. That's what you do.
Yes, I did watch the Sonoma race, not quite all of it, but enough to have plenty of observations worth pointing out. Number one was at the beginning when D.W. and others in the booth made the statement that the crowd was in excess of anything seen at Sonoma in several years. Also, that traffic was still trying to make its way into the track. Excuse me fellows, but the overhead shots showed grandstands largely devoid of fans. Never really got a good shot of the infield crowd, that is if they allow folks in the infield, but there was a good shot of the highway outside the track. There were very few, and I mean very few, cars traveling at the speed limit or there about, so there was certainly no traffic congestion outside as alluded to by the FOX team. It is almost as if the FOX broadcast should begin with "once upon a time" and end with "they all lived happily ever after".
From the emotional scene with Larry Mac at the end of the broadcast, he is going to be the odd man out when Jeff Gordon moves into the booth next year. Larry Mac is one I can take or not, doesn't matter. I doubt there is anyone else in NASCAR who can remind us the cars are pitting for "Sunoco Race Fuel" as well as can Larry Mac. That also leaves me to believe that both Waltrips will return next year. More the pity for that. Larry Mac, I suppose, will be overseeing the career of his young son trying to make it in the sport.
Now, remember a couple of weeks ago I told you about the high-class Goodwill Store having a grand opening on the 25th. That store is located less than a mile from my house. I had said I would go down there and report on the outcome of the advertised NASCAR Star who was to appear and sign autographs for two hours. The advertisements leading up to that opening stated tickets would be limited to 250, first come, first served, and ticket handout would begin at 7:00 a.m. the day of the opening. I did go down, not to get a ticket, but to see how things were going. As I pulled up in the parking lot at approximately 7:35 a.m., I was almost assaulted by the manager of the facility who came right up to my car window with a hand full of "tickets" to see this NASCAR Superstar. He immediately handed me one without even asking if I wanted one. I thanked him and as I drove away, he was shouting after me that ticket holders would be called, 25 at the time, starting at 10:00 a.m. so I needed to be back at that time as my ticket number was 30. I assured him I would return.
When I got home, I sat down with my coffee and read the back of this ticket. Point by point, I was told:
Tickets limited to 250
One ticket per customer
First Come, first served
Autograph session begins at 10:00 a.m. Ticket numbers will be called as such; 1-25, 1-50, 1-75. Must be present when number is called. A last call will be made before session ends. Late arrivers may not be accommodated.
You will be limited to one photo with celebrity and one autograph. Please have camera (or phone camera) and item ready. A staff member will assist you with the photo.
Seriously folks, even if I had planned to be a part of this autograph session, I would have had to give it up after reading those rules. Talk about ridiculous, this was absurd. Oh, I'm sure when Dale, Jr. does appearances, these are pretty much the rules, but the celebrity appearing here was not Dale, Jr. In fact, the picture on the front of the ticket shows this man in a suit and tie, not a fire suit, and he is not identified anywhere on the ticket as a NASCAR driver, only a "NASCAR Analyst".
I did go back to the store at 10:00 a.m., more to see how things were going than anything else. The parking lot, and it is huge, was filled to capacity so I assumed our celebrity was getting the royal treatment. As it were, one of the local radio personalities to whom I listen almost every afternoon was doing a remote from there so I stopped off to talk with him. By the time I entered the store, it was after 11:00 a.m., more than an hour after the autographs were to begin, and as I walked in, there was a young man standing just inside the door, yelling at the top of his lungs "Get your autograph tickets here". I noted only 134 tickets had thus far been distributed but I felt good that our celebrity was not totally ignored. Then, the older lady in front of me took one of the tickets and as we walked past the young man, she turned and asked me what it was for and I told her it was to allow her to get an autograph from a NASCAR driver. Her response was "Oh, pooh" as she put the ticket in her purse and walked over to the flower pots.
I don't know how many folks actually showed up to meet this NASCAR Celebrity, but I hope he was not a disappointed guy because I do have a great deal of respect for him. My overall point in bringing this to your attention to begin with is to say that NASCAR seems to have lost some of its drawing appeal with the more current drivers. I do know that every time I do an appearance at an event, I hear it repeated over and over again by the fans, how much more they appreciate being able to meet the drivers from the past, the drivers who build the sport to begin with. I can say with certainty that every event I've attended has drawn more folks than the grand opening I witnessed this past Thursday.
I'm getting a little tired of writing in the negative sense about my sport. So, NASCAR, I am asking you to give me something positive to write about. Don't show me commercials for The Southern 500 at Darlington bragging about how that shows your dedication to the heritage of the sport when everything you seem to do speaks otherwise. I wish you were dedicated to preserving the true history and heritage of the sport but it seems you only do that which is acceptable to your contrary standards, and, seemingly, ever-changing standards.
I do know that Tony Stewart has said that the rule changes made for Kansas are the result of the Drivers Council. He goes on to say that, what the new rules do puts more control in the hands of the driver than in the aero packages of the cars. Can this possibly be true? Is it actually possible that you are going to make changes to the cars that will return them more to the ways of old when such changes may adversely affect your "cup-cake" drivers? Can't wait to see how that goes. Again, I say, if you folks had listened to our own Hugh Overcash and the rest of the crew here on Tuesday nights, you would know how to fix the cars where we could have some good racing and where the true drivers versus steering wheel holders would prevail. Such a change may even allow one driver to be "racing another too hard" as some of the cup-cake, also known as "Candy Butt" drivers allege from time to time.
While we are on the subject of the NASCAR of old and how things were versus how they are now, I want to give a round of applause to Buz McKim, the NASCAR Historian at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Buz has often attended our RacersReunion events held at the Hall of Fame and given us personal guided tours around the place. This day, Monday June 29, I was again personally reminded of the extraordinary effort Buz puts forth to preserve the history and to call upon others who revere the history of the sport for their contributions. I look forward to a continued and long association with Buz and the Hall of Fame as he continues to update exhibits and videos. I admire what he does and wish I could get that job. Oh, and those Hall of Fame shirts he wears are awesome as well. Thanks, Buz, for all you do. Just had to put that out there.
This weekend we are heading back to Daytona for the July Fourth Racing Celebration. This time, however, it will be the Xfinity Series running on the Fourth and the Cup cars running on Sunday, the Fifth. Not really sure I understand why that is after all the years the Firecracker WAS the Fourth of July Celebration for me. I remember being there when it was so hot at 11:00 a.m., an hour into the race, that I was dipping a beach towel in the ice chest and then wrapping it around me trying to stay cool. I remember driving all night, after work, several times when the Fourth came during the week, watching the race and then driving back to Columbia to work the next day. Oh well, I'm sure I'll watch this weekend because it is, after all, Daytona, and it is difficult for me to miss a race at Daytona or Darlington as those two tracks always seemed to draw me in. I must admit, however, that when I passed the Daytona Speedway this past February, there is no way I would have recognized the place where I spent so many February and July overnights in the infield. I guess it is better for me to watch these races on television these days as my patience with traffic snarls is very, very limited at my advanced age. I have really thought about having The Legend mobile equipped with machine guns behind the grill, much like the James Bond car, but Ann frowns upon that possibility.
So, everyone please have a very Happy and safe Fourth of July weekend. We need to remember the true significance of this special holiday, especially now as things in our world are so far removed from July 4, 1776. I will throw this out from my heart to all of us, and for all of us: "God Bless America"!!!!