by: Tim Leeming
As usual, tonight I am just full of comments and opinions that are screaming for expression. Ann’s cat won’t listen and Ann can only stand so much of me running my mouth about racing, so you folks are going to have to buck up and hear it. After all, racing season is back! Things are looking good and I’m excited.
I will start tonight with the negatives and get them out of the way because we have some really positive things to talk about here. I have really, really tried to give this a positive spin, but there just isn’t any way. FOX Sports absolutely stinks at providing race coverage. Their coverage of the Sprint Unlimited Saturday night was so inundated with commercials I almost forgot there was a race going on. Of the 75 laps of racing what did we see? Maybe 35? It was ridiculous and I think worse than ever. Before someone brings up the alternative is “Pay for View”, let me reiterate that there will never be a pay for view television program watched in this home and I am fully comfortable saying “never” in this situation.
Secondarily for FOX Sports is the continued use of the Waltrip brothers in their telecasts. This is an issue about which I have tried repeatedly to say nice things, but there just is no nice way to say “those two Waltrips could ruin a sunny day at the beach.” I really thought, when I didn’t hear Larry Mac say “wrech up there and pull those belts tight one more time” that I wasn’t going to have to listen to that annoying “Boogity” nonsense. Fooled me. I grabbed the remote so fast to mute the sound that the cat jumped in the fireplace. As for “Mikey”, I used to think fingernails on a blackboard was about the worst sound possible, but that voice of his is enough to make me crave being in a school room with 40 kids dragging fingernails across the blackboard. Just another reason to wonder how FOX can have some of the good talent they have on air and then tolerate those two buffoons. Surely the Waltrip name is not that big a draw to a race telecast.
Now, let’s get to the positive. It’s racing season and we have seen the new Generation Six cars on the track in competition. But first, let me mention the ARCA race. I always enjoy that race because, I think, so many of the drivers are no more than rookies but I think they show some real talent, for the most part, and it’s nice to think some of those drivers may come on up to NASCAR at some point. While I think I was as shocked as anyone that John Wes Townley won that race, it was nice to know he really can drive something. Every other event in which I’ve watched him, he has been far less than stellar, sometimes bordering on totally inept. But he won that one, so congratulations.
Watching the ARCA telecast, I was surprised to hear Kyle Busch in the booth helping to call the race. I was greatly impressed! The comments he made throughout were informative and on point. He did a really great job and, to make it even better, he has a very pleasant voice for such broadcasts. Outstanding job!
So, how did you folks like the Spring Unlimited? I was quite surprised at some of the emails I received after the race as well as comments from fans on my Social Media Site. Many folks said they didn’t like the race, that it was the same old restrictor plate racing, blah, blah, blah. I wonder if they were watching the same race I watched (what little FOX allowed us to see between all the commercials) or just exactly what the gripe is. I was impressed that there was close racing, passing, drafting, able to catch back up without depending on another car, and just generally what I thought to be a return to somewhat how things used to be in the days we here at RacersReunion hold in such esteem. It was awesome to see Fords that looked like Fords, Chevys that looked like Chevys, and Toyota that also looked like, well, you know, those Japanese cars! I applaud NASCAR for that move and the manufacturers seem to be very happy about that too. Brand identity is back and I think the cars are absolutely beautiful, all of them.
I’m not sure how I feel about all the Sprint hoopla about fans voting on this and that, even down to Miss Sprint Cup’s fire-suit, but it all turned out pretty good because it appears the fans were interested in the racing aspects. I do agree with those who have said that splitting up the race into segments is somewhat counterproductive. I can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been had it not been for the big wreck that took out some really top contenders.
Speaking of the “big one”, it should be noted that the three big ones that have happened at Daytona so far this year have all been totally and completely driver error and cannot be blamed on the new cars. I can already hear the Dale, Jr. fans screaming that the wreck he caused was due to the new car being unable to bump draft, but I can’t agree with that assertion from what I witnessed Saturday night.
This is not intended as a negative, but I have to ask this question. There was a Forum Post on our site stating that NASCAR will no longer release “estimated attendance figures”. For many years, in its formative years, NASCAR did not release “official” crowd estimates. When the practice started, surely most of the “official estimates” were inflated appropriately. I think it really got out of hand last year at Dover. I don’t remember the exact numbers NASCAR put forth, but I do remember the stands at Dover looked like the dusty main street of a western ghost town, missing only the blowing tumbleweeds. This “new” practice for this year may be along the lines of avoiding further embarrassment such as that Dover fiasco, although there were many other instances throughout last season when to call those in attendance at a race a “crowd” was playing fast and loose with the definition of “crowd”. Maybe the old standard of “two is company, three’s a crowd” would justify the use of the word but that is being very liberal. My official estimate of the fans in the stands for qualifying Sunday would be somewhere between 20 and 30 people total. And those were probably the vendors who had no one for customers so they sat down to watch. But I am hoping for much better attendance at events this year.
Now, let’s talk about the Daytona 500 Pole. Danica Patrick on the pole. You can bet your bippy, as they used to say on Laugh In, that Brian France is dancing in the stands with that news. This is news that can be milked to the max, at least through the Twins on Thursday, if not all week. As I am writing this on Sunday, I am not privileged to the headlines that will grace the major publications tomorrow but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the New York Times headline this on the front page. I think the only down side for Brian is that the banks will be closed Monday for President’s Day and he won’t be able to get all that money in the bank quick enough. Tickets should be selling like hog slop at a Honey Boo Boo Fan Club meeting with Danica on the pole.
So, what do I think about this historic event? I’m all for it. This is positive publicity for the sport and being able to use this for an entire week for press advantage is akin to the hype the Stupid Bowl gets each year. I watched Danica during her time in the Hollywood Hotel Sunday, which, and here we go again on the anti-commercials campaign, was a full 30 minutes withOUT one commercial break by FOX. I am very impressed with Danica, the way she interviews and interacts with the press. She was very professional, even when the subject was her romance with Ricky Stenhouse. I did strongly take exception to D.W. stating immediately after Danica’s qualifying run, that she “has the pole”. I think that was wrong. Incidentally, as I am sitting here writing this, Sunday afternoon at 4:20 p.m., the D.J. on the station I listen to just spent five minutes talking about the historic event of Danica getting the pole. That D.J. has probably never seen a racecar, but took it upon herself to talk about Danica. See what I mean? That is going to be the topic of everything racing-related this week. I would suspect the only racing event to ever draw more publicity than what Danica did was when President Reagan was at the King’s 200th win. Imagine, Brian France and The Legend both happy about the same thing! Who would have ever “thunk it”?
Another thing about all the events I watched on Speed and FOX over the weekend is all the references made to the history of NASCAR and stock car racing. It was repeated over and over and some very good points were made. Whether or not D.W. has been convinced the sport did NOT begin with his entrance, I don’t know, but I do know that NASCAR has made several comments and references to the past. I like that. Wonder if that has anything to do with what Jeff Gilder has accomplished here? I know Buz McKim, NASCAR’s historian at the Hall of Fame, was right there with all the events going on this past weekend. I know Buz is supporting several of the events in which Jeff is involved. This is a good thing, not only for RacersReunion but also for NASCAR. Just think of what could be accomplished if NASCAR recognizes what Jeff is doing with this site and what all you fans are doing with and for this site. If NASCAR is getting serious about honoring the history, then it is only right that RacersReunion be at the forefront. I like what I’m seeing in NASCAR this year and I think the publicity the sport will garner this coming week will help return the sport to the public prestige it enjoyed before the current downturn. I hope I’m not wrong here.
I am truly looking forward to the Twins on Thursday, the Camping World Truck Series Friday night, the Nationwide on Saturday and certainly the 500 on Sunday. This is the week a race fan wants to be sure the TV works and the time is set aside to be there. I hope for competitive racing and I pray for the safety of all the competitors.
As I finish writing this Legendtorial, Sunday afternoon at 4:45, I know, barring rain delays or whatever, the 2013 Daytona 500 will be history a week from now. Whether or not Danica wins the race, what she has accomplished is historical and will be talked about for a long time. Everything coming out of Daytona for the past few days has been positive and I expect that will continue this week. There has been no talk of modifying the “plates”, no talk of modifying other aspects of the racing, so I’m looking forward to one spectacular week. With Jeff in place to handle the historical, and NASCAR at least now acknowledging the historical, and Dargan Watts and Zetta Baker, along with some many others, working so hard with their endeavors, it seems everything should be just fine. At least that’s the way I see it.
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(Editor’s note: Tim Leeming is a member of the regular cast of the Tuesday evening racing show ” Racing Through History”, presented on Zeus Radio Network by RacersReunion®. Archives can be found by following the link. Live broadcasts can be heard from 7:00-9:00 PM every Tuesday. Please feel free to join us in the RacersReunion® Chat Room for the show.)