By Tim Leeming
The fourth race of the 2014 Sprint Cup season and the fourth different winner. Also it was the second time fans were subjected to hour after hour of rain delay. Fortunately, for me, the rain delay allowed me to do other things as my phone would notify me if and when the race restarted. So, I got up from the recliner and actually went about other duties. Unfortunately, for the couple hundred fans that showed up at Bristol, they had to sit in the cold and wet stands, or walk back and forth to wherever their vehicle may have been parked. But, let’s be fair here. Bristol announced that the stands were empty because the weather forecast for race day was for 100% chance of rain, the operative word there being “chance”. I have absolutely no faith in weather forecasts in spite of the one out of one zillion times they may get it right.
I remember traveling to Rockingham three consecutive Sundays before the weather allowed the race to happen back in 1970. I remember 1979 at Daytona when Saturday, Saturday night and all of Sunday morning were inundated with rain, yet the 1979 Daytona 500 is the race credited with introducing NASCAR racing to the world outside the Southeastern United States. Rain had not been forecast and the snow storm that blanketed the rest of the country was a surprise as well. While I believe the weather may have kept some folks away from the track, I absolutely refuse to accept the Bristol and NASCAR management report that the absence of fans was solely due to the weather.
Now, how about television ratings? Well, NASCAR has that eventually covered with the response that the rain delay forced FOX to transfer the resumption to FOX Sports 1 and many fans had given up hope that the race would be completed on Sunday. Guess they don’t have the NASCAR app on their cell phones. As I am writing this on Monday morning, I have no idea what the television ratings will be but after seeing the ratings on the first three races, I can expect the Bristol ratings will be as dismal as the afternoon and early evening weather in Bristol on Sunday. It should be very interesting to see how that shakes out when the ratings come out tomorrow.
Remember how we have often discussed how NASCAR manipulates race outcomes with the bogus caution flags? What do you folks think of the freaky “yellow lights/yellow flag/field freezing” deal Sunday night? Officially, from Robin Pemberton, it was “human error” which he went further to describe as a “dumb mistake”. Ok, here’s the official NASCAR report on the subject as pertaining to the field. There were SIX seconds between the time the yellow lights went on and the flagman threw the yellow flag. It was TWENTY seconds between the time the yellow flag was thrown and the field was “frozen”. Twenty seconds folks! That is somewhat absurd when the leaders were making just over 15 second laps under green.
I can only imagine what Cousin Carl was thinking when the yellow flew when he had that huge lead. Knowing him and his mouth, IF the caution has resulted in a green/white/checker run and he happened to lose, that would be the story of the week and probably the story of the season as Cousin Carl and Jack Rousch are not ones to keep quiet. Not that I blame them, I’m not one to keep quiet either and it would have been pathetic to see Duck Boy lose after that run to the lead with a bogus caution flag. The saving grace for NASCAR was the immediate downpour of rain so there was no reason to attempt a green/white/checkered. But think about it. What would have happened if the race restarted after the bogus caution and Cousin Carl was bumped out of the way.
Robin Pemberton stated that the lights coming on was the result of someone in the flag stand accidentally leaning on the caution light manual override switch. Yet, in another report on a well known and very renown NASCAR news site, NASCAR removed all the switches from the flag stand and all such decisions were to made by race control in the tower, i.e. David Hoots. Further, and this gets complicated for my simple mind, the yellow light switch is in the booth with race control to be controlled by David Hoots. Yet, Pemberton goes on to say there are switches on the flag stand whereas other sites with personal knowledge of such report there are NO switches on the flag stand. In a later remark, Pemberton says the wet weather may have caused a “short” in the wiring between the flag stand, race control, and the trailer from which everything is controlled. What? Now we have the NASCAR trailer involved. I’m telling you, even with the best experience in sports at making up rules and such as you go, this has gotten more confusing than it should be, definitely more confusing that it has to be. I wish I had the chance to go up on that flag stand after the race Sunday night to see for myself as that is the only way I’m ever going to know about the switches but in the overall picture of what happened, I can’t help but wonder why I even care. Just another chapter in the Chronicle of NASCAR ineptitude. I’m about to the point of being embarrassed to be called a NASCAR fan, but I guess I’ve been one for so long I don’t know anything else.
Ok, and I hate to bring this up again this week, but I have to. The Waltrips. If you’re tired of hearing me talk about them, then tune out for the next couple of minutes. This time I will leave Mikey alone as the overwhelming absurdity of D.W. Sunday sort of dulls the ineptitude of the younger big mouth. Let’s consider just a couple issue with D.W.
First up is the Timmy Hill matter. When Timmy ran into the back of Matt Kenseth, D.W. went into a monologue about how dumb a move that was and how that was a stupid “rookie mistake”. He talked on and on about what a disappointment that was to Kenseth, yet did not say one positive or consoling thing about Timmy Hill. After coming back from a commercial break, D. W. became conciliatory towards Timmy and tried to soften his harsh words of earlier. Could be he happened to be advised as to Timmy’s romantic other, not that there is anything to be concerned about there, but it is what it is. Look it up, I’m not telling.
Later in the race, Brad K. slams into the back of Jamie McMurray and it was because of “oil on the track” that Brad couldn’t stop, yet, Jamie Mac, the car in front of Brad was able to miss the oil spewing car of Kevin Harvick. Now I’m a fan of Brad K. so I’m not being adverse to Brad, just wondering what the difference may be for the mouth and mind of D.W.?
Now, for the piece de resistance. Danica, THE driver who garners all of D.W.’s attention when he’s not watching “Junebug”, ran into the back of Clint Bowyer trying to exit her pit. D.W. came out with “I can’t understand why Danica hit Clint in the pits”. Really, D.W.? Really? Well, I could offer such suggestions as “maybe she hadn’t hit Clint yet this season and thought she owed it to him”. Or, maybe she had the sun visor mirror down to fix her makeup as it looked like she may garner a top twenty finish and was sure to go through a ton of interviews. Sure, drivers hit one another coming in and out of the pits quite often, even happened to Jeff Gordon Sunday night, but I can’t recall seeing anyone trying to leave their pit and driving directly into the back of an already stopped car in front of them. Sorry to go back on my word, Bill, but I have to let this out. It is what it is and at the end of the day, Danica is an accident looking for a place to happen. So, D. W., perhaps the right answer to your query is “she isn’t that good”.
One more D.W. commment. When the race was getting ready to go back to green after the rain delay, D.W. wondered, out loud, if he should go with the “B,B,B” thing again. Mike Joye cut him off and said NO. Someone should give Joye an award for humanitarian reasons. Thank you Mike Joye.
Going back to some positive thoughts here, I was watching some of the rain delay coverage, for reasons I can’t possibly explain, but I was happy I was when I saw the Dad and his two sons sitting in the cold, wet stands, with their rain ponchos on and their headset radios. This was more than an hour after the red flag had come out the first time and here this Dad was, with his sons, maybe 8 and 10, and the expressions on the faces of those boys reminded me of how I must have looked at that age at ANY race. Those boys where there with their Dad and they were there to watch a race. They wouldn’t know about all the questionable things that would transpire with NASCAR, yellow flags, wrecking race cars, and the Waltrip syndrome of stupidity, but they would know that for that day, the rain was a non-issue. Wish I could have seen them again when the race was over. I’m sure the boys were asleep as they drove home after the race but if I were that Dad I would feel a warmth inside that rain, sleet, snow or hail couldn’t cool off. What a day.
Another positive thought here. When I did the Stocks for Tots at the NASCAR Institute in Mooresville back in December, as always, after the crowds had cleared out, the young men and women who attend the institute come through to talk with those of us remaining. I am always happy to stay and always enjoy talking with those young folks. Everyone of them, male or female, when asked what they are doing at the Institute will always say they “want to work in NASCAR”. During the rain delay Sunday, I saw one of the young men I had talked with at length back in December. I believe his name was Josh, but as I sometimes have issues remembering names, please don’t hold me to that. He was working for one of the crews, although I couldn’t read which one on his uniform, but his face was clearly seen for almost a full 45 seconds of more. I’m sure he may have only a part time job there and it probably doesn’t pay him much, if anything, but the look on that kid’s face (he is probably 19 or 20) was worth a million bucks. Probably his first race in the pits on a crew. Whether or not his dreams will ever come completely true or not, for that wet Sunday evening in Bristol, Tennessee, he was on a pit crew for a NASCAR Cup Team and, for him, that had to be the highlight, up to this point, of his young life. I love to see things like that. The kids that come through to talk with us from the Institute are always the ones interested in the history of the sport and most are quite knowledgeable. So to you, Josh, if that is your name, you go for it Dude. In fifty years, YOU will be the history of the sport.
So, the teams are heading to California to that track in Fontana. The racing at Bristol was pretty good, even several three abreast races going on. Let’s see what California can offer us this year. I have not been a fan of that track and am unlikely to become a fan of it anytime soon, but I hope the racing is as good as it was at Bristol. This time, Mr. Pemberton, Mr.Hoots, if we need a green/white/checkers to make it exciting, let’s just pretend there is debris on the track. You’ve got a lot of experience with that scenario so stick with it. The “accidental hitting of the non-existent switch that is either on the flag stand, in the race control booth, or the NASCAR trailer” isn’t going to float the second time around. Didn’t really float with me the first time around but then you had the rain start pouring down to save your honor. How very convenient. But remember, it never rains in Southern California.