Monday, April 03, 2006

Martinsville Race Review--Alright Smoke!!!

First of all, I need to say that I am glad that I am in the habit of listening to the radio broadcast while watching the race on television. Motor Racing Network (MRN) did an outstanding job of covering the restarts and the reasons for all the cautions during the Martinsville race, much of which occurred during the television commercials. Credit should be given to Fox’s race coverage, however, because they did review incidents and exemplar racing that happened during their commercial breaks. We could see the video of what had been described on radio minutes earlier, while listening to the ongoing action on the radio broadcast. The complimentary broadcasts made the experience of the race very exciting to this hard-core race fan. I felt as if I was, spiritually, at least, at Martinsville, so satisfying was the experience.

There were none of the grudges or retribution predicted by many racing commentators or journalists. Instead, it was the great, hard racing that can be expected at the short tracks on the NASCAR Cup circuit. Sure, there was some bumpin’ and bangin’, but that’s what we want at Martinsville, isn’t it? These cars do have fenders. The point is that no one intentionally tried to take anyone out.

The respect for each other shown by some of NASCAR’s top drivers was exemplary. Until the last few laps, when it mattered, right of way was freely given and taken. The racing between Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart toward the end of the race was both exciting and educational. This is how real race drivers race. Kyle Busch, who has obviously been listening to Tony Stewart, as he had promised, must have learned much, for he was right there to see how the most talented drivers should race each other.

As my regular readers may know, I can never call myself a Jeff Gordon fan. However, I am elated that Jeff seems to be back in his classic form. It makes for better overall competition when one of the best, or, at least, most talented drivers has his stuff together and can overcome all the setbacks he encountered during the race. It was beautiful to see. I might not like Jeffy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching him race at his best. After having tire problems early in the race, and having to race nearly every driver on the track for every position, he put himself in serious contention for the win.

And how about that #8 team? That car was so beat up, beginning with the 2nd lap big wreck, it no longer looked like a stock car at the end of the race. Dale Jr had to have done some great driving to bring that car to a fifth-place finish, and much of the credit for that great finish must go to his pit crew and to Tony “Stiffy” Eury, Jr for all the work they had to do to keep that car on the track and in contention.

Elliot Sadler and the #38 team also had a great day. The Candyman has reconfirmed that he is a championship level driver, this season, and his team has shown some great consistency. It’s only the sixth race of the season, but so far, the drivers I wanted to see perform well are performing well.

One downside of the race--is NASCAR giving in to the wimpy faction of fans who don’t get that NASCAR racing is a contact sport? With less than forty-five laps to go, with Jimmie Johnson aggressively blocking to protect his lead, and Tony Stewart banging to take the lead, NASCAR issued a warning to Smoke’s team to tell him to “calm down.” Come on guys, were you thinking that Stewart would say “Okay, I’ll just let Jimmie have this one?” These guys were racing, not trying to take each other out, just good, clean, hard racing. I don’t care who the driver is in this case, I just hope NASCAR doesn’t make a habit of this kind of warning for this kind of racing. These cars have fenders for a reason.

But, all turned out well, no penalties were issued, and my head hurts from the head-banging part of the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” dance.

For those who don’t know the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” dance, I’ll have to refer you to the Rem and Stimpy cartoon show, or, more conveniently, to Bab’s NASCAR Blog. Smoke won and climbed the fence to receive the checkered flag personally from the flag man. Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli was there to see the win, spending the entire race on top of the pit box with Greg Zippadelli. Tony and Nardelli have much respect for each other, and I’m sure Smoke got some inspiration from his sponsor boss being there. It was a great win, and every time Smoke wins a hard fought race, the aforementioned dance comes quite naturally.

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