Monday, June 19, 2006

NASCAR Weekend Review-Just some thoughts

Once again we held our breaths as a car hit the wall hard, this time causing an explosion, and tearing the sheet metal off of the left side of the car. In the NASCAR Busch Series race at Kentucky, Jeff Fuller seemed to run full speed into the inside wall. It seemed to take too long to get the driver out of the car, and when he was finally extracted, he was placed on a gurney. There was a tentative sigh of relief, as we realized that he was moving. As it turned out, Fuller was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital and released, Sunday. Once again, we give thanks for the safety features implemented in what is, understandably, a potentially deadly sport. Still, we watch, and it is not morbid curiousity that makes us watch. We enjoy the speed, the competition, and the intensity on the part of the drivers. We know that it takes more than everyday integrity and motivation to do what our favorite drivers do every week. What we do know about these drivers is that it is not a death-wish, nor is it self-destructiveness that motivates their desire to race; it is, rather, an extraordinary love of the sensation of speed, and the desire to compete at those speeds. Their drive and determination maintain a nearly superhuman quality common mankind can only imagine. So we watch, fascinated by the relationship of a man or woman and the machine, the skills and reaction level of these drivers, and their bravery.
Meanwhile, David Gilliland, relatively unknown to most fans, mentored by the sorely missed Jerry Nadeau, went on to win the race, being the first non-Cup driver to win an NBS race this season. This is a great tribute to the talent of the up and coming drivers, and to the practice of allowing Cup drivers to race in the "minor league" series. Post race, the 30 year old Gilliland credited the so-called "Buschwhackers," saying, "they help me race better."
This was, in a way, a victory for the long absent Nadeau. Jerry Nadeau, a competent and somewhat popular driver, was seriously injured in a 2001 accident which left him partially paralyzed. Unable to race, he did not distance himself from racing. Instead, he kept himself as close to the sport as practical, coaching drivers, training drivers, and being involved in the design of safety equipment. As Gilliland's coach, the victory was, for Nadeau, almost as if he had driven the car himself.

Kasey Kahne is now the winningest driver in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series this season, with four victories. Nobody doubted his ability, for every other driver has expressed unmitigated confidence that the "cute little guy" is, indeed, a highly capable, championship quality driver. What was questioned was the ability of the car, the NASCAR fascimile of the Dodge Charger. Many insiders felt as though the Charger was poorly designed for the style and competitive level of NASCAR Cup racing. Kahne has, at most, belied that speculation and, at least, proven to the rest of us that he is a racer of the topmost quality.
My top-ten picks were sadly off this weekend, with my favorite, and my pick for victory, Tony Stewart, being taken out of the race early in an accident not of his doing. Much to his credit, the "old" hot-tempered Stewart did not emerge from the wrecked car. Instead of placing blame on Jeff Green, whose car had gotten loose and hit the #20 car, he relegated the incident to just "one of those things that happens when you race."
In my mind, I usually place an asterisk by a win in a rain shortened race, but this was a hard pitched battle, and a well run race. Sure it was pit position and strategy that had a large part to do with winning--many of the teams counted on a rain-out in their planning. Still it was a race and very worthy of the term.
Jeff Gordon even complained about having to race his team mate. I won't dwell on it, but here is the article from Scene Daily. It doesn't surprise me
Many of my pre-race top ten picks were virtually no-shows, but that doesn't matter. If nothing else, I am a race fan, and the race was every bit as exciting as I had anticipated. I have to admit, though I suck, lately, for picking winners, my enjoyment of racing is not even minutely diminished.
Next week is the road-course race at Infineon (formerly Sears Point) Raceway. I am very much looking forward to it, anticipating more excellence in yet another aspect of the skills of these drivers. And I know I will enjoy, immensely, watching the race..


Jon said...

It looks like Kahne has a pretty car this weekend and just maybe he can pull off another win this weekend and then Jimmie Johnson can wreckout himself and team mate Jeff Gordon. :)

RevJim said...

I don't know how well Kahne can do on road courses though. As much as I dislike Jeffy, I would love to see a good race between him and Stewart at Sears Point.