Saturday, August 12, 2006

The I May Get Around To A Preview Race Preview

I am almost sad, this week, for Watkins Glen, home of my very very first Grateful Dead concert, is also the last of the road course races this season. Jerry Garcia, more than a guitarist and singer to the Dead, passed away 11 years ago on August 9. His music, and the joy of his music will always be with me.
This weekend’s racing at The Glen also mark the end of an era, because the next road course race, at Sears Point (Sonoma, CA), will feature the “Car of Tomorrow,” a cross between the Grand Am Rolex DP cars and the Craftsman Truck Series trucks. That’s right, folks, this will be the last road-course race for the cars we and the older drivers are finally getting used to. Well, it’s not all that bad--the Busch Series cars will remain as they are.
I like NASCAR road racing so much, I really wish there were more than two. It would be alright to see a race in the chase at the Daytona road course, or maybe Road Atlanta, but that would mean they would have to pull a location off the schedule, and that would piss a lot of people off. Still, they could rotate the last ten “chase” races every other year--how’s that for a proposition? One year, for instance, replace Talledega with a road race, then the next year go back to Talledega and replace Louden, and so on.
I could be on to something here. With all the tracks that ISC is trying to build, with talk of going to Canada, Mexico, and maybe even Europe, with no one seriously thinking about pulling any of Bruton Smith’s tracks off the schedule, NASCAR will soon find itself having to choose between two options to be able to satisfy all the venues. The first option, to increase the number of races during the season, is out of the question. Even though, up to 1971, there were fifty races scheduled in a season, only Richard Petty and a very few others ran in every race. Now with the costs in both time and money to the teams in drivers, it would be impractical to make a longer season--no matter how badly we want it to be year round. The other option would be to split the Cup series into two divisions, which is the idea that's been thrown about for a few years. This is not a good idea for many reasons, among which is that the fans want to see all the top stars race against each other The quality of the racing would deteriorate, because the difference in experience between the top veteran drivers and the field fillers would be so great that there would be very little racing. The problems for sponsors and sponsorship would be pretty obvious. So, although there would be more locations at which to see Cup Series races, and more races in all, it really wouldn't be the same.
My proposal represents a third option, one which I haven't heard anyone else suggest. Some of the tracks that are doubled could give up one of their races--the ones that have the lower attendence figures--and replace it every other year with a venue which doesn't currently have a Cup race. For example, one year, there could be a race at the Milwuakee Mile, rather than the first race at Dover. Maybe one of the races at TMS could be replaced with a race at Kentucky. But make it a rotating schedule, changing every other year.
Speaking of changes, we old time NASCAR fans are notoriously resistant to change. Any change in rules or racecar specs, and we whine like The Gordon, myself included, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming into acceptance. However, being a fan of all kinds of racing--a true speed addict, if you will--it doesn't matter to me if there are Italians, Brazilians, Canadians, or Columbians in NASCAR. This form of racing will remain uniquely American, and the American drivers will remain prevailant, if only because of the unique stock car racing experience. What I'm saying is this--NASCAR, soley because of its nature, and the type of racing it is, will not become like Champ Car, an American open wheel series which features only one American. The international diversity in NASCAR is actually good for the sport and for the fans. We can see how our drivers stack up, face to face, against internationally reknowned drivers. I say "NASCAR, bring 'em in."
By the same token, Toyota is just as much an American company as Daimler Chrysler. More Toyotas are built by Americans than are Fords. Ford will soon be building the majority of their cars in Mexico and Canada, with parts made in Japan. I say bring them in.
Well, I should get around to the preview. I could just point the way to Larry Mcreynolds' or Clance's previews which say pretty much the same things I would say. Tony Stewart, The Gordon, Robby Gordon, Boris Said, and Scott Pruitt are the usual suspects one would expect to see running up front in a Cup Series road-race. Kurt Busch, in the #2 car, is definitely getting the hang of turning right. Kevin Harvick has always done well at Watkins Glen, and we hope to see him up front for most of the race. Ron Fellows, my favorite Canadian, is another road course specialist who should be watched. And, I can't say this enough, never underestimate Denny Hamlin.
Watkins Glen is a faster track than Sears Point, with only eight turns compared to Sonoma's eleven. There is usually more wheel to wheel racing at The Glen, and the race is always exciting. There will be some beatin' and bangin' and there will be some flying tempers.
I can't get enough of it. Tune in your radio to MRN or PRN, mute the TV, and enjoy!

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