Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NASCAR Season Still Strong As It Nears End

My cats were afraid of me, because I was jumping around, yelling, whooping and exhibiting all sorts of strange behavior. They got over it, they always do. After all, all I was doing was watching the last few laps of the Sony HD 400 from California Sunday night. I was excited, because it looked as though Reed Sorenson might get his first win. Not that I am a great fan of the young driver, but it is exciting to see any NASCAR driver get his or her first win.
It is still hard for me to get used to not having the Southern 500 from Darlington to watch on Labor Day weekend. The anticipation I experienced toward the end of last week was a holdover from what was a holiday tradition. The races at Darlington are always exciting, for it is a very unique and very difficult track. Passing isn't that easy at Darlington, because the track is narrow and the surface is uneven, and traction is easily lost. It is these kinds of risks that make a race exciting.
But at some point, I suppose we have to let tradition go. NASCAR is, after all, a business, and if a business doesn't profit, then there is no point in running it. Darlington wasn't making the kind of money NASCAR wanted, so they moved the Labor Day venue to California.
Not to say that they can't have an exciting race at California--Sunday's race proved that they can. It is a different kind of racing from Darlington--wide open and plenty of room to pass. Normally, though, this would result in a long single file parade, because, in the past, the competition wasn't at the levels it has been this year. As much as I hated the idea of the Race for the Chase when it first came into play two years ago, it has noticeably raised the stakes for the last quarter of the season, which in turn raises the competition level, and the level of excitement. The drivers take more risks, and though the risk factor isn't as high at California as it was at Darlington, it still makes for better racing.
In the end, it became a fuel mileage race. Thouigh not always desireable, at certain tracks, such as California Speedway, the strategy in this type of racing can be captivating. It is gambling, and we all like to watch the big gamble, the taking of chances and the out-thinking that goes with it. It was a gamble that put Sorenson in front, and the gamble was lost, for Sorenson ran out of fuel with four laps to go. Kasey Kahne, the Cute Little Guy, and one heck of a racer, took the win, completing a Busch/Cup sweep of the weekend.
I felt happy after the race, because it once again affirmed that we are seeing some of the best racing this season in over ten years. Whether or not the drivers who are racing up front are among our favorites doesn't matter, for we love watching Earnhardt, Martin, Gordon, Kenseth and Kahne trying to out-maneuver each other at very high speeds. I like to believe that we all got what we wanted from Sunday's race, and that is what keeps us looking forward to the next race. The next race should be a "doozie." Next weekend's race at the short track in Richmond, VA is the last race before the cutoff for the championship series. Eleven drivers have a chance to make the top ten, and it all comes down to the finish line next Saturday. Though there will be forty-three drivers in the last ten races of the season, only the top ten after Richmond will be competing for the championship. Matt Kenseth holds the points lead, with Johnson right behind him. Kevin Harvick, in third, is pretty much locked in, but the fourth through tenth positions are up for grabs. Any mistake, no matter how small, will put one of these drivers out of the top ten for the rest of the season. Needless to say, as much as we disliked the idea when it was first enacted, we watch with great interest.
"NASCAR--how bad you got it?" I got it bad.


Babs said...

We can always hope that he who shall not be named has an engine go bad on lap 2. oh please, oh please, oh please!

RevJim said...

The Cute Little Guy is less than thirty points out, I believe. I'm not going to wish bad luck on Jeffy, but I'm hoping something happens so Kahne gets in!