Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saturday through Wednesday

Saturday - May 8 - Darlington - A few, final thoughts
  • Big speeds - designed for around 70-80 MPH, today's cars are running about 2-1/2 times that speed. Amazing...
  • "The knee" - The media drama-queens more about Denny Hamlin’s knee than he does. Quite frankly, I've been super impressed with Hamlin's not dwelling on in when he enters or exits the car beyond obvious body language or some candid comments when a microphone is stuck in his face. But, my tired, worn out, ol' knees ache thinking about the pounding his knee is getting inside the car lap after lap.
  • David Pearson's interview with Kyle Petty on Speed's RaceDay was classic. He said he gets tired of drivers and crew chiefs discussing tire pressure adjustments of as low as a quarter-pound. Pearson said "They oughtta just move up or down the track. That's what I did." He also said part of his great success at Darlington was trying not to let cars behind him follow his line too closely.
  • The battle of the Jeffs - Gordon's and Burton's tight racing late in the race reminded me of their tussle in the 1997 Southern 500 where Gordon had the $1 million Winston Million bonus on the line.

  • Yet 13 years later, it was amazing both the 31 and 24 left the 2010 money on the table when it mattered.
  • "I'm tahred, I'm haht" - FOX's "dream team" pointed out on more than one occasion the drivers and crews must be exhausted from the heat of Darlington. Puleeze - DW of all people should remember the masochism of racing Southern 500s during the daytime on Labor Day weekends. Hot temps in the 90s with matching humidity, ill-fitting aluminum seats, drivers sitting several inches behind the steering column vs. where they do today increasing strain on their shoulders and arms, no power steering, bias ply Goodyears, no comfort motorhomes 100 paces from the start-finish line. Get the picture? I will give the crews a pass and acknowledge now vs. then could be as tough or tougher. Back in the day, it was cotton pants and thin tee or short-sleeve button-down shirts on race day. Today, its full-fledged firesuits and helmets along pit road. Ouch.
  • A.J. Allmendinger better be glad Jimmie Johnson's 48 was there to cushion the blow from his backward sliding #43. I know A.J. didn't wreck Johnson intentionally, but his direct pinball shot into the 48 reminded me a bit of Cole Trickle taking out his teammate, Hardy Boy Parker Stevenson.

  • Old Spice's leaving Stewart-Haas - Really bad timing for Smoke as he needs all the deodorant he can get to cover the stinky run he’s had lately.
  • Robby Gordon carried too much speed going 3 wide and nearly knocked the wall down in the Cup race. Steven Wallace hit the wall in Nationwide practice. This just in: the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.
  • The Southern 500? At night? On Mother's Day weekend? - I dunno, it still just doesn’t seem right. I've only been to Darlington once. I'd love to return and spend a lot of time touring National Motorsports Press Association Joe Weatherly museum. But as its currently scheduled, it'll never happen. (By the way, the museum is sadly under-maintained and under-marketed by NASCAR and ISC. They even dropped the original Joe Weatherly tribute name. Its simply the "Darlington Stock Car Museum" now. Pitiful.)
  • How long before Ford drivers photos start appearing on the back of milk cartons? Hard to believe Matt Kenseth is a Cup champ and won the Daytona 500 almost 18 months ago. Hard to believe Carl Edwards used to do backflips when he won. Hard to believe The Possum, Greg Biffle, mixed it up while racing up front and even snookering some teams on pit strategy. Hard to believe David Ragan...oh wait, never mind. And the Richard Petty Motorsports Ford contingent? I don't even wanna blog about it right now.
Sunday - May 9 - Mother's Day and a King's Anniversary

Mother's Day? Hopefully, it was memorable for my wife. The kids and I took care of her okay I think - gift, flowers, card, made her Sunday dinner, stayed out of her way, etc. My mother had a memorable one because she spent it tending to my dad who is recovering from recent hip surgery. Bless her heart.

The King? He likely still has memories of May 9 too. From 1970. But not necessarily in a positive way. In practice before the spring Darlington race that year, Richard totaled his iconic winged Plymouth Superbird. The Petty team quickly readied a backup Plymouth Road Runner short-track car as the backup. What did Richard do? Wadded it up in the fence too! Two times out, two wrecks. The team sent for a third car from the Level Cross shop, and he was able to successfully qualify it. Whew. All was good, right? Wrong. During the race, Richard wiped out his third car in as many days. But he gets a TEN on style points as seen in this video.

Remarkably, his only significant injury was a dislocated shoulder resulting from his arm flopping outside the window. Following this wreck, the Petty team installed window netting to minimize the risk of it happening again. It was shortly afterwords the net became "standard issue" on all Cup cars.

Tuesday - May 11 - Hall of Fame opening

I already blogged about my visit to the HOF last week. It sounds like the crowd for the sho-nuff, day 1, grand opening was pretty good. And for good reason! When folks like Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, Terry Labonte, Rick Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Eli Gold, Ned Jarrett, and the like are there, that should be plenty of reason to attend.

In trading messages with writer Monte Dutton, we agreed the hall seems to be directed more to visitors vs. hard core, long-time NASCAR fans. Perhaps its a necessary evil. The hall is near the Charlotte convention center, so some combined traffic is likely anticipated. NASCAR, the hall, and the city of Charlotte are always going to be looking for the casual observer - especially if they can convince them to part with a Jackson to tour the facility. But lastly and most cynically, NASCAR has seemingly alienated a lot of the hard core fans anyway - so hey, one more instance isn't altogether surprising!

Some controversy lingers about David Pearson not being included in the inaugural, 2010 class. What's done is done, and even the Silver Fox says let's all just move on. But even without the Frances absorbing 2 spots in the 2011 class, choosing just five inductees will be difficult. Pearson will likely be among them, but who will be the other four? Let the next round of debate begin.

I recommend the hall expand its induction class to seven for the next seven years for a couple of reasons:
  • The NASCAR Numerology - Dale Earnhardt had 7 championships, and Petty had 7 Daytona 500s to go along with his 7 championships.
  • The hall needs to prove its mission is true - that its more than just the drivers. How long will deserving crew chiefs, engine builders, owners, promoters, media members, etc. be omitted if just drivers are selected in the early classes? Or if blended classes are chosen, what deserving drivers are going to have to wait another year?
  • Some very deserving individuals are aging ... quickly. NASCAR is in a unique position to not only induct them but to also have the media and fans hear from them before their voices are lost forever.
  • Seven seems to be a manageable number for the hall to promote and to induct annually in the short run. If the number hits double digits, each deserving inductee might get shorted because of time or coverage constraints.
Once these initial "seed" classes are selected, I'd be okay with the hall returning to five annual inductees.

Wednesday - May 12 - Memories of a tough day in 2000

May 12, 2000 - Kyle Petty and his daughter were on a plane headed to England. His oldest son, Adam, was in Loudon, NH with the Petty Enterprises #45 Sprint-sponsored Busch Series team. During practice for the race, Adam hit the wall ... a ton. And *snap* just like that, he was gone. 19 years old.

Many posit to this day Adam would have been a good'un, maybe even a great. I have no clue whether he would have or not. His résumé was too short to predict a career of two decades or more. What I do believe, however, is Adam's death pretty much sealed the fate of Petty Enterprises as a viable, stand-alone race team. Richard nor Kyle have been the same racing-wise in the 10 years since.

I've often heard a quote that the night is darkest right before the dawn. Perhaps that is true in this case. Adam's legacy continues with the Victory Junction Gang Camp. The camp was visioned by Adam before his death, and his dream was brought to fruition by Kyle, Pattie, Richard, and Lynda Petty and countless others after he was gone.

May you continue to R.I.P. Adam.


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