I mean, really now.
Here I am, enjoying the world’s longest blogging sabbatical and my confirmed membership in the “whatever happened to” league, when you put out races like today’s Texas Sprint Cup imbroglio. You couldn’t leave well enough alone, nor let a sleeping dog lie. You just had to – HAD to – put on a theater of the absurd screaming for commentary.
I do give you props (do people still give props? I am very much out of touch when it comes to pop culture slang) for giving us something that was so over the top it prevented me from so much as contemplating assembling one of my post-race recaps set in some oddball universe. No amount of creativity or parody could possibly match the actual events. Well done, everyone.
The race in its entirety was the Jimmie Johnson show, this placing him alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the “oh, so now you win” division of the ludicrous POS otherwise known as the Chase. It was a stupid idea from the beginning, and this year’s knockout/points reset format is stupid on steroids. Auto racing cannot be adapted to a playoff format, unless you want to emulate the end of Cars, in which case my money is firmly on Lightning McQueen. Ka-chow. But I digress. Certainly Johnson and Earnhardt figure to be title contenders next year; no surprise there. It can be argued that Goodyear did more than the other Chase drivers to knock Johnson and Earnhardt out of the running this year, but that is a rant for another post. Back to the Lone Star State stinkfest.
Examining the “yeah, that went well” attempt at a green-white-I’d like to thank my sponsors moment that led to assorted people learning when in a fistfight it’s best to not lead with your face, Brad Keselowski made a mistake by going for a hole that by the time he was there was no longer there (but Jeff Gordon was). It’s way too easy to armchair drive, so I’ll leave it at that. It was an error of overaggressive enthusiasm. If it happens in any other race, assorted snarky comments are made afterwards that will enthrall the NASCAR Nation faithful and that is the end of it. Period.
However, in yet another miserably failing attempt to gin up interest by means other than, say, more competitive races, NASCAR set the stage for exactly what happened after the race. In racing, there are a multitude of variables in every contest, many of which are well outside the driver and team’s control: a parts failure, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, etc. This further highlights the inane insanity of this year’s Chase format. Reference the earlier note about how tire failure derailed Johnson and Earnhardt’s title drives. There are far too many potential events for artificial down-to-one-race scenarios. If such happens as a product of the season’s events, fine. That is legitimate drama. The Chase is as legitimate as Milli Vanilli.
NASCAR is exacerbating the situation by at once fostering an environment where people going over the edge is a given and tsk-tsking actual punches being thrown, this as compared to the apparently A-OK practice of driving like a maniac through the garage area post-race. It is also hypocritical in the extreme. NASCAR apparently believes its highwater mark was the 1979 Daytona 500. It wasn’t. Its highwater mark was the 1992 Hooters 500, a race in which all the drama and emotion was real. What we had today was the end result when sets of parents urge their kids to go fight each other, then express horror and say the kids are entirely at fault when it actually happens. NASCAR has no one to blame but itself for drivers behaving badly today, and it richly deserves the rapidly dwindling interest in its own product.