Martinsville has been on the NASCAR calendar since 1948, the year before John Wayne truly hit it big in Hollywood. Both showcased a great cast of supporting characters over the years, and both have been synonymous with action. Sunday was no different.
If Martinsville was The Searchers from 1956, Kyle Busch was its Ethan Edwards, the Wayne character who was determined, diligent, and successful in his quest. In the end, he crossed his arms and headed out into the sunset with his 35th career victory in a dominant performance that saw our defending champion up front for 70 percent of the picture.
Kevin Harvick was a featured performer. He arrived a bit late, stayed near the front for a time, but in the end, he had to be content with 17th. You might remember Wayne’s 1962 picture The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In the end, Jimmy Stewart rode off in a train, while Wayne’s Tom Doniphon, who actually shot the title character, was last seen in a pine box. Come to think of it, ole Tom was in that box when they started that film, so maybe Harvick got the best of it.
There was 1972’s The Cowboys, with the Matt Kenseth version of Wil Anderson also a force to be reckoned with for 90 percent of the movie. Then things went bad for our hero, another hole got dug, and the cattle drive was left to others to decide as Matt finished 15th.
John Wayne began his movie career in a 1926 silent called Brown of Harvard. The Duke played an uncredited role as a Yale player. Dale Earnhardt Jr. mattered for five laps, cut a tire and spun out, and went down a lap. It took him 300 laps to get it back, and the best he could do was 14th. Like Wayne, Junior was in the film, but you had to keep an eye out in order to catch him.
The Greatest Story Ever Told was an epic 1965 story on Christ. It featured the likes of Max von Sydow, Charlton Heston, Jose Ferrer, and Telly Savalas. Then, after the Crucifixion scene, a centurion utters the words, “Truly this man was the Son of God” in a very familiar drawling voice. My God, it was John Wayne, in a skirt. At the end, some said the same thing when A.J. Allmendinger showed up in the runner-up spot, except for the skirt part. At least, we noticed the Dinger was in the vicinity, so it probably came as less of a shock.
In 1949, Wayne played Captain Nathan Brittles in She Tied a Yellow Ribbon. He was an aging officer near retirement. Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. played Tyree and Pennell, a pair of up and comers of the next generation. They remind me of a pair who represent the future in this modern calvary, played Sunday by the fourth and fifth place finishers, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon.
Another driver had an interesting day. He got caught speeding early, managed to crumple up his hood a bit later, but in the end, he still managed a Top Five. Brad Keselowski took his lumps but came away with a decent result. This Rooster Cogburn displayed some True Grit (1968).
Then there was John Wayne’s Alamo from 1960. I do not think I need to explain why Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin come to mind. Let us just say that 38 drivers did better on the day, including a 16th placed Danica Patrick.
At least, everyone lasted 200 laps or more, so we could not cite 1931’s The Deceiver. In that one, Wayne had a brief role in the picture. He played a corpse. Thankfully, we no longer have start and park entries.
If you got John Wayne on your mind, then it seems apropos that the boys and girl head back west to Texas for a Saturday night showdown. The last three straight races that have been run there, four of the past five, and five of the previous seven, were all won by Jimmie Johnson, the guy who finished ninth last weekend. I guess we have seen this movie before.