Upon Witnessing the Southern 500

Posting from the great state of South Carolina today. I slept during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 race and awoke late to chronicle the iconic race. It seems like the throwback idea is going to last awhile. The crowd was large and everywhere you looked, the 80s were apparent. Does that show that NASCAR fans want to go back to the 1980s? Maybe. The jury is still out on whether the Lucky Dog, the Wave Around, and double file restarts are the reason for the swoon in attendance.

Anyway, the only thing that didn’t take fans back 30 years was the race was one of those dusk-dark features. Start in daylight and end in the dark. Until nearly 11:00! In former times, the race was on Labor Day and was over by at least 5 p.m. but TV and the sanctioning body, as well as the tracks, like this schedule. It’s up to conjecture whether the fans like it, but it’s what we have. And it was good except one little thing.

After a slow start, Joe Gibbs Racing and its six Toyotas are domination. I say six because it’s obvious the two at Furniture Row Racing are part of the Gibbs team somewhat like Wood Brothers Racing is part of Team Penske. I’ve even seen the No. 21 in the Penske shop alongside the other two Penske cars. Somewhat like Hendrick Motorsports in the 90s and up until recently. Harvick on the pole? Only temporary. Once the race starts, the Gibbs cars take over the show, while the fast Chevys and Fords fall behind.

Why is this? Lots of theories are out there. One contends that the domination is a money thing—that Toyota is spending more on development. Another says it’s a driver talent advantage. Still, another believes that it’s just luck. This writer is in two of the three camps. It’s obvious Toyota has the coffers open for whatever their team needs or wants as well as the luck argument. Racing luck is always a part of the sport. Some make their own luck, however, but luck is always on the table. Driver talent? No. No one can tell me the talents of Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski (two noted champions) and many others are inferior to the ones driving the Gibbs cars. They’re all good, and to rate them would be insulting.

NASCAR believes in parity (at least they say that), but until guilt is found, if indeed it exists, it’s up to Hendrick, Penske, Childress, Roush, SHR, and others to get better. Ford has their Performance Center in Concord, NC, and you cannot tell me Team Chevy isn’t also working on the problem. Until the performance improves from Ford and Chevy teams, this is what we have.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Ron Fleshman
Ron Fleshmanhttp://www.ris-news.com
Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as www.motorsportsforum.com. He can now be found at www.ris-news.com. Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.



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