The Daytona 500 is coming up this Sunday, a time for new beginnings and a time for bringing things to an end. After 15 years and over a thousand columns of various incarnations, this edition represents my final regular contribution to this site.
Flying around in aircraft formation inches apart at 200 mph. That would be good enough to force me into the Depends, especially if I were in the passenger seat. It is a track that causes skid marks to appear everywhere.
When Furniture Row Racing announced that they would cease operations Tuesday, my first reaction was shock. But as the news sunk in I realized that it should not have come as a surprise but rather another indicator that NASCAR’s efforts to reduce the cost of operating a team at the premier Cup Series level are failing miserably.
Tradition. On Sunday, NASCAR returns to its traditional roots, to the track that was Daytona before Bill France replaced the beach-road course with his 2.5-mile architectural marvel. Before the Daytona 500, the marquee event was held in Darlington.
Jimmie Johnson. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch. Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex, Jr. Denny Hamlin. Brad Keselowski. Kyle Larson. Chase Elliott. These men are NASCAR. These men, a few women, and so many others made the sport. Were the sport. Are the sport. Brian France is not NASCAR. There is a reason 97 percent of all family businesses do not survive as such into the fourth generation.
NASCAR fans are always looking for one thing; side by side racing, and passing for the lead a hundred times a race. That is what the fans say they want to see. But that just isn’t the reality, and it never has been.
Another weekend. Another race. Another track that does not excite me. Welcome to NASCAR. Michigan International Speedway, located in the lush, rolling Irish Hills, is about 40 miles southwest of Ann Arbor. The fact it is considered a sister track of Texas, and the basis of the facility in Fontana does not exactly thrill anyone, but they do go fast there.
Talladega was sweet. That was the kind of action that captured my attention as a kid, watching Wide World of Sports. As Jim McKay so iconically put it all those years ago, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition.” That was Sunday at Talladega.
When one of the legends in the sport leaves us, we remember. If a man is known simply by the company he keeps, Robert Yates did very well. As a team owner, he was the boss to such NASCAR luminaries as Davey Allison, Larry McReynolds, Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett, and Ricky Rudd.
For a race that has been around since 1958, it is a damn shame that it does not carry the proper branding to link it over the decades to the time it was claimed by the likes of Speedy Thompson, Cotton Owens, and Joe Weatherly. Let us properly honor it and refer to this Saturday night’s contest in Richmond, Virginia as the Federated Auto Parts Capital City 400.