Monday, October 14, 2013

Sometimes Drama Is Good, Sometimes Not So Much






- When I lived in California and thoroughbred racing was my sport, there was a horse named Silky Sullivan, a gorgeous chestnut, who was a special fan favorite. Silky had his own preferred strategy for running a race. In the first half, he'd dawdle around, off the pace by lengths, like he was just out for a leisurely Sunday gallop. When some internal signal told him it was go time, his head would go down and his stride would lengthen, that long red tail would be flying and one by one, he'd begin passing the other horses. The crowd loved it. It got so in any race Silky was in, that's what the people watched for. Not, "who is leading?" but "when is Silky going to make his move?" When he started his run, a huge roar would erupt up from the grandstands. He was a stakes racer which means that if he'd been a NASCAR driver, he'd have been in Cup. He won a lot but sometimes his timing was off a little. People forgave him for that because he made every race he was in thrilling to watch. 

Kyle Larson reminds me a little of Silky Sullivan. I've had my eye on him since he came to NASCAR (and, obviously, I'm not alone). Kyle isn't always the greatest qualifier and usually in the race, he'll loiter around mid-pack for the first half. I assume he's getting a feel for the track but, watch the leaderboard and you'll notice that he's beginning to move forward, often in dramatic fashion. He was the most exciting driver in the Eldora truck race with his car control and skill at pulling off the slide job.

At Charlotte this week, Kyle was the first driver in the Nationwide race to discover that the top groove was usable and fast as he charged around the high line. Of course, it didn't take long before the rest followed his lead. He was right up there contending for the win until he hit the wall but oh, well, it was sure fun while it lasted.

Then in his Cup debut, Kyle was far and away the most competitive of the Cup first-timers. Brian Scott has been around for what seems like years and drives for a top team but while he was hanging out in the back 20, Larson was heading for the front. He spent most of his time in the top 15, then made it to the top ten. And that was in the 51 car (though it was prepared by Earnhardt-Ganassi), not the most stellar of teams. A blown engine ruined his chance for a good finish but again, he added drama to a race that needed a little spicing up.

I don't know if he'll be the superstar many predict he will be but I can just about guarantee, he'll give NASCAR fans their money's worth in every race he's in....just like Silky Sullivan. 

- I hate conspiracy theories, whether in politics or auto racing, but I do think NASCAR should insist that whatever channel is broadcasting the race, especially Chase races, should, preferably, show us the debris that brought out a caution or at least freakin' tell us what it was. I don't believe ABC did either for the last caution in Charlotte. 

Actually, I've always assumed that NASCAR monkeys around with cautions, not necessarily to favor one driver over another, but simply to make the races more interesting, especially the finishes. No one, except the fans of that particular driver, enjoys watching the leader streak along five seconds ahead of the field. The more preferable scenario from NASCAR's point of view is to bring the cars back together for a re-start. And that's probably preferable from the average fan's standpoint too. We usually only get upset about debris cautions when they harm our driver. 

I don't even consider bogus cautions to be that egregious of a manipulation....in the regular season. But I do think they are unacceptable in the Chase, when the championship is on the line. Is making a driver relinquish what was almost sure to be a win if the race played out any different than spinning on purpose to give a teammate an edge or allowing a car to pass to allow someone an extra point? Not in my book. 

- Ho hum. Kyle Busch wins another truck race and another Nationwide race. Oh, well, if it hadn't been Kyle, it probably would have been Joey or Brad.

- I was glad to see Danica have a good solid run, finishing the race in 20th. As the Rolling Stones would say, "you don't always get what you want but sometimes, you get what you need."