Monday, July 28, 2014

Big Daddy Bring It Home!


It appears that Leo Gordon wasn't as impressed as the rest of us that Dad had just won his record-breaking fifth Brickyard 400 twenty years after winning the inaugural event! Jeff last won the Brickyard in 2004 and I imagine having to wait so long made this one extra sweet, despite Leo's lack of enthusiasm.

Indianapolis is the track closest to me so I've been there more often than anywhere else. I remember the first time I went, when I knew very little about Nascar, I wondered who would be the crowd favorite. Would it be Tony Stewart, Hoosier to the core, who still maintains a home here? Would it be Dale, Jr., the perennial most popular driver? Would it be Jimmie Johnson, in the middle of his championship run at that time?

It didn't take long to see that I was surrounded by a sea of 24 gear in every direction, far more than that of any other driver. And when the drivers were introduced, the roar for Jeff practically shook the grandstand. The crowd was with him this year too, standing and cheering as he rounded the final turn.

Jeff and Kasey Kahne appeared to be the class of the field during most of the race but it all came down to the final restart. Kasey was in the catbird seat but Gordon, who is not noted for his restart skills, drove hard and passed him on the outside and that was the race. I think he got around Kasey by sheer will power!

I was glad to see Kyle Larson have another solid race, finishing 7th, and for that matter, Austen Dillon also finished in the top 10. It looked like Danica was heading for a decent finish until she experienced mechanical problems and that was the end of that. And Roger Penske will have to wait another year to try to add the Brickyard 400 trophy to his trophy case, the final item on his bucket list of achievement.

In another surprise development announced shortly before the race, we now know that Carl Edwards won't be returning to Roush. Will we still have to wait until September to find out where he's going? Most seem to believe it will be Joe Gibbs Racing although someone on Facebook, who swore they had the inside track, declared he'd be leaving for Richard Childress Racing. We know that Fastenal is staying behind to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. but what about Subway? They've made Carl one of the standards of their brand and I'd expect them to stick with him, seeing as how fitness is one of their messages and who is more fit than Carl?

Joe Gibbs seems closer to finding that little bit of speed they've been missing with a 2,3,4 finish although there is that little problem with Denny's car not passing post-race inspection because of illegal parts. We'll see on Tuesday how severe the penalty will be for that.

Yes, attendance looked rather pitiful at Indy but I'm not sure that's the fault of the track. Attendance has been down at a lot of tracks for reasons that are endemic in today's economy and also because in our global, high tech world, people have a lot of different options for how to spend their entertainment time. This isn't just true for NASCAR but all of professional sports. I doubt that NASCAR ever matches the glory of its heyday again. It will have to depend on its hardcore faithful with droppers-in-and-out to take up some of the slack.

Well, no matter what, I'll be there - waiting to see if Jeff claims, not only a 5th Brickyard, but a 5th championship. Waiting to see if Jimmie can make it to 8 and stand alone atop the championship mountain. Waiting to see if Junior can finish his career with Sprint Cup Champion beside his name. Waiting for Danica to win (oh, happy day!), waiting to see how long it takes Kyle Larson to win, waiting to see how Chase Elliott performs in Cup when he gets there.  Exciting days ahead if all these things, and others, matter to you.