Well, it's not exactly Thursday again (hey, we had to spend an extra day in the shop making repairs this week), but it is once again time to take the old Mini Stock out of the garage for a test spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...
A MAD, MAD, mad world it was at Bowman Gray Stadium last week.
In some ways, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race was almost exactly what had been predicted. There were 15 caution periods totaling 87 laps under the yellow flag – more than half the race distance. Lapped cars did pose a problem for leaders in very tight quarters. Not a single car emerged without at least a good bent-up piece of sheet metal on it somewhere.
But the racing was also better than many had expected. Of course, at The Madhouse, the racing is entirely secondary.
There were more than 15,000 people packed into the Bowman Gray stands – and most were on their feet for the first 30 laps and the last 30 laps of the event. Adults paid just $12 to get in for the show featuring both the K&N Pro Series and a 100-lap Modified event. Better yet, it was "Ladies Night" – and women paid just $2.
I can't imagine a race track in the northeast charging such nominal fees to attend a touring series race of any kind. Heck, I can't think of many tracks that would charge that little to see an extra 10 laps for the Street Stocks. But Bowman Gray is obviously doing something right.
The track is blessed with a few mitigating circumstances, of course. It's in Winston-Salem, N.C. – buried deep in the "Dirty South," surrounded by a racing-is-gospel culture. One track official there, who has been at the Stadium for more than 50 years, told me he hasn't left the county where he lives in more than two years. It's a culture thing, no doubt.
The track can also afford to offer ticket prices so low, too, because it gets that many people to attend every single Saturday night. Oxford Plains Speedway gets a crowd that big once a year – for the TD Bank 250 in July – and even then, it doesn't come that close.
It would take years of slow change for short-track operators in the northeast to attract large crowds at such an affordable price. But there is a pearl of wisdom here – why are tracks like Thunder Road International Speedbowl and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway playing to big crowds every week? Because they keep their prices affordable, even for the "bigger shows."
If tracks want people to attend, it has to be affordable for families. It's a must. Tracks can't keep hitching their wagons to the die-hard customers that will willingly accept an almost annual $2 increase as you try to stay afloat.
Pretty soon, you won't have those die-hards around anymore.
GOT A TRUE Madhouse initiation on Friday night during a support division race. The roaring crowd – which could be heard over the drone of the race engines as fans rose to their feet in a wave – tipped you off immediately.
One car spun to the infield off the backstretch. Said car then waited for the field to come back around under caution. When it did, that same car looped around, set a course – an T-boned the "offender" straight into the wall.
Uniformed police went running down the pit access road onto the track.
Crazy. Exciting. Entertaining.
But also dangerous. Very dangerous.
I couldn't help but be struck by one realization. Here, you don't even get yourself a suspension. Anywhere else? Couldn't you – shouldn't you? – conceivably be suspended for virtually an entire year for something like that?
What's that old short-track adage? "I don't care if you fight, but if you're going to do it, make sure you do it right out on the frontstretch."
BEECH RIDGE MOTOR Speedway is still feeling the loss of champion Bub Bilodeau. Bilodeau died one year ago moments after competing in a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event at the track.
Last weekend, Trevor Sanborn won the first of two 40-lap Super Late Model features and was very emotional in Victory Lane. Sanborn had worked closely with Bilodeau when he got his start, and it was clear the win meant a little something extra to him.
As well it should have – and kudos to Sanborn for such a fitting tribute to Bilodeau.
And kudos to the entire community at Beech Ridge for not forgetting a personality like Bub's.
SOCIAL MEDIA HAS taken its place as the hottest topic on the ACT Late Model Tour, at least if you listen to some in the blogosphere out there.
Actually, I apologize, because "blogosphere" is sooooooo two years ago.
It's become a Twitterville-universe these days, with instant updates and instant credibility suddenly raising questions. Fact is, the discussion introduced by the ACT Tour and Thunder Road does affect fans on some levels. It's more than idle ranting by the motorsports, uh, "media" industry.
At the core of the new policy is the outlaw of live updates – also known as live blogging – as well as audio and video streaming. Simply put, media outlets can no longer provide lap-by-lap coverage of ACT events or streaming video with or without accompanying play-by-play.
Almost immediately, the blogging community went on the defensive. It suggested that ACT president Tom Curley was behind the times, that you couldn't possibly police such things in the new media age, that he was trying to hurt the only people who were helping promote his product.
All of those arguments, of course, are wrong.
This is the deal. There is no policy against Twitter and Facebook updates during live events. There's no policy that says you can't still do the work of true journalists and write compelling stories or provide insightful analysis. There's not even anything that says you can't have access to the drivers, crew chiefs, team members and track officials that you need to do your job.
What it does say is you cannot set up what is essentially a live radio, video or streaming broadcast of an event without ACT's consent. And if you violate rules, there's nothing that says ACT should grant you free access to a race via a media credential. If you want to give the product away for free, buy a ticket... and good luck.
If you have a problem with that, try this experiment – go to a minor-league baseball game. Set up a live streaming video site. Give an audio play-by-play through your phone.
And then see how long it takes for that baseball franchise to shut you down for violating the "exclusive broadcast rights" of that franchise.
I KNOW YOU all care what I think, so I'll tell you.
Anyone who took some sort of perverse delight in Richard Childress laying a few socks to the kisser of Kyle Busch as an example of a young guy who can't slug it out with an old guy is off their rocker.
Busch is in a no-win situation, and he's smart enough to realize that. Fight back, and he's forever the guy who punched a senior citizen. Refuse to fight back, and you're forever the guy who won't back up your words.
Busch did the only thing he could. He did nothing. He didn't violate his NASCAR probation in my mind, while Childress deserved the hefty fine.
Obviously, these guys learned something from The Madhouse.
THE RED SOX have swept the Yankees and won 8 out of 9 between the two teams this season. The Bruins are two wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup in my lifetime. LeBron James is choking in the NBA Finals, and the NFL is still locked out.
Seriously, can my sports life get any better???
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the barbecue pig and don't forget to tip your waitress. Jason Aldean is here, so stick around.