It's Friday again. Time to dust off the ol' Mini Stock for a test run with a spin around the cul-de-sac at the end of the street...
I REALIZE FULL well that I might be alone in this sentiment, but that's hardly stopped me in the past.
A race track does not make a race.
The third trip by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to Bristol Motor Speedway this week proved that adage once again. The first half of the UNOH 150 was a collage of wrecked race cars and misfortune, often involving some of the most accomplished teams and drivers on the circuit.
The second half of the race was – once again – the Ryan Newman show, with Newman's No. 77 (note: NOT the No. 7, wink-wink) pulling away from the rest of the field when it was time to go earn the money.
The race, from start to finish, looked just like a race in any other division at any other track in the United States. That is to say, there was some good racing, some back luck and some untimely carnage.
That, friends, is stock car racing.
Throughout my time in the motorsports industry, I've heard from a lot of people. Most of the time, when I'm headed to Phoenix or Dover or New Hampshire, or even places like Bowman Gray Stadium or Oxford Plains Speedway, I get the same question from someone along the journey:
"Holy cow! Are you looking forward to [Insert Track Name Here]??? You must be!"
The fact of the matter is, however, that at every stop along the way over the last decade and a half, there are race cars, a pit area, a race track and a checkered flag. The ultra-cynic in me almost always adds the same line to my answer:
"Oh, definitely, I just hoped somebody WINS."
The puzzled stare is usually soon replaced by some type of harumph and a storming off in the other direction.
But to be entirely fair, a fan of auto racing should be a fan of auto racing most anywhere. A 150-lap Late Model race at Oxford offers the potential to be just as exciting as a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover. The cars may look a little different or be a bit faster, but it's still a race where hard-working race teams and talented race car drivers are trying to beat one another.
Which is what we all love about the sport to begin with. Competition.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, of course. No place I've been rivals Daytona International Speedway, and I've often said that Thunder Road International Speedbowl is the only short-track I've ever been to that sets itself apart from the crowd for all the right reasons.
That is not to say that the Whelen Modified Tour doesn't benefit from a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway.
While it's true that a race track does not make for a race, a race track can make for an event.
Places like Bristol for the Modified Tour, Talladega for the Sprint Cup Series or New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the ACT Late Model Tour make those series bigger than they are, even if it's only for a trip or two each season. A race at Thompson International Speedway might be tenfold better than a race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but Thompson can't hold a candle to Bristol in terms of making that same race feel bigger and more important than it actually is.
What becomes important in all of this is that we don't pretend that a race at New Hampshire for the ACT Late Model Tour was any better than a race at White Mountain Motorsports Park. It may be a much better "event," to be certain, but we do a disservice to short-track racing and regional tours if we trick ourselves into believing that racing is only good on bigger stages.
The racing is good everywhere.
And that's the point.
I'M GLAD THAT IndyCar decided to uphold its decision to keep the race results from New Hampshire as official this week.
I know that there are arguments on both sides regarding the sloppy ending to the MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 back on Aug. 14, but I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Right or wrong (and clearly, it was oh-so-wrong to attempt the final restart of that race), Brian Barnhart standing up and saying that he was wrong in the moments immediately after the race's conclusion took guts.
I still don't think you'd see that from other racing series, not nationally or locally.
IT'S FUNNY TO think back to the start of the season, when Brian Hoar talked about the conclusion to the 2010 ACT Late Model Tour season and how rare it was that he locked up his seventh championship with one race still remaining on the schedule.
What Hoar has done this season stands as one of the most dominant seasons in ACT history.
Through nine races, Hoar has an average finish of 2.6 – a number that actually dropped when he finished "just" third in the Q 97.9 FM 150 at Oxford last weekend. He's won four times – at New Hampshire, the largest track the Tour competes on, and at Twin State, one of the smallest. With a win this weekend at Riverside Speedway in Quebec, Hoar stands to lockdown his record eighth Tour title with two races still to go.
What we are witnessing this year with the RPM Motorsports No. 37 truly is history. I hope people aren't losing sight of that.
I'M BEGINNING TO think that the bloom is off the rose with this whole Ryan Newman on the Whelen Modified Tour thing.
The first time he won, it was kind of cool. The second time, it was kind of expected. Now with the whole cheating scandal at NHMS in July and the way he cavalierly dominates every start now, it's getting passe.
I though the lack of enthusiasm Newman showed in Bristol Victory Lane after the UNOH 150 on Wednesday about summed it up for a lot of people.
DESPITE THE MEDIA circus, Part Deux, suggesting that "Danica Patrick is coming to NASCAR," it simply isn't true. She's already been in NASCAR for two years now.
Or does that 23.8 average finish over 20 races get tossed out now?
ANYONE ELSE THINK the Red Sox would do what they did in Texas this week against the Rangers after the way they left Arlington back in April?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
SPEAKING OF PRETTY amazing accomplishments, what Jeff White is doing at Oxford Plains Speedway this season is about as remarkable as it gets on the weekly racing front.
I remember talking to white a few years ago, when he ran a part-time Late Model schedule at the track in the hopes of just qualifying for the TD Bank Oxford 250 each summer. This year, he won the ACT Big Jab 150 in June, led a bunch of laps after winning the pole for the '250' and nearly won ACT's return to the track last weekend before a fuel issue ended his night while possessing a dominant lead.
Barring some major catastrophe, the Winthrop, Maine, racer will win the Oxford Late Model championship on Saturday night.
White is the epitome of the Late Model racer – a low-buck guy who can compete under the ACT model. I'd say he's quite the poster boy for crate-engine Late Model racing in the northeast.
IS IT GOING to, like, rain or something this weekend?
YOU'VE BEEN A great audience. Try the spaghetti and meatballs, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Montgomery Gentry is here, so stick around.