Blaming The Wrong Guy

by Jim on November 22, 2013 · 10 comments

Enough! If I hear one more person blame Jimmie Johnson for the decline in NASCAR’s popularity, I think I am going to scream! Whether or not having one driver dominate for a period of time is good or bad for a sport is debatable, and besides, NASCAR has other issues greater than a driver winning six championships over an eight year span.

Personally, I am glad the man hasn’t changed his persona just to suit the masses. Being a fake is worse than being bland (he really isn’t anyway). Besides, if you want to fix the blame on any perceived problems NASCAR has, you need to look at many factors.

First and foremost, the sport’s standing has, in this opinion, undergone a course correction. For a time, the expansion of NASCAR into new markets picked up curious onlookers. The death of Dale Earnhardt, and NASCAR nation’s reaction to it drew another group of curious onlookers. A fair number of these fans have come and gone. More have remained than you might think.

Automotive technology and America’s fascination with the automobile has changed. The race car is nowhere near stock (and never completely was). A 500 mile race isn’t quite the stress test it once was. Younger generations just look at automobiles differently. Getting your license is still a rite of passage, but more and more, you find people getting their licenses later, more and more Americans in urban markets are encouraged to use public transportation, and there’s a greater inclination towards environmentalism, and seeing the car as a utility tool, rather than a status symbol.

Some people will just never understand the notion of racing on an oval track, or some variation of it. To that end, off road racing, Grand Prix, and Formula One scratch that itch. The drifting phenomenon is also fascinating. Frankly, I find it small wonder my favorite tracks are the short tracks and road courses.

A big part of the issue is old fans dying off, and fewer younger fans are replacing them. It’s not just NASCAR, look at the fading away of some fraternal and service organizations. Simply put, times change.

There will always be racing. This observer believes NASCAR will never go away, though NASCAR as we know may undergo several permutations before we all fade from the scene.

One more thing, one guy dominating the sport really isn’t a bad thing. The Celtics dominated the 60s, the Steelers did much of the 70s, and the Yankees never seem to go away for very long. A sport needs its legends. Jimmie Johnson is becoming a legend- a legend in the same vein as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

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I have been truly blessed in life and I look forward to what my future holds."         

                            2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne

bayne at nashvilleThe preceding sentence jumps out at this reader in the announcement that the 22-year old racer has MS. It’s not exactly the kind of thing you would expect to hear from a dynamic young man thrown a wicked curve ball by life.

Multiple sclerosis is a difficult disease to wrap one’s head around. Personally, this author has known all of two people afflicted with it, and is no wiser. That would be the part that would drive me crazy with it, the unknown. Nonetheless, Bayne places his complete trust in the God he serves “I will continue to trust God daily and know that His plan for me is what is best.” It’s a matter of not knowing the future, but knowing the one who holds it.

Such news could deliver a sucker punch to one’s faith. Few would look cross eyed at a man who might opine was one football player once did, and say, I trust you, I praise you, I put my faith in you, and this is what I get in return? Unfortunately, some place their faith in God, expecting a primrose path that is anything but. How many people offer as their rationale for skepticism “How can there be a God with so much suffering in the world?”

One the other hand, there are countless stories of those who endure adversity. Some lose it all, and yet remain unshakable in their faith. It doesn’t mean Trevor Bayne won’t have difficult days; in fact, the truth is MS leads many a person with it to take their lives. Bayne will need the comfort offered by the Bible he believes in that he has “a future and a hope.”

As Bayne tweeted his thanks for all the prayers and well wishes coming his way, Bayne added a Bible reference, James 1:2-4. It reads: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience. But let your patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Who knows where the road may lead? For now, Bayne reports he’s feeling great and his plans to win races and championships remain in tact. His boss, Jack Roush also remains supportive “. "I have full confidence in Trevor and his partners have all expressed that same confidence and support. As with all of our drivers, we look forward to standing behind Trevor and providing him with all of the tools he needs as he continues to develop in his young career."

Speaking as one who shares Bayne’s Christian faith, one never knows what assignment God will give you. As I pray for Bayne, I pray his attitude and desire to live his life to the fullest- even with this condition- will serve as an inspiration,; not only to others who have MS, but also those seeking for something they can hold on to.

I know this is a NASCAR blog, not a devotional. Please consider a heart felt reaction to the news that one of this fan’s favorite drivers has been given a tough break. Right now, Bayne’s reaction to this diagnosis reminds me of the bigger picture, and to meet any challenge head on, armed with the belief good can come from it, and that this life on Earth is incredibly temporary compared to eternity.

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T-t-t-alkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

by Jim on November 10, 2013 · 5 comments

Come next February, it’s quite possible Mark Martin, Ken Schrader, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte will all absent from the track at Daytona. For Schrader, it’s a full blown retirement, Martin has announced no plans to race, Labonte’s future in NASCAR is unclear and Burton remains coy about where he’s headed next- and he’s certainly one driver with decent options that don’t include holding a pretty wheel.

It’s enough to make yours truly feel a little old. This observer is three months to the day younger than Labonte, Martin debut in the old NASCAR Winston Cup Series when I was a senior in high school, and the younger of the famous Burton brothers took to the NASCAR track right about the same time as Terry’s younger sibling in the early 90s.

Not only does this make for a vanishing presence of Baby Boomers and older Gen X drivers in NASCAR, the sport continues drifting further from its southern roots. While the likes of Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will ensure that accents aren’t completely extinct come sound bite time, the make up of the garage will be nothing like it was when Earnhardt, Allison, Elliott and Waltrip ruled the sport (By the way we know that Schrader is actually from Missouri, the other three are bone fide; even Labonte. I defy anyone to tell me a Texab isn’t a real southerner. My late father would have had something to say about that).

Well I lament, it is getting time for the elder statesmen of the garage to move on. Martin had one heck of a last hurrah in 2009, when he pulled a Harry Gant with five wins. His unremarkable ride in the 14 signals his say as a serious contender are over. Labonte hasn’t won a race in over a decade, Burton hasn’t won since the last days of the Bush 43 administration, and Schrader? He hasn’t won since Bush 41 was president.

Time marches on and you can’t stop it. Still, the memories of Martin in the number six Valvoline Ford, Schrader in the number 25 Lumina sponsored by Kodiak, Burton as the original Roush number 99 and Labonte in the number 18 Interstate battery Pontiac will bring a smile to my face. It may make me a sap, but it makes me a happy sap.

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