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.
Hey everybody- I’m alive and well here, just incredibly busy. Here’s a little stream of conscious. Please- weigh in- I like hearing what you have to think, even if it means you telling me I’m a stark raving loon…..
The immortal basketball legend Bill Russell,- during an ill-fated run as coach of the Seattle Super Sonics- had a sign that hung over his office. It read “Experience doesn’t mean (fertilizer).” I’d like to re-phrase to say history doesn’t mean compost.
Here’s the deal race fans: as we speak, this chase is far from decided, though, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s down to two drivers, two former champions named Johnson and Kenseth. These guys are where they are and have accomplished what they’ve done because of an ability to adjust on the fly. I know I’m as guilty as anyone about digging out old stats, but you know what? They just don’t matter right now. I can’t anymore tell you than the man in the moon how this will shake out. These remaining two races could be a classic, or they could be a real stinker. Johnson may win it all, Kenseth might. All I can really tell you s who won’t win it. So don’t despair Kenseth fans. Enjoy your driver’s lead Jimmie fans, and stay tuned.
NASCAR is talking tapered spacers, larger rear spoilers, and holes in the rear bumper to address aero. That’s all I need to know NASCAR, just tell me you won’t stop working until we get some quality racing at every track. Given what the fans are paying, they deserve it.
One of my personal favorites- Bobby Labonte- clicks off his final laps in the 47 this Sunday. I can still remember the 2008 rumors that had him going to Richard Childress to drive the 33, and the story I heard is he decided to stay with Richard Petty. All we can do is wonder what might have been. Someone, somewhere needs to put this man in a broadcast booth. He’s not the funny man type, he’s not a comedic quote machine, but I think he could make a heck of an analyst. That is…..provided he doesn’t latch on somewhere else.
I have conflicting feelings there. Taking on a new ride would be a huge mistake- in my opinion- if the 2000 champion is just turning laps. Ten years is a long time to go without a win. *sigh*
Jeff Gordon fans across this great nation are pinching themselves, as the four-time champion breaks through at Martinsville. His win Sunday is his first of 2013 and the 88th of his storied career.
Long winless streaks are gut wrenching for drivers and fans. How many times in recent history has the Wonder Boy had a winning car, or a solid race, only to watch it get away? You think things like- who’s going to bring out the caution? Heck, there was 17 in the race. Or you start thinking about lapped traffic, flat tires, blown engines or any other assortment of calamities. Remember when Dale Earnhardt hit a seagull in the Daytona 500?
Martinsville turned out to be an entirely different breed of cat than anyone expected. Mr. Martinsville- Jimmie Johnson- ran well, but was really not much of a factor down the stretch. Matt Kenseth’s deficit in points was supposed to grow, but instead of trailing by four, Kenseth is now tied with Five Time for the points lead, just having missed a maximum points day, if he could have hung on for the win.
So far in the chase, we’ve seen Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, and Kevin Harvick have runs that made you believe they were getting into the mix, only to fade away. Harvick’s still in it, statistically speaking, but he may not have done himself any favors with his comments following the truck race Saturday about his soon-to-be-former bosses’ grandsons. So one must wonder if Gordon can duplicate this most recent performance at Texas.
What separates Gordon from some of the other aforementioned contenders, is he’s done this. It’s been a long, long time since Gordon was involved in a really serious conversation about contending for the championship. He may be late to the 2013 party, but he is there, and he has the ability to stay there.