I’m not surprised that Tony Stewart won the Pocono race, though I’m still mystified as to why the series still goes there twice; I went there once, exactly once, and wouldn’t go back on a dare. No kidding. Mind you, it’s not totally about the track, but the fact that I happened to be there for the Cup show the day after Rich Vogler had been killed, live on TV. I’d set that race to tape on VHS while my friend and I were at Pocono; it took the life out of the both of us. Then, our seats were in what I will generously describe as “Hell.” If you watch a race from Pocono on TV, which I pray is as close as you ever get to being there live, even for a race as comparatively good as today’s was although that owes much to the new double-file restart rule, in my humble etcetera, you might occasionally notice the seating right down low as near turn 3 as possible. That was where we sat, for about half the race when we got tired of looking at the third turn and decided to go home. Which turned out to be the right decision, as I wound up being paged over the track PA for an emergency at home which turned out to be quite real, so we wound up with at least an hour’s head-start on the page as things turned out.
For me, it’s as much about the feeling down in the solar plexus, one’s gut if you like, as anything else; maybe if Rich Vogler hadn’t been killed the night before when he’d qualified a car for that particular Cup race the following day, if there’d been no emergency, and if we’d had seats near the flagstand, let’s say, my experience there on that day might’ve been different. But that’s how it was.
However, the show today was pretty damned good. I always watched the Cup shows on TV, bad experience or no, if for no other reason that I wanted to see whether any camera shot actually showed the people down where we sat. Until today I rarely saw that section, but today I did. Give the TNT crew credit, BTW, for one hell of a good broadcast. Kyle Petty in the booth works quite well for me; it doesn’t substitute for racing in his mind, clearly, but he has a gift behind the mic.
Tony Stewart’s business model’s working about as well as could be expected at this stage. It shouldn’t surprise anybody. His short-track teams have been the envy of many others for good reason—adequate capital and a common-sense approach to the enterprise. Stewart knows precisely what he’s doing from a life’s experience driving for the best owners. That lesson has stuck with every Cup series owner hoping to bring up new talent. Tony has it right.
I like Stewart for the same reasons he’s a lifelong Foyt fan. Actually, that’s a common preference. A.J. has never settled for second place, and neither does Stewart. Second place is meaningless. Win right, but win. Some people may not like Stewart’s sometimes Earnhardt Sr.-like driving style, but they forget he’s also played nearly every possible scenario to victory at some point, as Senior did, and has outbraved his rivals as Foyt did. Stewart’s “for the ages,” and it didn’t matter whether he was starting 43rd today with a backup car, he was fixed on winning in that hard, burnished, A.J.-like manner. Racing needs more drivers like Stewart. You want personality? There it is.
Now, about double-file restarts: IT’S ABOUT DAMNED TIME. Just wait until Bristol, Martinsville….you’ve seen nothing yet. Mike Helton said this morning that they chose Pocono precisely because it’d be the easiest place to test the idea. OK. Fine. Now we all know that 43 of the best drivers in the world can figure out what short-track drivers are taught from day 1. They’re professionals and will figure this out, although Talladega presents certain perhaps unique issues which will have to be dealt with. Still, for everyone (I’m one of them, be thou sure) who’s waited for this particular change for however long, here ’tis, folks. Now we’ll see what happens.
Hold your breath.