MONTE DUTTON – THINGS ARE LOOKING SLIGHTLY UP
I watched racing all day and much of the night Memorial Day eve. I got up early to watch the Grand Prix of Monaco. Then I switched to the Indianapolis 500. Then I watched the Coca-Cola 600, though I spent an hour in the middle of the race playing my guitar on Facebook while I checked occasionally on the muted TV screen.
Of all that happened, Sunday, that worked the best. It was a long race. Most of Facebook Live took place in the second of four segments. More people than usual watched. Lots of NASCAR fans needed a break, too. Barring weather, and that is clearly something we cannot do in this age of global weirding, the only other Monster Cup race that’s going to be run on Sunday night is the Southern 500, and at the moment, my inclination is to do the show during the race again. It was fun, and as Arthur Bach asked during the movie that carried his first name, “Isn’t fun the greatest thing you can have?” Some NASCAR fans have expressed disappointment, and even outrage, that the Indianapolis 500 was a better race than the Coke-a-thon in Charlotte. I didn’t realize races were graded on a curve. I, too, thought Indy was the better race, but … it was still the best Coca-Cola 600 in a while long enough for me not to be able to remember it. It was a week after the best All-Star Race in, oh, a decade or so.
In other words, NASCAR in May in Charlotte was the best it has been in at least that same decade. What’s not to like? All Monaco, Indy and Charlotte have in common is that they all involve laps around a track that is closed. In other words, the course doesn’t change. The term that used to be more common is “closed circuit.” A drag strip isn’t a circuit. Neither is the Bonneville Salt Flats. Boats don’t roll on tires. What’s not to like about all three Sunday races? Lewis Hamilton was brilliant, winning a war with the attrition of his tires. So was Simon Pagenaud, dominating the race but not without considerable resistance. So was Martin Truex Jr. I know precious little about Hamilton as a person. I probably wouldn’t conclusively recognize Pagenaud if he were standing in front of me in a concession line, partially out of disbelief that he’d be there at, say, the Southern Conference Baseball Tournament. I used to know Truex a little. I liked him then. I expect I’d like him now.
The Charlotte overnight TV ratings were up 8 percent. The crowd was decent, far from full but, to my view, better than the last couple years, anyway. As followers of NASCAR, ultimately people have to take what they can get. Maybe it’s not as great as it once was, but it seems to me, from an unscientific point of view because I am not a scientist and don’t particularly want to be one, that it is coming back. The races have been better this year than last. Daytona Beach didn’t fall in a day or a year, and it won’t be rebuilt in either.
A decision must be made. NASCAR has declined because, at some level and in large numbers, many people have decided they don’t like it anymore.
I don’t like a system where a driver needs a free pass to make up a lap. I don’t like a telecast chock full of fluff. I don’t like constant change of rules, regulations and penalties.
I don’t like a lot.
But I’ve been following racing since I was but a lad, and I’ll take what I can get.