- Jimmie Johnson. He is a genuinely nice guy, and his annual golf tournament in San Diego just raised $650,000 for the Champions Grants program which supports public education. What is there not to like? For some people-I suppose I should be included-he wins and wins and wins and wins. Everyone loves a winner but no one loves someone who wins “too much.” Johnson is just 38. Conceivably he could race another decade. He has six championships already, and could win 3-4-5 more before he retires from driving. Move over Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and many fans don’t like that either.
- Kyle Busch. I am not overly fond of him winning every truck race he enters-that is like a major leaguer dropping down to A league baseball to hit home runs. He really wants to embrace an image of being a villain, but to me his attempt just seems childish.
- Danica Patrick. Some fans think she is where she is because she is not only a woman, but an attractive one. She certainly has not produced great results in NASCAR.
- Kurt Busch. I don’t even know where to go with this one. It would take a book.
- Brad Keselowski. I admire him being outspoken about NASCAR. I don’t when he comments on dirt track racing, something he knows nothing about.
- Kevin Harvick. He has mellowed-well, he has a little-since becoming a father. His pit stop outbursts can be a little irritating, but if I was in his shoes, my pit stop outbursts would be even worse.
- Tony Stewart. Think A.J. Foyt, a driver who can drive anything and wants to. I admire Stewart, though occasionally he seems a little silly with his media bashing.
- Brian France. Personally he would be #1 on my list, despite being the CEO who brought safer racing and double file restarts to NASCAR. He also brought new rules, new rules, new rules, and lots of boring racing. I wasn’t a big fan of the Chase, or the newer Chase, and am not sure about the next generation Chase.
- Chad Knaus. He wins every time Jimmie Johnson does, so obviously that is too much. I think he is arrogant, not just in interviews but in the fact that he gives off an aura of being above it all-he is the most penalized crew chief in the past decade and to me that makes a strong statement “I’ll break any rule I can to get ahead.” Is his getting caught just the tip of the iceberg? Actually, I have to admit that I do not mind Johnson as much as I did several years ago, but Knaus would be #2 on my list, just behind Brian France, maybe #1 and #1.a.
I see FOX and TNT announcing crews as polarizing figures too. I liked the driver Darrell Waltrip. The announcer Darrell Waltrip is too NASCAR rah-rah and his signature line is like fingernails sliding across a blackboard every time I hear it. Larry McReynolds is finally, finally butchering the language less and I am dropping him from my polarizing list. Jeff Hammond comes across as a used car salesman. Wally Dallenbach and Kyle Petty? Both drive me insane, speaking a language known only to each other. Thank goodness, TNT does only a handful of races and after this season will be gone with their wind.
Other NASCAR polarizing figures? Track owner Bruton Smith-I picture him as a medieval king with a bejeweled crown, a royal court surrounding him and an “off with his head” attitude. Jack Roush and the three Roush Fenway drivers. There is nothing logical about my thinking ‘re the Ford team, it just “is what it is.” And what it is isn’t positive.
If a 1 ½ mile oval can be conceived as a figure, I really do not like all the 1 ½ mile track position is king ovals. I do not appreciate drivers not signing autographs, even though it is a distraction. Richard Petty has signed autographs for 50 years and the private jet prima donnas can too.
So what do I like about NASCAR? Side by side racing. Three wide racing. Talladega and Daytona except for the “big one.” Short track racing-Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond. Every track should be like Richmond. Drivers who appreciate the sport’s heritage-like Tony Stewart and Ken Schrader. Changing four tires and dumping two cans of fuel into a race car in twelve seconds-that is athletic. Drivers giving back through their charitable foundations. Paybacks-drivers never, never forget a perceived wrong. Photo finishes. Jeff Gordon since the death of Dale Earnhardt. Watching racing in Florida in February when there is snow on the ground in Nebraska. Knock out qualifying. On track passes. Hendrick Racing. A long-shot winner. An emotional driver in Victory Lane. Driver’s small children, despite their p.r. people manufacturing photo ops.
Obviously the good outweighs the not so good. I keep coming back every Sunday-well anymore it could be every Sunday or quite a few Saturday nights-plus I write about it. A fan doesn’t have to stick his head in the sand and say “all is good.” A fan merely needs to like what is good-like it a lot. The bad can be irritating, the good sublime.
Thanks for stopping by.