June 23, 2012
By Jim Fitzgerald
Up In The Marbles…After The Quicken Loans 400
The Mayans Were Wrong!
I was listening to the race on the radio when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was less than one lap from winning his first race in 144 attempts, exactly four years to the race after his most recent win.
I thought to myself, “wow, it really is finally going to come to an end.” Now, I will be honest with you. Over the past four years, in a manner totally unfair to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his team, I have (not so) secretly snickered at this losing streak.
Yep, I am a mean spirited, jeering and sneering, antagonistic piece of trash. My apologies, but I am who I am. And again, it had nothing to do with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or his team. They were merely the unfortunate target and recipient of all of my snickering and jeering.
The real reason behind it was…the fans. Fans of the No. 88 driver and team, and I mean this as a compliment, have got to be the most rabid and loyal, yet skewed view fans of any driver in the Sprint Cup Series. These are the fans that have voted their driver to be the most popular for nine consecutive years. Care to take bets on him winning a tenth consecutive?
These are the fans that will call into radio shows and write blogs and respond to news articles opining about their love for their favorite driver, and although he had not won a race in such a long time, proclaimed that he was (is) the best.
And it was non-stop. And my fuse for things I do not understand -- is short. How can someone who has not won in “x” amount of time be considered “the best.” So, yeah, that’s where it came from, and yeah, it was unfair.
As the Quicken Loans 400 came to a close, however, I found myself almost smiling. Good for him, I thought. Truly the end of a long drought, a long drought that was most assuredly not deserved, and I hope another one does not start. And then, I heard one of the announcers on the radio say something like, and I am paraphrasing, “all is right with the world again as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins at Michigan.”
So, it was not The Mayans that really had anything to do with the end of the world at all. It was Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s losing streak? As the great radio personality Paul Harvey would have said, “Now you know…the rest of the story.” Mayans, you can try to take us down all you want, but we are protected by Dale Earnhardt, Jr!
Honestly, though, I think Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning is great for our sport.
The victory is out of the way, and now with that pressure relieved, perhaps the focus can now be laid for a Championship.
As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, I remember when Major League Baseball was going through a rough time, and a headline was “Cal Ripken, Jr. Saves Baseball.” With the fan support that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has, if NASCAR needed to be saved, could this Junior follow in the footsteps of another, and be the savior NASCAR needs? I wouldn’t doubt it one bit.
Bees in the Busch
A few weeks ago I wrote about Kurt Busch and my desire to see him emerge from these doldrums he is currently working through in regards to his relationship with the media. After getting back into the race car for the first NASCAR sanctioned event since his suspension after the incidents at Dover, Busch was once again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Full disclosure: I was not there, I did not see it happen, and I only know about it because of the reports in the media. You may say then that my opinion may be biased and my conclusions may be inaccurate, but this is what the public has access to, and right now, Kurt Busch is being tried in the court of public opinion.
It has been reported that James Finch, when he and Kurt agreed to stay together at this point, asked Kurt to steer clear of the media. However, the top three finishers in each race are mandated by NASCAR to take a questions session in the press room.
In the press room, Kurt was waiting for Saturday's Nationwide Series race winner Joey Logano to complete his session. Busch had just finished in the third position.
While waiting, the Motor Racing Network broadcast stated that Kurt had declined to be interviewed on pit road after the race. One of the members of the media brought this up, and apparently this irritated Kurt. Busch actually left the room to cool off, and was followed by a few reporters, including Marty Smith, form ESPN.
Supposedly, Busch and Smith made eye contact and spoke, and Busch told Smith to bring his camera over. When Smith moved in closer, Busch asked him what he was doing and said he wasn’t doing an interview there. When Smith questioned him about it, Busch stated, “You’ve never heard of sarcasm?”
At that point, Smith, stated that he was the wrong guy to mess with, and reminded Kurt he wrote a flattering piece for him earlier that painted Busch in a great light with the members of his crew. Kurt stated that he did not need the help and at that point, Smith left the area.
Was I there? No. Can I confirm it? Absolutely not. However, again, all I know is what I am presented with. If Marty Smith, a respected member of the ESPN media, does a piece on a confrontation with Kurt Busch that paints Busch in a bad light, all I can do is make my own opinions based on the evidence provided, just as the any fan could do.
So, maybe the situation was blown out of proportion, and maybe it was not.
Maybe Kurt was saying what he said in jest, and maybe he never said it at all. However, right now, based on recent, and not so recent history, one would almost have to take Smith at his word and believe that Kurt Busch is still struggling with interactions with the members of the media in a civil manner.
Whether or not Busch will ever make that turn is unknown, and it should be all up to him. Unfortunately, his reputation speaks, and speaks loudly. It is loud enough that the climb Kurt may have to make to get out of the lull will be uphill, both ways, in the snow, all year around.
Although Kurt says he doesn’t need it, maybe he could use the help after all.
Remember to follow me on Twitter: @forewasabi. I always have nothing important to say.
"The horizon is out there somewhere, and you just keep chasing it, looking for it, and working for it."
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