Last week must have been a dream. I mean the euphoria of a new young star winning the biggest race of the season with a team that has few resources but a long history couldn’t possibly have happened. What we saw this week was the same old predictable story. Hendrick, Gibbs, and Childress cars usually go to the front and the rest end up at mid-pack. Today was no exception.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Part of the feel-good times of the last week had to do with what was a good story. A talented young man with a fresh face was the darling of the media. His story was with enough talent and enough determination, you can win races. Unfortunately, that’s not really true. You must have lots of money in addition to the other two. Today’s results, which will probably be repeated over and over this year, are proof positive that performance at restrictor plate tracks are no indication of what is going to happen in the other 32 races of the Sprint Cup series. At Daytona and Talladega, anyone can win. In the other races, not so much, and that’s a shame.
In today’s race, Jeff Gordon started 20th and his teammate Jimmie Johnson started 28th, but I knew that didn’t make any difference. More often than not both are in the top five and fighting for the win at the end. It didn’t hurt anything that some of their major competition was wiped out in what seemed to be senseless hard racing in the early stages of the race, but even if Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, and Jeff Burton had survived, the results may have been the same.
Regardless, Jeff Gordon broke a 66-race losing streak and found it exhilarating. Watching Mr. Gordon celebrate is like watching a child celebrating a new bicycle. He really gets into it. Congratulations are in order, and in many ways, he was a new winner since it had been nearly two seasons since he had won. It doesn’t change the casual fan’s attitude toward our sport, however.
It has long been my opinion that fans are bored with the same faces winning every week. Of course, these are not the fans of those who seem to dominate, but general fans. These general fans, who were so excited about the 2011 season one week ago, probably didn’t stick around for the end of the race. It was “business as usual” today. The top five consisted of three Hendrick Motorsports cars (remember, HMS fingerprints are all over Tony Stewart’s two car team), a Richard Childress Racing car, and a Joe Gibbs Racing car. The same old faces. You know the ones that have won the last five championships, six out of the last 10, and 10 of the last 16. That my friend is domination. Prior to that Richard Petty won a couple in a row and Dale Earnhardt did it a couple of times, but never to this extent. Rick Hendrick is such a fixture in victory lane that on youngster in the neighborhood, who is a star student in his 5th grade class, asked me, “Does he own NASCAR or something?” I bit my tongue.
Of course, it’s not Mr. Hendrick’s fault that others can’t keep up. He has the resources and will to do what he does. And I believe he will continue to be successful for many years to come. I just wonder how the fans will react after the wild celebration of last week. When Jamie McMurray won, there was a subtle bump, but things got back to normal quickly. Maybe the Trevor-mania will continue and boost attendance and ratings for a long time, but I fear by mid-summer we’ll see the same problems in television ratings and track attendance. Yep, last week must have been a dream.