What It Was, Wasn’t Racing

Way back in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, comedian Andy Griffith put out a comedy record. On that record was a monologue called, “What It Was, Was Football.” It was a satire on someone attending their first football game and the narrator’s description of the action. It was a funny look at what we considered the norm for the sport. I can only imagine what that routine would be if Griffith described what we saw on April 17, 2011 at Talladega, Alabama.

Steven Iles

What it was wasn’t racing. In racing, every man is for himself. For some reason (safety for the fans being the most quoted reason), the powers that be have created this monster that requires two cars to run in tandem. In tight formation, the car in the back must push the other driver to go fast. Everyone does it because they have to so they can keep up. The driver behind can see nothing ahead of him and must trust the driver in front to let him know what’s going on. They switch—car in back to the front and the front car to the rear—for cooling purposes, but that’s the way the run for 500 miles. It’s madness.

American Muscle

I firmly believe the fastest car probably didn’t win at the end, but we don’t really have enough information to know. No one ran alone all day unless they lost their partner to a wreck, which did happen on Sunday.

I’m sure the fans loved it. If you did a poll, I guess most would say that it was the most exciting race of the season, but I don’t consider that racing. Sure, it was fun to watch and there was an exciting, close finish to boot, but it’s so contrived that doesn’t even resemble what racing is to me. If you happen to be in the front of the two car pack, you win. The only time you can pull out to try to pass is for it to be the last lap. In the tri-oval.

It’s like a lot of things that has bastardized our sport. There is a long list of things that have bothered me for years, and the top of the list is the Lucky Dog. You don’t have to race to make up a lap. I thought this was racing. Sure, it’s done for safety, but what about restrictor-plate racing? Is that safe? Another is the pass around. Sure, it’s less confusing for fans, but is it racing when you get to make up almost a lap because you’re in front of the leader? Isn’t that rewarding mediocrity most of the time? Once upon a time Bill Elliott made up multiple laps at Talladega by being fast. That apparently doesn’t matter anymore in the name of a close finish.

So, as you can now tell, I’m a traditionalist and a grouchy old man. I didn’t see a race on Sunday. I saw an entertaining spectacle. To each his own, I guess, but if I were NASCAR, I’d be looking for solutions like Matt Kenseth and others mentioned today.

Of course, I’m not NASCAR and with the fans cheering wildly, don’t look for any changes.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


  1. Back in 1960’s my favorite Saturday night trifecta at the long-gone Ascot race track was the Figure-Eight race, the Destruction Derby and the Chain Race (two-car teams with each car connected nose-to-tail by a chain). I was eight years old. I grew up.
    In my opinion, anyone who thinks push-car racing is exciting, especially where the drivers can talk to each other during the race, probably has the mentality of an eight year old.

  2. Ron, I agree. This was the most disgusting race I have ever seen. Even the Indy tire debacle a few years back was a better race. They were all allowed to race for the win. By making push JJ, Rick assured that Jr. would not be allowed to win & break the 100 race streak.
    @SB, I think it odd that JJ could not keep up with Jr. so JJ had to be the first car. It is the first time in 6 years that JJ has not had the fastest & best that HMS can put out. Also, if JJ can’t push it is because he lacks the necessary racing skills & talent.
    The race showed me that Jr. is not ever going to have a chance to win a championship at HMS. He will have to go somewhere else if he wants a championship. Mark Martin was allowed to get close in 2009, but was not allowed to top JJ for the championship. I hope he goes to Gibbs.

  3. I’ve been thinking about that Andy Griffith monologue since Sunday. I remember the “cow pattie” reference and believe there might have been at least one in the booth. Anyway, this is not racing and it’s entirely possible the fastest car didn’t win. We’ve been advised by Nascar Now that Nascar in their infinite wisdom have no plans to alleviate this mess so we’re stuck with it in every RP race for years to come.

    • Oldtimer, did you forget the part where he dropped his “Big Orange?”
      This was a parody of racing, something that the sanctioning body has been doing for awhile with Lucky Dogs and all that other nonsense that takes away what racing should be. And since there was a close finish, it will be around until we’re both gone. Sad.

  4. Amen! Also, with the two car tandem being necessary to keep up, there are really only 21 1/2 cars in contention for the win. The ‘pusher’ has virtually no chance for the win. Jr said JJ couldn’t stay on his bumper, so they did better with Jr. pushing. wouldn’t that mean that Jr.’s car was too fast for JJ to keep up? If so, the faster car pushed the slower car across the finish line. Didn’t there used to be arule that the winner had to cross the line without any ‘assistance’? Whatever happened to that rule?


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