Even When It's Not Great, It's Not All That Bad

Edmonton - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - by: Ron Thornton Marriage, Be It Same Sex, Same Family, Same Harem


Watching NASCAR is often like love making. It is the anticipation of the event, the pondering of the possibilities, that cause us fans to gather in front of the television Sunday afternoons and Saturday nights




For example, this past weekend we wondered if someone not parented by an Earnhardt or a Kenseth might take the checkered flag at the race track in Darlington, South Carolina. If not, we then contemplated the chances of a veteran ending a long dry spell away from victory lane, such as a Mark Martin or a Rusty Wallace. Just maybe a young gun like Kasey Kahne might come through to put an exclamation point on his stellar Nextel Cup premier. We dreamed of the possibilities of a season turn-a-round for Michael Waltrip or witness Derrike Cope turning his 5th place qualifying shocker into a similar performance during the race for the young and underfunded team. Not long ago, he was considered in the same class as Kirk Shelmerdine, Andy Hillenburg, Joe Ruttman, Andy Belmont, and Morgan Shepherd, the guys who qualified at the rear of the pack yet picking up what for most of us in a year's pay for simply making the cut. We may have wagered which of that number might be the first to call it a day, and if they might run over or under 10% of the race. Unfortunately, there are times when the subject of our ardor fails to measure up to the anticipation.




Earnhardt and Kenseth failed to win, the same fate shared by Martin, Wallace, and Kahne. Waltrip lasted nine laps before hitting the wall. Cope was 25th, a finish even Jeff Gordon would have to envy after being taken out early to place 41st. Joe Ruttman, apparently with a pit crew this time out, did not need them as he was done like dinner by lap 22. Three races and 102 points, finishing dead last in each. So much for "Last Row Joe" building suspense or providing some surprises to liven up the relationship.


Jimmie Johnson
did manage to hold off Bobby Labonte for a decent finish, Johnson's 7th win in 80 career starts. Kevin Harvick is just 28 points out of the top ten, but considering that even the 36th place Cope is within the 400-point cutoff for the playoffs, maybe it is a bit too early to get overly excited about the standings just yet. At mid-race, I looked over at my wife, brother, sister-in-law, and niece, and I was the only one awake in the room. Well, they all looked relaxed.

However, one performance that fails to bring a glow to our cheeks, even four or five, can not dampen the spark, the anticipation, for what our next rendevous might bring. This upcoming weekend is Bristol, where the only place one might see a pristine fender will be out in the parking lot or, within 40 laps, on the Finch-owned car parked in the garage area. In five weeks, I get to strap myself into my chair, put on the helmet, lay out the chips, and unplug the phone for the thrill that the action from Talladega, Alabama. When I'm watching those multi-coloured cars go round and round, going 190 mph inches from the wall, I don't even care about trivial things like a possible season long hockey strike or politicians launching my tax dollars into some fiscal black hole. It is my weekly escape from reality.




Funny how a few great performances and satisfying conclusions, as fans of Earnhardt, Kenseth, and now Johnson can attest, go a long way in making us forget the less than gratifying spectacles. You know, even when it's not great, it's not all that bad.


Ron Thornton




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