On the question of road course racing and its place in NASCAR, fans are nearly as divided as they are on the subject of Angelina Jolie versus Jennifer Aniston.
The anti-Angies would kick road racing to the proverbial curb in a heartbeat. They maintain that it is too predictable; unless a driver manages to qualify at, or near, the front of the field, he or she might just as well pack it up and go home. Limited opportunities to pass can make for a very dull race, just the same six or so “friends” snappily whizzing nose-to-tail at the end of the episode … er, race.
Heck, if you stick with the promotional and marketing plan and actually purchase a ticket and attend the event, you won’t even be able to see all of the action from your seat. Two of these races each season are two too many. It’s best to just stick with something more comfortable, like the sofa, the remote control and a nice familiar shape.
According to the Anti-Angies, road course racing is best left to the Grand Am and Indy Car series. It’s boring and has no place in NASCAR.
Not so, say the Anti-Jenns. If you are going to be content with four equal corners, why not just slap a “My driver is an honor student at NASCAR Oval Academy” on the bumper of your minivan, then head out to Symmetrical Suburban Speedway on any given Sunday and call it a day?
Road courses are edgy. Their houses full of diverse turns — 11 at Watkins Glen International, 12 at Sonoma Speedway — create a lot of unexpected racing moments and add some spice to the racing recipe. A driver from some exotic place like Tasmania or Bogotá actually has a pretty good shot at taking the checkered flag; in other words, Jimmie Johnson might not win the thing every time.
According to the anti-Jenns, drivers at NASCAR’s top level should be able to prove their mettle on any type of track. In fact, they say, a road race should actually be added to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Live a little!
There’s a pretty strong crowd on both banks of the river, I guess, and for the most part they just stand around and glare at one another across the great divide. But they found some common ground in the Finger Lakes 355 on August 12. In one of the most nail-biting finishes of the season, a last-lap free-for-all on an oil-slicked track resulted in a cranky, spun-out Kyle Busch — who was leading the race headed to the checkered flag — and a victorious Marcos Ambrose.
“It was absolutely chaos at the end,” Ambrose said after the race. “I tried to chase Kyle down, but he wasn’t making any mistakes; he had a fast car. I just burnt my stuff up trying to get to him. I was really thinking, ‘OK, it may be second place here.’
“Then the oil came down. I slipped to third. I thought, ‘That’s not the plan.’ So I just put my head down, and kept trying … It’s a real thrill to be back in Victory Lane. We earned it.”
Bridges sometimes materialize in the unlikeliest of places. One of those crazy “acquired taste” road courses gave all fans something to stand up and cheer for, as Ambrose celebrated his second career win with legendary team owner Richard Petty, sending a perfect combination of international accents to Victory Lane.
Whether you’re a born-and-raised Southerner or a native Australian, happiness sounds just the same.
Back in high school, many of us with a literary bent closed our eyes and hoped for the best when those math tests rolled around. We had to pass them, though, in order to make it to that big stage of graduation success. You know what they say about variety; what a mistake it would be to even consider ousting road racing from the Sprint Cup Series schedule. You can’t make salsa if you only plant tomatoes in your garden.
NASCAR and Brad Pitt may not be generally like-minded, but on the issue of road course racing, here’s hoping they remain in complete agreement … and we all know who Brad chose.