Steve Post of the Motor Racing Network described my feeling perfectly when he tweeted just two words. “I’m pissed!” After a memorable moment over the weekend for NASCAR at the picturesque Watkins Glen International racetrack, those memories were quickly erased by the news of its leader being arrested for drunk driving and possession of narcotics.
NASCAR’s Feel Good Story Turned Sour
Many of the New York newspapers who ordinarily ignore NASCAR, quickly piled on with articles about Brian France’s arrest. In many of those articles, not a mention was made about Sunday’s spectacular race and its winner. Chase Elliott.
NASCAR’s attendance and television ratings have been sinking in recent years. Stars like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., retired leaving many fans searching for new favourites. NASCAR has been on a roll, but unfortunately, that roll has been in the wrong direction.
Sunday as I was leaving Watkins Glen International hours after Chase Elliott battled last season’s Monster Energy Cup Champion, Martin Truex Jr, for his first victory, fans were still celebrating. The noise from the grandstands when Elliott took the checkered flag actually drowned out the noise of the monstrous engines.
Moments to Savour at The Glen
Do you want a moment? How about Elliott’s #9 Chevrolet Camaro LZ1 running out of fuel on his parade lap and his teammate and mentor, Jimmie Johnson having to push him back to pit road. Those Kodak moments have been few and far between for NASCAR in recent memory.
Do you want more moments? How about the people who raced against Elliot on Sunday rushing to victory lane to congratulate Chase on his victory. Martin Truex Jr, with an ear to ear smile and Kyle Busch, who gave Elliot a celebratory spray were among the many drivers who seemed to recognize the power of that moment.
Heck, for most of us, and certainly for many of his competitors, we watched Chase grow up before our eyes. Who hasn’t seen pictures of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott holding his son Chase, after many of his 44 career Cup Series wins? This was a true feel-good moment for a sport in dire need of one.
Leaving the track that night hours after the race, I believed that the doom and gloom that seemed to be following NASCAR for many years may finally be over. The last several weeks have produced some of the best racing we’ve seen in NASCAR in many years.
Kyle Busch seemed to be relishing his role as a villain, even though he is far from that. Martin Truex Jr. was still at the top of his game, seeking back to back championships. The young guns, Eric Jones and Daniel Suarez were emerging as contenders.
Kevin Harvick was on top of his game. And then we get Chase Elliott, who many fans have been wondering when his first Cup win would come, finally winning. NASCAR was finally out of the darkness and headed for good times.
Then boom. News of its corporate leader’s arrest. Wiped from the newspapers, news outlets, social media and the ordinary water cooler discussions was perhaps the most important victory seen in the sport in years. To the forefront, plenty of police blotter news.
For those of us who love this sport, that news couldn’t have come at a worse time. Steve Post did say it best with those two words. Days later I’m still pissed!
Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings at 8:45 as I join the gang on The Frank Truatt Morning Show discussing the world of NASCAR. Tune in to 1110AM, 93.5FM or streamed worldwide at wtbq.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.
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