July 29, 2008

The NASCAR Conundrum

I watched the tire-blowing spectacle that was Sunday's NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Whee doggies; what a mess. To call the Allstate 400 track abrasive is akin to calling police tire spikes abrasive. A third of the race was run under caution, and by the end the grim, grimy drivers looked beaten to a pulp -- until the microphones were turned on. Then they turned into Stepford wives, obedient servants to their lord and master NASCAR.

Before the race, everybody knew the track was rough. The assumption was that as the miles built up, rubber from the tires would coat the track and all would be well. The track was coated, all right, but with shrapnel from exploding tires.

Post-race interviews were a bit more edgy than usual. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., for instance, said he was sorry the fans had to watch such a bad race but that NASCAR did all they could; the only other solution was to go home. In context, it was shocking, because as a rule the drivers could teach geishas how to pay compliments.

Except on the rare occasion when passion overwhelms pocketbook, drivers speak gingerly. They compliment their crews. They give thanks to the fans. And then they say something nice about NASCAR. They'd better. Their livelihood depends on it.

Isn't it ironic? The industry that represents the best in the American spirit is an oligarchy. Is there a more tightly controlled endeavor in the U. S. ? And if you don't like it, fine. Go race somewhere else. Except there's nowhere else to go.

That's why NASCAR drivers -- those fierce, hard-driving, road-loving symbols of America on the move -- are the Stepford wives of sport. They deserve better.

P. S. Kyle Busch rocks.

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