On Sunday, I was sent scrambling to a sports bar in Wake Forest, N.C., as the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the metropolitan Raleigh/Durham area knocked out my cable/internet. I didn’t realize how bad things were without access to the news, and I had to get my Talladega fix.
As a Tar Heel, who continues to deepen my roots in the great state of North Carolina, my first thought was obvious sadness for those affected. It turns out my family was very lucky, as we got golf-ball sized hail, and were less than 10 miles from one of the hardest hit areas, but we escaped with minimal effects. Many are homeless, still without electricity and/or dealing with death of family or loved ones. Keep all of those families in the Southeast in your thoughts, as these storms scarred the land from Oklahoma to the Carolinas and Virginia, the heart of NASCAR country.
If you were unable to catch the Aaron’s 499 from the Talladega Superspeedway, you missed an amazing finish. I watched on a television with no sound, which dampened the fun, since Darrell Waltrip makes Sunday exciting, even at tracks like Auto Club and Texas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., also a Tar Heel, ended up pushing his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to his first victory of the season. J.J. won again? That isn’t such a big deal, right? Well, restrictor-plate racing is one of the areas where the five-time champ has been a mere mortal. And his ever-so-slight sliver of a lead at the stripe, a record-tying .002-second margin of victory, is what has everyone talking. It also made me utter swear words on a Sunday in public, not that I am a huge Clint Bowyer fan, whom J.J. just nipped at the line. Well, I did have Bowyer going in my Fantasy league. But that’s not it. I just view the No. 48 and crew chief Chad Knaus in the same light I view the Montreal Canadiens, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc. Evil.
As a long-time NASCAR fan, I bristle when I see the well-spoken California boy with the good looks plastered all over the television set. But there is no denying he has been great.
Still, I am more of a Jeff Burton-Mark Martin type of a guy. Other than that, I still hold out hope that one day we’ll return to a more balanced playing field, where independent guys have a shot. Those without stuffed coffers can compete just like the big boys. But perhaps that’s an altruistic view. Maybe it never has been that way. Maybe it never will be again. The truth of the matter is that I’ll likely be muttering the corner of a sports bar for years to come while the next aesthetically pleasing, face of NASCAR graces the television screen.