Those who say NASCAR racing is boring don’t watch it. Today’s race was incredibly dramatic. After today’s race there were only three races left in the season, with the championship up for grabs. Championship contenders were dropping like flies, leaving room for guys farther down the list, like my favorite driver, Mark Martin.
Martin dominated the race, leading the most laps and being there at the end to win it. But with about 20 laps to go the caution came out, and everyone but Martin decided to pit. Bad move. The lapped car of Greg Bifle got in the mix, Martin was shuffled back and the racing got pretty wild. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the guy poised to take over the championship run, tried to squeeze in front of rookie Carl Edwards. He didn’t have the room and spun out, smacking the wall and ending his day.
Yet another caution. Martin had a chance to make up for his mistake as everyone pitted again. The green flag came out and the three-wide racing started. Martin got through some close calls and set his sights on Jimmie Johnson, the first place car. Where did Johnson come from?
It’s the story of the weekend. Tragedy struck the Hendrick Motorsports Team (notice it’s Hendrick, with no ‘s’) last weekend, when Rick Hendrick lost his son, his brother, and his twin nieces in a plane crash (three other racing crew members also died). Rick Hendrick owns the Jimmie Johnson team, as well as three others, so you can imagine the emotion when Johnson held off Martin in the final laps and won the race. Victory lane was literally quiet after Johnson climbed out of the car.
To make things even more interesting, Jimmie Johnson’s win today was his third straight, helping him climb his way back into the championship race. And you call that boring?
But what was really bizarre is that the announcers never specifically referred to the tragedy. Never once did I hear them explain that members of the Hendrick Motorsports Team died in plane crash the previous weekend. They talked about tragedy, they talked about an emotional press conference, they talked about how fitting it would be for Johnson to win, they talked about funerals, they talked about how amazing it is that the Hendrick teams still came through — but they never said what happened.
What is up with that? Is it that hard to talk about death?