Tag Archives: NASCAR

A Black NASCAR Driver in the 1960s?

This quick, animated history of Wendell Scott is pretty great. He was the first black driver to race and win at NASCAR’s highest level. And he did it the early 1960s facing incredible racism—this was the age of Freedom Summer, Birmingham and Selma.

The hatred even led to denying Wendell Scott his only win. Here’s the story:

They didn’t acknowledge the win until two years later. NASCAR awarded his family the trophy in 2010, 47 years after the race and 20 years after Scott’s death.

NASCAR is just now acknowledging this mark in its history. In 2013, Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first black driver in 50 years to win in a NASCAR national series race with his first career win at Martinsville. In 2014, Wallace repeated at Martinsville driving a truck with a special paint scheme honoring Wendell Scott. In 2015, NASCAR inducted Scott into its Hall of Fame.

There’s a great children’s book, Racing Against the Odds: The Story of Wendell Scott, Stock Car Racing’s African American Champion, that gives a good overview of his grit and determination.

Digging the Racing this Year

Cedar Lake SpeedwayI’ve been a NASCAR fan for a while, but for some reason this year I’ve been getting more into it. It started with watching the truck series race on dirt at Eldora. Trucks racing on dirt? Awesome.

Because of that race I looked up a local dirt track and took the kids to see some Saturday night dirt racing at Cedar Lake Speedway. We’re definitely going back.

I think what I’m enjoying about NASCAR this year is diversity. They raced on dirt for the first time in 40 years and it was incredible. It also seems like there have been more road courses than in the past. Between Cup, Nationwide and the trucks, there were six road courses on five different tracks this year. I love road courses and that’s just fun to watch. (Trucks on road courses? Yes! With a last corner wreck/pass, it was an incredible race.)

It was also fun at the start of the year to watch Danica Patrick make some waves by scoring the pole in the Daytona 500, becoming the first woman to lead a lap in the 500 and then getting a top 10 finish. Unfortunately, the rest of her season has been downhill and she’s usually running a lap or two down in the 20th-30th position. Makes me wish she’d spent another year in the Nationwide series learning how to race stock cars.

But aside from Danica, there’s not a lot of diversity happening in the Cup series. It’s mostly the same bunch of guys running up front and it’s pretty hard for new guys to break in. I get tired of rooting for anybody but Jimmie Johnson. And let’s not talk about the recent controversy of collusion to get drivers into the post-season Chase.

That’s why the truck series has been so exciting. They raced on dirt. They did a road course. They’ve got a bunch of young, up and coming guys like Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott (who won with that controversial last corner road course pass), Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton. They’ve got some international flavor like Brazil’s Miguel Paludo and Mexico’s German Quiroga Jr. (with Juan Pablo Montoya going back to Indy, NASCAR needs some more international talent).

The Nationwide series could be that exciting. They’ve got young guys like Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, international flair with Brazil’s Nelson Piquet Jr., and their token female with Johanna Long (running a less than full season with less than stellar equipment and being ignored because Danica Patrick gets the woman racer spotlight). Unfortunately instead of watching all these up and comers duke it out for wins, you have to watch Cup series regulars run away with it. Kyle Busch has 10 Nationwide wins this year. Brad Keselowski, last year’s Cup champion, has five wins. Brian Scott was even on his way to winning his first race and was going to do it by leading every single lap, until Brad Keselowski passed him on a questionable restart with 11 laps to go and stole the win. Lame.

This is an age old complaint that goes back to my favorite driver Mark Martin racking up a record number of Nationwide victories (until being bypassed by another Cup regular, Kyle Busch). NASCAR has even tried to stem the flood of Cup regulars by not allowing them to compete for the Nationwide championship. But still. This year Nationwide regulars have only won four of 28 races so far. And that’s not abnormal. In 2011 it was six of 34. In 2010, 2009 and 2008 it was only one race in 34. Last year was actually a breakout year for Nationwide with 16 out of 33 wins coming from Nationwide regulars. The last time the series had those kind of numbers was 2003-2005 when Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were coming up and hadn’t graduated to Cup yet.

There’s lots of fun racing to watch this year, I just wish those Cup guys would stick to their own series and let some new stars grab the checkered flag.

Tony Stewart Kicking Ass

(I don’t blog about NASCAR often, so you’ll have to indulge me)

Last night the NASCAR season came to an end with the showdown of all showdowns. Going into the final race of the season, Carl Edwards held a three point advantage over Tony Stewart for the championship. Nobody else was in contention. And nothing else mattered—Carl and Tony would take the first two spots, they just had to fight over the order.

With all the different scenarios, Carl could spot Tony a few positions at the end of the race and still claim the championship, unless Tony won. If Tony won, there was nothing Carl could do. Even if Carl led the most laps (bonus points) and finished second, they’d still tie and the tie-breaker goes to the driver with most wins, which was Tony.

And that’s exactly what happend. Carl led the most laps and finished second, about 1.2 seconds behind winner—and now three-time champion—Tony Stewart.

  • It’s the first time NASCAR has determined a champion with a tie breaker.
  • It’s also the first time an owner-driver has won the championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
  • It’s also the first time a driver has come from behind to win a championship by winning the race.
  • It’s also the first time a champion has won the final race since 1998 when Jeff Gordon did it.
  • It’s also the first time a driver has won five races in the season-ending Chase.
  • Tony also came from 9th place when the Chase started, the farthest back a champion has ever started (since the Chase format started in 2004).
  • It’s also the first time a driver has entered the Chase winless and went on to claim the championship.

And Tony did all that while passing 76 cars in Sunday’s race. Debris punched a hole in his car’s grill and the team fell back to 40th place while making repairs. They pitted again during another caution for more repairs and fell back again, only to climb back to the top, going three and four wide on multiple restarts to pick up positions.

“They’re going to feel like [expletive], after we kick their ass after this,” Tony said over the radio.

I’m not a big fan of Tony Stewart. I was rooting for Carl Edwards, who was robotically consistent over the Chase, with an average finish of 4.9 and finishing no worse than 11th in any of the 10 races. But winning is what matters and Carl’s consistency wasn’t enough. And I don’t think anything was enough for hard-charging Tony Stewart. I’m not a fan, but what he did to win this championship was incredible.

And in the end, I’ve been rooting for anyone but Jimmie Johnson for the last six years.

Sidebar 1: People complain all the time about NASCAR. Non-fans don’t get why it’s exciting. Those folks need to watch Tony Stewart pass 76 cars to win a race and a championship. Fans complain about everything, but you couldn’t ask for something better than a history-making finale like this one.

Sidebar 2: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won NASCAR’s Nationwide series championship on Saturday (it’s kind of like the minor leagues), running most of the season without sponsorship. He literally ran a blank, white race car throughout most of the year. There’s been a lot of economic fallout in NASCAR the past few years with major teams closing up shop or merging with other teams. This is just proof that it’s not getting better. And maybe proof for interested advertisers that there should be some deals available. Anybody want to sponsor a stock car?