May 18, 2008 12:11 pm
I don’t think I’ve done a NASCAR post yet this season, and last night’s All-Star Race gives me a perfect opportunity.
Before the big race, there was a 40-lap, 2-segment All-Star Challenge, where the top two finishers get to race their way into the big race. For the most part, it was a clean race, although pole-sitter Elliott Sadler got taken out by eventual race winner A. J. Allmendinger, who won his first-ever Cup series race (albeit a non-point event). Open-wheel veteran Sam Hornish, Jr. came in second, and showed a lot of progress since the first of the year. After the race, it was revealed that Kasey Kahne, who had finished 5th in the challenge race, had received the fan vote-in position for the big show.
The 100-lap, 4-segment All-Star Race was caution-free (the ones they throw at the end of each segment don’t count), and was one of the fastest ones I had seen. Each segment was dominated by different drivers. Segment 1 was led (in its entirety) by [Kyle Busch], currently the driver at the top of the standings. Halfway through segment 2, his engine dropped a cylinder, and Carl Edwards blew everyone away for the rest of that segment. During the third segment, Carl’s car went away, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led part of the segment until Greg Biffle caught and passed him. In the final segment, it was Kasey Kahne who took the lead a few laps in, and held off Greg Biffle to become the first-ever fan vote to win the $1M prize.
Kyle Busch has been blowing away the competition in all three major series this year, but a couple of weeks ago, he and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were racing very hard and got into each other. “Junior Nation” seems to feel that Busch wrecked Junior on purpose; an unbiased viewing of the replay tapes shows otherwise. However, now Busch gets booed whenever he’s announced, or even when he wins a race, as he did last week. But, I thought one of the poorest examples of sportmanship was the cheering of the crowd as Busch’s disabled car was being pushed from pit road to the garage. Maybe it’s just my upbringing, but cheering at other’s misfortune just seems petty. Carl Edwards had it right - I can’t find a quote, but it was something like “Man, I hate that he lost his engine. I wanted to beat him straight-up on the racetrack.”
We have Junior fans in our house - he’s #1 on my middle son’s list, and he’s pretty high on mine as well. This hearkens back to last year, when Jeff Gordon was getting pelted with things for passing (and saluting) Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s career win total. This is the sort of poor sportsmanship that reflects badly on NASCAR as a sport, and poorly on the South as a region of the country.
In the words of Ron Burgundy, “Stay classy, Junior Nation…”