DW reflects on RIR: ‘Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!’
Fans ask me all the time why I love short-track racing so much. Part of the answer is short tracks are where I started my career. Another part of the answer is that I was very blessed to be awfully good at short-track racing. The final part of the answer was Saturday night at Richmond.
Are you kidding me? Wow, what a race and what a finish. I sure hope you had the chance to attend the race or at least get to watch our NASCAR on FOX broadcast of it because Saturday night truly was short-track racing at its finest. There was bumping, banging, pushing and shoving both during the race and actually after it as well.
We saw some aggressive driving for 400 laps. Those 43 drivers were putting on a show for all of us. It was just non-stop action for the entire time. Then you throw in the tire issues and did you notice that every tire failure caused a fire? There’s an old saying: "Kick the tires and light the fires." Well, they didn’t even need to kick them for the fires to happen.
You see guys doing things on the short tracks that they literally can’t do anywhere else. To me, short-track racing really shows you who can drive and who can’t. It takes finesse, skill, creativity and anticipation. It creates all the things we want to see not on in a race, but in a race car driver.
That’s why I love the short tracks. It’s not just put your foot to the floor and if you have a fast car you go to the front. It’s not about aero and side drafting and dirty air. On a short track you have to get up on the wheel and drive hard the entire race.
It takes everything you’ve got to hustle one of these cars around Richmond International Raceway. Like I said earlier last week, I’ve always considered Richmond a hybrid-type track. It’s not a superspeedway and it’s not a real short, short track. It’s just fast enough, big enough and wide enough that we see things there we don’t see anywhere else. Saturday night was no exception.
I’ve been a race car driver almost my entire life. The finish of that race Saturday night is why I am a race fan for life. The way NASCAR has changed the points system and how you qualify for the Chase has changed the whole landscape of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. Jeff Gordon, our four-time champion, told me that he’d rather have two wins and be twenty-second in the points than be the points leader, as he is, and have no wins.
That’s how this whole thing has changed. That’s why we’re seeing the kind of racing we are seeing. That’s why I get aggravated when I hear folks talking about more changes. Why in the world would you even think about making changes when we have the best racing we’ve ever had? For the life of me I don’t understand that.
But hey, the reality is I don’t run the sport, I’m just commenting on what I see and giving my two cents worth. I’ll say it again, though: Right now I am seeing the best racing I have seen in our sport in years. We wanted a premium put on winning and we got it. All these drivers think about now is win, win and win again. A "good points day" just doesn’t cut it anymore.
The cars are faster and handling better than they ever have. The drivers are taking advantage of that and driving harder than we’ve ever seen them drive. How could you ask for anything better? Every week I go home thinking it can’t get any better but you know what, the very next week it does. These drivers just keep stepping it up a notch.
So now we are nine races into the season. Two drivers — Kevin Harvick and after his win Saturday night, Joey Logano — both know they are in the Chase. There is a lot of racing to go and 14 more Chase slots to fill. On top of all that, just look at the list of names of those who haven’t won yet. The list includes Johnson, Gordon, Stewart, Biffle, Kenseth, Kahne and on and on that are still looking for their first win of 2014.
This thing is just going to keep building. The tension is going to escalate. Boy, are we fortunate. We have so much to look forward to and to be thankful for. We had it all Saturday night. We had a great race and a fight afterward. That’s old school short-track racing right there.
My only wish is we could run a short track next Saturday night. In my blue-sky world we’d run our short track races all together. I love continuing the story and in some case the feuds on the short tracks. You all know this but the beauty of a short track is you can pay someone back for a previous transgression and in reality no one but the car gets hurt. You simply can’t carry a grudge from Richmond over to Talladega on Sunday. It’s simply too dangerous at 200 miles an hour.
Who knows, maybe that’s something that can be looked at and addressed with a schedule change. That’s a big deal to me. A schedule realignment is more important to me than worrying about making more changes on the car or changing the motors. I still beat the drum that we need to work on the schedule because that’s something that needs to be fixed.
I am jacked up and ready to go to Talladega. We are going to see some absolutely amazing qualifying sessions there. Qualifying is going to look more like a race at Talladega and we’ve never had that before.
These drivers were all over each other Saturday night at Richmond and theyâll be all over each other Sunday afternoon at Talladega. The only difference is they’ll be inches apart at over 200 mph. It’ll be a pack. It’ll be a pack of hungry hounds going around that 2.66-mile superspeedway over 200 mph.
Now we all know what that leads to. Dare I say it? The Big One!