Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Mar. 31, 2015
Volume IX, Edition XLIII
What to Watch: Tuesday
Tuesday's TV Schedule can be found in Couch Potato Tuesday here.
by Aaron Bearden
Drivers Prevail: NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format for Daytona, Talladega
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Sitting in the Stands: A Fan's View
by S.D. Grady
A couple weeks ago, we jumped forward into spring. The days are brighter, the snow is attempting to melt and we don't have to don the sub-zero parka to take out the trash. It's happening! Warmer times are coming! Perhaps the happiest indication of approaching sunny days is the opening of the short track season for auto racing. Sunday's STP 500 was a perfect example, and a timely reminder, that we can get out of the house and head to our local tracks soon. I can't wait.
While I watched the tight action on Virginia's paperclip, I savored the memories of my visit not so many years ago. The angle of the shadows in the corners, heavy sweatshirts on the fans and the sound of engines revving and braking faster than you think possible all combined to send me to a happy place. One where we packed a cooler for the afternoon, drove down to Connecticut and welcomed the New England racing season at Thompson.
I'm sure you've got your favorite local spot, one that's a tiny ¼ mile or so. The benches are blistering after decades sitting under the summer sun. The greasy scent from the concession stand always combines with burned axle grease, while the pits are separated from the general crowd by a rickety chain link fence, or maybe a pasture.
You probably have seen a few big names on their way up or down the ladder of fame. Maybe the place is run by a past Cup crew chief or car owner. The faces that pack the stands are weather worn. Families bring blankets and hot wheels. Music blares out of the tiny speakers, attempting to attract the attention of the gathered masses.
And yes, it probably is crowded that first weekend of the year, as we all escape the confines of our living rooms and TVs. For despite the glitz and glamour that network television insists is part of a NASCAR broadcast, that's not why we're race fans. It's the first time the engines turn over—even when they're encapsulated in a 1990 beater. The squeal of tires, the smell of rubber, the anticipation of bringing your best—however bad that might be.
One of the best things about Martinsville is that the tiny track sparks our recollection of where NASCAR began, and where it still lives. When you walk to the track next to the railroad tracks, you must stroll through a sedate neighborhood full of rather ordinary houses. There are no mansions, mini-malls or apartment complexes. It doesn't take much imagination to see one of your neighborhood race cars being built in the side yard. A car that might run at your favorite dirt track.
I'm looking forward to that first trip to one of New England's little tracks. It's only a couple more weeks until we run our Icebreaker, Spring Sizzler and Governor's Cup. I've got my headset dusted off and seat cushion tested out. It's not too far away. And not soon enough.
Maybe you've never visited a little track. You have no idea what you're missing. There is no comparison between watching a Cup event 60 rows up at a two-mile track versus a 20-lap feature down the street. Give me that hometown feel every time.
More Jeff Gordon memories will return next week after the running of the Easter Bunny 500.
S.D. Grady is a Senior Editor for Frontstretch and runs a NASCAR blog called the S-Curves. She can be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @laregna and on her Facebook page (she's an author, too!) at https://www.facebook.com/Author.SDGrady.~~~~~~~~~~
TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:
MPM2Nite: The Easter Bunny, Hot Dogs, Villainous James Hamlin and Other Musings
by Matt McLaughlin
Q: In 1988, McLaren completely dominated the World Championship. The only thing that kept them team from sweeping the season was a lapped car. What happened?A: Ayrton Senna was leading the Grand Prix of Italy at Monza by five seconds when he came upon the slower Williams-Judd driven by Jean-Louis Schlesser (substituting for Nigel Mansell, who was suffering from chicken pox) to lap him for the second time with two laps to go. Senna took the inside line into the old Rettifilo double chicane after the pits. Senna thought he had Schlesser cleared, but Schlesser (who hadn't even attempted to qualify for a Grand Prix since 1983 and has not since) locked up and spun out Senna. The crash can be seen here.
Senna had essentially been forced to push by teammate Alain Prost throughout the race and may not have made the finish anyway had the crash not occurred. Regardless, Senna beaching himself on a high curb put him out and gave the lead to Ferrari's Gerhard Berger. Berger and teammate Michele Alboreto held on for Ferrari 1-2 mere weeks after the death of founder Enzo Ferrari. Current ESPN IndyCar analyst Eddie Cheever was third for Arrows. As the crash happened with two laps to go, Senna was classified as a finisher in tenth, while Schlesser wound up 11th.
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