MONTE DUTTON – BY THE SEAT OF THE PANTS
As these words are written, Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host four races in three series over the next four nights including this one. Thunderstorms are forecast to one extent or another in all four of them. Thunderstorms are hard to predict. They’re always cropping up and dissipating, hitting and missing, causing delays mainly in stock car races because there isn’t much else going on now.
The so-called “vortex theory,” which is kind of NASCAR’s version of hydrochloroquine, has fallen into disfavor since Darrell Waltrip has become less ubiquitous.
No one’s in the stands because no one is allowed there. NASCAR is fighting for its survival, but there must be some nostalgic enjoyment among the Lords of Daytona Beach, who have often enjoyed making things up as they go along.
The greater scrutiny afforded by public opinion and the media, shrinking professionally but increasing socially, has forced NASCAR to give up some of the wild cards in its deck in recent years. The old sleight of hand – debris cautions, strange scoring decisions, speeding on pit road, careful distribution of talking points and restrictor plates – has been decimated by technology. NASCAR used to hype the crowds and money and hide everything else. Now it hypes everything else and hides the crowds and money.
At present, the crowds are irrelevant because strange times have eliminated them. The cars are excessively monitored, but the races are being administered by the seat of the pants.
The Cup schedule has taken something approaching a shape. Bristol is next Sunday. Martinsville the Wednesday after, and, assuming weather leaves everything alone, the races are supposed to make their path back to the weekends. The races drift farther away, and teams will have to schedule their travel more carefully and with greater predictability. That pesky, deathly virus still hangs in the air, though, and the variables remain unpredictable and onerous.
When the season began, no one in NASCAR imagined what was coming. It’s entirely possible than no one really knows what happens from here on out. Taking the late Merle Haggard wildly out of context, “Holding things together ain’t no easy thing to do.”