MONTE DUTTON - FOUNDERING ON THE SHORES OF PARADISE
I was caught unawares. There I was, on Tuesday morning, about to write a column related in some way to the NASCAR race in Indianapolis.
The reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champion doesn’t have a ride for next year.
There’s nothing Martin Truex Jr. could have done. He’s got a shot at another title, though a recent sag in fortunes makes more sense now. Truex has won four times this very year.
It’s just that Barney Visser, a furniture salesman who beat long odds that have beaten other, more affluent men, has decided to shut down his Denver (Colorado, not North Carolina north of Gastonia) race team and go out either at or near the top. Visser is going out the way Carl Kiekhaefer did in the 1950s, except Visser never entered a fleet of white Chryslers in every race. Visser entered a lone car, first a Chevrolet and then a Toyota, that was often painted flat black, wore an unwieldy number (78) and an obscure sponsor, and rescued a talented driver from a dump truck headed to a slag heap.
Truex’s comments the past few months were unmistakable hints at what was coming. A major sponsor left. Visser wasn’t willing to again finance his race team with his furniture business, which he did for years.
For everyone – Visser, 5-Hour Energy, Furniture Row – but driver Truex, crackerjack crew chief Cole Pearn and a happy, isolated crew of Coloradans, NASCAR got to the point where it wasn’t worth the effort. The return wasn’t worth the investment.
For a championship. A championship!
The current champion and a seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, have lost their prime sponsorship this year. The only thing that could’ve been worse would’ve been if the emperor of the whole sport had to take a leave of absence.
God forbid that NASCAR could enjoy the fruits of a lovely weekend and seamlessly move from one of the world’s more historic tracks to the world’s most historic track.
I so enjoyed the Bojangles’ Southern 500, from the spectacular Darlington dusk to the stands packed with fellow South Carolinians to all the nostalgically themed race cars glittering in the lights’ intrusion on the darkness.
Who won again?