MONTE DUTTON: THE DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
It now seems as if Martin Truex Jr.’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship was a foregone conclusion. A system that was designed not to work, worked. NASCAR officials drew up their latest title format like a concept album. They put in phases, stages, circles, cycles, and a few other miscellaneous words from Willie Nelson songs, and, miracle of miracles, the guy with eight victories and 2,253 laps led actually won the championship.
I just surfed the Internet, looking at preseason predictions. No one I could find predicted Truex to be the champion. I found one seer who predicted he would make the final four. Much more common were such prognostications as:
“I think this is Joey Logano’s year.”
“Watch Chris Buescher.”
“Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott will get their first Cup wins.”
“Clint Bowyer will rebound in a big way.”
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes the playoffs.”
“Ford wins the manufacturer championship.”
“Bolt d’Oro gets stunned in the juvenile race.” (Sorry. That was a Breeder’s Cup prediction.)
I even found a prediction listing Trevor Bayne as one of the season’s first-time winners, which seemed relatively safe since Bayne won the Daytona 500 in 2011. How soon they forget.
Truex and Furniture Row Racing didn’t just improve. They didn’t just add to their statistics. They multiplied them.
Now Earnhardt Jr. is retiring. Matt Kenseth is being put out to pasture (presumably, one in Wisconsin) and Danica Patrick to photo shoots. Tony Stewart’s and Carl Edwards’ seats are cold. Anyone remember Greg Biffle?
If the season just completed had been a movie, Truex would have been played by Tom Hanks. He is affable. He is unflappable. He is a swell guy. The only fans who were passionately opposed to Truex still blame Toyota for Pearl Harbor.
God love him. Truex was a nice guy before it was cool. He remained on track, even as his girlfriend fought cancer, a crewman keeled over dead the night before a race (he won) and the owner had a heart attack. By gosh, the season was a remake of It’s a Wonderful Life, which starred James Stewart, who was Tom Hanks before there was a Tom Hanks.
Now everyone is preparing for the holidays, feeling all warm and fuzzy save for the fans who still think Sessue Hayakawa runs Toyota from a Bridge on the River Kwai.