Monday, October 3, 2016

Someone to root for

Time now to check in on the leadfoots from NASCAR, a pronouncement that provokes two obvious and implicit reactions:

1. What? You mean they're still racing?

2. Why?

The answer to the first is, yes, they're still racing. The answer to the second is, because NASCAR isn't as smart as IndyCar, which gets out of the way of the NFL juggernaut before it can really get up a head of steam and run it over.

NASCAR, however, insists on conducting its playoffs in the mighty shade of the 800-pound gorilla, for reasons that defy explanation. That it doesn't even begin the marquee part of its season until the NFL has stolen the nation's attention span begs the question of just who is running the sport these days, and what the discussions around the Big Corporate Table must be like.

"Aw, hell, we don't gotta worry about the NFL. Our fan base -- white male testosterone junkies who like tough guys like Tony Stewart -- probably doesn't even like pro football!" said Bobby Jimmy, vice-president in charge of strategic marketing. "Bring it on, Goodell!" ...

Or, you know, something like that.

In any case, yes, they're still racing, and, after yesterday's elimination race at Dover, the hottest driver in NASCAR is leading the Chase at the quarterfinal cutoff. He's won two of the three Chase races so far, which gives him four wins in the last 17 races. And I can see  by that look on your face that you've already guessed who it is.

No! Not Kyle Busch!

It's Martin Truex Jr., of course!

Who, seriously, is a guy you can root for, unlike Busch or that surly Kevin Harvick or boring old Jimmie Johnson. Truex isn't one of those guys, who dine with silver spoons and need a road map to Victory Lane the way an offensive lineman needs a road map to Dunkin' Donuts.  Truex is one of those other guys, the ones who spend most of their NASCAR weekend driving in anonymous circles out there and clinging to dreams that fade by slow increments with every 25th-place finish.

Truex knows all about that. He won his first Cup race back in 2007, then didn't win again for six years.  Then, in 2014, he hooked up with Furniture Row Racing, not exactly Hendrick or Gibbs or Roush. And somehow magic happened.

Last year, racing for a non-superteam, he reached the final four in the Chase. Now he's become the man to beat, an Average Joe racing for an Everyman team who've become, together, something much greater than the sum of their parts.

Which is why anyone with a soul ought to be rooting for them. Just the Blob's opinion.

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