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Slow, squeaky Chevy wheels getting greased

February 24, 2000

Seems to me if the Chevy folks would spend as much time making their cars faster as they do whining about how Fords have an unfair advantage, we might be treated to a competitive NASCAR race sometime this season.

Not that I'm trying to start anything.

But seriously, the finish at Daytona looked like a Ford Motor Co. assembly plant, with one Ford after another rolling across the line with nary a bow tie in sight.

To the GM folks, this sight was as sacrilegious as it would be for a Muslim to see a Hindu charming a cobra on the Dome of the Rock. (Here I have backed myself into a tight place. Do I target this column toward normal people in which case I need to explain automobile racing idiosyncrasies, or do I target it toward NASCAR people, in which case I need to explain the jokes?)

Naturally, GM partisans can't simply accept that their heroes are stuck driving a pack of automotive dogs - so it must be that the Fords are cheating.

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And they will complain loud and long until NASCAR officials finally get sick of the braying and decide to "level the playing field" by passing a new rule that will require the Fords to mix three parts of Hi-C in with their racing fuel to make them slow down.

By now, true NASCAR aficionados will have correctly concluded that I have no clue whatsoever about the ins and outs of stock car racing. But I try, I do try.

As much as NASCAR officials say they want to attract new fans, however, they sure don't make it easy. Call me simple, but I am assuming here that the main objective of a car race is to go faster than anyone else. So in car racing, when you go faster than anyone else, are you rewarded? No, you are penalized. Already, NASCAR has impounded three of the Fords to find out what makes them go fast so they can prevent them from doing it again. This would be like telling the San Antonio Spurs, "All right, you were the best team in the NBA last year, so this year instead of wearing sneakers you must wear snowshoes."

The GM people, I am not kidding, have accused the evil, dastardly Fords of having "a superior design."

Well. OK. But - oh, never mind.

Something else I do not understand this "high-low-middle" paradigm, as in "I radioed him and told him we was goin' up high because the car had been runnin' good up high all day and wasn't doin' so good down low in the groove but then he went up high with me and I was right there in the middle so then I looked in the rear-view and saw the 99 goin' down low and I knew I could get a bump from the 99 so I went down low and I know the 42 was mad and I'd be mad too because we did tell him we was goin' up high, but hey, that's racing."

I don't mean to sound extreme, but I've heard George W. Bush policy speeches that made more sense than this.

Then there was the complaint, and again I am not kidding, people were disappointed with this year's Daytona because usually according to the AP they can count on "passing from start to finish and, usually, at least one big wreck."

Ah, we've finally gotten down to brass tacks, haven't we? The subtle admission that without spectacular crashes, NASCAR is just another bunch of cars going in a circle at 200 mph.

NASCAR has yet to act on my suggestion to liven things up be letting a deer loose on the track every 50 laps, so I will present an alternate idea: Abolish the yellow flag.

Drivers darting through twisted shards of metal and pools of spilled oil under hard racing conditions ought to make things more interesting. And there wouldn't be the embarrassment of letting the final laps of the race anti-climactically peter out under a caution flag.

Now, if we can just keep the Chevy people from griping that the Fords are participating in superior crashes.


Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist
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