I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. No, I’m not singing James Taylor, I’m talking about my weather experiences at racetracks. I’ve also seen snow, ice, fog and something akin to a mudslide (though, I’m not sure that counts as weather, but it was pretty cool). But until Sunday, I had never seen a sandstorm. I shouldn’t be surprised it happened in Las Vegas. I have seen more than my fair share of strange things in Vegas.
Peyton Manning retired on Monday. That’s great, since he stopped playing football at some point in 2014.
I’ll admit it: I’m a Chase Elliott fan. I first saw him race when he was 14 and he was a good wheelman then. His rookie campaign has not got off to a great start with two sub-35th-place finishes in three races, but his comments after crashing out at Vegas show that he is a smart, humble and conscientious 20-year old. Even the most experienced racer would have had to pull off a miracle to avoid that wreck, but to him, it showed an area where he needed to improve. If he keeps working hard and being gracious when things go bad, he will make many fans in this sport.
Elliott wasn’t the only second-generation youngster to impress on Sunday. Ryan Blaney had himself a decent little run for the Wood Brothers, coming home third. I think we will be talking about these two for a long time to come.
Since we are all friends here, I feel this is a safe place for this. I have a confession. I am sad that Downton Abbey is over. Not as sad as when Justified ended, but sad, nonetheless.
I have had a lot to say about the way NASCAR has handled the aero packages on the cars over the last few years. Many times, I was talking and no idea what I was talking about. But I do like the package they have now. Atlanta was a bit suspect as far as the on-track action went, but at Vegas it looked like the teams got a better handle on the low-downforce set up and there were some racy moves and passing for the lead, including a pretty boss move by Kyle Busch to grab the race lead in the late going and then Brad Keslowski to get by Busch.
As I a writing this, the big question of the day is whether NASCAR endorsed Donald Trump. The candidate says yes, the sanctioning body says no. NASCAR President and CEO Brian France did endorse Trump last week. There is a precedent for this. In 1968, Brian’s granddaddy, Big Bill France, endorsed a candidate for president, someone not too far afield from Trump: George Wallace. Anyone remember what happened to him?
Looking locally …
I’m going to be a homer for a minute. I love a good underdog story. Unfortunately, we don’t get too many of them in sports these days. But three guys in a race shop in Cerro Gordo have a pretty good story going. Ricky Benton Racing (RBR) has three full-time employees at their shop in Columbus County. They have raced part-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2010. The guys who work on the truck on race weekends are guys that work for Benton’s other business, Black’s Tire and Auto Service during the week.
For the past six years, they have had a bunch of guys behind the wheel with varying degrees of success. This year, Parker Kligerman is driving the No. 92 Ford for Benton and, lo and behold, after two races (I know two races does not a season make) they are leading the series’ points standings.
Kligerman finished third at Daytona and eighth a week later at Atlanta. These guys don’t have backing from a big Cup team or a big name Cup driver (looking at you Kyle Busch Motorsports). Heck, they don’t even have a teammate to lean on. They are just a bunch of guys who like to go to the racetrack and go fast. Guys like the guys at RBR built stock car racing.
Aside from the three guys at the shop full-time, they go to their regular day jobs, then come by the shop on lunch or at night to help get the trucks ready to go race. It’s not quite the glitz and glamor of the guys who race on Sunday, but I guarantee you, the way these guys have been running early in 2016, they are having a lot more fun than some of these guys who run on Sunday.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly column during the NASCAR season. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.