The Rout is On

Jul 14 2010 - 10:17am

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, including mine. SCOOP Sr. and I spent the weekend in the bright lights of Brooklyn...Michigan! Thanks to all the dads for all they give to us sons and daughters!

Last week, it was Pocono where Denny Hamlin ran all over the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field. This week, he moved west and picked right up where he left off.

Hamlin just flat laid waste to the best of NASCAR at Michigan, leading 162 of the 200 laps and pretty much racing the rest of the pack right off the track.

How bad was it? SCOOP Sr. didn't even bother with a wakeup call. Used to be, he'd leave one for lap 190 so he could get ready for the post-race. On Sunday, it was like the first day of summer break: the noise from the PA system would do just fine.

I'm kidding, of course. SCOOP Sr. never went to sleep. He watched Hamlin just motor away from Kasey Kahne on the final restart-after the NASCAR-mandated debris caution to bunch up the field-with 15 laps to go.

NASCAR, in this case, did have a large chunk of something on the track, so I'm being a little snippy. It did seem to work out just fine for the fans, NASCAR and the audience snooz...er, watching at home.

I'm sorry. I want to be upbeat, stay with the program that all NASCAR races are instant classics and relentlessly hype the sport, but I can't. There were 200 laps, 160-plus led by one guy. Four cautions, one two-car whack job (teammates, no less) and a debris caution to set the finish up for a shootout.

That's about it. Oh, there was Dale Jr. running most of the day in the top 10 and finishing eighth, but other than that...crickets.

Michigan is wide and offers many grooves...none of which seemed to be dominant. High, low, middle...didn't seem to matter to Hamlin, and for a while, Kahne and Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch tried to jazz it up a little, but whacked the wall in the final run and finished 20th.

Love the Midwest, love the track-I started going there in the early 1970s, when Indy Cars were king and they ran twin 200-mile events, sometimes with the USAC stock cars in attendance as well. Spent many a summer/autumn afternoon with SCOOP Sr., Mother SCOOP and Brother SCOOP, hanging off the top row of the grandstands in Turn 1 by the belt my dad tied to the rail to keep me from falling.

It was a great time then, and I wasn't so tuned in to what the product looked like on TV. I was at the races, and that's what counted. Plus, we usually got to stop at the Dairy Bar on U.S. 12 on the way home, so it was a win-win situation for me.

But Sunday's race was an exercise in ennui. Long green-flag runs, one car clearly superior to all the rest, no buzz at all.

Sad news: Les Richter died Saturday morning at the age of 79. For those of you who didn't know who Coach was, he was larger-than-life. Bill France Jr.'s right-hand man on the West Coast, Richter ruled the roost for ISC and NASCAR west of the Mississippi. He was one-fourth of the founding council of the IROC series too.

He was also elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a career as a defensive lineman for the LA Rams. He was once traded for 11 players...that's impressive. In fact, my line coach in high school played with him in the NFL. He died this year too. RIP, old friends.

This week's race, at Infineon Raceway (for the last time before the sponsorship goes away) will have some moments to savor. At least once, we'll see a stock car hero go blazing through the tulips toward the Snack Bar in Turn 11, or go whirly-gigging through the esses on the back side of the track.

I'm a racing guy, now mostly a NASCAR guy, but I do know racing in other disciplines as well. Got a kick watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend and keenly devoured the Canadian GP from Montreal. Road racing is fun, and as demanding as oval track racing is, road racing is probably a tick harder to do well.

When the NASCAR boys go at it at Infineon, and at Watkins Glen, it combines the best of the disciplines. Big old stock cars look heavy and out of place on the twisty bits, but the guys get it done. Jan Magnussen, one of the premier road racers in the world, is going to drive a one-off this weekend, and Boris, Ron Fellows and the rest are coming as well.

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