Race Weekend Central

Voice of Vito: Diary of a Madman – Cabin Fever & Stir Crazy Collides With an Irritating Daytona 500

Well, another Daytona 500 has come and gone, and many are still talking about it. The 2009 NASCAR season is officially underway, and this year Speedweeks had many compelling stories to discuss.

It started with the Budweiser Shootout that had Kevin Harvick virtually replaying the 2007 Daytona 500 with a last-lap pass for the win. Then, there were the Duel 150s that saw Jeremy Mayfield, Scott Riggs and AJ Allmendinger squeak in the field by the skin of their teeth (or in Mayfield’s case, flat top). Enter the Camping World Truck Series race next, where Todd Bodine was black-flagged, single-handedly took out half the field, then held off Kyle Busch for the win.

And finally, there was the Nationwide Series event that was pretty tame until Jason Leffler sent Steve Wallace for a ride, followed by Shrub attempting to blow Smoke up out of the way.

Sunday brought the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of stock car racing (as Ken Squier once labeled it). I was not at the track for this particular event. Like so many of you, I was perched on my couch, pounding a Hungry Howie’s calzone while shoveling tortilla chips and queso dip into my food hole. Can I tell you about Snickers ice cream bars? They’re awesome. Especially the third one.

Anyways, during the eight hours or so I spent watching the hype and hoopla, a few things struck a chord, caught my eye, raised an eyebrow (no small feat for Jimmie Johnson), and piqued my interest. Ever have your interest piqued?

Well, I have.

With that, here are a few random rambling rumblings that came to me while watching a soggy day of racing from Northern Florida, while enduring yet another suck-ass, bone-chilling Sunday in western Michigan.

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie, you seriously need to shave the beard. It does not make you look like Crockett or in any way a tough guy. It makes you look like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. It does not create an aura of charisma or mystery, or whatever is trying to be purported because a few haters accuse you of being “boring.” Dude, just be yourself. Go back to winning races, say you’re stoked, thank all the employee owners of Lowe’s and remind us that Chad is a genius.

Remember, it’s OK that you’ve been diagnosed with JGS (Jeff Gordon Syndrome) – we’re here for you. If winning is a crime, then stand up and plead guilty as charged. And while I’m at it, stop carving yourself up with a jack knife trying to fish that drinky straw through your firesuit. Scars can look cool, but only if they come from wrecking a motorcycle or falling off a golf cart – both of which you have done. The straw thing just makes you look clumsy. Please don’t walk through a glass shower door next. Or shave off an eyebrow by accident.

That would just look creepy.

Elliott Sadler

Elliott, do we need to knit you an Afghan? What was the deal with the little pity-party there while leading with 60 to go? Let’s be honest here; it wasn’t until you were threatening legal action that you got your ride back a couple of months ago. The truth is, you took that header off the stage on Trackside a couple of years ago better than you handled leading the Daytona 500 with rain imminent. It’s understandable, I guess, with it being the biggest race on the planet and everything.

See also
The Yellow Stripe: Oh, So Close - Tough Luck for Elliott Sadler, Joe Gibbs Racing and Fans at the Daytona 500

If it’s any consolation, thank you for not pulling a Brian Vickers (or in this case, a Tony Stewart) and swerving at Kenseth when he took the lead from you. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Anyways, congrats on a fine performance and a solid run. Buck up, little camper, we’re going to make it up that mountain.

Chris Myers

Is there a legitimate reason that Chris Myers gets to wear the SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALS headset and I don’t? Is it because of his luxurious and gorgeous hair? I am pretty sure that he doesn’t know much more about NASCAR now than he did eight years ago when FOX first started butchering racing coverage. He’s good with stick and ball sports, but ones that involve tires and headers, uh, not so much.

The pre-race show is bad. It does not need to be an hour. 15 minutes is probably sufficient to show a montage of race car drivers uncomfortably mugging for the camera (“OK Kyle, slide those sunglasses on slower… that’s it. Mark, relax a little, and look stern and pensive…”) while reciting a bunch of random statistics. I don’t need to hear Jeff Hammond start off every sentence with “basically” or “kinda like.” I will say, however, that Hambone hasn’t lost much when it comes to pitting a car. Give him a few days to train with that impact wrench some more, and he could be ready by California.


Somebody desperately needs to choke the living $#*! out of that miserable vermin, post-haste; or, as my dad normally handles woodchucks back home, roll him with a .223 JHP. Digger is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the sport today and NASCAR’s shameless attempt to attract attention to itself through any means necessary. I can picture the meeting that gave the go ahead for Digger: “Let’s try to pander to Casual Sports Viewer or Golf-Guy, who will recognize Digger as the gopher from Caddyshack!”

See also
Full Throttle: FOX, It's Just a Freaking Camera

If the sport can dip this low, what’s next? Is the San Diego Chicken going to hold the stop/go sign at the end of pit road and stomp off with it in protest after an official tries to pull it from him? Are the Harlem Globetrotters going to come out and start clowning Greg Biffle’s team in the middle of a pit stop?

Hey FOX, here’s an idea: how about just calling your camera “Track-Cam?” Is that too much to ask? Or how about duct taping it to the side of the head restraint in the car, so I can actually see what the driver is seeing? Last time I checked, the driver is not positioned atop the roof or suffering from walleye-vision. I am still amazed that after 30 years, the best visual coverage I have seen yet is from the mid-’80s, when CBS was first experimenting with the in-car camera.

Keith Urban

An Australian guy who sings with a Southern accent? Fair enough.

Awkward that his wife’s ex-husband and cult leader was milling about Jeff Gordon’s pits in mirrored sunglasses? Kind of.

When Chris Myers’s first question to him was, “Do you like speed?” I was expecting his response to be, “No, but I’m really into coke.”

And what is with the rapid weight loss plan? Jimmy Spencer might want to try NutriSystem, but you’re probably good. Ease off the caloric burn throttle and feel free to mix in a sandwich. It doesn’t have to be Vegemite, either. Try a corn dog at the concession stand, it won’t kill you.

FOX Crew

I find it a bit odd that when the Vickers/Earnhardt fracas occurred, the announcers were very quick to shake a finger at Junior, and did so in unison. It was as if they were going out of their way to sound objective. A few minutes later, they couldn’t stop making excuses fast enough. It was as if someone phoned the booth and told them to elevate their thinking and reevaluate the situation.

While I can understand their taking it back – since I am of the opinion that Vickers instigated the situation – it didn’t do much to quell those who so vociferously charge that the media is in Hendrick’s and Junior’s hip pocket.

And memo to Mike Joy: You’re a great announcer, I’ve been watching you do this since I was five years old, but please, please stop calling Kyle Busch “Wild Thing.” Nobody calls him that except you. The “Hello, Newman…” thing was bad enough when he won a bunch of races. This is just making things worse.

Joey Logano

The last time a guy who had such high expectations set for him rolled into Daytona as a rookie, it was 1993. He had a mullet, a terrible porn-stache and drove a rattly F-body Camaro. That same guy, however, also won his 125-mile qualifying race and finished fifth in his first Daytona 500 – with a brand new team. I think you know of whom I speak.

Unfortunately, the only guy who wanted to get out of Daytona faster than Logano this year was probably Ryan Newman. Logano got turned head-on into the wall during the Budweiser Shootout, pancaked the right side of his No. 20 in practice, then ran head-on into the inside retaining wall during the Daytona 500. Things were so bad, Logano might want to look at getting Head-On – Apply-Directly-To-The-Forehead as an associate sponsor.

Those wrecks, coupled with a handful of wall-rubbing incidents throughout the week during practice made for a rough Daytona debut for the rookie deemed Sliced Bread; which, by the way, might just might be the dumbest nickname I have ever heard applied to anyone. It doesn’t make any sense. Consider some of the nicknames in NASCAR’s storied past: Fireball. Junior. Buddy. Smokey. Suitcase.

Sliced Bread? See: stupid.

Please don’t take any of these comments as indictments against anyone; it’s all in good fun. There is enough gloom and doom in the news as it is, and I have yet another snowstorm headed my way in a few hours – so I have to try to find humor in something, especially since this weekend, the series moves to Caliboringya and the Auto Club 500. Auto Club… isn’t that the thing you wrench onto the steering wheel of your Cutlass Supreme so nobody steals it from you? Would that even work on a stock car, since the steering wheel is removable?

There’s some food for thought next week.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com