Race Weekend Central

Voice of Vito: What I Really Wish We Would See at the Brickyard 400

This weekend brings us the 18th running of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What once was always seen as just a rung below the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race in the series, has seen the name and image of the 2.5-mile Rectoval situated in the middle of a neighborhood in Speedway, Ind. become a bit blemished in recent years. From crowds spread as thin as the cords on a fried Goodyear tire, to competition that is less than Talladega-esque, Indy needs a few prayers and intentions sent its way. With that, I have put together my own wish list for this weekend’s action from Indianapolis.

Rhymes with Shallow(ed)

Please, for the love of all that is holy, will somebody in the motorsports media invest in a thesaurus? You cannot tell me there isn’t one writer, commentator, radio personality, who will refrain from referring to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s, “HALLOWED GROUNDS.” The best is when is it pronounced, “hollowed” grounds – which itself is a bit coincidental, seeing as the words and sentiment have a bit of an empty meaning to them after awhile, when the same thing is repeated over and over, again and again.

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Full Throttle: Heading to Indianapolis

It’s so special that now they run Yamahas here in the wrong direction and next year a bunch of start and parkers will show up with short-track cars. The largest sporting venue in the world, and one of the great racetracks in the history of racing has to have a couple of more slangs up its sleeve. I remember back when stock car fans had to act like they were visiting The Sistine Chapel when the first tire test was run there, a time when Kyle Petty questioned if NASCAR should be there since, “they don’t run dogs at Churchill Downs.” Somewhere in there is a colloquialism just waiting to come out.

Johnny Come Lately. Eventually…

For the sake of Juan Pablo Montoya and everybody on the No. 42 team, I sincerely hope there is not a late-race caution for an accident, blown engine or Lord help us, debris. For the past two years, JPM and IMS were about as connected as Carl Edwards and concrete. A speeding penalty while nursing a 10-second lead in 2009 felled Montoya the first time, while last year his teammate under-tired him to a track-position advantage at the end, giving Jamie McMurray the second of the two most important races in America in 2010.

Montoya is paired with a new crew chief now, with Jim Pohlman calling the shots in the pits, rather than Brian Pattie. Pattie had been the crew chief since mid-2008, but as often was heard over the radio, was just not on the same page with the mercurial Montoya.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins

This seriously needs to happen. If not for No. 88 team (No. 24 team?), for Steve Letarte. If not for Letarte, for Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself. If not for Junior, for the stone-faced masses who still sport faded and fossilized No. 8 stickers and other DEI-licensed Budweiser paraphernalia on their vehicles – as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and inked themselves with an eight or eighty-eight, it would do everyone some good if Earnhardt would win a race.

A few weeks ago he was on top of the world, sitting in third place in points, all but assured of qualifying for the Chase and possibly being atop the standings for the first time in seven years. Now he has slipped to ninth, still in the top 10, but on the receiving end of some horrible luck, although during the midst of some mediocre performances. The footsteps and whispers are getting louder surrounding the recent plight of the No. 88 team – however all would be silenced and drowned out if he were to win this weekend in Indy.

Brother, Can You Spare a Ride?

The number of displaced crew chiefs in the Sprint Cup Series is starting to resemble a bread line. Another one bites the dust this week, as Todd Barrier was relieved of crew chief duties for Jeff Burton and replaced with Luke Lambert. Greg Erwin was relocated to the No. 43 RPM team of AJ Allmendinger last week, while Matt Puccia tries to right the listing ship that is the No. 16 3M Ford – the one Roush Fenway ride with secure sponsorship for 2012.

Couple that with the No. 48 team having its own pit crew woes of late and a new front tire changer for this weekend, and Silly Season has started to affect the crew chief position more so than the driver lineup so far.

Carl Comes Clean

It would do everybody a world of good to say the least. Other drivers can get on with their lives and start figuring out their plans for 2012. Sponsors can realize who they are not going to end up with, and pen their, “We wish so-and-so the best of luck in the future” press release. Edwards has said that he has yet to reach a decision and if given his druthers, he’d delay the announcement until the end of the season.

That, coupled with the fact that Edwards has announced he does not plan to run full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012 leads me to believe he is going with Gibbs. After all, if he was going to remain with Roush, it seems to me he would have at least echoed some sentiment that he hopes to have it signed soon. Then again, he is still very complimentary of Ford in his post-race interviews. Do you think Bob Osborne will go with him? Roush is way short on sponsorship too. Oooohhh, I can hardly stand it, please Carl, just shout it to the world already.

Beltin’ Out The Bible

Of course, I am a God-fearing man. I am Catholic and regularly attend services on the weekend, and have volunteered my time at two parishes in my hometown. While robes, rites, and rituals are all part of the usual Sunday service, if Pastor Joe Nelms from Family Baptist Church were in my city, I’d make a point to show up every Sunday, and possibly be the only Italian Roman Catholic Baptist on the planet.

We’ve all become accustomed to the pre-race prayer, the one Saturday night at the Nashville Nationwide race was as soul stirring as any flyover by a squadron of F-15s or B-1Bs that one would ever see. It isn’t often that the Lord is given thanks for providing us with Dodges, Roush Fenway Motors, a specific Chevrolet race engine (R07), Sunoco racing fuel, Goodyear tires or a smokin’ hot significant other – and it’s high time we start doing just that.

So in the tradition of Brother Nelms, I think I’ll forego the wishing and hoping, and just ask our Heavenly Father for one kick-ass, filling, rattling race this weekend at a track that makes Chicagoland look like a parking lot at a run-down Reno strip mall.


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.

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