Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: Open Letters to the NASCAR Garage

Not going to lie to you, I’m a little bit cranky. Blame a lingering back issue that is either a strain, a pull or a bulging disc. I haven’t put my fist through my monitor yet – yet – but I’m getting there.

The relentless, oppressive heat that looks to eclipse the century mark Thursday and Friday is a prime culprit too. This isn’t just normal Midwest summer heat and humidity – it is Africa-hot folks. With that, here’s a select few things have me ready to throw on Pantera’s “Walk” and move some furniture around my forward operating base somewhere in the bowels of western Michigan.

Dear Dillon Brothers,

Please lose those stupid hats. The irony of driving the familiar “Menacing” black No. 3 but wearing the “Good Guy” white cowboy hat is just not cutting it. There is only one man in the sport who should be wearing a cowboy hat and he has a massive belt buckle that declares, “Seven-Time Winston Cup Champion, Seven-Time Daytona 500 Winner, 200 Wins.”

There are only two other guys who are allowed to wear cowboy hats in NASCAR, Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt, and they both cut that out in the early 1980s, after they came to the realization that only The King gets to wear a feathered crown. And with that, we also say Happy Birthday, Mr. Petty. Try to find another guy 75 years old that cool. It’s not going to happen.

Dear Kurt Busch,

Woah, dude, was that like … emotion we saw and heard from you at Sonoma? If so, please keep it up. You’re actually a likable guy when you’re not cussing out reporters and completely losing your s— on people. Usually when one listens to Kurt Busch’s radio, it’s often in anticipation of the hilarious tirade of profanity that your ears will soon be scorched with. He’s usually 50% Sam Kinison, 50% George Carlin, but the final few laps at Sonoma, however, told a different story.

Clipping a stack of tires in turn 11, Busch ripped the rear panhard bar out of the rear end, allowing it to skate side to side the final few laps. How he held onto it was nothing short of a miracle. Over the team’s radio, there were tears being choked back by both driver, spotter and crew chief alike. In his press briefing following the race, gone was the typical polished, canned response that Busch is known for.

It was genuine, pure, positive emotion from a driver who had driven himself to the brink yet again of cussing himself right out of a job, but the second chance afforded to him by owner James Finch nearly paid off with an improbable road-course win.

Phoenix Racing usually fields a pretty stout restrictor-plate car and if Busch is able to break through Saturday night (July 7), the snot bubbles are going to be running rampant, and not because of the cordite wafting through the air after the fireworks show.

Dear NASCAR Marketing,

OK. We get it. Clint Bowyer has to amp up with 5-hour Energy before he goes jet skiing, hunting or sticks his hands next to the engine of a Toyota FJ-Cruiser. And yes, apparently Mac & Cheese vs. Mashed Potatoes & Gravy rivals Obamacare as the key issue that is dividing our nation. It almost makes me long for a Michael Waltrip/Martin Truex Jr. NAPA commercial. Almost. But not quite.

Dear Roush Fenway Racing,

Can you just change the name back to Roush Racing and stick to hanging signs on that big, dumb, green wall in Boston (sorry, Tigers fan writing this)? When you bought into one of the most storied racing operations in motorsports history, it was on the basis of securing sponsorship in an ever increasingly competitive market. Since then you’ve managed to run off and alienate Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and a host of crew chiefs.

See also
Winners & Losers: The Harsh Reality of a Kensethless Roush

Where’s all this sponsorship they were supposed to secure anyway? To date they’ve lost UPS, DeWalt, AAA, Irwin Tools, Crown Royal, Smirnoff and a host of others. Yeah, I know, the economy sucks. But there’s a lot of teams that are not quite the caliber of RFR who consistently have sponsorship stickers on their cars in these troubled times.

You’d think finding somebody to kick in a few bucks for the 2011 and 2012 Daytona 500 champions might be something they could muster at some point along the way. What’s more disturbing is that Jack Roush said he had no knowledge that Matt was considering leaving. He essentially said the same thing, regretting not being more involved in the process when Martin was told “no thanks” after he asked about returning to a part-time Cup capacity for 2007.

With Penske switching to Ford next season, will Roush Fenway end up being the second-fiddle Ford team for 2013 and beyond, if they’re unable to fund their programs at any level?

Dear God,

Please turn off the heat in the Michigan and grant electricity back to those who have been without it for the last week. We now know what living in Hell would be like and promise to sin no more. For those of you in Ohio, sorry, but you’re already there. And we’d like Toledo back.


Vito T. Pugliese

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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