The first week in March marked the 112th anniversary of the birth of Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known by his pen name of Dr. Seuss, and the 19th running of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
What do Dr. Seuss and NASCAR have in common? Maybe nothing. But when you think about it in a certain way, stock car races and many other sporting events are like little microcosms of life in the real world, where friends are made, alliances are formed, obstacles are faced and (sometimes) overcome, and we learn stuff. That sounds a lot like the work of a guy who managed to impart some important life lessons to children (and even to their parents, I suspect), by disguising them as nonsensical verse.
So just for fun, let’s move on and talk about the race, with a little guest commentary from everyone’s favorite poetic doctor.
“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”
Sitting out a rain delay at a NASCAR track is worse than being forced to watch a John Travolta double-feature movie marathon featuring Battlefield Earth and Stayin’ Alive 2. It’s all kinds of terrible. You desperately want it to end, but you have no control over it.
I tuned in to the Las Vegas event just before the green flag was scheduled to fly, but the only thing pouring it on at the track was the rain shower which delayed the start of the race.
Nevertheless, it was compelling. Strong winds blew Michael Waltrip even more sideways than he usually is during his infamous pre-race pit road interview segment. And I have to admit it was pretty entertaining to watch a certain top-tier crew chief’s umbrella flip inside out in the wind. Twice. That guy can design and build a race car that handles like a dream while battling through a banked turn at 170 mph, but he can’t handle a $10 umbrella in a gust of wind? Where’s Mary Poppins when you need her?
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind.”
The intermittent rain and pesky winds were bad enough, but Mother Nature was feeling particularly frisky in Las Vegas and decided to go for the trifecta and kick up some dust. Literally. With about 100 laps remaining, a sandstorm blew in, and visibility blew out. Rather than viewing this as a problem, Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw it as an opportunity to have some fun.
“I was just as intrigued as anybody to see how the race would go with the dust and these kinds of winds,” NASCAR’s most popular driver said in a post-race interview. “It’s definitely a factor that makes it another challenge. All the drivers want is more challenges, more hoops to jump through.”
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
In case you wondered, in the midst of all of this craziness, a pretty good race was going on. Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NSCS champion, passed defending series champ Kyle Busch with a mere six laps remaining to earn his first win of the season and the 18th of his career.
To celebrate the win, Keselowski continued his tradition of waving the American flag outside the driver’s-side door, until a 40 mph wind gust came along, and there went the flag, straight to the ground. Brad quickly exited the car to retrieve it, but his quick action didn’t stop a fan from tweeting that he had “desecrated the greatest symbol of this nation.”
Earnhardt came to Keselowski’s defense. “Guy was tryin’ to honor country and troops,” he tweeted. “Put a sock in it.”
A sock? Really? Well, stranger things have happened. Everything from dust, wind, rain and one runaway American flag, to the things that seemed to get the least amount of attention -- race cars -- went flying around in Las Vegas, making it, well … just another day in NASCAR.
“Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
Note: Dr. Seuss quotes are from, in order of appearance: The Cat in the Hat; I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew; Oh, the Places You’ll Go; and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
(Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column, My Brain on NASCAR, is made available through the S.C. News Exchange to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)