My Brain on NASCAR: Wild weekend deviates from script

As the green flag waved to signal the start of the Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on Sunday, we had a perfect storyline to follow.

It was pretty much a given that the lion’s share of attention would be focused on two drivers – a statesman of the sport with multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships to his credit, and a younger, brasher competitor still in strong contention to win his first title.

We got the script exactly right, but as it turned out, there were some issues with casting.

There was never any doubt the race would be a two-man show, as Jimmie Johnson pursued his sixth championship and Brad Keselowski, just seven points back in the driver standings, pursued Jimmie Johnson.

Kyle Petty set the stage during SPEED’s pre-race show. In a segment comparing the two top teams’ crew chiefs, Chad Knaus and Paul Wolfe, Petty compared racing to a chess match, masterminded by the guys sitting stop the pit boxes.

“You’re out there racing that one car in front of you and that one car behind you. That’s it; that’s all you know,” Petty said. “As the chess player, you depend on your crew chief. You are just a pawn on the board, but he sees the whole game.”

This seemingly random comment, in addition to probably being the only time Brad Keselowski and Bobby Fisher will be mentioned in the same sentence, made sense in a strange way. While the game of chess often seems as indecipherable to me as trigonometry or the language of “kids these days,” I do know one thing: Although the contest may begin with two warring monarchs, at the end of the day only one king will be left standing.

The issue I seem to have with chess is that all my pieces seem anxious for the game to end quickly. The NASCAR game is just the opposite. Headed into Phoenix, it had raced on for 34 weeks, leaving only two viable players on the board, vying for the title of Grandmaster.

Racing, like chess, is a game of strategy. The players set positioning goals, and then maneuver to achieve them during the event For the most part, the drama at PIR unfolded according to plan. Kyle Busch had the dominant car for most of the day, and there were a couple of single-car cautions, but with about two-thirds of the race remaining, Keselowski and Johnson both sat comfortably in the top ten.

Then, NASCAR’s game of thrones took a disastrous turn for the No. 48 team. Johnson blew a tire, smacked the Turn 4 wall, and was forced to head to the garage while the damage was repaired, handing the points lead to Keselowski. Johnson’s chances of winning title number six weren’t completely destroyed, but like the driver himself, they were down a substantial number of laps.

The game settled back into a calmer rhythm for a while, until Clint Bowyer, the only driver other than Johnson and Keselowski with a remaining shot at winning the title when the day began, literally rubbed Jeff Gordon the wrong way. After what the four-time Cup Series champion described as a series of transgressions by Bowyer, most recently at Martinsville on Oct. 28, his tolerance had reached its limit. He fought back, deliberately wrecking Bowyer with only a couple of laps remaining in the race.

“Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me. He got into me on the back straightaway, and pretty much ruined our day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back,” an unapologetic Gordon said after the race.

The resulting brawl was one for the NASCAR record books. The garage area erupted into a pretty fair approximation of a mosh pit, with Bowyer’s team attacking Gordon en masse and “Somebody hit somebody” becoming the mantra of the moment. My personal favorite moment was Bowyer’s Jim Valvano impersonation, as he ran around in circles looking for someone not to hug, but to hit.

Now, that’s something you don’t often see in a chess match. The scene may not have been the best for NASCAR’s public image, but it was definitely memorable.

Kevin Harvick – who won the race, in case you were wondering – admitted he enjoyed the melee. “The sport was made on fights. We should have more fights. I like fights,” he said. ”They’re not always fun to be in, and sometimes you’re on the wrong end, but fights are what made NASCAR what it is.”

The 2012 NASCAR season has certainly been eventful. Strategies have been conceived and various tactics employed to carry them out, and one by one, pawns, bishops and rooks – and one queen, I suppose — have been removed from the field of play. The two opposing kings are left standing, with Keselowski needing to finish only 15th or better in the series finale at Homestead to become master of the realm, for the next year, at least.

I have to admit that I never would have dreamed the phrase “I went to a fight and a chess match broke out” would flit through my mind; it’s just too weird. But thanks to a couple of unlikely knights errant, that’s exactly what happened.

The game is in check … but there are no mates to be found.

Comments

comments

Moglia steps down as CCU coach, pitches to Chadwell

Moglia steps down as CCU coach, pitches to ChadwellFive-time National Coach of the Year finalist Joe Moglia, who [more]

Hoops: Sharks claim first region win over Panthers

Hoops: Sharks claim first region win over PanthersA big win for the St. James boys basketball team [more]

CA's Green, Jones reach major hoops milestones

CA's Green, Jones reach major hoops milestonesThe Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach basketball programs celebrated a [more]

CCU makes another poll, hosts free clinic for kids

CCU makes another poll, hosts free clinic for kidsThe Coastal Carolina baseball team received another top 25 preseason [more]

Conway's Moody makes mark as freshman for Tide

Conway's Moody makes mark as freshman for Tide The national championship game didn’t turn out the way Jaylen [more]

Hoops: Chiefs tip Falcons; MB, Knox rock Red Foxes

Hoops: Chiefs tip Falcons; MB, Knox rock Red FoxesMyrtle Beach's Emorie Knox erupted for 32 points Tuesday night [more]

Chants fall short on final shot in skirmish with Mavs

Chants fall short on final shot in skirmish with MavsJunior guard Rashad Davis hit a 3-pointer with less than [more]

Hoops: Green lifts Saints; Seahawks rally past 'Dogs

Hoops: Green lifts Saints; Seahawks rally past 'DogsOn a night chosen to recognize a milestone for Christian [more]

All-County Volleyball: NMB duo adds to state-title run

All-County Volleyball: NMB duo adds to state-title runHow do you choose between two state championship teammates and [more]

Vincent breaks new ground as NMB boys hoops coach

Vincent breaks new ground as NMB boys hoops coachA referee approached the North Myrtle Beach High boys basketball [more]

CCU baseball joins another Top 25 list for 2019 season

CCU baseball joins another Top 25 list for 2019 seasonWith just over five weeks until the season opener on [more]

Pelicans, Cubs make over field staff for 2019 season

Pelicans, Cubs make over field staff for 2019 seasonThe Myrtle Beach  Pelicans and parent club Chicago Cubs announced their on‐field staff for the 2019 season on Wednesday. New to Myrtle Beach this season, Jimmy Gonzalez will take the helm for the Pelicans following four seasons managing the Single-A South Bend Cubs. The 2016 Midwest League Manager of the Year with South Bend, Gonzalez was  [more]

Hoops: Falcons fly by MB; Tigers rally to top Sharks

Hoops: Falcons fly by MB; Tigers rally to top SharksCraig Martin walked off the court at the end of [more]

Tigers crush Crimson Tide for national championship

Tigers crush Crimson Tide for national championshipClemson captured its third national football championship - and its [more]

CCU alums Ross, Johnson pioneers in upstart league

CCU alums Ross, Johnson pioneers in upstart leagueFormer Coastal Carolina football players Alex Ross and Kerron Johnson [more]

Jags drop Chants in 2OT; Lady Chants lose to USA

Jags drop Chants in 2OT; Lady Chants lose to USAFour players reached double digits for Coastal Carolina, but it [more]

Hoops: Braves sweep CF; Seahawks split with Chiefs

Hoops: Braves sweep CF; Seahawks split with ChiefsSocastee scored a big road victory in its Region 6-5A [more]

CCU Hoops: Road teams win SBC debuts with Troy

CCU Hoops: Road teams win SBC debuts with TroyTyrell Gumbs-Frater scored a game-high 20 points as Coastal Carolina [more]

Beach Ball Classic, Day 6: Comets top Cards for title

Beach Ball Classic, Day 6: Comets top Cards for titleMonday's Beach Ball Classic championship game didn't feature the offensive [more]

Beach Ball Classic, Day 4/5: CA's Green leaves his mark

Beach Ball Classic, Day 4/5: CA's Green leaves his mark This week's Beach Ball Classic has been a memorable one [more]

Beach Ball Classic, Day 3: MB takes one on the chin

Beach Ball Classic, Day 3: MB takes one on the chinMyrtle Beach went toe-to-toe with St. Edward (OH) before falling [more]

Beach Ball Classic, Day 2: Socastee, MB, CA stumble

Beach Ball Classic, Day 2: Socastee, MB, CA stumbleSocastee turned in a solid team effort but suffered an [more]

CCU mourns loss of former Olympian, assistant Henley

CCU mourns loss of former Olympian, assistant HenleyTwo-time Olympian (1992 and 1996) and Coastal Carolina assistant track [more]

Beach Ball Classic, Day 1: Braves, Saints lose debuts

Beach Ball Classic, Day 1: Braves, Saints lose debutsTwo local high school basketball teams found out just how [more]

Wrestling: Young Panthers stay hungry for region title

Wrestling: Young Panthers stay hungry for region titleMatthew Ashworth knows the Carolina Forest wrestling squad isn’t the [more]

Moglia steps down as CCU coach, pitches to Chadwell

Moglia steps down as CCU coach, pitches to ChadwellFive-time National Coach of the Year finalist Joe Moglia, who [more]

Hoops: Sharks claim first region win over Panthers

Hoops: Sharks claim first region win over PanthersA big win for the St. James boys basketball team [more]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2018 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach