TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER - May 23, 2016

TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER – May 23, 2016

Senoia Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and family can look forward to this new weekly blog from journalist Rick Minter.  Rick has been reporting on motorsports at Senoia Raceway and elsewhere since 1976.


A big hats off to the drivers, promoters, race officials, clean-up crew members and others who worked together at Senoia Raceway Saturday night to run a crisp race program that ended just after 10:30, much to the delight of many a fan posting on social media afterward.


And an equally big hats off to the fans who have been patient with the Senoia staff and drivers while they figured out how to streamline the program, just as fans and drivers were patient earlier this year  – and last year – while Doug Stevens and his track crew figured out how to provide a consistently good racing surface.


On the other hand, I was disappointed at comments from drivers and some fans after NASCAR’s All-Star race Saturday night.


To hear those comments, one would think the racing in Charlotte was terrible. Granted there was some confusion at the end of the first segment of the All-Star race as a good many drivers wound up getting lapped, but overall the All-Star show was the best it’s been in years.


It started in the Showdown with Trevor Bayne’s three-wide, up-the-middle pass to win the first of three Showdown segments and with it a berth in the All-Star race.  Then Kyle Larson prevailed over Chase Elliott in a door-banging, tire-smoking run to the finish line in the third Showdown segment, a finish much like the one Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch put on at Darlington back in the day.


Then in the final segment of the All-Star race, Larson, who came up through the dirt racing ranks, again found himself battling for the win, but this time Senoia Raceway alumni Joey Logano emerged with the lead with two laps remaining, speeding away to take his first All-Star win while Larson bounced off the wall and left Charlotte a disappointed young man.


It was the best All-Star finish since 2009 when Tony Stewart came from sixth to first, taking the lead from Matt Kenseth with two laps to go.


That’s been quite a while. I’ve got a 2009 model pick-up truck and it’s been 100,000 miles since that race. A lot has happened since then, including some pretty uneventful All-Star races as from 2010 to last year, the race was decided just after the start of the final segment.


But that point seems forgotten amid the negative posts and comments about Saturday’s race.


It just goes to show that when fans, fueled by drivers’ comments just after the heat of battle, turn on a sport – or race track for that matter – it’s very difficult to turn things around.


As for the complaining drivers at Charlotte Saturday night, they wouldn’t have had a gripe if they hadn’t gotten lapped in the first 50 laps, and kept a lap down by a driver on older tires than theirs.  Maybe they ought to work on their cars, or pick up the pace, rather that trashing the format of the race and bringing negative attention to a sector of the sport already struggling to reconnect with its fan base.


The same is true on the local level as well.  Nothing stirs up more trouble for a local track than drivers taking to social media with negative comments.


There’s nothing wrong with free speech. As a journalist I’m all for it.


The challenge is for fans – and the media – to take those comments with a grain of salt, and decide for themselves whether the show is a good one or not.


See y’all at the races Saturday night.


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