According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ?hype? is a transitive verb meaning ?To promote or publicize extravagantly.? They could?ve just said ?NASCAR All Star Weekend?. Or maybe NASCAR could?ve simply called it ?Hype Weekend?. Whatever you call it, it was a PR person?s dream. Nothing was too over the top, nothing was too excessive. The NASCAR PR machine was in high gear. It all starts on Wednesday with the pit crew competition and this year the hype didn?t let up until Sunday afternoon at the induction ceremony of the first class into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
In case you just got back from three months on the international space station, the ?All Star? race (formerly known as ?The Winston?) is a short sprint race for a big pile of money. There are no season points on the line, only bragging rights, and that big pile of money. The race is usually divided up into several segments with a mandatory pit stop here and there. But it?s all designed to get into position for the final ten lap dash for that big pile of money.
The first segments of the race are usually pretty mundane. In spite of the TV commentators best efforts to inject some excitement, everybody is just trying to work some sort of strategy to make sure they are in the position to win that big pile of money at the end. It?s the last ten lap segment when all the ?excitement? begins. With no points on the line, there?s no ?big picture? for the drivers to worry about. They know they are free to do whatever they have to do to win. Nothing else matters, nobody ever remembers, or cares, who finished second.
Drivers can and do take chances and try moves that they wouldn?t otherwise try. The clichés fly almost as fast as the cars themselves. ?Checkers or wreckers?, or ?cash or crash?, are heard multiple times in interviews and from the guys in the TV booth. The cars themselves are sacrificial goats that most teams know will be damaged at best or completely destroyed at worst. But that big pile of money will cover a lot of repairs.
Even teammates can be pitted against each other. Denny Hamlin squeezed Kyle Busch into the wall, which led to a cut tire, which caused Busch to crash out of the race that he felt he; ?. . . had it won!? This led to a stream of profanities and threats that only intervention from team owner Joe Gibbs could quiet.
There is no give and take, no quarter given, when a win in the All Star Race is on the line. For the record, that big pile of money totaled something just on the north side of one million dollars. And all for just 100 total laps of racing.
But of even more importance to the drivers than a big pile of money is that the race is held in their own back yard. Almost every team in NASCAR is based within easy driving distance of Charlotte Motor Speedway where the All Star Race is held. All of the crew members, all of the folks that work back at the shop, and all of their families are able to be there at the track. To a man every team wants to show what they can do in front of the home town crowd.
But once the race was over, the hype didn?t end. On Sunday NASCAR inducted it?s first class into their shiny new Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte. In front of fans and dignitaries alike, Bill France, Sr., Bill France, Jr., Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., were honored. Speeches were made, tears were shed, memories were recounted, and television covered it all in excruciating detail.
Frankly, the second day of qualifying for the Indy 500 was much more interesting and exciting and all without any hype at all.
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