Monday, March 2, 2009

Party like it's 1999

It felt like the late 1990s again while watching the Shelby 427, and not just because the stock market is crashing to levels not seen since then. Late in the race Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte battled for the lead just like they did a decade before when both were powerhouses in the sport. Labonte, turning in a remarkable run in the No. 96 car (The only question I want to ask is why his sponsor continues to air those lame commercials) had an unfortunate pit road mishap with Jimmie Johnson late in the race that dropped him far from the lead. But before that caution, Labonte and Burton raced back and forth at the front, casting a nostalgic spell on any veteran NASCAR.

But it was all for naught as Kyle Busch, driving Labonte’s former No. 18 car, took the lead with a few laps remaining and sprinted ahead. What made it all the more amazing is that he won the pole, but had to start at the rear of the pack because of motor problems after qualifying. But it’s too early to predict another fabulous season for Busch after his downfall in last year’s Chase.

The racing at Las Vegas was somewhat mundane, which seems to be more typical nowadays. Rather than watching from start to finish, I patched together a 1000-piece puzzle in front of the television, while glancing up a few times to see the running order. Didn’t really miss anything and I had the puzzle finished by Lap 208.

Wasn’t it just last year when some in media called for NASCAR to shorten the races because they needlessly dragged on for hours? Pocono and California were just too long, they said, and they were right. So why did they lengthen the Las Vegas race? Sure, they had a clever name by using Shelby and 427 to pay homage to the Mustang Cobra. But did they really need to throw another 18 laps in there? Regardless, is seems that Busch is relishing that decision – with Burton and Clint Bowyer regretting it - since the winning pass was made with only a handful of remaining.

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