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Monday, November 21, 2011


 pedal to the metal

changing tires 

carl edwards laying rubber

tony stewart leader of the pack

tony stewart a'layin it to it

tony stewart as seen by carl edwards

The race at Homestead, Florida, today I had to say was the best race I've ever watched. If it isn't, I don't remember being this satisfied by a race, ever. Tony Stewart's was a win by the best driver and the best car in the race. I like it when it works out like that. One car touched the wall at the end of a turn and lost it, smoked his tires, all the cars were able to avoid him smoking his way down the bank of the track. Another time somebody lost it pretty bad, but was the only car hurt in the incident. So much smoke from the braking tires at 150 mph the car is enveloped and out of sight in the cloud of white smoke. Somebody lost a transmission. That was it for the mistakes. The rest of it was a clean run that was all the drivers going all out. It was a good track with fairly predictable handling for the drivers. It wasn't like a desert track that is hot while the sun is on it and cold when the sun sets, changing driving conditions considerably. The Homestead track didn't seem to have any eccentricities. Yes it did. It had the outside of the track banked good on turns while the inside of the track wasn't banked well. They could go faster riding the wall around a turn. 

It was a thrill to watch Tony Stewart take charge of that race. He started off good, then something from possibly the blown transmission hit his grille, but fortunately didn't get the radiator. That set him back from about 5th place to 40th. He worked his way up to 2nd place. A yellow flag put him back to 5th place. He came out of pit stops a few places back from going in, but he came out aggressive and took charge passing cars like a drunk on an interstate. First time, I think he came out 7th and in one lap was up to third. Last time, I think he came out of the pit 5th and ran right up to first and showed Carl Stewart his ass end for the rest of the race. It was true sport watching Stewart and Edwards giving it all they had. It was their race from the start. Predictions were that it would be their race. But chance has a way of changing things, so the predictions were cautious. Right away in the race it became clear that it was their race. A few other cars would join them after a yellow flag, but when the race was on, Tony Stewart was passing cars. If I remember correctly, and I don't, I think the announcer said at the end that he'd passed 76 cars in the course of the race. 

Toward the end, the last 50 or so laps, it was an all out run between Edwards and Stewart giving it everything, trying to push the gas pedal through the floorboard. It even felt frustrating watching Edwards behind Stewart, unable to gain more than half a second on Stewart's second and a half lead. They paced the pack and had to pass the cars that wouldn't give them the upper lane of the track. They went through the back of the pack so it started looking like they might take the lead a second time. Edwards was back there going with everything he had and Stewart simply outran him. Both of them outran everybody else such that the cameras were on them the whole second half of the race. They didn't run any in-car cameras today. The cameras around the track at Homestead weren't inventive like some of them where you have odd and interesting angles. The photography at Homestead was standard race photography. It was good. I've no complaints. Odd to see palm trees with winter coming on.

I loved watching Tony Stewart. There was a time it looked like Carl Edwards would be unbeatable. He stayed in the front and led the pack a large number of times, making points like crazy. Stewart could have outpointed him if they'd given points for cars passed. I've never paid much attention to any particular drivers. About half the drivers' names are familiar, and half not. I don't pay attention to them so much as I just like to watch the cars run. I don't care who wins. I want the best driver in the race to win. I like a good run like today with no wrecks, no pileups of 15 and 20 cars, no end over end rolling down the track and sliding for half a mile on its top in the grass. None of that. Just a good, solid race. I love a good race. I started pulling for Stewart in the last half of the race when he had already shown he aimed to win this race. Edwards stayed out in front while Stewart was set back several times, and every time came right back to the challenging position. I saw him make one pass that would take your breath if you were in the car with him. He had perfect command of his steering wheel throughout the race. He never made a mistake. His car was in perfect running order. 

I had the impression that Stewart's car and Edwards' car were equals. At the end, Carl Edwards had a mic pushed into his face as soon as he emerged from the car's side window. He told it straight. He was simply outrun. He mentioned Stewart's strategies, which I didn't know what they were, but he did. He noted the strategies Stewart used with more emphasis than the car being faster. Stewart out maneuvered him. Once Stewart got himself in front of Edwards, he just never let Edwards catch up. If Edwards could have gone any faster, I don't believe Stewart could have. It looked like they were both running as fast as they were able to make their cars go. All Edwards could hope for was a mistake from the driver in front of him, who hadn't made any mistakes and wasn't likely to. He didn't. He won the race fair and square as a race can be won. Carl Edwards couldn't do anything but concede, he got beat. It was a tough one for him to gulp down, the big race for hot dog of the year, and he almost had it. Stewart pulled over to the Victory stand and Edwards stuck his head in the window and they had some good words, you could see on their faces. 

Tony Stewart made $10,000 by taking a drink from a Coke bottle handed to him after he squeezed out the window. People above showering orange Gatorade on him, a steady flow of it while Stewart and announcer with mic are talking. Then it started raining and the shower changed from orange to silver. They were already soaked, so they continued to talk in the rain. Stewart was wildly jacked up after all those hours of intense concentration. He said, "I'll be up all night!" He'd won the race, won the championship. He'd performed several hours of flawless driving, making moves easily that were dare-devil moves. He said while they were on a break during rain that he had nothing to lose. If he loses the race he still comes out second in the championship. So he went all the way, took chances he might not otherwise take. The announcer said several times, "he's on a mission." When it was over, the announcer continued to repeat this was the best race he'd ever seen, speaking my exact words. I loved this race like no other I've ever seen. I might call it the perfect race because it was nothing but a race, an all-out race from the first green flag to the checkered. 


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