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Sunday, February 19, 2012


          kyle busch's car before the race

This is the car Kyle Busch drove to win the Shootout, first race of the season, a no points race, 75 laps, only first place counts. It just counts for a glory win. The picture was taken before the race when the car looked good. It got banged up in the course of the race, but not enough to slow it down. It was a race like I'd never seen before. From the first wave of the green flag, you could see the aggression in every one of the drivers. Positions constantly changed. No one held the lead for more than a lap or two. One time Montoya, after I thought he was out of the race from the first pileup that sent him to pit row, pulled out in front of the pack, then drifted all the way to the back, right down the middle, cars passing him on both sides. Several of the cars would get up front and drift back. Nobody could hold a lead. Jeff Gordon tried it and he, too, drifted toward the rear. Gordon seemed to make a game of drifting to the back and passing everybody again. I was wondering if he was using the race for passing practice.

Whatever Gordon had in his mind about winning, with 2 laps to go, he was in 3rd behind Kyle Busch. Gordon intended to get around Busch, and Busch wasn't letting it happen. Gordon reached out with his front bumper and touched Busch's back bumper, a nudge to tell him to get out of the way, at 195. The track is the same as ice at such a speed. Busch lost traction, swung wildly off the track inside, Gordon steered slightly upward to get around Busch who was heading toward all the way out of control in a hurry, Gordon lost traction and drifted around sideways in front of the two cars on the outside of him. All have their brakes on, one of them gets smacked from behind, sending Gordon's car up on its side sliding on pavement, a shower of sparks like re-entry of the space shuttle, the car sliding on the upper and lower rails of the driver's side window, wedged between the outside car and the wall, all that fireworks inches from Gordon's eyes that were well goggled.

The cluster of the four cars slid along the groove where the track meets the wall, big fire from under the cars looking like it was roasting the drivers in their fire-proof clothes. I guarantee they were feeling the heat and not liking it. I've never seen so much fire in a race. I've never seen the showers of sparks when a driver hit the brakes. It used to be billows of fog-on-the-interstate smoke. Last night it was big showers of sparks turning into big flames right away that lasted so long and looked like they burned so hot there would no way the drivers could want to go through this again, in this lifetime or any other. I wondered what changed. I wondered if it might have been because it was night and the sparks are there by day too, but can't be seen in daylight. Maybe same could be said for the fires, but I can't buy it. I've seen maybe a dozen races in the last couple years, several at night, and have never seen fires to the extent of this race. I've never seen it like this at Daytona. All through the race I wondered why smoke didn't billow up like usual when they hit the brakes, but instead, big showers of sparks that turned into fire. I'd never seen that.

One of the cars slipped free of the cluster, setting Gordon's car free to go wherever its momentum took it. Gordon was as alert as he's probably ever been and helpless, nothing to do but hang on for the ride. Soon after the car slid free it decided to roll over sideways, then again, almost made it, landed on the driver's side and leaned backwards onto its top, hood looking like aluminum foil, the whole car looking like crumpled aluminum foil in red and yellow. He couldn't get out on his own. Took rescuers awhile to get the car turned upright so he could crawl out. He was safe in the very well constructed cage of the cockpit, strapped into his chair that protects him from 3 sides, leaving him room to move his arms enough to work the steering wheel and gear shift. He was secure. Good helmet, the kind that he could probably survive sliding a thousand yards on his head down the track. I'd venture there was a second or two of questioning his own sanity for getting his kicks racing. Or more than likely he's questioned that so many times by now, he's got the answer and keeps on keepin on. Whatever the case, I didn't like to see him out of the race. He is such a good driver, he stands out from the rest, even when he doesn't win. I was anxious to see how he would make it around Busch.

Seeing Gordon set Busch off his traction, I couldn't recall that I'd ever seen him purposely put somebody out of the race like Curtis Turner used to do in the 50s when they drove convertibles with seatbelts. Gordon never struck me a chickenshit driver, so I had to give him benefit of the doubt. At the same time, he knew the track well by then and a whole lot more than I know from what I saw through a tv camera and zero experience at what he's doing very well. The initial thought I spoke to Gordon was, 'man, that wasn't right,' and watched him lose his traction, get caught in a fiery knot he couldn't get out of, then spring free and go for a tumble like in a clothes dryer on HI. On his top, smoke, dripping fuel and oil, just come out of a fire storm, he more than likely felt at least half a second of uncontrollable fear in the raw. But like a man, he could swallow his own vomit and go on like it was fun.

It kind of had the appearance of instant karma. In the time when the Beatles were diving deep, I wondered and couldn't make out what Lennon meant by Instant Karma. I wasn't able to see it then. To be instant, it would have to be simultaneous. Evidently, that didn't compute with my college student understanding at the time, and karma a word I only knew by the dictionary definition. There it was. Simultaneous. This for that. Thinking like an English major, Gordon's total wreck was a good image of Instant Karma. The return was so extreme, like the Karmic Judge (Steven Seagal in a bullet proof vest) hit him with his fist, knocked him to the ground and said, 'Cut that shit out, boy!' It looked suspiciously a karmic return. As a measure of his intent, it was Xtreme. At the same time, going 195, cars wobbly from air currents in a tight pack, it's something like running snowmobiles on ice. A nanosecond's lapse of attention can have immediate consequesnces, too. I can't attribute blame to any of it. It's what happens when cars are packed in tight on a white knuckle flight. It was a major shit happens moment. 

Kyle Busch showed his skill bringing his car back to traction without hitting any other cars, getting back into the race and using some more of that fine-tuned driving skill to slingshot himself .013 second ahead of Tony Stewart by two feet or less. Crossing the line, the front edge of Busch's tire was about even with the front edge of Tony Stewart's bumper. I don't even want to think of what was in Stewart's mind at that moment. It could be about like what might be in Tarzan's mind when the grapevine breaks over a river with crocodiles, in a dream. In that very move, Kyle Busch showed me some driving I can only respect. Twice in the race he lost traction, swerved this way and that, avoided hitting any others, pulled it back to traction and pushed the pedal to the metal. I've seen Tony Stewart take a dramatic win. When Busch pulled by him at the line, like horses by a nose, I just about had to stand up and cheer. If I'd had a hat on, I'd have had to take it off to him. Xcellent win. In this race, a wide open run from the time the pace car left the track, looking like the win would go to the last car with wheels that could roll, in the last second Kyle Busch showed himself to be the man in charge.


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