2009-04-16 / Sports

How Good Were The Good Old Days

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Joey Logano Joey Logano A lot of fans that I receive mail from refer to "The Good Old Days." Sometimes I even long for them, but how good was the actual racing in the early days of NASCAR.

Walt Wimer sent me the following statement: "Sometimes we read a lot of complaints about the NASCAR racing of today, but look at the results of the 1962 Daytona Modified race. Leroy Yarbrough won it with Bobby Johns second, the only other car on the lead lap. Eddie Crouse, another NASCAR Modified champ was third, four laps down while fourth and fifth Larry Frank and Jackie Evans were five laps back. Only 13 cars completed 90 or more of the 100 laps."

Could NASCAR sell that product to the TV today?

No.

But it was more "fun" back then.

The drivers were a unique bunch. They had an overabundance of talent, courage and a strong desire to do what they knew best, which was racing. But what made them special was their humanness.

They were more real than the drivers we have today.

Now, I don't mean to take away from drivers like Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, who both have tremendous driving skills. But our drivers of today are more like robots acting on behalf of the large corporations that control NASCAR racing.

Joey Logano, winner of this past weekend's Nationwide Series race in Nashville, never had to get "down and dirty," or sleep in the back of a pickup on race weekends. He doesn't know what it's like to have grease under his fingernails.

How did he learn to drive and become a talented driver? According to one report, his father invested more than $1 million in tutors and training. That included buying him the best equipment money could buy.

True race fans know there is more to it than the glamour of race day. Many drivers used to spend the better part of his life struggling to build a car and race it on Sunday.

Today's drivers enjoy big company sponsorship, have chaufferdriven limousines or helicopters, and never work beside their pit crews and mechanics to help create a better race car.

I would say NASCAR racing is now NASCAR entertainment.

Please understand that I'm not trying to say that today's racing doesn't have its bright spots, or isn't exciting.

Few sports or businesses have enlarged without some type of change. Racing is a spectator sport with fan identification. As the sport has changed, so have the fans.

People generally like action and activity to fill their leisure hours, and of all the major sports, except football, there is more action to be found in NASCAR than anywhere else.

No matter how polished today's drivers appear on television, there is still something to be said for the early drivers. The ones who partied and drank the night before, showed up just in time to race, and then might light up a Camel in victory lane, were heroes just as well.

You could see they were real people.

They didn't do it for the big bucks they received. It was the love of the sport, the love of racing that drove them to risk their lives each week.

Every Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World driver I have talked with told me how he loves racing.

Maybe one of my future questions to drivers will be, "If you knew you had to have a parttime job in order to survive and provide for your family, would you still be out there on Sunday?"

Ponder that question as you watch the Sprint Cup race next Sunday. You decide how dedicated to racing your favorite driver might be.

Logano beats Kyle Busch At Nashville

LEBANON, Tenn. - Joey Logano slipped past teammate Kyle Busch with nine laps to go and hung on to win Saturday's Nashville 300 Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway.

The victory was Logano's first of the season and second of his young career. The 18-year-old also won last year at Kentucky Speedway.

"It's been awhile," a smiling Logano said after the race. "We had a really good run here. The last time we were here, we got caught up in a wreck. It was awesome to be able to get that win this time. Ever since I've been coming to Nashville … I've been wanting to get that guitar, and this is just awesome."

The track awards a unique trophy to the race winner, a Sam Bass-painted Gibson Les Paul guitar, which Logano proudly carried home in a case after the race.

The race was a battle between the Gibbs teammates, and Busch and Logano led 172 of the race's 225 laps.

"He had a better car on the short run, and we had a better car on the long run," Busch said. "(The team) did a great job, and it was just a shame we weren't able to get out there and win this thing. That's kind of frustrating, but we finished second today."

JR Motorsports' Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kelly Bires, Carl Edwards,

Jason Leffler, David Ragan, Mike Bliss, Steve Wallace and Scott Lagasse Jr.

Busch cut into Edwards' points lead and now trails by 23 after the sixth race of the season.

Top-10 points leaders after 6 of 35: 1. Edwards-959, 2. Ky. Busch-936, 3. Ragan-799, 4. Leffler 762, 5. Keselowski-733, 6. Logano-728, 7. Allgaier-676, 8. Gaughan-676, 9. Lagasse-672, 10. Keller-667

The Sprint Cup and Camping World Series had an off weekend.

Next week: Dodge's Racing Future is Iffy

Weekend racing; The Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup teams are at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway. The Camping World Trucks do not race again until Apr. 25,

Fri., Apr., 17, Nationwide Series Bashas Supermarkets 200, race 7 of 35, starting time: 9 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sat., Apr. 18, Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500, race 8 of 36; starting time: 8 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: Who does Clint Bowyer drive for?

Last week's question: How many Cup races did Kyle Busch win in 2008? Answer. He won eight.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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