I think one of the things I find attractive about NASCAR is the color. I am not referring to their Black History Month promotions (and did y'all ever think you'd live long enough to see that?!) I mean the bright shiny candy colors of the cars. Color theory, which the blue sushi rice was meant to illustrate, fascinates me because I'm extremely responsive to color. I guess everyone who sees color is to some extent, but not everybody finds it relaxing to look at paint chips and feels her nerves go all kajangle at overly "warm" or "clashy" color combinations. I got into beading because I accidentally got someone else's bead catalog in my mail and loved all the gorgeous, subtle, and diverse colors inside.
This helps me when I watch a NASCAR race, because I am also dyscalculiate. When you're numeric-dyslexic, NASCAR fandom can be a real challenge. Those of you in the South see those white numbers on trucks and cars; that's how fans express allegiance to their drivers. Mine is number 20, but I'm much better off looking for "Big Orange." I hate sponsorship changes, ride changes, short-term sponsorships, and temporary "special" paint jobs--they all make the race so much harder for me to follow. I also look for colors in crowd shots. It pleases me not to see as much Dale Earnhardt, Jr. red as I used to, though there's still plenty. Blue could be Jeff Gordon or Michael Waltrip. I saw a lot of yellow compared to previous years--that could be for Jethro Bodine's hotter brother, a/k/a Elliott Sadler, who is looking *goo-ood* this year. During the prelims on Sunday, I kept pointing these things out. L'Ailee snuggled close to me and smiled her indulgent "she's so cute" smile.
L'Ailee was in a Ryan Newman black, white, and blue T-shirt, cut off in the "love me for my mind" manner that barely left room for his number. (I missed those shirts.) Flyin' Ryan is her driver, and we both love Kevin Harvick, too. Seventeen of our friends crowded our living room. We ate through the preliminaries, shoving and shushing each other when "our" drivers came on. My friend Aliyeh revealed how very new she is to NASCAR by saying, "It's almost like they *want* a big wreck!" Well, yeah, I had to explain. The Big One is a sacred American tradition, and tradition must be respected, unless it permanently takes out someone like Dale Earnhardt, Gods love him. "The safety's gotten real good now," I explained. "So when you see everyone walk out of the car under their own power, you can let yourself enjoy the replays." Ali wondered about the safety, and L'Ailee and one of her geek friends walked her through the tech aspects. It was still more interesting than the Bon Jovi mini-concert.
My boy Tony Stewart seemed real concerned about safety all last week. He spoke about it quite strongly. He went *there* by bringing up Earnhardt. It was all good. Stewart is a hard-charger, and we're used to him showing lots of want-to, but compared to others, he's not normally much of a clanger-and-banger. He doesn't need to--he's skillful, fast, and great at psyching other drivers out. He lost a friend from his short track days in Indiana to over-aggressive driving, which seemed to affect him.
So guess who became Mr. Aggressive on the track?!?! Jeff Gordon, who's always doing that crap, bumped him. Instead of keeping his eyes on the prize, Stewart hit him back, and they both went between 30 and 40. (Anticipating the question--it's 43 cars on the track.)
Then Matt Kenseth maybe accidentally bumped him. I don't think it was that bad, though it could have spun Tony out if he wasn't so great at recovering control of his car. A little tap back would've been appropriate. Instead, Tony smacked his left side into Kenseth's right so hard, Kenseth just floated into the grass. (I wish I could use L'Ailee's extremely evocative hand gestures, which she used to explain the incident to Mona when Mona came out of the bathroom.) I have not seen a more blatant payback since Robby Gordon threw his helmet at Michael Waltrip. Kenseth, deliberately this time, got him back. Both of them had to start in the back of the pack as a penalty; Kenseth screamed and whined all the way on his radio. Well, Tony had hurt his little racy-car. Then Tony had to serve yet *another* penalty for parking too close to the pit wall and running over a jack. (This can hurt a pit crew member. TTG, it didn't here.)
When Tony Stewart--reigning champion, voice for safety, and friend to other drivers--nutted out, I think he basically gave the other drivers psychological "permission", if you will, to turn the second half of the race into the Testosterone Poisoning 250. There wasn't much of the infamous bump-drafting in corners, but the guys pulled out all the other nasty tricks they had. Karma came to Tony in the form of Kyle Busch, an extremely aggressive and talented 20-year-old who did to him what Tony did to Kenseth. Tony--I've said this before--recovered extremely well. I could not even muster a good hate-on for Kyle Busch, I was so pissed at my driver. "Stupid macho bullshit!" I yelled at the screen. "He's being a fucking idiot! He's my idiot, but an idiot nonetheless!" A couple of straight guests said I sounded like a straight girl.
He came in *fifth*. I still can't get over that. Fifth, y'all, after all that nonsense! He could have won, had he been more interested in winning than score-settling! There's a lesson for us all in that. I sure as hell hope Tony learns it. His arch-rival, Jimmie Johnson, won even after his cheatin'-ass crew chief got ejected from Daytona for the quazillionth time. (L'Ailee, like her driver Flyin' Ryan, contends that Chad Knaus was still in the Superspeedway's environs and still cheatin'. Newman came in third.) I hope it makes Tony sick that he handed the victory to Johnson. I hope Joe Gibbs (team owner) and Greg Zipadelli (crew chief) spend all this week adjusting Tony's attitude, so he'll be okay in California next week.
Oh, and by the way, I'm pissed at my driver for starting the season by acting like an asshat. :-)
I am still amazed that I've taken it so much to heart. But that's sports for you. "Stay loyal," L'Ailee counseled. "This is strange for him. I know that a lot of people will want to talk to him about this." She shook her head. "Darling Penguin, I cannot believe that I know or care about these drivers."
I smiled, finally. I've felt the same thing. I am so amazed at how quickly my Nuyorussian girl has picked up on the nuances of the sport. (Then again, she adjusted from small-town Siberia to New York City in her teens.) She only began to watch NASCAR late in the 2003 season. Her first Daytona 500 was in 2004, when my great-uncle had tickets unexpectedly freed up. This was where she bought the Kevin Harvick cap because she liked the colors, asking me, "Is this a good driver?" She was cheering on Newman because
So anyway, it looked like Tony was going to win it. It came down to him and Dale Jr. We were in a sea of Earnhardt red and number 8s; I was the only one cheering on Tony. At first, L'Ailee gently squeezed my hand. "Junior is too boring," she whispered, so low I felt it more than heard it. "He likes being famous too much, and there are so many other drivers." The she stood up, double-pumped her fists, and yelled for Tony along with me! When he came in second, L'Ailee comforted me by saying, "It's just as well. If he had beaten Junior, this crowd would have torn him to pieces."
I reckon I'll give him a couple more races, a couple more chances. Might even back him in the 2007 Daytona 500, if he cuts the bullshit. If I were single or actually had the Celebrity Sex Amnesty I so frequently joke about, I'd be offering him an outlet for his aggression. However, I think he'll find another way to control his feelings.