The countdown clocks are ticking, ticking, inexorably ticking. Countdown to Daytona 500. Countdown to Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Countdown to F1 Practice in Bahrain. Countdown to the F2 Race at Silverstone. Time is running out and there is no hope left of stopping it. No hope of turning it back to the beauty and wonder that once filled its days and hours to the brim. No time to catch a breath of innocence and wonder, no time to hold it’s contemplative silence gently in one’s hands or heart. The clocks are ticking and they will not stop. There is no hope left.
A year ago, the ticking of the clocks was music to my ears. This time of the year was a-swirl with excitement and anticipation. Each tick of the countdown clock was bringing me closer to the excitement and exhilaration of a new season of racing. I couldn’t wait for the clocks to tick down to the respective zeroes and bask in the hallucenogenic roar of the engines as my favourite drivers and teams raced off into the on-rushing year with hope and determination with an almost psychedelic furor not to end until the final checkered flag is dropped at Homestead or Bahrain.
Now, in this terrible year of 2010, I’d like to stop all the clocks and chronometers. Not forever mind you. But for the moment. I’m not looking forward to anything or any of this and I’d like to stop the ticking ticking ticking for long enough to salvage some hope from what seems to be a hopeless world.
“And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;”
from “The Dry Salvages” by T.S. Eliot
Now don’t get me wrong. I want to feel this excitement again. I want to be looking forward to the new season of racing. But somehow, somewhy, I’m not. And I don’t know if it’s the racing and what it’s become, or me and what I’ve become, or both. But right now I want it all to stop so I can unweave, unwind, and unravel the mess that this has become.
Well, it’s hopeless I guess. The clocks are ticking. Daytona 500 is 21 days and change as I write this. Rolex 24 hours is 6 days and change. Bahrain is 46 days and change. Sao Paulo tees off on March 14th but IRL thankfully has no countdown clock. So you might as well join me. I have no choice in the matter. The clocks are ticking. So come along for the ride.
I wanted to stop and listen to the world that no one listens to anymore. I wanted to hear it’s magnificent silence not with my ears, but with my heart and soul. Measure by measure, note upon note, and all the variations on a theme. I think this is why a show like Sora No Woto resonates so much with me. For a brief series of moments I’m carried back and carried away to a time and place that was simpler and better because of that simplicity.
I’ve lost touch with so many places and so many things. I need to return to those places, and all those days and years, and reclaim what is dear to me. Forgive me for a bit of vagueness, forgive me for leaving a lot of this open to misinterpretation. I know what I see and and feel in my own heart and mind and in the eternal railroad of my soul, and though I don’t always put my finger on it for you…for me the vision is vivid. Only time will tell if I can and will make those visions clear for you. For now, I guess it is comforting to know and remember that notes never change. D# is always D#. And A440 (middle C) is still the source of the perfect pitch that can keep the world in tune. It’s so a simple a wisdom that it is easy to overlook and ignore, and yes, completely misconstrue. It would be nice if real life teenage girls were always that wise.
All the same, it is still difficult for me to get excited about the new season as I’d like. Yes, NASCAR is making some needed changes to the cars and to the rules. But in some respects, it’s more like yet another series of knee-jerk reactions and not something prompted by a genuine love of the sport.
First, the spoiler. I’ve already mentioned that they’ve been testing it. And now it will become reality. They have some more testing to do. But the driver reaction so far has been very positive. Kurt Busch, one of the first drivers to test the new spoiler really loves it. NASCAR hopes to have the spoiler ready for the Samsung Mobile 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in April.
And secondly, NASCAR has also made a fock-load of new rules changes. The most significant of these is the elimination of the currently restrictive bump-drafting rules at Daytona and Talladega. NASCAR won’t be policing it anymore. Their attitude now is “Have at it, Boys…” This puts the responsibility back in the hands of the drivers, which is a good thing, for the most part. Assuming that some bug-eyed goof doesn’t go and mess it up with some questionable decision-making.
Thirdly, and more to the point of it all, endemic and symptomatic of the current malaise, is NASCAR’s change of attitude. Alluded to above. “Have at it Boys…” I truly wonder if they’re really all that sincere about it. Does Brian France really mean it when he says, “…It’s time for us to allow the drivers to drive. We don’t want the rules and regulations to get in the way of great racing and fantastic finishes. NASCAR is a contact sport. Our history is based on banging fenders.” I wonder about that. Honestly I have my doubts. Mike Helton echoed his boss’s sentiments…you know the old chestnut…“There’s an age old saying that NASCAR, ‘If you ain’t rubbing, you ain’t racing. I think that’s what the NASCAR fan, the NASCAR stakeholders all bought into, and all expect.” NASCAR is not going to police the sport as much. They’re going to let the drivers be drivers. Both on and off the track. Bumpin’ and bangin’ and little more personality. Yes. That would be good thing to be excited about. But…I’ll believe it when I see it.
Specifically I’ll believe it when I see Carl Edwards duking out with Matt Kenseth on pit road over some perceived slight. I’ll believe it when I see Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya getting out their wrecked rigs and going at it in turn 4 oblivious to the 41 other sleds swirving to get out of the way of their foaming wrath. I’ll believe it when Tony Stewart can answer any impertinent question at anytime with a well-placed, “Go Fuck Yourself.” Yes, I’ll believe that NASCAR is sincere about all this when all of these things happen and no one is called to hauler for a little chat with Mike Helton and Ryan Pemberton and whoever replaces John Darby. I’ll believe it when there are no fines and penalties imposed for violating Rule 12-4-A: Actions Detrimental To Stock Car Auto Racing. Yes, when Junior gripes on the radio to his new crew chief this season, “I cayn’t drive this mutherfuckin’ piece o’ shit,” and no one says a word and looks the other way, THEN I’ve believe.
Nothing of course is as it should be in this world. Even in F1 which perceives itself as the pinnacle of all things racing, and holds it pinkie finger aloft like an erect penis at all times, is facing a host of issues.
Several teams, as of this writing do not have a full field of drivers. Renault doesn’t have a driver to team with Robert Kubicha. Last year, btw, Kubicha drove for BMW Sauber with Nick Heidfeld…and that team has completely reinvented itself (and not for the better) and Heidfeld as of this writing doesn’t have a ride. Bruno Senno, the nephew of the late, great Ayrton Senna is making his debut with Team Campos, a new team from Spain led by former F1 drive Adrian Campos, but he is also w/o a teammate.
Brawn Mercedes, which produced last year’s F1 champ Jenson Button (who is joining Lewis Hamiltoin at McLaren-Mercedes this season), has been purchased by Mercedes, which marks the auto-maker’s 1st ownership venture in F1. Obviously they’ve been supplying engines all along. Both of the drivers who brought Brawn-Mercedes both the F1 championship and the Constructors Championship last year are gone. Button, as mentioned is off to McLaren. And Rubens Barrichello has moved to Williams-Toyota where he joins rookie and 2009 GP2 Champion Nico Hulkenberg. Mercedes GP lured up and coming driver Nico Rosberg to the fold and he’s joined by none other than Michael Schumacher. Yes, THAT Michael Schumacher…who’s coming out of retirement for another go at it.
Some top name drivers are without rides for 2010. The aforementioned Nick Heidfeld. Giancarlo Fisichella. But the most glaring omission of them all is Finnish great Kimi Räikkönen. Contract negotiations with McClaren broke down and a deal with the new Mercedes GP never materialized. Räikkönen was offered a ride with the Toyota team with Timo Glock. But Räikkönen felt that that would be the NASCAR equivalent of racing for, say, Bill Davis. So no ride. And just as well, since the Toyota team no longer exists and Timo Glock has signed with the new Virgin Racing racing team with rookie and former GP2 driver, Lucas di Grassi. It will be an odd 2010 indeed for F1 without Kimi Räikkönen.
But there is some GOOD news in F1. Felippe Massa, who had a horrifying wreck during practice for last year’s Hungarian Gran Prix that left him in a coma, is on the way to recovery and is back in the car, testing and preparing for 2010 at Ferrari where he’ll join new teammate Fernando Alonso. Everyone in motorsports wishes Massa all the best.
The clocks keep ticking. It is now 13 days and change as write this until Danica Patrick begins her quest to save NASCAR. Well…technically she’s making her stock car debut in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona, which is an ARCA race, not a NASCAR race. But you get the point, yes? It’s her first step towards saving Stock Car Auto Racing. She did very well in the ARCA testing and her goal for the race is not to win the race, although that would be swell, but to get as much seat time as possible….that is, bring the car home in one piece after 200 laps. No different a goal if it was you or me in that car, making our ARCA debut at Daytona. As long as Milka Duno and The Two Whores don’t qualify for the race or stay out of her damn way, then I think the mission will be accomplished.
Of course, with Danica stealing a lot of the limelight, it should be noted that several other women will be in the ARCA race, or attempting to qualify, and they are very deserving of attantion. One in particular is Alli Owens, a driver to keep an eye on. She, not Danica, had the best speeds in the recent ARCA testing. Alli has been racing in ARCA since 2007 and last season started 11 of 21 races and finished in the top 20 in points (had she raced a full season, she would have finished in the top 10). Jennifer Jo Cobb has been racing ARCA/Nationwide/Camping World series since 2002, albeit on a very limited schedule these days, but she’s always worth watching. And unless you’re just totally, utterly, and irretrievably GAY for Jeff Gordon, you definately need to all pay attention when Leilani Munter is racing….and on a side note, her brother-in-law is Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead.
“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…”
—from “Little Gidding” by T.S. Eliot
Well the clocks keeps ticking. And everything seems to take time and more time. And whether it’s worth the time at all remains to be seen. But I don’t want to leave a hopeless world behind. So I won’t.
I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with this. But..here I am. This is where I’ve arrived. I suppose it’s more about the journey than the destination….except when motorsports are involved. There the destination is all that matters, and the goal is to get there as fast as humanly possible…and fuck the journey. Racing is a just a bunch of laps.
But then again, that’s tantamount to saying that music is just a bunch of notes. Just like music is so much more than just a bunch of notes, racing is more than just a bunch of laps. The total piece is a combination of all things. Every note, every lap, and every moment in time is precious and important. I hope, at the very least, to make that symphony resonate within you.
What we need to do more often is stop the hands of time for a moment and hold time in our hands for a change. Time is very weary too…tired and depressed and in despair of always counting down to zero. Counting down to the end of time. Time is as weary as it makes us. And it might be good for the world and for all of us to stop time in it’s track once in a awhile, and let time rest it’s weary head on our strong shoulders.