Growing up, my favorite sportswriter was Jim Murray. Most of his columns were supremely funny. When the moment required otherwise, he could stop your heart with achingly beautiful words.
One such column by him I remember was the one he wrote after his wife passed away. It’s been decades since I’ve read it, thus quoting it accurately is not an option. That said, as best I remember it started with him saying this was the column he hoped he’d never have to write.
That phrase came to mind yesterday after listening to the conclusion of the Daytona 500 (it ended a few minutes after I got off work), then frantically refreshing my Twitter feed hoping for some word of Ryan Newman’s condition. I watched the clip of the accident, Newman’s car going airborne and landing on its roof after a bump pass gone awry, then unavoidably slammed into at full speed by Cory LaJoie. I watched it once and once only. I couldn’t watch it again. And I dreaded having to think about the post I hope I never have to write. Thank God (literally) I don’t have to.
Now that we know Newman is at least alive, although details of his condition remain unknown save to those directly involved, it’s fair to comment on the race itself. By any other name, restrictor plate racing remains a gladiatorial event as far removed from actual racing as Greta Van Fleet is from Led Zeppelin. There is no way to make it safe, or enjoyable, or acceptable. None. It is an abomination deserving to be forever banished from NASCAR. Even with all the heralded advances in safety the past nearly two decades, it damn near killed Ryan Newman yesterday. Yes, it is impossible to make racing completely safe. However, when you have a format virtually guaranteeing one or more multi-car disasters, it’s entirely fair to dismiss said format as something worthy of continuation.
Lost in the above was some deft driving by Denny Hamlin to take the win, and the hope Ryan Blaney can sufficiently block out the voices screaming he was at fault for what happened to Newman to maintain the necessary focus and aggression needed to be a successful driver.
Here’s hoping for a much tamer Las Vegas this coming weekend.