Monday, October 20, 2008

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Nice win Jimmie -- now hit the road

MARTINSVILLE -- What's your problem, Jimmie? Four grandfather clocks not enough? All the money, the fame, the commercials, the success at other places -- that not gettin' it done for you?

I want my Martinsville Speedway back.

You can keep your three straight Sprint Cup championships (well, two so far, but who are we kidding?). You can own Charlotte or Richmond or Kansas or pretty much any other track you want. We can negotiate a 10-for-1 deal if that's what it takes.

But I want my Martinsville Speedway back. You know, the ol' zany paperclip. The place where everybody rips up their rides and goes home angry. The place where nobody knows who's going to win.

Shoot, Jimmie, it was just a few years ago that your teammate ran over a flippin' pothole here. A POTHOLE on an otherwise smooth racetrack! Remember that outlandish place?

Of course you don't. Because after Sunday, you've won four of the past five here, single-handedly whacking this joint with a giant boring stick. They sell those at Lowe's, Jimmie? Giant boring sticks? Maybe the government could bum one off you and use it to settle the stock market.

All you do is win. You don't tear up your car. You don't fall in holes. You don't anger people. In fact, the runner-up in Sunday's race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., might has well have shined your boots with all the nice things he said about you. Said you were closing in on history. Said you reminded him a bit of his daddy with the way you've been going.

"Their car was so dominant, man," Junior said.

It was, man. Again. And I'm sick of it.

Just think about it, Jimmie: This is how I feel, and I absolutely couldn't care less who wins. Plus, I get in free! What about all those poor souls who shelled out 50 bucks or more to come see their favorite driver not named Jimmie Johnson win the race? Surely you've seen the economy lately, Jimmie. Is that any way to treat a budget-conscious race fan?

And another thing: I want to hear some different drivers talk on Sundays. Carl Edwards seems like an interesting fellow. In his postrace press conference, he made a bowling analogy. That was different. Fresh. BOWLING-related! When was the last time you made a bowling analogy, Jimmie?

And then they dragged Carl away from the microphone. His time was up after seven and a half minutes. That's what the third-place guys get, seven and a half lousy minutes. Then they've got to leave and make room for you -- and your 30-minute Q&A revelry.

"I'm ready to go to Atlanta," you said.

Yes. I'm ready for you to go to Atlanta, too. Just don't come back here.

I want my Martinsville Speedway back. You've stolen my cliches, my journalistic crutches. Used to be, you could safely throw the word "wildcard" into every article you ever wrote about this place. Because that's what Martinsville was: A standings shuffler. A foreboding test. A mystery.

Now it's your interstate highway.

I've never seen anyone get around this place better than you did on Sunday. Your passes were pristine. Your pit strategy was sound. Your restarts were flawless. You led more laps than you had at any track, in any race, at any point in your career.

All of it leads me to conclude the following: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

We all woke up for a bit with about 60 laps to go, as Earnhardt appeared to be slowly reeling you in.

But then a caution came. And another. And another. On every restart, you pulled away.

The last caution forced overtime. Fans stood for that, because that's what fans are supposed to do. This was going to be a green-white-checkered finish with the sport's most popular driver stalking in second. There was going to be drama. There was going to be suspense.

Anything can happen at Martinsville Speedway, right?


Nope. Not anymore.

Great job, Jimmie. Congratulations on the win. Enjoy your fifth clock.

Now get lost.

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