WALTZ: Even The Best Racers Are Still Human

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HARRISBURG, N.C. — Something very rare happened Saturday — and we’re not talking about North Carolina beating Duke for the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season basketball championship.

In fact, it happened twice. Within a few hours Saturday evening, two of the greatest racers of their generation both made mistakes that resulted in crashes.

Kyle Busch, 25, had led 84 laps and was among the contenders in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he made a mistake that sent his No. 18 into the wall, 70 laps shy of the checkered flag.

Then in the prestigious Supercross round at Daytona Int’l Speedway, James Stewart, also 25, had jumped out to a commanding lead when he made a mistake on lap three that sent him tumbling over the handlebars of his motorcycle.

Busch’s crash ended his day, while Stewart shook off the cobwebs and charged back to finish ninth, holding on to second in the Supercross standings behind Daytona winner Ryan Villopoto.

While these two crashes took place in totally different types of racing, they remind us that even the greatest racers are human beings, and human beings make mistakes.

– NASCAR now recognizes the Dash Series, a touring division for sub-compact cars that raced under its sanction for more than 25 years, as a “regional” series. As a result, the series’ statistics and records fall into a different category and the accomplishments of female drivers Karen Shulz and Shawna Robinson are ignored each time Danica Patrick achieves a career milestone.

Last month, it was reported that Patrick was the first female driver to lead a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Daytona Int’l Speedway. That honor actually belongs to Schulz, who led the 1988 Dash Series race three times for five laps.

Now, Patrick’s fourth-place finish Saturday at Las Vegas is being reported as the best finish by a female driver in NASCAR history.

This totally ignores the fact that Robinson won a Dash Series race in June 1988 at Asheville (N.C.) Speedway, a victory that was trumpeted at the time as the first by a female in a “major NASCAR race.”

– NASCAR’s most-popular driver is not currently eligible to compete in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. If Dale Earnhardt, Jr. does not win a Sprint Cup race between now and the May 21 event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he will have to rely on the fans to vote him into the starting field. NASCAR could always change the eligibility rules.

– In reviewing the media guide for the 12 Hours of Sebring, we find it interesting that several portions of the 3.7-mile Sebring circuit are named for racing legends. They include the Gurney Bend, Fangio Chicane, Cunningham Corner, Collier Curve, Bishop Bend and Ulmann Straight.

– Moving the 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony to January is a good idea, but those in charge should take it one step further. The Winston Cup Preview was long a premier off-season fan event and that concept needs to be revived.

– For many years if a driver dominated a NASCAR race he could expect a visit or phone call from Bill France, Jr. with the friendly reminder, “Boy, you’re stinking up my show.” We’re betting no one had that conversation with Kyle Busch following the Phoenix Nationwide race.

– Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since editor Chris Economaki made the decision to add NHRA drag racing to the pages of NSSN.

– NASCAR has eliminated the redraw for its modified divisions, which means the fastest qualifier now starts from the pole. This reminds us of the time we went to three-consecutive NASCAR modified races and Richie Evans led every lap.

– Still trying to find out who won the Robby Gordon vs. Kevin Conway bout, news and comments reach us at [email protected]

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