Craig Murto: Every race can’t be a barn-burner

Martin Truex Jr. dominated last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, and it didn’t take long for the critics to appear on social media.

Truex’s win wasn’t easy, however, especially when Kurt Busch blew an engine and forced a late-race caution, leading to a green-white-checkered finish. With only eight cars on the lead lap, Truex stayed out while every other car pit for fresh tires. Luckily for the driver from New Jersey, his car was strong enough to hold off the cars with fresh rubber long enough to ensure his victory.

Of course, if Truex lost that race, social media would have been swamped with critics claiming NASCAR didn’t have to throw the caution (it did) and that the race was stolen from Truex.

The critics claimed the race was too one-sided, it was boring, blah, blah blah.

Some even claimed the tire Goodyear brought to the track didn’t fall off enough, although there were plenty of instances shown on live coverage where drivers on fresh tires simply drove around Truex to get a lap back under green. It sure looked like the tires dropped off to me.

I think fans don’t have a good perspective. It wasn’t that long ago, even into the ’80s and ’90s, that it was still common for a race winner to lap the entire field. And in my lifetime Ned Jarrett won a race by 14 laps.

In the ’60s and ’70s fans went to NASCAR races to see who would finish second to Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough or Bobby Allison. There were perhaps 10 top drivers, considered regular winners, and only five of them you expected could win each week

I recall races at Bristol in the ’80s where the fifth-place car was at least five laps down. Or how about Bill Elliott making up two laps under green to win at Talladega in 1985?

I think people complain too much. Every race isn’t going to be a barn-burner. Sometimes only a handful of cars are going to get hooked up, and sometimes somebody is going to dominate.

Why is it that other sports celebrate the athletes who put in dominating performances, but motorsports fans are critical? I understand that fans want to be entertained, but why is it not entertaining to see somebody put in a great performance on the track?

When Truex won, we saw a small team from Denver, Colorado outperform the powerhouse teams based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The team at the shop prepared the best car; the at-the-track pit crew performed at the top of their game; Truex drove the car flawlessly. Yet “fans” found reason to jump on social media and complain.

Not too many Formula One fans complained about the boring race that was the Austrian Grand Prix, with not a single on-track pass among the top three the entire race. The most controversy there was Sebastian Vettel’s whining that race winner Valtteri Bottas jumped the start, which stewards determined was not the case. The start didn’t give Bottas the win anyway.

Fans on social media have become bigger whiners than the drivers. It’s as if they’re not happy unless they have something to complain about, and that includes so-called fans of local tracks. Just go to any Facebook page for a local racetrack and you’ll see complaint after complaint after complaint.

These complainers don’t do the sport any good. If I’m just a curious onlooker, coming across a track’s or sanction’s Facebook page and reading nothing but complaints, it doesn’t make me want to investigate further. If you read bad reviews about a restaurant, you don’t pack up the family and head over there to eat, do you?

The sport’s not perfect and there’s a lot that can be changed. But when a driver has a perfect race and it does nothing but stir up the haters, we’re certainly doing nobody any good. Truex had a great race, and it should be celebrated. It makes the next barn-burner that much more special.

Elsewhere, Helio Castroneves scored his first IndyCar win in three years at Iowa Speedway. He’s a single point behind Scott Dixon in the title hunt.

Locally, Kyle Lee scored his first Super Late Model win at Hagerstown Speedway. He beat Bryan Bernheisel and Roy Deese Jr. in the 25-lap feature.

Justin Weaver won the Limited Late Model feature at Winchester Speedway last weekend, and Brian Lawson drove his RaceSaver Series Sprint Car to victory at Natural Bridge.

Be sure to visit a local or regional track soon; every race won’t be great, but you’ll surely miss the barn-burner if you’re not there.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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