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Comments by Larry Palletti

NASCAR & Pro Wrestling Ė
wrap íem with the same ribbon

As a long-time fan of automobile racing, I find myself saddened by the kind of stuff thatís going on in NASCARís Winston Cup series.

Can it be that NASCAR has gone the way of professional "wrestling," becoming nothing more than a show to entertain the ticket buyers and the television audiences? While the drivers themselves may still be engaged in honest racing, have the NASCAR bosses begun to make the whole affair a mere money-maker?

Itís beginning to look that way.

MORE AND MORE, the Grand Poobahs of "stock car racing" from Bill France on down are acting more like riggers than racers. The idea: make the show more competitive and more "interesting" for the fans to watch, and never mind about keeping things on the up-and-up.

Thereís no doubt that rules have been made simply to create more head-to-head racing opportunities. The yellow-flag rules that permit cars to close up tight are good examples. And perhaps thereís nothing wrong with this, since it applies to all cars alike.

But is it racing? Is it fair to have a driver labor to build a big lead several times during a race, only to have that lead yanked away from him by the caution flags?

Of course not. What you end up with is not a real race, but a conjured-up affair that penalizes the driver who does his best to win.

THE CAUTION-FLAG restarts have been around for a long time, and because they are crowd pleasers, they will remain with us.

But the sort of stuff coming out of NASCAR for the past several years should come to a tire-flattening halt if the organization wants to maintain its credibility.

Those yellow caution flags for "debris on the track," for example. Strange how they donít come out unless Rusty Wallace or Dale Earnhardt has a runaway lead late in a race. Strange too how there never seems to be any real debris being picked up.

The worst, though, is the way NASCAR officials have of letting some teams slip by without obeying all the rules. Itís an open secret along pit row that certain cars arenít watched very closely when it comes time to check restrictor plates or aerodynamic modifications to bodywork. Meanwhile, other teams are hounded by the scrutineers and fined heavily when their cars are found to be slightly out of compliance.

THE SAME THINGS Ė a sloppiness in applying the rules and a willingness to bend them to make the competition "more interesting" Ė ruined professional wrestling back in the late Forties.

The real wrestlers, guys like Jim Londos, George Zaharias and Don Eagle, werenít all that big as crowd-pleasers. They were simply magnificent wrestlers. They were elbowed aside by character actors like Gorgeous George and Haystack Calhoun, all show and little substance. But they drew fans. Their show-biz styles sold tickets; the fans ate it up.

And pro wrestling died as a result, turning into nothing more than entertainment and a way to make a buck. Now itís a battle of makeup artists, hair stylists and publicists.

NASCARíS HERITAGE grew out of a pure and unfettered desire to see who could build and race the fastest cars. Itís a shame to see it become a hoked-up chase of high-speed billboards.

Hereís a yellow caution flag for NASCAR: give us back our honest racing, or risk losing the loyalty of fans who have long appreciated the hard-fought competition that stock car racing embodies. Give us back our chance to see pure racing without the silly cosmetics and the jury-rigged rules.

And to the NASCAR weenies who make those rules, hereís s blue flag that says "move over." Let the original spirit of automobile racing have its rightful place on those multi-million dollar showplace tracks.

I would like to root for the best all-around stock-car builder and racer of them all, Dave Marcis, with the knowledge that each driver, each team on the circuit will compete without the unfair advantages.

Itís what sport is all about.

Just who is Larry Palletti?



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