Rookie of the Year for 2008 in the Sprint Cup series Regan Smith has found another ride and will be driving the 78 car for Furniture Row Racing. (Regan, I still think you beat Tony Stewart in that race last year.) In 2008, Regan, who hails from Cato, New York, finished every single race in which he competed, which is a great statistic for a rookie. The staff here at Jimmy C.'s NASCAR World wish Regan Smith well, because we predict that this young man is going places in racing, and will probably finish up front in a lot of events he enters.
In other news, I find it increasingly interesting just where this sport came from and where it is now. In 2009, there will probably be only a handful of drivers in the Sprint Cup series from the south. Our past champion from the last 3 years is Jimmie Johnson, which sounds like a southern name but isn't, unless you count southern California as a place in the south. Johnson actually calls California home, as does his boss and teammate Jeff Gordon. Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears also were born and raised in California. How many drivers will be in the Sprint Cup in 2009 from the south?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is from North Carolina. Mark Martin is from Arkansas, so that sort of counts. Brian Vickers is from North Carolina as well. Bill Elliot of course is from Georgia. Reed Sorenson is from Georgia as well. Most of the rest of the drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup series are from places like Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, and even Tasmania and Colombia! I for one am very happy to welcome rookie Marcos Ambrose to the series in 2009. The good natured Marcos is always good for a smile and a wink in his interviews, and I believe that bringing some good Australian sense into the sport will be good for everyone involved.
In some ways, this departure from the south is not always a good thing. Drivers who have never breathed in red clay dust probably don't have as deep an understanding for this sport as did some of their elders. Not that breathing in clay dust is a healthy occupation at all, but back in the day, especially before 1972, NASCAR drivers regularly drove on dirt. Such is not the case now. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never driven on dirt except in his back yard. I don't know that it's such a good thing for drivers not to have that particular skill. For one thing, you master the art of car control driving on dirt. Your car might be completely sidways coming out of a turn, but you are in control. I learned some dirt driving skills back in the late 1970's and into the early 1980's on dirt roads in northern SC. Please don't tell my parents! The ability to hang the tail of the car out and still maintain control is what I still consider to be a vital driving skill.
Late in the 1970's, I drove an empty Ford pickup truck down steep and winding roads at full speeds, and I recommend you don't try this at home. In other words, the back of the truck was unloaded, which meant I was driving with a severe loose condition, but the ability to hang the tail out while driving on dirt saved me from some embarrassing consequences. I don't know what the statute of limitations is or was on that particular crime, but I got away with it. I've never repeated that particular crime though, or any others. It didn't involve sex or murder, but it might have involved controlled substances. Like I said, don't try this at home.
For whatever it's worth, I got away. I'm not saying I was right doing what I did, but I didn't go to jail, which was probably a good thing, especially at the time. It was the ability to drive fast on dirt that got me out of what could have been a real predicament. I'm not proud of it, but it did happen.
These days, I rarely drive over the speed limit. I just don't take risks anymore that involve my livliehood. It just doesn't make sense. Mostly I write and read a lot, and try not to make mistakes like I made in my more youthful days. Making a living in illegal ways is not for me. At least not anymore. But learning how to drive fast on dirt was a definite benefit.