Friday, June 7, 2013

Truer than true: Five Questions before Pocono

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Throughout our lives, we are told we are unique.

Whether it was a first-grade teacher who calmed you down after some bully called you “fat,” or your mother when you attempted to look like someone in an unrealistic magazine, you’ve heard the sermon before about how you’re “perfect the way you are. Nobody can change that.”

Or maybe it was a wrinkled, yellowing poster hung in the back corner left by the old government teacher, the one that your new government teacher was too lazy to take down, the one that read, “Today, you are youer than you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

In case those words of encouragement, either from an elder or good ol’ Dr. Seuss, didn’t comfort you, that’s OK. They probably shouldn’t. With an epiphany, I have come to a new conclusion, one I have to explain before judgments are pelted my way.

The idea of being a rarity has been molded by pop culture and society. Pushed upon us. Marketed. Treated like any other fad, self-acceptance has been taken in by everyone. All you see are people claiming, “This is me, this is who I am, deal with it.” Sadly, uniqueness is, ironically, too common. Or, rather, what people perceive to be uniqueness is.

The dictionary definition of ‘unique’ is “being without a like or equal; distinctively characteristic.” If everyone starts being bold and upfront, it loses the original idea of being special. Fads aren’t limited edition.

Fads aren’t you.

As I begin to look back on the younger years of my life, I remember hanging with the wrong people. I remember trying to change to silence the constant mocking that echoed the school hallway. I remember feeling lower than any girl should ever feel.

I remember those sermons. I remember that poster.

And I remember thinking, “There’s no way that’s true.”

Trust me, it is.

Self-acceptance, in my eyes, is embracing your imperfections, your flaws, your "I’m not sure" characteristics and loving them. It’s going out without makeup and not caring. It’s singing at your school talent show because you love singing, not because you’re good. It’s sticking to your opinion when everyone else shoots it down.

Pure, fiery confidence is hard to come by, and it is almost impossible to replicate without cracking.

Throughout our lives, we are told we are unique. It’s time for us to finally believe and perfect it.

You could say a track with three turns is pretty unique, and that’s where the Cup Series finds itself this weekend. With the Tricky Triangle in mind, I ask about pit road, summertime and fooling NASCAR.

Can the lower series impress at separate venues? With the Cup Series at Pocono, Nationwide at Iowa, and Trucks at Texas, there are three different tracks in three different states being invaded. No Cup regular - not even Kyle Busch - will be attempting the triple. This will be the weekend where the Nationwide and Trucks series regulars can truly shine. To be perfectly honest, the Trucks consistently produce great racing. Nationwide has an excellent points battle brewing. Weekends like these give each series the attention they deserve. Hopefully eyes can be opened at Texas and Iowa.

Do the teams have pit road under control? If you watched this race last year, you know about the plethora of pit road penalties. Timing line locations were to blame, and it resulted in many teams speeding and getting caught. Of course, it brought the strategy of using those lines to a team’s advantage into the spotlight. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s part of the mental/mathematical aspect of the sport. But do some teams depend on it more than others? If so, is that a good or a bad thing?

Will there be tricks at the Tricky Triangle? Mark Martin vs. Joey Logano. Wisdom vs. hunger. As the two battled last June, the youngster bumped Martin out of the way and ended up in Victory Lane. The finish was somewhat uncharacteristic of the track, but maybe it was the beginning of something special. A few teams have tested at the track, yet how the Gen-6 will race in a large group is uncertain. Who knows? The next best finish could happen this weekend. Or maybe a new feud could develop. We’ll have to wait and see what tricks will pop up.

What teams will thrive (or take a dive) in this summer shift? The season has switched from spring to summer, and some drivers’ mindsets have gone from distanced to focused. Tony Stewart, who won last Sunday, is known for succeeding under the sweltering heat, but who else is? Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Joey Logano all come to mind. However, some other drivers drop off inching toward the autumn portion of the schedule. Expect Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and, yes, Matt Kenseth to lose some momentum within this hot chunk of the agenda. Climate plays a huge part in the sport, and it can even make or break some drivers’ years.

Fool NASCAR once, shame on you. Fool NASCAR twice ...? As many already know, Paul Wolfe, the crew chief for the No. 2 team, was suspended earlier this year for infractions found on the rear-end housing at Texas. Sunday was his first race back, and the car failed post-race inspection: the front end was too low. Tuesday brought expected fines and points penalties, yet no suspension. Fans were confused - some outraged - about the lack of punishment for Wolfe. “Because he was on probation for the Texas infractions, shouldn’t he be suspended this time around?” fans ask with eyebrows raised and faces clenched in puzzlement. The accepted reasoning is that this infraction wasn’t as severe as the previous one, and that played a determining factor. Also, the team says a shock broke during the race and made the front end sink lower. Because of those two explanations, there was no suspension involved. Before fans can ask, the answer is no; there is no double standard. It’s NASCAR looking at each team’s violation differently, not comparing it to other teams’ situations. That’s exactly how it should be.


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