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Random Lugnuts: One Final Lesson

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR, Bill Elliott
What is Random Lugnuts?  It's random bits of stock car racing commentary written on an irregular basis by an irregular racing fan.  The name is a reference to the lugnuts that go flying off a car during a pit stop:  you never know where they are going to go, what they're going to do when they get there, they can be annoying, they're often useless after a race, and every once in a while someone gets hit and they don't know exactly where it came from.
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Random Lugnuts:One Final Lesson

Bill Crittenden
20 March 2016

After following his career for more than twenty years, Bill Elliott had one last lesson to teach me: the only way to be safe from watching your heroes fall before your eyes is just to not have heroes in the first place.

I had been a fan of Bill Elliott for over twenty years. He first got my attention as a young teenager driving the McDonald's car (what thirteen year old doesn't love McDonald's?) and I decided to learn more about him. NASCAR fans know the legend: the small time team working out of a tiny garage in the rural Georgia hills went toe-to-toe with the superteams of Charlotte and kicked their butts. Elliott set records that stand to this day, won the "unwinnable" Winston Million, won the Winston Cup, a run of success that would land him a spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Average NASCAR fans might not realize how important 2002 was to Elliott's career, at least to me. I missed the golden years of his career, and by time I "discovered" him a lot of people were calling him washed up. Especially my dad. It was the beginning of a basic idea of mine that's been proven time and time again: drivers don't forget how to drive. When they fall flat on their face, it's probably the car.

Elliott had two strong finishes the two years my dad took me to Indianapolis, one including a top ten after backing his car into the wall in a big wreck. I knew it was a good track for him. "If only he had a better car..." I thought.

I wasn't the only one who noticed. Jeff Gordon told Ray Evernham that Elliott could be great again if he had the right equipment, and when Evernham started his team, Elliott was his top driver.

The vindication for sticking with Bill through the rough years would come in 2002 when Elliott won at Indianapolis, driving so hard that he scraped the bottom of his car in the corners, taking his second flat track win in a row after Pocono.

So he had always been an inspiration to me. He proved that you don't need big money and a big office to compete with the people who do. You could be humble, stick to your roots, and still achieve greatness. Anyone can have an epic comeback, if you stick around long enough to get a second chance.

My office is full of Elliott's cars. Well, for now it is, because I haven't had a chance to put them away yet.

I've spent my adult years watching other people's heroes fall, one after another. Just off the top of my head? Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire's steroid scandals, Lance Armstrong. Bill Cosby. Jared Fogle. Josh Duggar. The Catholic Church in general. Brian Williams. Just about every politician you've ever heard of

Even that Chumlee guy from Pawn Stars has been arrested for sexual assault.

I thought I might be safe. But Bill Elliott had one last lesson to teach me: the only way to be safe from this is just to not have heroes in the first place.

On February 29th, a day I'm sure many wished they could skip, I was disappointed enough to see Brian France throw away every single thing anyone had tried to do to bring diversity and respectability to NASCAR by endorsing Donald Trump for President while the rest of the world wondered how in the hell someone could pretend not to know who David Duke was or white supremacist groups are and still be the front runner for a major political party.

Many outsiders view NASCAR fans as, with few exceptions, a bunch of simple-minded, racist, ignorant white hillbillies watching cars turn left because they're too stupid to mentally process cars turning both directions. I've constantly fought this image for years, but fuck it, I can't when the head of the company plays right into the stereotype. Brian France might was well make the Confederate Flag NASCAR's official flag now, because there's no hiding how backwards they are.

As if that didn't hurt enough, Bill Elliott and his son Chase joined Brian France on the stage in making the announcement. Bill said, "He is a leader representing strength and common sense solutions," according to the official Trump press release.

Yeah...strength. Women are pigs, the physically handicapped are worthy of mockery, we're so scared of any and all Muslims that we should ban them all from entering the country. Fuck our founding principles, we're going to ban religions and come up with new ways to torture people, because the most powerful military in human history can't protect us from thirty thousand militants in Toyota trucks in a desert ten thousand miles away?

Since when did lashing out in paranoid fear become a sign of bravery and strength? Oh, and common sense? The guy who praises Alex Jones as having an "amazing" reputation and gets his news from the Drudge Report? Are you fucking kidding me?

Not content with only throwing his reputation away on a candidate who has destroyed Godwin's Law for the duration of 2016, Bill adds "not raising his kids right" to his post-racing résumé by bringing his son Chase along to say, "This is a great man. I think he's a guy who can do some great things for us." Well, at least Chase shares Trump's ability to use a lot of words to say nothing at all. So there's that they have in common.

With such vague, policy-free endorsements of a mostly policy-free candidate, I can't help but think of this Saturday Night Live spoof commercial and wonder just what exactly is in the hearts of these people?

Donald Trump summed up his hopes for the endorsement by saying "If the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now -- nobody can win."

Or maybe it'll work the other way, and I'll admit that I was wrong to defend NASCAR all these years and in light of how willing they are to be an embarrassment to motorsports and the United States I can no longer consider myself among its fans.

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