My Brain on NASCAR: Last race

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Well, it’s finally here; the last race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Every year I complain about the length of the season, and then every year I’m sad to see it end. When that checkered flag waves at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19, Jimmie Johnson’s championship reign will end – temporarily – and he will be replaced by either one of three former champions, or one shiny new one.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out, since we all know that in racing, as in real life, one small error can make a huge difference. For example, isn’t it strange – and kind of terrifying – how just one word can land you in a big pile of trouble, regret and, in my recent experience, embarrassment?

In this case, the word in question is “late.” The bad news is that in last week’s column I described legendary comedian Jackie Mason as being late … and I didn’t mean he was tardy. The extremely good news is that I was wrong. Fortunately for comedy lovers – and especially fortunate for Mr. Mason – he is very much alive, and as honest as ever.

“The key is that I’m always relevant,” he said. “Some of these comedians have nothing to say. They don’t have any ideas … so they give you a whole series of swear words and it’s really just a way for them to get themselves out of trouble when they can’t come up with anything. They’re irrelevant and ridiculous.” 

Mason doesn’t talk about sports much, instead mining comedy gold from his Jewish upbringing, everyday life, and everyone’s favorite go-to joke shop these days, politics. He keeps it current, and he keeps it real, and oh, how I would love to hear his opinions on NASCAR.

Thirty-two of the 36 drivers on the track at Homestead will be neither ridiculous nor irrelevant – any one of them can win the race – but they won’t be the 2017 NASCAR champion, either. That opportunity belongs to only four drivers: Martin Truex, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.

Unpredictability is inherent in any NASCAR race, where things can literally change in the blink of an eye. We know for sure that millions of people aren’t going to get the champion they have wanted so badly for so long – sorry, Earnhardt fans – but of the four drivers who remain in contention for title, we know we’re going to get a good one.

Kevin, Kyle and Keselowski each have one NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy proudly on display wherever NASCAR drivers proudly display their hardware – I’ve always wondered about that — and any one of them could easily bring home a bookend for those hard-earned prizes.

These three drivers are similar in both driving styles and temperaments. They are hard-chargers on the track, and are often described as emotional, outspoken, and even brash at times. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. They have won a combined total of 11 races heading into Homestead.

And then there’s Truex, who has emerged as an overwhelming fan favorite in 2017. I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone say, “Man, I can’t stand that Martin Truex Jr.,” but as we all know, popularity off the track doesn’t always translate to success on it. In this case, however, it just might. Did I mention that he has won a whopping seven races in 2017 so far?

It’s tempting to go out on that proverbial limb and prematurely hand the title to Truex, but I’m going to refrain from that by reminding myself what Mason said about predictions: “I can’t predict the future and I don’t have respect for people who try to; predictions are preposterous,”

He’s right. As it turns out, he’s also a bit of a prognosticator, reminding us that “victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.”

I’m hoping to see a close, exciting race at Homestead that will end the season on such a high note that we’ll be literally be counting the days until the 2018 Daytona 500. Regardless of who the champion turns out to be, it’s been one heck of a ride.

“I see life as a dance,” Mason said. “Does a dance have to have meaning? You’re dancing because you enjoy it.”

Sounds to me like Mr. Mason just may be a NASCAR fan, after all.

To learn more about Jackie Mason, visit

Cathy Elliott is the former public relations director at Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR, Desktop 500, and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough to Tame. Contact her at

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