Luck plays an awfully big role in racing. Sure, you've got to have good equipment, a good team, and talent behind the wheel. None of that can be overstated. They're a given. But all of your preparation and talent can be doomed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the cards falling just wrong for you.
Take Jeff Gordon on Saturday night at Richmond. Seven laps to go, he's in the Chase—then Bowyer spins, everyone pits, the order is reshuffled, they restart ... and with three laps to go, Gordon's out of the Chase. Damn unlucky. (Though more than one fan and/or pundit contends Bowyer spun on purpose to help his teammate get into the Chase, which was the ultimate result.)
Think of sportscar races where the yellow flies and you might or might not gain or lose a lap depending on where the overall leader is and where the safety car comes out. Pure luck.
It comes down to gambling. Teams and drivers can be amazingly talented and prepared, but it's still a gamble to see if you'll make it through unaffected by the bad decisions, poor talent, or unpreparedness of others. (For that matter, every drive in our street cars is a gamble that we won't be wrecked by the others on the road.)
So here's my question: Looking at NASCAR, which tracks do you think require the most luck? The super-speedways where the pack is nose-to-tail most of the time? Or the short tracks, where they're in constant traffic?
I'm voting the short tracks, after watching Bristol (pictured) the other week. At least at the super-speedways, there's some space to try to avoid a wreck. At Bristol, and even Richmond (not that there were any big wrecks the other night), there's just nowhere to go.
One other note: I'm no gambler, and that's part of why I don't race. But I'm sure fascinated by what motivates those who do. You people are fascinating and more than a little bit crazy!
Photo from www.bristolmotorspeedway.com.