Let's just go racing

by Dave Yaeck
July 26, 2006

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You know, back in the day, when drivers were scruffy, beer-bellied, party going, rebels of the track, nobody ever complained about getting bumped out of the way, or being taken out of a race. They would just settle it after a race; whether it was at the track, back at home, or at a race to be named later, or they would either go into a profanity laced tirade about how one screwed the other, or just kick each other’s butt.

Those were the days, huh?

But since the invent of the big TV contracts, corporate sponsors, and more money flowing than the national debt of a small country, this sport has gotten a little too politically correct, quite frankly, borderline wimpy and boring.

Stewart does shave once in awhile

Take for example, this last weekend in the Pocono Mountains at the Pennsylvania 500. Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet, 2 time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, and 7-year veteran of NASCAR’s elite series, comes up alongside of Clint Bowyer, driver of the #07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet, and….. rookie in the Nextel Cup Series. Add into the mix, the #99 Office Depot Ford of Carl Edwards. We have all heard the story this week, Stewart gets alongside of Bowyer; Stewart turns into Bowyer and causes him to spin collecting Edwards who was basically doing the same thing as Stewart which was racing hard for position. Edwards was just a victim of “wrong place, wrong time”. Edwards gets mad, spins out Stewart on pit road. Stewart finishes seventh, Edwards 39th, & Bowyer 41st. Stewart explains that if the younger folk would just learn give and take we would not have the problems we do now.

Tony Stewart says kiss this....

Tony, Tony, Tony, don’t you know that sometimes things are better left unsaid? Now, the fans, the media, and most notably people in the garage have a bad taste in their mouths over what some consider as a Dr. Jeckyl / Mr. Hyde effect that Tony’s portraying. All for just being an aggressive driver wanting to win, but there is a reason for that.

Once upon a time, drivers were allowed to display their feelings whether verbally, or sometimes physically. These days, those clean cut boys you see driving the 43 cars around the track not only have to mind their manners on and off the track, but most of the time have to cover up what they are actually feeling, thus making this sport not as fun to watch and even more of a pain at times to participate in.

In Stewart’s earlier years, he was always chastised for his bluntness and honesty about the sport, and its competitors. Today, Stewart is more mature and laid back but just like any other driver trying to make the chase or even trying to get a win, he is hungry, one of the most hungriest and one of the best on the track. He will take whatever measures necessary to secure his spot in the chase later on this season and with the competition so tough and even now, there is no stopping him from accomplishing his goal, and with that attitude he is still frowned upon.

But what the real story here is not Stewart, but that NASCAR’s elite division does not have a driver that has been able to stand out, mentor, and carry this sport and garner the respect since Dale Earnhardt died back in 2001. Earnhardt was ‘The Man’ in the garage, whether you loved him or hated him, you always respected him and when he talked, everyone would listen. Other drivers such as Petty, Pearson, Yarbrough, the Allisons also demanded that respect and got it because if you did one of these guys wrong, they would not just take care of it with their mouths, but also with their cars and their fists. It was a free-for-all and that’s what made this sport so exciting. They were also innovators that assisted in blossoming some of the great talent out there today such as Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, and the recently retired Rusty Wallace.

These days, unless you are at a short track like Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond, or Dover, or enjoy the speed and tightness of Daytona or Talladega, the racing is bland, and for the most part, so are the personalities, somewhat programmed to do and say what is expected of them in order to sell a product or make a buck.

What NASCAR needs is less fluff, and more stuff, meaning guys that will step up to the plate, speak their mind and not be politically correct all the time. There are very few who stand out that could garner the respect for not only doing what is right and standing up for the cause worth fighting for, but mentors to teach the younger generation the right way to race in NEXTEL Cup.

It’s up to NASCAR, its sponsors, and all the corporate mumbo jumbo to fine-tune it into a sport that stays competitive as well as entertaining from start to finish, whenever that may be.

The author can be contacted at nascar@autoracing1.com

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Others by Dave

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