We’ve been watching your races over the last year and a half or so and, while exciting, your “Boys Have At It” mentality to let drivers settle their personal vendettas and scores is starting to push the envelope into the ‘danger zone’.
To begin 2013 you had a car impact the catch fence on the grandstands side of Daytona International Speedway injuring fans who paid their hard earned money to sit in those seats for an enjoyable afternoon of racing and, instead, found themselves in an ambulance on its way to a local hospital. This crash was all caused by a block thrown by Regan Smith because he did not want to give up the position coming down to the finish. First of all, we can’t remember the last time somebody was penalized for blocking in a NASCAR race. The blocking issue will resurface later, but the inherent problem with your racing on circuits like Daytona and Talladega is the ridiculous pack racing that ensues on these tracks. The fans may crave and scream for it but, eventually, they will pay dearly for it.
The race at Bristol opened a new can of worms when Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took their Twitter feud to a new level when Hamlin nudged Logano into the wall which resulted in subsequent threats of “He’s got it coming” etc. This past weekend’s race that ended in carnage, bleeped out post-race interviews, and a hospitalized driver is a prime example of how you are losing control of your sport’s atheletes.
Race car drivers are passionate, emotional creatures that desperately want to win. Especially in these times where sponsorship dollars seem to grow fewer and fewer, the pressure on drivers to win races and championships is ten fold of what it was a decade ago and, therefore, any fellow competitor who interferes in the pursuit of that goal will be the subject of at least verbal jabs if not worse. What we are seeing is a complete lack of professionalism and respect on the drivers’ part and a lack of discipline from the sanctioning body of your sport and it must stop immediately. Although there will be differences of opinion and words between drivers periodically, the racetrack is NOT the time or the place to settle any sort of score. The drivers must respect each other on the track and, if they do not, the management of NASCAR must take swift and decisive action to discipline any driver that steps outside the bounds of what is acceptable behavior with fines, points deductions, vacation of wins, or suspensions if necessary.
In 2011, we had our own version of ‘Boys Have At It’ where poor choices by our series management allowed drivers to take matters into their own hands when it came to settling on-track melees because there was no clear line of what was acceptable behavior. We paid for the shortsightedness of everyone involved in our sport with our dearest blood when one of our biggest stars lost his life in a race filled with insane pack racing absent of mutual respect between the competitors causing a 12 car crash.
The insanity of the ‘Boys Have At It’ must stop. You may think it great for the sport as it allows the drivers to “show their character” but showing their character with 3,500 pound racecar circulating a two mile racetrack at 200 mph speeds will come back to haunt you in the deepest, most painful way possible if you do not change the culture.
Change it now before you endure the heartbreak that we did.