A week has passed since Sunday’s race debacle between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, and I have had a chance to reflect on what happened, why, and wonder where we may be going. I have listened to various radio and TV shows and read volumes online, including Facebook and Twitter. I have heard what the crew chiefs, drivers and fans have said. I have already vented a bit on my previous blog, but now I have some more succinct thoughts on the subject. I see this wreck not as a standalone incident, but a red flag for deeper issues.
I was glad to see NASCAR react by issuing a 2 race suspension. I am also pleased that the suspension was upholding though the two Kenseth appeals. This shows me that all of those people in the management of the sport are in agreement about the magnitude of the issue. But they may be in the minority.
Acceptance of Bad Behavior
I am concerned. I believe that I have gotten a good and accurate temperature of fan opinion on the NASCAR channel and its various shows: The Morning Drive (my favorite), Trading Paint and Dave Moody’s show. It’s too hot now and it is not good.
Here is MY opinion: There is too much hate in the sport. It has gotten too personal. It used to be “just a racing thing”, but now drivers “have it coming to them, just wait”. It hit me with this incident. I have felt it building in the back ground for some time. This is just the red flag thrown onto the field, and really catching my attention. Few seem to notice, though.
Poor sportsmanship has become the new “passion”. When the drivers act poorly, it’s because they have “passion”. REALLY? That’s not passion, that’s a Bully mentality and it is just wrong! I work hard so my children don’t act this way when they grow up! But that is what it is. It’s a bully mentality, and the sport seems infected with it.
This includes the teams, at least crew chief on down, the drivers and so many of the fans. Just listen to the Martinsville team radios as well as the massive cheering of the fans. It has gone beyond a simple acceptance of bad behavior, beyond even embracing poor sportsmanship, the fans encourage this bad behavior.
What Matt Kenseth did was akin to the wrestler bringing the chair into the ring and slamming it onto the head of his opponent. It’s cheating, plain and simple.
Consider this. I drive 80 miles a day. If I were to vocally threaten someone for 2 weeks, then lie in waiting for them to drive by, and with my car proceed to t-bone that person across the road, where would I end up? In the real world, I would be in JAIL facing charges of attempted murder. It would be road rage. So it’s alright on the track, but not in the real world.
#FREEMATT & the Role Model
Matt feels he has been unfairly punished for what he did. I saw a tweet of Denny Hamlin with his #FREEMATT tee shirt. The #FreeMatt has gone viral. Many DRIVERS are posting with that hashtag. It proves to me that too many drivers think this behavior is acceptable. What they are accepting is Road Rage. So many of the drivers have actually gone on record to say that they either believe Matt did nothing wrong or that he shouldn’t be punished by anything more than points and fines. Points and fines are two things that, at this moment in Matt’s season, are nothing more than a slap on the wrists.
Don’t they realize that they are role models? Both the Driver and Crew Chief are revered by all fans. Do I really want my 2 boys to follow a sport where the role models are supporting of this behavior? HELL NO!!
It’s Not Just The Driver
The wreck brought to light a deeper issue of behavior, of both team and the fan, in our sport. Let’s face it, the Crew Chief sets the tone of the team, and when he starts to get verbal and physical with another driver, it’s a green light for everyone else on the team. His choice of words carry a heavy weight with those he is responsible for. And the fans hear it on the radios. I heard it through the fans, cheering for the cheapest of cheap shots I’ve ever seen. I heard it on the team radios after the wreck. Wow!
Where Do We Go From Here?
So what do we do? Does NASCAR see this as a long term issue? Does the Media? I don’t know. I think the sport I have followed for so many years because it didn’t show all the bad behavior so often seen in other professional sports. I bring my kids to races because I think race fans were different. I was obviously wrong. It is going the wrong way.
But, what can NASCAR do? Writing a code of conduct for the teams and drivers would be a start. One that includes the in car communication, inter-team communications and how everybody acts while under the races spot light. Other than that, I think Denny Hamlin does have the right thought, though. It really is becoming, as he said this week, the Wild West. It is not due to any failing on the part of Brian France or NASCAR.
Matt used the term respect after acknowledging he lost the appeal. In refernece to Joey Logano, he says he wasn’t respected. Well, respect is a two edged sword. A respectful person gives respect to everyone, including those who don’t return it. Many in NASCAR Nation seem to have forgotten that.