Category: NASCAR

The Crash was the Red Flag For A Bigger Issue

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.

Gloom, Dispair and Agony On Me…..

First, I want to congratulate Jeff Gordon for his win and his entry to thr 2015 Championship Final!  A win is a win, and he won through perserverence and luck.  I am glad to see him win.

Now I have to apologize to him for what happens next.  For the umpteenth time in the last several years, a great win has been overshadowed by circumstances beyond the winners control.  For NASCAR, it seems bad luck is followed by worse luck.  The series seems to chase bad news, especially during the Chase.  NASCAR seems bedeviled by the actions of teams trying to game the system or, sometimes just bad luck (Sorry Tony).  Its embarrasing!

The Kenseth/Logano thing just pisses me off.  I was a Kenseth fan, until this!  I’m angry for several reasons.

I love a little bumpin’ and runnin’; contact is not a bad thing.  Bent metal chasing a lead is something truly unique to NASCAR, and I love it.  But what Kenseth did IS NOT RACING.  Nine laps down, he cruised the apron like a sniper waiting for a kill, which he got.  He was upfront and honest about it, at least until he pulled the trigger, then denied any wrong doing.

It was very selfish of him to decide the championship on his own.  Not by racing Logano, but by t-boning him from the apron.  This is the kind of thing an immature person with low self esteem would do.  He looked ike a spoil sport and a sore loser.  It’s playing dirty, getting in those cheap shots, when you already know you can’t win the game.  Zero class from a former NASCAR Champion who represents the series.

The team is at fault, too.  Playing Monday Morning Quarterback, Kenseth, his crew chief and spotter should have watched the tapes of Kansas and Talladega and figured out how to defend against Team Penske!  But I didn’t hear anyone say “Matt, don’t do anything stupid” or “WHAT THE HELL!!!”.  I had higher expectations of Joe Gibbs.  He’s had to work with Kyle Busch, who has his own record.  Roger Penske would NEVER tolerate this.

There is no fine high enough to correct this.  Probation is meaningless, and with the season essentially over for Kenseth, parking him will make no difference.  Personally, I feel Kenseth should be excluded from the 2016 championship.  I don’t care if he wins every race next year.  What he did was the pre-meditated removal of another competitor from the championship in a manor that is totally outside the context of racing.  This will send a message about where the limits of “Boy’s Have At It”is.

The hardest thing for me to deal with, though, was the crowd.  They were cheering for him.  CHEERING!  There has always been talk of NASCAR being the WWF of racing, and this will only prove it the sports detractors.  Let’s bring the pom pom’s to the train wreck.  Doom, Dispair and Agony on me.