“Have at it boys,” was an off the cuff remark. Those words have been used to define the current era of NASCAR Cup racing. The statement referred to less regulation by the sanctioning body of the on-track racing.
Where black and white (and some say sterile) once stood is now gray and subject to interpretation. However to NASCAR, the “boys” does not mean car owners.
Richard Childress’ altercation with Kyle Busch in Kansas last weekend seems almost within the spirit of what has been brewing for the last year and a half.
We have seen the circuit’s drivers act less like gentlemen under scrutiny and more like stock car drivers of past generations. A driver crashed by a competitor, figures retaliation is coming. Maybe next lap, next race, or next year, but revenge is looming. Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, Ryan Newman, and Juan Pablo Montoya are but a few that have retaliated or been on the receiving end of settling a score.
Childress is also now on probation which is probably the most undefined term in NASCAR.
Precedent has been set that if you screw up while on probation, then probation is extended. Yeah? So?
The final lap of the Kansas Truck race saw Joey Coulter in an RCR truck pull a last lap slide job on Kyle Busch. Coulter got the position at the line with no contact. Busch gave Coulter an after-checkered tire doughnut in his door to show his displeasure. The move angered Childress enough to confront Busch physically after the race.
The irony does not escape me that Childress has six Cup championships with Dale Earnhardt as his driver. Who was more responsible for putting more marks on more competitors cars than Earnhardt?
The most entertaining part of this story is how Childress removed his watch before he went to fight Busch. That is old school. It reminds me of an old movie where two men were arguing nose to nose, then backed off each other while they removed jackets, ties, and rolled up their sleeves. Each politely waited for the other until they were ready to fight like men, the old fashioned way.
So where do I stand?
I have not kept score over the years to have a tally as to how many RCR cars Busch has crashed. To RC, the Coulter truck was the last straw.
Like many others I am amazed at Busch’s driving talent. He can get up on the wheel and race harder I have seen anyone in years. I was a fan of the passion and fire in his attitude. I was not a fan of his sarcastic and smart mouth answers over the years. This season his interviews, even in disappointment and defeat, have been gracious and informative.
A driver can be colorful, have a personality, and still have a burning passion for victory without sounding like a jerk. Somewhere over the last six months Busch learned this lesson.
Using cars as weapons is never something I agreed with. Most of the time the drivers are hired guns who don’t own, work, or pay for damaged machinery. Taking each other out to even the score makes for plenty of writing and broadcasting material. But as a former fabricator, two drivers in a peeing match can suddenly create a 95-hour workweek for a shop.
Water cooler opinion leans heavily towards the stop, unbuckle, get out, and settle it like men way of thinking. That is what Richard Childress did. That act costs him $150,000.
Some may argue what Childress did was wrong. On paper it was. But it was better than drivers substituting racecars for their fists.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)
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