Well, what do we have here? Yours truly must take back all he said about Auto Club Speedway after the events that occurred at Sunday’s race in the city of his birth. This will be a race we’ll all be talking about for quite some time, and it may have, for all we know, saved NASCAR racing in southern California.
Racing here was sure good for the economy. The guys at the shop will be replacing a lot of wadded up sheet metal, Goodyear will have some tire replacement orders to fill, and Miss Manners should be quite busy with all the breaches of etiquette- both real and perceived.
What is Tony Stewart thinking? The very idea that he is a halicon of racing virtue is a farce that would make Will Farrell and Steve Carell proud. The idea that he has ANY room to complain about somebody blocking him is a humorous notion. As the immortal Herman Edwards says, "You play to win the game." Now, that’s not to say that you don’t assume some risk in doing so. If I were Joey Logano on that restart, I am thinking I could be taking it in the rear bumper, and no one would blame Smoke for doing it. Auto racing is rivaled only by baseball for "unwritten" rules by which every intelligent player must abide, or fear the consequences. Some drivers are applauded for giving no quarter. Others are excoriated for it.
If Stewart has a problem with Logano’s complaining, fair enough. The one-time wunderkind of motorsports has not exactly mastered the art of the judicious use of his mouth, or effectively picking one’s battles. He has little right to complain about how he’s raced. As far as that goes, it is tiring to listen to most racers carp about how they’re raced. "He raced me too hard?" If you will excuse me, shut up! Most racing fans here I believe will agree with me in that it would be nice to see more drivers actually competing, though I will concede that being overzealous in the first quarter of a race is a good way to get to wind up on your competitors’ collective bad sides, but that wasn’t the case at Auto Club. Again, no one is arguing that racing etiquette is a complex code of ethics; and Logano has demonstrated on more than one occasion a shaky grasp of the concepts. Having said that, if Logano’s past statements are Stewart’s real issue, then he has taken an AK-47 to a fruit fly and he himself has engaged in miscalculation.
Speaking of miscalculations, Logano made one himself in the collision with Denny Hamlin. Let’s be clear that what those two were doing was hard racing, and it’s probably safe to say that Logano had no desire to hospitalize Hamlin. He knowingly stepped up to a line, and maybe even over it in terms of the fender banging, but no could have accurately forecast what happened to Hamlin in terms of the severity of his injuries. Even worse is Joey’s "he got what he deserved" gaffe. Did Hamlin deserve hard racing? Yes. Has Hamlin engaged in similarly questionable racing conduct? Ask David Reutimann. If you remember Pocono from a couple of years back, then you know the answer is in the affirmative. By the same token, unless Hamlin had murder on his mind, he did not deserve an injury of that magnitude. The racing didn’t look questionable from here, but Logano’s cavalier attitude goes beyond the pale.
Competition, especially in this high adrenaline environment, can do funny things to people. You don’t get much time to make your decisions, and some times, like a rashly, harshly spoken word, you think, "my bad" as soon as the deed is done. Compounding matters are the three-thousand plus pound machines that can create much havoc. Methinks my ability to admit wrong and make apology calls would become well honed with a little time in the sport, and probably make me a humbler man, I suspect.
Consider Tony Stewart. Unless you think this is some anti-Smoke rant, let’s consider another side of the man. He has given generously to Victory Junction, donated tires to the underfunded Victory In Jesus racing team, provided sanctuary for stray animals, and much, much more. Most, if not all, of racing’s bad boys have a generous side, and would be a lot of fun at a backyard barbecue.
The concept of racing is simple, but getting there includes a complex set of ethics. To compound matters, the decisions are often made at 180 miles per hour, and involve a bit of mind reading, something most of us don’t do very well.
With all that must be weighed concerning driver behavior, Miss Manners has her hands full with NASCAR. Sorting it out is the kind of thing that keeps the drivers, the governing body, the fans and the media talking. If it’s like this after a date in California, imagine what Martinsville may hold in store. Even Miss Manners may raise up a balled fist.
A TV and radio sports reporter by day, Jim McCoy can be found enjoying a race somewhere on the weekend- soaking up the passion, the speed and the noise that is NASCAR.
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