“Have at it, boys” is a good theory.
Gradual bump-drafting enforcement and driving scrutiny by NASCAR increased over the years and brought a sense of sterility into the sport. Before any officials’ judgement became commonplace, “have at it boys” already was the attitude. It just didn’t have a clever name.
This does not mean we need complete anarchy and a glorified demolition derby every time the Cup officials throw the green flag.
Auto racing is self-policing. Drivers can handle their own problems.
I was raised on this sport and as a young boy of a single-digit age even I knew proper race driving etiquette. Bumpers bumped. Nerf bars nerfed. Paint was traded. This is far from a non-contact sport.
But when in the world did this "bump and run" become accepted by anyone? It is a candy-ass move. If you cannot pass a driver clean then you do not deserve to pass him. And the driver in front should not be blocking as a way of holding position.
The reputation and popularity of both Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR grew in tandem. An entire generation of drivers grew up watching Earnhardt bump other guys out of the way thinking this was the way to race.
Other drivers bumped as well. Earnhardt was far from the only one who used his front bumper. But he was the only one who used it to define his career. Earnhardt carved a reputation for being "The Intimidator." He was not given that name. He earned it.
Earnhardt was good enough to win his seven championships without hitting anyone. Too bad he didn’t. I have great respect for his natural, superior talent. I had none for his style.
The Modified division drivers I looked up to as a child had driving honor. And they had pride in their body of work. They held their heads up high after a race.
Aggressive was a term used to describe a man who could drive from 18th starting spot to win a 25-lap feature race on Saturday night. Aggressive is not a catchall term that anyone can throw around to excuse them knocking a competitor’s car out of the way. Anyone in the grandstands can drive into the car in front of them. That takes absolutely no talent whatsoever.
Harry Gant was going for four straight Cup Series wins at Martinsville in September of 1991. Rusty Wallace, who was in second and attempting the pass, spun Gant out of the lead. With a damaged car Gant made his way from the rear, back through the pack, and into first place.
And Gant never moved anyone when going by. That itself was retribution for Gant. In a post-race interview the winner referenced passing someone clean makes him feel like a better driver.
Well-respected NASCAR Modified great Bugs Stevens calls out "bump and run" style drivers in his biography. One that “Did what he needed to do to win,” often overuses that phrase to excuse dirty driving. Stevens points out the driver didn’t do what he needed to do. He did what he wanted to do.
Rubbin’ in NOT racing. “Rubbin’ is racing” is a stupid line from a stupid movie.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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