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Woody: Can Duct Tape Solve NASCAR Problems?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 5 2010

Denny Hamlin talked to reporters at the Brickyard. Did he tell them what he really thinks? (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

It’s common knowledge that duct tape can make any repair, fix any problem.

So it’s no surprise that NASCAR has decided to use duct tape to cure what ails it: just slap a strip across the mouth of every driver and – presto! No more grousing, no more griping.

If you can’t hear it, it doesn’t exist, right?

NASCAR has fined some drivers for speaking ill of sport, and – other than violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – what’s the big deal?

Other sports are not big believers in freedom of speech. In the pros and in college, players and coaches are prohibited from criticizing the refs’ calls. They also are not allowed to tease the refs’ seeing-eye dogs.

We used to think that NASCAR was different, that it was a sport of willful, independent-minded folks whose candor and outspokenness was part of their appeal.

Granted, for a driver to suggest that a race is “fixed” is stupid beyond measure, but if they start handing out fines for stupidity a lot of us are going to be leaner in the wallet.

A driver expressing an opinion – regardless of how hare-brained it may be – shouldn’t land him in the gulag.

NASCAR says it is concerned about “protecting its brand.” It should be more concerned about empty seats and droopy TV ratings.

Marching out robot racers to recite PR-prepared scripts is hardly a recipe for excitement. At a time when we need more entertaining drivers, NASCAR issues a gag order.

Yeah, I know: our mothers always told us if we couldn’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But Mom never had to sell 100,000 race tickets.

If anything, you’d think NASCAR would want just the opposite of docile drivers; that they’d like loose-lipped trash-talkers stirring the pot and creating controversy. Instead, it issues rose-colored glasses to every competitor and makes it mandatory to wear them at all times.

NASCAR has a lot of problems right now, but blabbermouth drivers is not one of them.

I’d ask some drivers what they think of the rule but, they’d probably be afraid to answer. Someone might be listening in the next room.

What’s next, bugged garages? Secret taped conversations in the engine department?

Is your crew chief wearing a wire?

Wonder if any of the old Watergate crew is around? Maybe NASCAR can hire them.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the wake of the speak-no-evil edict. Drivers have been suspended for rough racing; will someone be set down for mouthing off?

It’s a good thing NASCAR didn’t have a muffler rule back when Darrell Waltrip was coming up through the ranks. Ol’ Jaws was constantly taking irreverent swipes at the sport’s hierarchy, once referring to the venerable Bill France Sr. as “our Great White Father in Daytona.”

Darrell didn’t entirely escape NASCAR’s ire; it subjectively awarded the 1973 Rookie of the Year Award to Lennie Pond instead of the more deserving Waltrip. But he got off easy. Today if D.W. made a crack like that he’d be summoned to the NASCAR hauler – and told to bring a roll of duct tape with him.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 5 2010


  • mlng says:

    Nascar has become a joke and a bad one at that, i’m no longer a fan. I also get my race fix at a local events where real gut check racing is going on. I could careless which millionaire cry baby driver is leading in points.

  • Schosh says:

    This is America in the 21 century. Most rights are not provided by the government or the constitution but rather by the corporations. I can not even speak in public (PTA meetings included) if I am wearing my corporate badge or any object that identifys my employer. Fellow employees have been reprimanded for appearing at civic events that are perceived as not in line with our corporate goals.
    NASCAR ™ must protect their finely crafted version of reality at all costs.
    Me…I quit watching/caring/supporting sports like this .. My money goes to the local dirt track and my vacations are in Knoxville Iowa.

  • ANM says:

    There needs to be a mass reduction in the volume of corporate speak.
    It is fairly easy to see that sterilizing the renegade out of the sport is killing it.
    Cab will apparently take a long time to figure out what their appeal once was.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    I do believe NASCAR was right in fining the drivers for making comments (apparently more than 1 each) impuning the integrity of the sport, but they should have made it public at least that 2 drivers had been fined. Major corporations pay millions of dollars to have drivers represent them and promote their products, which is putting your money where your mouth is endorsement that they believe fans pay attention to what drivers say. Along the same lines, EESPN suspended Tony Kornheiser for speaking the truth, in a humorous vein, about Hannah Storm – so monitoring what is said and disciplining for what is not approved is noy unique to NASCAR. Why I suspect that EESPN and other big media outfits do monitor the tweets of their reps.

  • Bob says:

    I still vote for the duct tape in DW”s case.