Drivers are losing patience with each other on the race tracks these days and what's wrong with that?. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)
It’s not just fuel tanks which are running low in races these days in Sprint Cup. Civility and decorum also appear to be down to fumes.
And that’s great. Great for fans and great for the sport.
A couple weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway, Chase driver Tony Stewart talked about how in Sprint Cup on-track respect has been in short supply in recent weeks. Then this week, Chaser Denny Hamlin expanded on the subject.
Circumstances, he said when asked why.
“Well, I would agree” with Stewart, Hamlin said. “I mean, I think that the respect and gentleman factor that we have out on the racetrack has kind of gone out the window, and a lot of it is we know with these fuel mileage races that we’re having, these tires that are not falling off, that you can’t be patient anymore like you used to. You’ve got to go as hard as you can each and every lap, especially two, three laps after a restart because you know that you’re not going to do much passing after that.”
And don’t forget the pressure of the Chase, Hamlin added.
“You know, for us I think that that’s why everyone’s intensity level has been ramped up. I
Where's the lack of love in NASCAR garages these days? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)
think some people are eliminated as far as points are concerned from the Chase, so their intensity is being ramped up, and so it’s kind of a conglomerate of all those different things that’s making the racing like it is on the restarts.”
The NASCAR garages are a community. For the most part, those who live and work there get along – especially when the engines are not howling on Sunday afternoons.
As a community, there are modes of behavior between the members.
But even off-track behavior patterns are being altered these days. Feuds seem to be more intense and longer-lasting.
Making up is harder to do.
“There’s very few apologies that come in this garage anymore,” Hamlin said. “If you get one, the guy must have really made a huge mistake. But I think the guys – it used to be guys would get into it and then you’d get a text message from them or a voice mail from them the following day saying, Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to do that. Now guys just think it’s the way it is, and so now we see it’s becoming more common, and guys are just accepting it.”
It has been a little unsettling to see how fraternal pro athletes have become during these days of huge paychecks.
In stick-and-ball sports, post-game meetings on the basketball court or football field look like high school reunions. Game over, job done, paycheck claimed, how’s the family? Let’s have a beer.
In racing, pre-race garages and, especially, back-stage at driver introductions, look like Moose Lodge gathering.
Sporting events are not wars, and those participating should not need to pass through metal dectectors at their work places. In racing, drivers to not need to drive like, well, Steve Wallace. But, come on, act like you care.
Apologizing via text message?
Play it like you mean it.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org