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Reality Pays Visit To NASCAR Nation

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 11 2009

Kevin Grubb, found dead in a hotel room. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images For NASCAR)

Kevin Grubb, found dead in a hotel room. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images For NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

I met Kevin Grubb only a couple of times but I was impressed by what a nice guy he seemed to be.

He was always open and friendly, smiling and outgoing even as the first dark clouds began to rumble over his racing career.

In 2004 Grubb was suspended by NASCAR for testing positive for a banned substance. He came back briefly but was suspended again in 2006 for refusing to submit to testing. In NASCAR when it comes to drugs, two strikes usually means you’re out. That was the last I’d heard of Grubb until news that he had been found dead Wednesday in a Richmond hotel room.

Police said he died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

He had recently turned 31.

What a tragedy. What a waste of a promising young life.

We’ll never know what, if any, role Grubb’s past drug issues had with his death. But it’s safe to assume that those problems contributed to the despair that eventually led to such a terrible end.

I wonder what the reaction is of critics who whined over NASCAR’s tightening of its drug policy? The tighter policy is intended to do two things:

1. Keep an impaired driver or other participant away from the track.

2. Provide incentive for drivers to stay clean and, if they have a problem, to seek help.

Would a tougher stance against substance abuse – not just by NASCAR but by society in general – have saved Kevin Grubb? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know.

Perhaps Grubb’s sad saga will scare some sense into anyone who might be stupid enough to consider poisoning their lives.

I became acquainted with a young racer in Nashville who was having his own drug problems back during Grubb’s travails. We had a candid conversation about it – wrenchingly candid. At one point he broke down and wept.

I couldn’t understand how an intelligent kid with a bright future could get mired up in such a mess.

He said his problems caved in on him: his parents split up, his girlfriend dumped him, he was having trouble in school. Angry and depressed, he started dabbling with drugs as an escape. Before he realized it, he had “escaped” into hell.

After a drug bust, he sought help. The last I heard from him, a couple of years ago, he was married, had a good job, and was staying clean. He said his racing career was over, but at least his life was still ahead of him.

I wish things could have worked out that way for Grubb. I’m convinced he wasn’t a bad person, just someone who made some bad choices.

We’ll never know how hard he fought it, how hard he tried to escape the claws of his personal demons. All we know is that he wasn’t able to do it, and his struggle finally came to a sad, pitiful end in a lonely hotel room.

People are always shocked when someone in NASCAR is involved with drugs – and that’s good. Let’s hope they continue to be shocked. Let’s hope that news about drivers and drugs never becomes routine and blasé, as it has with athletes in other pro sports.

In a prefect world we’d never have to hear such terrible news again. But the tragedy of Kevin Grubb is a grim reminder of an imperfect world.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 11 2009
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