Mutual Respect: NASCAR's #1 Problem Today

Sunday at Talladega, we saw the fourth flip at that track of the 2009 NASCAR season. We saw hardly anything but single-file racing until the end of the race. And, once again, we saw drivers complain about the safety of NASCAR’s largest track.

The question now is, what should NASCAR do about Talladega?

The answer is simple. NASCAR should do nothing about Talladega.

I’ve been a die-hard NASCAR fan since 2001. I know, that isn’t a really long time. But it’s long enough to really get it. I check on the major NASCAR websites every day, so I’m up-to-date with everything. I’m not the most experienced NASCAR fan, nor am I the most passionate.

I don’t know everything about NASCAR, but I do know this.

I have watched 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega. The best races I ever saw? The races I saw in 2001.

That was back before NASCAR went all Commie on their rules. Back when bump-drafting wasn’t such an issue. Back when the drivers were, not only allowed to pass each other, but were allowed to race each other. The only restrictions about the racing were the plates, and the yellow line.

Back then, the drivers weren’t policed like they are today. They were allowed to race as they wished, barring they didn’t pass below the yellow line. Sure, they could hit each other. But they chose not to. Why? Because of a little thing called “respect”.

The drivers of that time had it. Guys like Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, and Bill Elliott knew how to give and take. And if a guy like Kevin Harvick or Kurt Busch started rattling some cages, they likely would find themselves in the wall before very long.

Because of this respect level, drivers could race three and four-wide for long periods of time without wrecking, because they were careful. The drivers respected NASCAR enough to where they raced clean, and NASCAR respected the drivers enough to where they let them race.

And you know what? For the first 375-and-a-half laps at Talladega that year, there was no big crash. Just lots of racing.

Today, you don’t see that mutual respect. I believe Ryan Newman said it best on Sunday when he said, “I guess NASCAR just doesn’t think that much of us anymore.”

But who’s to blame, NASCAR or the drivers?

It’s no secret that the drivers of today are far different from those of 8 years ago. Sure, you still have the Matt Kenseths and the Jeff Gordons, who were the young guns of the sport back then, in the sport today. But along with them, you have the even younger, whinier generation of drivers. The Kyle Busches, the Jimmie Johnsons, and such.

What else is different are today’s veterans. In 2001, you had the Bill Elliotts and the Dale Jarretts to help guide the younger generation into a more respectful thought process. Who do you have today? Tony Stewart? Jeff Gordon? Dale Earnhardt Jr? Sure, they may not be the most disrespectful racers on the track today. But they wouldn’t have likely passed the respectful veteran test 8 years ago, either.

So these are the guys who are mentoring the younger generation. And the younger generation is a large group of racers who don’t seem to respect their competitors. Guys like Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and some of the even younger guys like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have a hard time sharing a mutual respect with their competitors at times.

So is the lack of mutual respect among drivers forcing NASCAR to take matters into its own hands? Maybe. But NASCAR should not panic.

Instead, NASCAR should let the drivers earn and share respect with each other on the track, like they did 8 years ago. That’s how guys like Kurt Busch learned to be respectful. If you wanted to race a veteran dirty, you could expect to be put in the wall, like Jimmy Spencer did to Busch on a few occasions.

Let the racers race. It’s the only way they’ll learn respect. If NASCAR shows that they respect the drivers, the drivers will show that they respect NASCAR. And in turn, they will respect each other.

Tags: Bill Elliott Brad Keselowski Clint Bowyer Dale Earnhardt Jr Dale Jarrett Denny Hamlin Jeff Gordon Jimmie Johnson Jimmy Spencer Joey Logano Kevin Harvick Kurt Busch Kyle Busch Matt Kenseth Ryan Newman Sterling Marlin Terry Labonte Tony Stewart

  • Marc

    Funny you should note this race based on a couple things.

    1. The event went the last 100 miles or so under green flag conditions. The resulting fuel mileage race, won by Gant on fumes, is what many complain about today.

    2. I see your point on the many rules, however, this year featured the very same problem.

    As a result of a death on pitroad in the final race of 1990 NASCAR implemented a series of new rules that went into effect at Daytona in 1991.

    The biggest rule change was banning tire changes under yellow flags. The result was the first five events of 1991 featured strung out fields of cars and what was called at the time “boring races”. Many called the races “gasoline-powered mathematics exercise” because teams spent as much time calculating fuel mileage as the did making their car go faster.

    Examples, Daytona only 5 on the lead lap at the checkers, Richmond 7 on lead lap, Rockingham 2 on the lead lap, Atlanta 7 on the lead lap and Darlington 3 on the lead lap with winner Ricky Rudd. Won on fuel mileage BTW. Great if you like math; boring if you like close racing.

    “You weren’t really racing other cars; you were racing your own fuel mileage,” said Robin Pemberton, a crew member for the Ford driven by Mark Martin.

    NASCAR changed rules in mid stream.

    For the April 14 event at Bristol NASCAR allowed tire changes under yellow.

    They also changed the way cars lined up for the for the restart. Before, the cars on the lead lap would line up in one file, while lapped cars would form another file alongside.

    Starting with this Bristol event, cars in the odd-numbered pits lined up on the inside row, and those in the even-numbered pits will lined up on the outside row.

    So you see, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • hopper

    Buddy, I said the best races I ever saw at Talladega were in 2001, not 1991. BIG difference.

  • lynns

    hey hopper can’t get play @365 says I need money user is “linus” could not find where else to post this.

  • Marc

    Oops, you’re right. I read one thing, thought another, and wrote a third. But the point still stands, NASCAR in the infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, continually change rules.

  • hopper

    Linus: I tried getting in contact with the 365 guys, but have not heard anything back yet. Let me know if you were able to get in.

    Marc: Don’t fret, bud. I’m used to it by now. JK JK LOL!

  • hopper

    …But I do agree with you about NASCAR and their lack of infinate wisdom…

  • lynns

    Hopper my account was out of points they reloaded 365 points and I was able to get it and join this week thanks, linus

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