When I was running Dirt Tracks in the Late 60′s, there would always be some extra curricular activity at the pay window. Sometimes it was prudent to take a tire iron along when going to get your lap money, based on what happened during action on the track. Somebody is always ticked-off about something that happened on the track. This is what stock car racing has been since it’s beginning.
The local promoters for the Bojangle’s 500 Saturday night, used the after race altercation between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in last years race, to sell tickets for the event. I read one report where that scene was depicted on billboards throughout the area to get fans to the track for round two.
ESPN and Fox Sports has used the comical video from the incident last year as hype to promo both, the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, using anything to intice fans to tune in for both nights action. A little drama goes a long way in encouraging viewers to watch the broadcasts.
This brings me to the point. A big deal has now been made out of the incident on Pit Road between pit crews for Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. This has to be fodder for next weeks All Star Race in Charlotte. After all, this isn’t a points race, so everyone needs to be watching their rear view mirror for someone with a grudge to settle. This makes good stories, and gets everyone to tune in Saturday night to see what is going to happen next.
Evidently Kurt Busch, angry about the late race incident that took him out of contention for a good finish, which by the way he wasn’t upset at Newman, burned out of his pit narrowly missing Newman pit crew members. This angered Newman crew to the point of wanting a pound of flesh after the race. There was some shoving and jawing, and a Nascar official was pushed, or slipped , leaving Nascar and Robin Pemberton to get involved after it was over.
When these high dollar sponsors we currently have in the Sprint Cup series threw in with the Rough and Rowdy Nascar crowd, didn’t they understand what they were getting into, or wasn’t it explained to them? Didn’t they see the first prime time Daytona 500 ever televised in 1979, when Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison decided to settle on-track problems after the checkered flag? They must have left before all the action was over, and didn’t watch the fight in turn three after the race. To date, that is still the most memorable part of the race. Most people don’t remember that Richard Petty ended a 45 race win-less streak and hoisted the trophy.
This attitude puts Nascar in the precarious position of having to police the situation and hand out fines or suspensions for activity that is just part of the sport. The fans and media eat this activity up. Racing is not a gentlemans sport. If that’s what they want, they need to invest their advertising dollars in Golf, and leave racing to the spark plug and shocks advertisers, that understand what it’s about.
I don’t think Big Bill France Sr. would have allowed these types of sponsors to push him into modifying his sport so much, that it has become almost unwatchable from a fans point of view. I lay the blame for the state of Nascar squarely at Mike Helton’s feet where it belongs. I think Big Bill would have understood that you can’t have it both ways.