By admin | February 7, 2010
By Richard Allen
On Thursday NASCAR Sprint Cup cars hit the track for the first time in 2010. Shortly after that, they began hitting each other and the wall. Quickly, drivers and commentators began blaming the new restrictor plates being used. The more open plates caused cars to close on one another too quickly they said, which in turn caused the wrecks.
That much may or may not be true. The cars were closing on one another at a rapid rate which might have caused them to run into one another. However, there is more to it than that. Careless driving played a role as well.
Can you imagine having to come back to the garage after causing a big crash and explaining to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. why you just wrecked his car in the season’s first practice? How about having to face the legendary Petty or Pearson after you caused the destruction of their cars? Perhaps, Yarborough, Baker or Allison would offer you a friendly welcome back after your release from the infield care center, but most likely not.
New rules are part of the equation in explaining practice, or even race crashes. But a lack of garage area leadership and a lack or respect, or even fear, for each other is another cause. Granted, drivers need to find out what their cars will do leading up to a big race but there is no reason to wreck cars in practice, especially so early on.
Unless they meant to deliver a message, drivers did not run over each other in practice when the people mentioned above were driving because they knew better than to do so. The older drivers respected each other and the younger drivers were afraid to touch the older veterans.
Nowadays, drivers are so busy with their public relations guides and other corporate ‘handlers’ they don’t have time to deal with other drivers and assert themselves in a meaningful way in the garage area.
Jeff Gordon admitted as much on media day just before activities commenced at the Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR racing has changed. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done about it in regard to the drivers’ inability to assert leadership. However, if they do not wish to continue riding back to the garage in an ambulance they may wish to let the other drivers know they do not appreciate that ride.
Even with all that said, it is still better for NASCAR not to serve as a garage area leader by instituting bad rules. Let the drivers figure it out on their own or let them suffer the consequences.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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