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Is the threat of retaliation causing drivers to be more cautious?

By admin | March 22, 2010

By Richard Allen

Could it be that the ‘Have at it’ policy NASCAR has encouraged is having the effect of causing drivers to race more cleanly? Could it be that drivers are so worried about retaliation they could potentially face from an angered foe that they are going out of their way not to offend.

As an example to support this possibility, look at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. As the rain appeared to be closing in, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton raced side by side for numerous laps. At the same time, Tony Stewart closed in and rode right up the exhaust pipes of the two former teammates.

Kenseth and Burton raced hard, but clean, and provided some of the best entertainment of the day. All the while Stewart pressured them but did not force the issue to the point of causing an accident.

Eventually, the action sorted out just before a caution flag flew.

“Go over and find Tony’s spotter and apologize for holding him up like that,” Kenseth said over his radio as the cars toured around under the caution. “I wouldn’t have raced like that but I thought the rain was coming, and apologize to the 31 spotter too.

“I know I’ll get paid back sometime down the road when they get a chance to hold me up,” Kenseth went on.

“Tony said he would have done the same thing,” was the reply over Kenseth’s radio.

Kenseth, Burton and Stewart seemed to take extra care not to spin each other. Three talented veterans who were able to race hard but clean was something to see. It showed that such racing could be done. Of course, using these three particular drivers as an example may not be the best for making my point because they are so talented.

But still, maybe each driver did not want to run the risk of retaliation. NASCAR’s new policy may have actually served to clean up racing rather than make it rougher. This one incident may not provide enough evidence that my theory is correct. At Martinsville there may be a dozen cautions for spins, but at Bristol on Sunday there was plenty of good racing without an excess of unnecessary wrecking.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

2 Responses to “Is the threat of retaliation causing drivers to be more cautious?”

  1. Bill B Says:
    March 23rd, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I don’t think you can blame the fact that Stewart held back on fear of retribution. I think it was more about self preservation and points racing. Going 3 wide at Bristol is not a good thing. If you want to blame Tony’s unwillingness to go for it you can blame it on fear of losing lots of points not fear of retribution.

  2. Marcus Says:
    March 23rd, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I think Bill B has a good point. To add on to that, you might look at the 2 drivers he was being held up by. 2 of the cleanest and most respectful racers in the sport. I think Tony knew that it was go time for those 2 as well as himself and knew that if it was under different circumstances on of them would have willingly moved over for Tony.