By admin | March 22, 2010
By Richard Allen
Could it be that the â€˜Have at itâ€™ 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.
â€œGo over and find Tonyâ€™s spotter and apologize for holding him up like that,â€ Kenseth said over his radio as the cars toured around under the caution. â€œI wouldnâ€™t have raced like that but I thought the rain was coming, and apologize to the 31 spotter too.
â€œI know Iâ€™ll get paid back sometime down the road when they get a chance to hold me up,â€ Kenseth went on.
â€œTony said he would have done the same thing,â€ was the reply over Kensethâ€™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. NASCARâ€™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.
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