By admin | July 16, 2012
By Richard Allen
Kevin Harvick believes he lost Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway because the lapped car of Amber Cope unnecessarily held him up and allowed Brad Keselowski to get by for the lead in the late stages of the event. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that a lapped car played a role in a race’s outcome.
The problem, as I see it, is that there are people on the race track who have not really earned the right to be there. This is not just true of NASCAR, but can be seen across the board in many forms of racing.
Harvick seems to share that opinion. “It’s not one of ‘those deals,’” Harvick said in an ESPN interview after Saturday’s race. “It’s somebody who shouldn’t be on the racetrack, who has no clue what they’re doing in the race car.
“She wants to be Danica Patrick, but she can’t hold her helmet,” the former Nationwide Series champion added. “She doesn’t know whether she’s going high or low. It looked like she went up, so I committed to the bottom and she came down.”
Rather than starting out on local tracks and working their way up through the ranks, it seems as if there are getting to be more and more drivers who advance to the higher ranks because of a gimmick that attracts attention or a relative who fronts the money for the ride.
Before going any further, I want to point out that the grandsons of Richard Childress, Austin and Ty Dillon, are not included in this conversation. They have been brought up the right way by starting out in go-karts, then to dirt cars, then ARCA and eventually NASCAR.
Also, even though she is incredibly over-hyped in my opinion, Danica Patrick is not to be included either. She began racing go-karts, midgets and other lower forms of race cars before she moved to more high powered machines. She may not have the results to deserve the amount of attention she gets, but Danica has a credible racing résumé.
The Cope twins, Amber and Angela, have achieved success in karting and some other types of lesser cars, but their experience in top level racing would not seem to warrant a ride in the Nationwide Series just yet. An internet search of their names reveals a number of modeling photos, some website references based on sex appeal and the fact that they are the nieces of former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.
On Saturday, Amber Cope was well off the pace of other cars on the track and was, at the time of her encounter with Harvick, more than 30 laps behind.
But this piece is not written specifically about the Copes. One of them just happens to be at the center of this controversy. It is about any driver who has few credentials but races in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions. Just because a person offers some sort of novelty or has a family member willing to finance a ride should not be enough of a qualification to race at such a high level.
In a time in which money is the deciding factor in determining who gets a ride in a race car, sponsors will often choose marketability over ability. That’s a risky gamble in a sport with such dangerous potential. Perhaps it’s time for NASCAR to institute a more stringent induction system for drivers coming into the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series. Maybe spending multiple days with a veteran driver such a David Green or Brett Bodine to judge the potential rookie’s competence would be in order.
Or after Saturday, Kevin Harvick might even want to offer his services for driver training and judgment.
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