By admin | October 25, 2008
By Richard Allen
On the last lap of the Kroger 250 in Memphis on Saturday Landon Cassill got into Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and sent the second generation driver for a seemingly harmless spin. The thing is, however, it was not a harmless spin. It was essentially a final death nail for a struggling team.
Cassill finished 13th while Hamilton was dropped to 21st.
Hamilton briefly confronted Cassill on pit road as the cars were pulling into the garage area.
“I had sticker tires and I was on the gas,” Cassill said in a post race interview. “That’s what happens.”
Unfortunately, in modern day NASCAR that is exactly “what happens”. However, I am not referring to last lap incidents or post race confrontations. The “what happens” I am referring to is the big guy running over the little guy and benefiting from it.
Before the race Team Rensi Motorsports, Hamilton’s team, announced they would be closing their doors if sponsorship is not be found quickly. Cassill has no such worries because he drives for heavily sponsored JR Motorsports, which is really a division of Sprint Cup powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.
Overall, NASCAR has become all about the “what happens” of late.
The powerful teams are given tremendous advantages when NASCAR opts to change rules, body styles, mechanical elements and testing procedures. Teams such as Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports with the highly paid engineering staffs are able to quickly adapt to any changes made. While at the same time teams such as Wood Brothers Racing and Furniture Row Racing are left taking shots in the dark as they try to keep up.
The Top 35 rule, the Chase for the Championship, qualifying rain outs and any number of other situations only increase the advantage already held by the rich and powerful.
Another “what happens” is that those who are most responsible for the sport’s success are often neglected in favor of glitz and glamour.
The sport was built around people like the Hamilton family who have worked hard and dedicated their lives to racing. Those types are often passed over by sponsors and owners in favor of the more fashionable. Young, well schooled drivers with a certain look about them are the ones most sought after in the sport today.
Along that same line, fans who helped build the sport have suffered from “what happens”. Traditional venues such as North Wilkesboro, Rockingham and even Darlington have been forsaken in favor of such fashionable locales as Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. The result has been half empty grandstands and an ever growing sense of alienation among NASCAR’s fan base.
Landon Cassill probably thought he was only referring to one simple incident when he remarked, “That’s what happens”.
Yes, Mr. Cassill, your late race incident went at long way in summing up “what happens” in NASCAR today.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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