By admin | November 22, 2009
By Richard Allen
Paybacks are…Well, you know.
This weekend’s racing at the Homestead-Miami Speedway featured plenty of payback and it made for some entertaining stuff.
In the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, the brewing rivalry between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski came to a head. Hamlin promised payback for previous fouls, and he delivered.
Hamlin caught Keselowski and sent him into the spin cycle early in that race. NASCAR penalized Hamlin one lap for rough driving as a result.
On Sunday, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya found themselves tangled together on more than one occasion. After a bump from Montoya to Stewart on one side of the track, Stewart slammed Montoya’s car and caused a flat tire which resulted in a bump with the wall on the other side of the track.
Montoya retaliated on Stewart by sending him for a spin after the #42 car returned to the track following a stint in the garage. He was penalized two laps, which didn’t really mean much to a guy already multiple laps down.
NASCAR could use a lot more rivalries like these two cases. The sanctioning body actually did well not to over-penalize the combatants. Hamlin was able to recover from his penalty and record a top-5 finish. And as was said, Montoya’s penalty was inconsequential.
As long as no other innocent bystander is collected, paybacks could even go completely unpunished. Penalties ought to be doled out only if others not originally involved are collected.
Those that believe folks who dare to criticize NASCAR are stuck in some time warp and see things as better in the ‘good ole days’ like to point out statistics such as the number of cars on the lead lap at the end of a race as a way of claiming racing is better now than it was ‘back in the day’. What people such as myself are trying to point out is that racing used to be a sport filled with passion, emotion and grit. It has nothing to do with the number of cars on the lead lap at the end of a race.
Rivalries and payback were once every bit as much a part of racing as points and trophies are today. The sport misses that element badly. Such activities provide a reason to tune in and stay tuned in.
Today’s antiseptic NASCAR does not offer much of this sort of thing. That’s why such a big deal was made of Hamlin vs. Keselowski and Stewart vs. Montoya. In the days of Petty, Pearson, Allison, Baker and Yarborough this type stuff was commonplace, and it was exciting.
Let’s hope 2010 offers more rivalries and even a few more paybacks.
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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