First off, let me say that I am not a huge sports fan. I leave that to the hubby. He loves sports. Of all kinds. Baseball (probably takes the cake), racing (NASCAR, F1, Indy…it doesn’t matter), football, hockey – he likes just about any kind of sporting action.
Me? I don’t mind most sports (certainly not my first choice – that would be watching crime and/or medical dramas or movies, but that’s a discussion for another day), but I do occasionally watch some sports with hubby.
Tonight, that was the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race that was being held at Charlotte Motor Speedway in my home state of North Carolina. (No, unfortunately, we did not attend (though Jon certainly wishes we could have). We watched the television coverage.)
So, why has NASCAR lost all of my respect?
In case you haven’t seen the coverage of the incident, let me bring you up speed: a rope that helps to operate an overhead camera broke. It got tangled up in the bottom of one racer’s car (Marcos Ambrose) and did some damage to a few other vehicles (the most notable, or at least the only one who reporters talked about, was Kyle Busch). As a result of the incident, the race was yellow flagged before eventually being red flagged so that clean up could occur, as pieces of rope were all over the front stretch of the track.
As soon as the incident occurred, Marcos Ambrose exited the track at the next possible opportunity and went to his pit box to begin the tedious work of trying to untangle the rope from underneath his car. The rest of the folks stayed out behind the pace car. Ambrose’s team was hard at work while others were wanting to wait it out.
NASCAR decided that they should give every team 15 minutes, under red flag, to do any work to their vehicle that can occur during a normal pit stop (no changing engines or anything like that – but general repairs, tires and fuel were allowed). Jon and I were sitting here watching and listening to this being announced and had great surprise at their decision. Sure, it stinks that something happened that has damaged several cars. Sure, it wasn’t the driver’s fault that their car was caught up in the middle of the problem. But because of their decision, the true stars of the racing world can’t show what they’re made of.
Here’s the thing, though, how can you come to a conclusion that this was the appropriate way to handle the situation (let alone the issue of making up new rules as you go along)? It may not have been “their fault” that this happened but, is it the driver’s fault that they wreck as a result of another driver’s error? Look at one of the (many) wrecks that occurred in the last 100 miles of the race. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr came up the track and into Danica Patrick (his girlfriend, of all people – she really needs to talk to him about chivalry and not wrecking your girlfriend…but that’s another issue for another day). As a result, she slid up into Brad Keselowski wrecking him and doing some damage to her car in the process. He was done after that, and she tried to make repairs to get back on the track. So, because Brad (and Danica, too) were innocent bystanders to the cause of this wreck, should they let them make repairs and come right back out where they were as if nothing had happened? No. That would be silly.
So why did they do it here? A freak incident? Well then, why didn’t they allow Jeff Gordon to make necessary repairs to his car as the track broke beneath him and damaged his vehicle at Martinsville? Because he’s not “the golden boy”? I would believe that. We are under the assumption that because the “golden boy”, Kyle Busch, was in the lead when the cable broke (and did damage to his car that needed repair), that was a significant reason for the “let’s allow any car to make any repair they need to without penalty”.
So then, what about Marcos Ambrose? He was already on pit road making repairs when they decided to allow this “repair without worry” for all teams. Does that mean he has to start from the back? No. NASCAR ruled that every car would start in the same position they were in when the caution came out. From what the reporters were saying, they wanted the drivers to all start on an even footing (so the fuel and tires were encouraged). So here was my problem with that: Marcos had to run the track to make up the laps he missed so that he was at the same point the rest of the drivers were before they went back to yellow and eventually green flag racing. But he couldn’t come back in to change tires and fill up with fuel to be on even footing with the rest of the field. So he was at a disadvantage (however minute, a disadvantage nonetheless). So much for “even footing”.
Yes, it stinks that some drivers had their cars damaged by the rope. Sure, the drivers who had the damage had nothing to do with the problem. But that’s racing. Why not let your drivers and their pit crews show what their made of? They took the element of competition out of the race by allowing these repairs to happen. They took away respect for the sport by making up rules as they went along. They allowed room for a huge can of worms to be opened as a result of their decision for this race. The precedent has been set, and may I say it was a terrible one to set. The have made a joke out of NASCAR.
In the end, if Kyle had not been leading (or in very close contention for the lead), I don’t think this would have even been an “option” in the minds of NASCAR officials.
My consolation: Kyle’s engine blew and he stormed off like a 2 year old who had his toy taken away (even as his crew was wanting to repair the problem!). A very classy move. At least he didn’t win. But, if he had, Jon and I joked that the first person/group he would have to thank would be NASCAR for allowing him to win.