Sometimes I wonder about this sport we call NASCAR racing and where it is going. I look at young up and comers like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, those three the better known of an awesome class of youngsters now running Camping World Trucks, Nationwide, K&N, and ARCA. I am "friends" with several of these youngsters through the social media world and I must say that almost every one of these drivers is always courteous and always responds to any comment or post I may put on their page. One such individual, Ben Rhodes, is especially a pleasure to encounter and he is talented and very well-mannered. He’s a pretty darn good race driver as well from what I’ve seen thus far in his very young career.
I am very fortunate to have been at race tracks from a very young age and almost every one of NASCAR’s top fifty drivers selected a few years back were drivers I saw pretty much getting their start. I watched the young David Pearson, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, Rex White, Fred Lorenzen, Buddy Baker, and tons of others cut their NASCAR teeth on the tracks around the Carolinas and Georgia. I saw the crashes, the poor finishes, the running at the back of the pack, and finally the winning beginning. I watched careers flourish as the young drivers became more mature behind the wheel and many went on to accomplish great things.
When I think back to even before my time, thanks to memories relayed to me by Bill Blair and his many contemporaries, the young drivers of the early days were young men not necessarily with the dream of being a "race car driver" as the kids in the current NASCAR commercial do, but feeling the need for speed, the need to be competitive, the need to prove they had the fastest cars and where the best drivers. As we have said, so many times, things were different then and the drivers were an entirely different breed of men. This is not necessarily intended to disparage the current stars of the sport, only to say things were different then.
Having said that, I will go one step further to say that I am hoping, and from what I am seeing, have every right to expect, the current crop of up-and-comers may restore some of the elements of the sport that have taken a hiatus recently. We now have more "whiney-butts" in the sport than I ever believed possible. Thus, the title of this Legendtorial.
Let’s start with this past weekend at Bristol. Just when I thought Kyle Busch had reached a level of maturity to match his driving talent, he once more offered proof that he belongs in diapers with a pacifier stuffed in his mouth. Quick review of the weekend:
First up, the Camping World Truck Series. I have said, repeatedly, that Busch should stay away from this series. He has more money in his truck than any ten other trucks in the field put together, except the other KBM truck now being driven by NASCAR’s "Diversity Driver", Bubba Wallace. Kyle comes to the truck races and has essentially dominated that division the entire year, winning like 6 out of 8. He did lose this time, however, finally foiled by a flat tire after leading before being removed from the number one spot by Brad Keselowski and the number two spot by his "Diversity Driver". So, for Busch, strike one for the Bristol week.
Next up, the Nationwide series. Busch gave a good account of himself in this one and was leading when the final yellow flag was replaced by the green. However, a young Ryan Blaney stormed past him on the restart and was gone, Busch unable to catch the power Penske Pony over the last few laps. From my observation, Busch was play games on restarts the last two or three yellows and it finally bit him that time. To hear Kyle’s side "the leader was at a disadvantage" and as his "rear wheels were off the ground" he could keep up with Blaney. I wasn’t in any of the cars, obviously, so I am only saying that it appeared to be that Kyle got stunned by his own game playing. Blaney simply outplayed the player and won the race. Once the race was over and an interview was attempted, Busch walked very quickly trying to avoid the interviewer but, to his credit, he curtly answered the question and made the excuse about the leader’s disadvantage. Strike two for Bristol week for Kyle.
Ok, now, Saturday night and 500 laps around what is billed as the "World’s Greatest Coliseum" , which I think is obviously a reference to the intended college football game schedule for that venue later this fall rather than a race. To say Kyle was never really a factor in this race is irrelevant. He got behind on a pit road speeding penalty (his fault) and was eventually involved in a race ending accident, NOT of his making. All reports of the "discussion", putting it mildly, between Kyle and Dave Rogers, his crew chief, indicate it was a heated conversation which resulted in Kyle exiting the car and leaving the track. Back to the same old Kyle that once ran across the track under a caution and jumped the guard rail to get out of the place when his own disposition cost him a race. Strike three for the weekend. Kyle, you’re OUT!
With all this heartbreak over the week, still young Kyle Busch may have realized that he is not the absolutely epitome of the race driver D.W. believes him to be. He can, and does, make mistakes, just like any other human. But his actions at Bristol magnify the essence of what seems to be, if not prevalent, at least noticeable in the sport, noticeable to an unacceptable level. Spoiled little brats that need Pampers and a pacifier rather than a first class ride in the sport. Kyle Busch seems to lead the pack in this regard.
I do have to call out Preacher Gibbs on the fact that he seems to cater to the brat pack. Kyle Busch, whiner number one. Denny Hamlin, certainly a whiner, but not to the extent of Busch. Kenseth? Well, if he could become competitive enough this season to have something to whine about he would be in the middle of it. And now the Preacher has added crybaby Carl to the pack. Hope he buys the Pampers by the truck load because he’s going to need a huge discount on those or even his participation in the RTA isn’t going to help him recover his losses.
I’ve just about had it with the cry baby drivers and their excuses for losing races. I’ve heard Richard Petty say, and quoting now, "I got behind on my steering" when he wrecked one. I have heard Bobby Allison accept the blame for accidents in which he was involved as I have heard many others. I never once heard Fireball Roberts make an excuse blaming anyone or anything else for losing a race. Never heard Buck Baker complaining about extremely hot days in Darlington when he won three Southern 500s. Never heard Joe Weatherly complain about having to drive for seven or eight different teams to win his Championship in 1963. Never heard Pearson or Petty say the other was racing him too hard.
I know I said a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR racing was no longer a sport but entertainment. As Jeff pointed out, it has always been entertainment and he is correct, or course, but when I was growing up with it, it was a sport first, entertainment second. What has become very clear to me is that above and beyond the "sport of it", or the "entertainment of it", it is now a business. A business fueled by ridiculous amounts of money that the drivers who build the sport cannot even begin to fathom. Go back and listen to the interview with Richard Petty when he won his first Daytona 500 in 1964. Chris Economaki asked him how he felt and Richard said "$37,000.00 richer". I have never forgotten that. Find that interview and prove me right. Now, Cry baby Kyle is living in a 17 million dollar mansion, reported to be the most expensive private home in North Carolina. He hasn’t quite reached the Vanderbilt status yet.
I guess the point of tonight’s rant is to say that I hope the class of youngsters coming up are going to make the grade with talent instead of bringing vast amounts of money to the table to "buy" a ride. One of the most guilty parties there is Jack Rousch, but he is a topic for another Legendtorial at a later date. We have plenty of talented drivers coming up with some really "feel good" stories to share with us. Granted, it’s not going to take us back to the days of "Red Dirt Rising", but these youngsters may restore some of the class to the sport the spoiled brats are taking away from it. Hate to be so blunt, but I have to call it as I see it. If you don’t agree, express your opinion. We have a Forum section on the Stock Car page and I’m always open to e-mails (Bopper, give them the e-mail address. I know you love doing that). If you do agree with me, then we may need to start buying stock in Pampers and send a sympathy card or two to Preacher Gibbs.