Almost everyone who has been around the sport of NASCAR for more than a week already knows that there are NO NASCAR rules written in stone, nor are the rules which are written in the "magic book" always enforced the same way when applied to different competitors, depending upon that competitor’s standing in the sport. I am still trying to understand how Clint Bowyer was not penalized and thrown out of that infernal Chase last year when he was the violator. Poor Martin Truex was an innocent as a new-born babe, if any such thing can be said about anyone driving for MWR, but Martin hadn’t done a thing. When the dust settled over that debacle, Brian France determined that Jeff Gordon would become the 13th man in the Chase, although only twelve were supposed to be allowed by the Chase format. Poor Martin was out. Completely out! Brian said he put Jeff Gordon in the Chase because he "could". Nice thought.
This year the Chase format went through yet another change in some convoluted effort by NASCAR to invent a playoff system. Somehow, that doesn’t really sit well with me, but as we have discussed on here before, it "is what it is" and we have to live with it. No matter all the various scenarios that have been discussed ad nauseam on so many sites. It does become even more interesting now that Rick Hendrick has all four of his cars in the Chase. Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the final race comes down to the four Hendrick cars battling it out. Does Rick order three of his drivers to stay back so Jimmie can win a seventh? Does he order that Jeff be given number five? Even better, does NASCAR order that Junior gets his first title so as to make Junior Nation ecstatic with joy and anticipation for the 2015 Daytona 500? Who knows, but all of those statements were just thoughts about what could happen if it worked out that way.
Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the story of a certain party who was confronted by Big Bill France for violating a rule. The party in question pointed out, correctly, to Big Bill that there was no such rule in the rule book. Big Bill got a pencil, wrote it on a blank page in the rule and told the party "now there is". I have heard that story from some very reliable sources, one in fact who was present at the time, so there is no doubt that happened. Still happens.
Brings us to one of the subjects of this Legendtorial. NASCAR has a "catch-all" statement in its rules which says "Except in Rare Circumstances". There is no clarification as to what would qualify as a "Rare Circumstance", but that is sort of like the "actions detrimental to stock car racing". Now, because of that Chase deal, NASCAR was put in the position of exercising the "rare circumstances" clause in behalf of Tony Stewart. Although the rules say a driver has to attempt to qualify for all 26 races leading up to the Chase, NASCAR has agreed to waive that rule in favor of Tony Stewart, who returned to his team for Sunday night’s event at Atlanta, or as Dave Fulton so eloquently named it, "The Toothbrush 500". Love that one Dave. Under the "waiver" granted to Stewart, IF, and it is a huge "IF" he could win at Atlanta, or win at Richmond this coming Saturday night, he would be qualified for The Chase.
Let me make this perfectly clear. I have absolutely NO problem with Tony being granted an exemption from the rules in this case and while it is highly doubtful that he will win at Richmond, there is that possibility. As Tony has proved in the past, it is possible that he goes on a tear and wins the Sprint Cup. That is a far-fetched assumption on my part, but it is possible. Where would that leave NASCAR should that happen? Under the circumstances, the negative press generated would be huge for the sanctioning body. Please allow me to explain.
First, without reservation I will say that I support Tony Stewart. Further, my heart-felt sympathy goes out to the Ward Family. A mother and father lost a son, three sisters lost their brother, and so many folks lost a friend when Kevin Ward, Jr. was killed in a racing accident. Please note the "key words" here, "racing accident." There have been many deaths on race tracks over the years and there are certain to be others in the future, regardless of the safety innovations incorporated at the tracks and in the cars. The very nature of the sport is death-defying, we all know that. Doesn’t make for pleasant thoughts, but it’s a fact. I support NASCAR with its decision to present a "waiver" to Tony, although I don’t really think it’s going to make a difference as to getting him in the chase.
All of us listening tonight, or reading this later, know how mainstream media has already crucified the sport of auto racing in general, as well as NASCAR, and one sub-human idiot Jeff mentioned last week was trying to blame Kevin Ward’s death on the "Southern Red-Neck Mentality". Yep, that is name calling, and I’m not finished yet. Jeff once told me he never wanted to read my Legendtorials ahead of time because he would NEVER censor what I wrote, although I’m sure he sometimes wonders if I’m of sound mind. (The secret answer to that Jeff is "no").
In addition to the mainstream media, we have thousands of Katie Keyboards and Larry Laptops out there banging out opinions and edits using such names as "media, journalist, scribe," and a half-dozen other monikers. Some write as if their entire life experience consists of the opinions they offer and to question those opinions is to ask for retaliation with more mindless words from the source.
Consider this for me please. I have spent the better part of three days trying to recall every time I have uttered the ignorant "I know how you feel" words. I can’t actually recall a time I did that but I’m sure, because that seems to be an expected response to tragedy, that I have done it at some point. I would offer this opinion without qualification as it requires none! There is NO WAY I am going to know how you feel about anything, even if you tell me, and you sure aren’t going to know how I feel even if I tell you. To all those scribes, journalists and media folks out there trying to express what Tony feels or what the Ward family feels, please shut the hell up! You are clueless, just as I am. What a person feels in any such tragedy cannot be expressed to another in words or actions. The events in upstate New York have destroyed many more lives than just that of Kevin Ward, Jr.
Ten years from now, maybe 15, very few fans outside of Tony Stewart and the Ward Family are going to even remember the accident. True dat as that say. Don’t believe that? Ask around to fans around the sport about Kenny Irwin, Adam Petty, Blaze Alexander. Sure, the circumstances weren’t quite the same but nevertheless a driver was lost. Think of this. Buren Skeen, killed at Darlington in the 1965 Southern 500 is remembered only by those of us who were there or who had close connections to the racing scene at the time. Yet, I wonder how often Reb Wickersham thinks of that accident? Wonder how many times Sam Sommers thinks of Don MacTavish? See there folks, except for a few of us old timers, those names are unknown. But to me, those events are still crystal clear to me.
Being a race fan is an awesome responsibility when you are allowed to express opinions through social media. Back in the day, we wrote letters to the Editor of Southern Motorsports Journal, or other such printed media, where an actual Editor would read and approve what was printed. I don’t know how many letters received went in the round file, but I do know I had quite a few printed. The current media, journalist, scribes, whose connection to the sport is having bought tickets to watch races from the grandstand are entitled to their opinions and are entitled to print those on any site that allows such discussion. I have no problem with that, but when you start to tell me, or even intimate that you know what someone is feeling, then I repeat, "shut the hell up".
I remember an interview Johnny Mallonee and I conducted at the AIRPS event back in 2009 when Johnny accused me of telling him to shut up. At the time, I assured Johnny that I did not use the "shut up" words and a playback of that interview clearly indicates I used "Hush". I would be so kind here tonight, but I’m just sick of the flow of words from all corners.
Tony Stewart will suffer the rest of his life for what happened, no matter what exemptions NASCAR allows him, but I will not even begin to say how he suffers. Only Tony knows that and it is his right to keep that to himself. All of the Ward family suffers, but again, I will not pretend to "know how they feel". It is not for me, or you to know. There has been a tragedy the press continues to hype and listening to all the back a forth between the broadcast crew for both the Saturday night Nationwide race and Sunday’s "Toothbrush 500" it is time to let that lie. As we head into Richmond Saturday, even if Tony should win the race, when the Victory Lane interview is handled, I hope no one is idiot enough to ask Tony if the win makes it "all better". Please don’t let that happen. There is no cure for stupid, as we have often said, but I hope no such stupid comments come out of anyone’s mouth, or keyboard, over what may happen if Tony does win.
Until next week, it is my turn to "hush".