Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

Posted on: June 28, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 5:18 pm
By Pete Pistone

  Brian Vickers, Driver Of The #83 Red Bull Toyota, Drives
(A number of cars looked like Brian Vickers' damaged Toyota after Sunday's race in Sonoma - Getty Images)

There are three main reasons why Sprint Cup Series road course racing and evolved from a sedate single file parade into the most aggressive form of competition on the schedule: 

The introduction of double file restarts two years ago changed the complexion of every race but none so dramatic as the two road course visits each season. Drivers now find themselves side-by-side with one another when the green flag reappears after caution and are forced to take the opportunity and battle tooth and nail for every inch of real estate. It’s ramped up the intensity level to nearly off the chart levels and in the process led to some of the most emotional outbursts the sport has seen in some time. 

The next generation Sprint Cup car is much more durable than its predecessor and can sustain greater damage than the old model. There not quite tanks as some of the road racing interlopers have called them but today’s NASCAR stock car can withstand a ton of impact and yet survive. It more than likely leads some drivers to feel a bit more confident about being able to rebound from contact with another car or even a guardrail or tire barrier when making a move during a heated road racing moment.

NASCAR’s “Boys Have at It” mantra has given drivers pretty much free rein to hand out justice however they seem fit. Since the policy went into effect the line between what’s accepted behavior on the racetrack and what’s out of bounds hasn’t been blurred but rather obliterated. 

Without fear of retribution from the sanctioning body, more and more drivers feel obliged to take out their frustrations on fellow competitors who may have laid a fender to them or made contact while fighting for position. The tight quarters of road courses like Infineon Raceway provide more than enough opportunity to get physical and aggressive. 

Judging from Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 this at times hostile style of road racing isn’t going away anytime soon. 

But has it gone too far? Do fans really want to see a game of high-speed demolition derby or is actual racing for position the object of their affection? 

The difference between Saturday’s Nationwide Series road race at the picturesque Road America circuit and the Sprint Cup headliner in Sonoma was startling. 

The Nationwide Series race did feature aggressive driving at times to be sure. But overall there was more a style of fierce competition and battling for position than there was the constant paybacks and revenge that punctuated the Cup affair. 

There were drivers aggravated with one another when the checkered flag finally flew in Wisconsin Saturday after the bizarre overtime finish. But aside from Max Papis desperately trying to get his destroyed car back on track for what appeared to be the sole purpose of taking out Jacques Villeneuve in the aftermath of their dust-up, the vengeance factor wasn’t that high. 

Fast forward to Northern California where the Sprint Cup guys seemed to start the race in a bad mood. Tony Stewart vs. Brian Vickers, Robby Gordon vs. Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya vs. the field……there was no shortage of feuds taking center stage in Sonoma. 

Drivers showing extreme emotion and passion are wonderful things and an element many fans believe had been missing from the sport for awhile. 

However there’s a limit and when constant paybacks and a “wreck ‘em if you can’t race ‘em” mentality becomes the show it cheapens the race in my opinion. 

I actually enjoyed the Nationwide road race more than I did the Sprint Cup event, which became a bit tiresome after awhile with all the motorized roller derby antics. 

It’s undeniable that road course racing in NASCAR has become more interesting in the last two years. However the over the top way it’s currently heading has the potential to make the top level of stock car racing’s pair of road races a season tedious for other reasons.

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Category: Auto Racing

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: June 30, 2011 12:05 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

I don't mind the Boy's have at it approach, but it does need to be monitored and have a certain amount of control on what the Drivers can get by with.. I agree with most Montoya needs to be given an attitude ajustment. He reminds me of Ernie Ervin, most of you remember him. They had a drivers only meeting with him and set him straight, and after that he drove with a little more patients.

From what I saw the Stewart vs Vickers first scuffel was pretty much a boy's have at it racing move, but it also effected other cars. It in effect took out the 88 car with a punctured radiator. I don't remember the numbers of the other cars involved, but several got banged up from that move. I am a fan of Stewarts, but I think it was a litle early in the race to make a move like that, but then again I can see where on a road course, as hard as it is to pass, you might feel you have to grab every chance you can to get around another car.

Spikes has shown that he is very knowledgeable in Nascar and just because I don't agree with him on everything, does not make him wrong. You have to have aggresive driving which will generate banging around and wrecks. I have no problem with getting even with a driver if he consistently bangs on you with over driving, that to me means he/she does not have control of their car. But to come out on the track with a banged up car that is not race worthy just to get even isn't very good sportsmanship. There is alway's another race to figure out how to get even, if it is still bugging you.

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: June 29, 2011 5:36 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

I don't disagree with your whole post Spikes, as you know because we've gone back and forth on this issue before on other threads.  I like watching good cars race it out just as much as you.  However, I also like to see the emotion side of it, because thats how NASCAR was born.  It was the raw emotion of Petty, Earnhardt, Allison, Pearson, Yarbourough, etc. that made NASCAR what it is today.  Thats why you always hear guys like DW talk about drivers policing themselves back then.  Someone blatantly took you out, ok, you're turn at him was almost guaranteed.  I'd rather see some emotion than robots out there.

Now, here is the difference I see between back then and today....and its all in the driver attitudes.  Back then, I feel like most of the wrecks were done purely through racing deals, with the occasional payback for gettin into someone.  Today, it seems like everyone has a short fuse, and guys are getting taken out for "racing too hard", whatever the hell that means.  If you beat and bang, you can expect the same back, but when guys are being taken out for "racing too hard", or in Montoya's case shear stupid driving, then it becomes a problem.

Since: May 29, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:49 am

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

My apologies on all the grammatical errors in my previous post.  That's what happens when you post on CBSSPORTSLINE at work and you're in a hurry.  Wink

Since: May 29, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:46 am

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

    I can see your point and in a lot of ways your right.  However, I think you are a minority fan as opposed to the majority.  The aggession, the tempers, the dramatic scenes on and off the track is how NASCAR got to where it is.  Where was NASCAR before the Yarbrough VS Allison wrestlemania in the infield of Daytona on national television.  The fiery crashes, the cars going air born back in the day, Rusty Wallace bouncing a water bottle of Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s head during and interview. That's the stuff that got NASCAR famous.  These back water hillbillies and their "nobody mess' with me attitudes" are the building blocks on the NASCAR empire.  Today's groomed buisnessmen in a racing suit drivers, who are barely old enough to drive on the road legally, is what is killing the sport.  That and some of the ridiculous rules the current France regime has instituted.  I like watching a good green flag race as much as anyone, but this is an emotional sport and when tempers flare, and they will, racing "accidents" will happen.  And at least for me, that makes the candy all the more sweeter. 

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:15 am

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

Juan Pablo Montoya needs to be put on probation. When is this guy going to learn? Spun Kahne for no reason, easily could have taken out more. He's just dumb.

I have no problem with what Joey Logano did, I have no problem with what Vickers did, and mainly because Gordon and Stewart deserved it. And I do not like Brad Kesolowski, but hey, I was cheering after he took out Montoya.

Since: Aug 17, 2010
Posted on: June 29, 2011 8:29 am

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

On road courses where the road is only 15ft long you are going to see crammed cars and forced decision making. People will lose patience and try something crazy, but hey its racing. Someone may get spun out and someone may make a move that seemed impossible. But one thing is for certain...I was so glad Juan got knocked out in the end...and yet crazy nervous at the same time because he was put right behind my guy Allmendinger.

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: June 29, 2011 7:02 am

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

Spikes I rarely disagree wityh comments you make because most of the time I agree with you, this time though you are semi wrong.  I have been attending NASCAR events since the early 70's and the bumping and bangin has allways been a part of the sport.  Taking out other drivers when given that chance has allways been there, its been as big a part of NASCAR as the race itself. Sure there have been a few races here and there that go the distance caution free but the majority of the time you have cautions in the races caused by another driver taking out the car in front of him. Petty did it, Dale did it, Yarbrough did it, they have all done it. What I do disagree with is the blatant attempts to take a car out. Stewart attempted to get by Vickers several times and Vickers continually blocked his moves with a much slower car, he deserves to have been spun out. Vickers on his punt of Stewart, on the other hand was done deliberately, he even paused on the track to allow Stewart to get in position for the deed, that pause caused problems for not just Stewart but other drivers on the track. His total disregard for other drivers was quite evident. I believe the boys have at it was not meant to be in this direction.  Now Spikes, please think back, because I believe you have been to enough races to know what I am saying is true, this racing has allways been the type where a driver might decide the best path to the front might be spinning the one in front of you. It was never thier intent to harm the driver but only to get to victory lane.

Since: Nov 30, 2008
Posted on: June 28, 2011 11:14 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

I couldn't agree more Pete.
I have followed Nascar pretty good since 1972, attended my first cup race in 1974.
I have seen a lot, listened to MRN every Sunday pretty much since 74, obviously we didn't see see wrecks and want revenge on or over the radio waves, But we enjoyed the green flag stops and cars running down other cars that started at faster race paces than others, see the technology wasn't as good then as today and you had to take care of your car more, red line was about 7000rpm's and you couldn't run 7000 all day long in a 500 mile race. Today 9000 to 10000 is normal.
The manufactures race was always a battle on the track, Big Blocks racing small block engines and new body styles coming out all the time. Tires were bias ply and you had to take care of them and not burn them up in just a few laps. Point is, it was the racing we loved, all of it.
We didn't like the wrecks, they slowed up the race, and the slingshot and drafting was key to winning along with skill, determination, innovation and guts and glory, no power steering, no cool suits, just pure racing. Now don't get me wrong the safety side is great and I don't want to get away from that, I have been in attendance to the death of 3 (one cup driver, 2 Indy Drivers) drivers and one crew member(RP's bother in law at Dega), I do not want to go back to stupidity with safety like 130 MPH down pit road. but this side show WWE circus we see today is hard to take, Like Kyle Busch said over the radio at Pocono after Harvick put him in the infield...Can we just get back to the racing. Amen to that.

I fell in love with the cars, the events themselves, drivers with personality, and when a driver made a personal threat towards another driver, he mean't he was going to out run him in the next race, not put him out of it.

The best two races I ever saw was almost caution free, one car made up two laps and was over 4-1/2 miles behind the leader, it was fun watching for two hours the stop watch and all those different pit strategies, it was man vs.machine at its best, Crew Chief vs CC, it was just the racing and its sad that its come to this, Nascar is in a downward spiral, and if they feel the need to entertain some of the posters here on this thread, good luck with that, because the very minute we have some really good green flag pit stops these non-racing fans are turning the channel looking for violence and blood, Nascar might as well forget its roots and old fans like me that just likes the cars, events and the pageantry of Nascar, and Nascar is supposed mean racing, I think we have lost our way, and I don't have an answer. Spikes. 

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 28, 2011 10:58 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

I'm not a fan of wrecking someone for no reason.  However, I also think it's ridiculous when someone can crash a guy and faces no repercussions.  Since there are no fouls in racing for contact like there are in other sports (which I'm glad), it gives guys the mentality that they need to take it into their own hands when they feel they were wronged. 

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: June 28, 2011 10:28 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

"Wrecking people on purpose has never been a part of "racing" and is not what the sport was ever about"

I guess Pistone never watched Dale Earnhardt Sr. "race"

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