The Frontstretch: An Open Letter to Race Fans: Did You Cheer Knowing A Driver Could Die? by Amy Henderson -- Monday October 17, 2011

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An Open Letter to Race Fans: Did You Cheer Knowing A Driver Could Die?

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Monday October 17, 2011


Dear Race “Fans,”

Did you stand up and cheer on Saturday night when Jimmie Johnson got loose racing Ryan Newman, slamming the outside retaining wall? Did you rejoice because the seemingly invincible Johnson saw his title hopes slip away, because he wins too much, or simply because you don’t like the guy? Did you?

You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Jimmie Johnson’s Charlotte wreck was an ugly reminder of how dangerous racing can be – just one day before the worst case scenario became all too real.

Did you figure it was OK because the cars are so safe nowadays? Did you excuse it by reasoning that you didn’t really want to see him hurt; you were just happy about how it changed the points race? Did you brush it off because Johnson, within moments, was talking to an ESPN reporter like nothing was wrong? Perhaps you didn’t think about it at all because hey, crashes make the sport exciting?

You ought to know better.

Part of being a race fan is choosing your heroes and villains. But that’s not what this is about. It’s one thing to pull for your chosen driver, to stand up and scream your loyalty at the top of your lungs as if that alone will bring him home a winner. That’s what race fans do. You might even harbor a deep desire for the one you have selected as your own personal villain to have 36 engine failures in a row, melancholy mechanical disaster beginning with February’s Daytona 500. Or maybe you just secretly hope he sits on a tack. That’s called being a loyal race fan. It fuels the passion for the sport, makes watching races fun.

But cheering when a driver hits a wall, often at upwards of 150 miles per hour, sometimes at a head-on angle, crosses a line. At that moment, you don’t know whether the driver inside is going to emerge intact. Later, when he’s treated and released with no injuries, sure; be happy, relieved even that it gives the driver you cheer for help in the points. Maybe you secretly hope it will knock him down a peg from some perceived personality flaw. In German, that’s called schadenfreude, which translates into joy at the misfortune of others. It’s part of human nature, albeit an ugly part. Sports fans take joy at the misfortune of their competitors, and you know what? In the end, it’s part of what makes you a fan. But taking joy in a racecar driver slamming into a hard wall, at speeds we would never risk is no longer being a fan. In fact, it’s the opposite. There is no sportsmanship in what you did on Saturday night, race fans. None. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

People die racing cars. They die.

For NASCAR fans, it’s been ten years since a driver lost his life in a major touring series. It’s easy to think that safety in auto racing has evolved to a place where everybody will walk away from every crash. It’s not true. If you watched the IndyCar season finale on Sunday, you know that. Veteran driver Dan Wheldon lost his life because of a simple mistake on the part of another. With no time for drivers to react, a 15-car wreck ensued at speeds approaching 220 miles an hour; within seconds, Wheldon’s car went airborne and tore into the catchfence, cockpit out.

For years, fans of Danica Patrick engaged in the playful rivalry she had with Dan Wheldon. But one can only hope that in the midst of that awful accident, they didn’t stand up and cheer before recognizing the tragedy unfolding for the two-time Indy 500 winner.

It was two hours before television viewers learned of Wheldon’s death, but if you’re a race fan, you recognized the all-too-familiar signs: the tarp covering the car even as the others, some very heavily damaged, were carried away on wreckers; the car rolled onto a flatbed truck so as to protect it intact for the investigation which is sure to come; the Medivac chopper whirring to life; the long, painful wait for news, which comes quickly if the driver is reasonably unhurt but so very slowly if there is family to be notified before a public proclamation can be made; the faces of the crewmen and drivers on pit road; series officials calling all of the drivers into a lengthy special meeting. By the time the official announcement was made, there was little doubt left.

So instead of a championship celebration for Dario Franchitti, there was a sad, somber procession around the racetrack as Franchitti openly wept, his fourth title in five years an afterthought at best. Around him, the cars slowly circled the racetrack as the scene transformed from day to celebrate a season of racing and the crowning of a champion into a tearful final farewell; they ran three abreast, in Indianapolis 500 formation while “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace” played on the public address system. It was a fitting tribute for the beloved driver, a veteran who had just that very day signed a full-time deal to replace Danica Patrick at Andretti Autosport in 2012. Such a tragic end to what should have been a triumphant time; and as the dust settled for millions, the feeling was far too similar to one February Sunday in Daytona.

Do you remember that day? Were you a Dale Earnhardt fan? Did you mourn his passing as if you knew him, because in a way, you did?

You lost your hero? You cried those tears? And yet you stood and cheered when Jimmie Johnson slammed into the wall so hard that the rear wheels of his car were lifted from the ground? You shrieked with joy for an accident that looks so much like the one that killed Earnhardt that it’s truly scary. Watch video of how each one unfolds; though the two accidents begin differently, the end is eerily similar.

And give up the excuse that the SAFER barrier did its job. Yes, it did. In fact, Johnson hit it so hard that it flexed all the way to the concrete; but Las Vegas had a SAFER barrier, too. Stop pretending that as long as a driver is wearing a HANS device, he is invincible. He isn’t. Wheldon was wearing the mandated restraint, and he died anyway, because he was launched over the wall in such a manner as to render those protections useless. Safety innovations are wonderful additions to the sport, but they cannot and will not overcome the frailties of the human body 100% of the time.

There but by the grace of God go I.

The horrific scene that played out at Las Vegas could very easily have played out on Saturday night at Charlotte. That could have been you sitting in the stands, shivering and waiting on some kind of word. Johnson’s wife was sitting on the pit box; that could have been Chandra in Susie Wheldon’s place, left to raise their little girl without her father the way Wheldon’s children will grow up without theirs. Johnson’s closest friend, Casey Mears, was in his racecar, immediately asking about J.J. on the radio; that could have been him in Dario Franchitti’s place, trying to see his way through the tears to drive five laps of honor for his friend. At the moment of impact, nobody could have known that Johnson was relatively unhurt. And you cheered for that.

Don’t bother to deny it, or to say you waited until Johnson was clearly OK. We could hear you in the media center, where the reaction was a horrified gasp. In the stands, maybe you didn’t see the immediate similarity to Earnhardt’s fatal crash, but seeing it on the screen, it was hard not to.

Have you been at the racetrack when a driver has been killed? Be careful what you wish for through those smiles. It’s a life-changing experience that will leave you hollow, drained to the point that hollowness never quite fills up again.

Did you know that Jimmie Johnson lost his best friend in a wreck at Charlotte? Did you cheer that night, too, when Blaise Alexander battled for the win on the final lap – and never made it out of his car?

Luckily, Johnson walked away from his wreck; but in the risky sport of auto racing, not every driver will be so lucky every time.

And if you didn’t cheer for Johnson’s wreck, would you have cheered if it had been someone else? Kyle Busch, maybe, or Carl Edwards; Tony Stewart or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? Or were you in Las Vegas on Sunday, hooting and hollering because Will Power lost any hope for the IndyCar championship? It doesn’t matter which driver it is, in what series, on what track. Drivers die on short tracks and road courses as well as the big superspeedways. It doesn’t matter if you think that driver had it coming for winning too much, or for having a bad attitude, or for some other perceived personality flaw. Death doesn’t discriminate between the good guys and the not-so-good. It is equally unacceptable to cheer for a crash involving anyone.

So, race fans, keep cheering for your driver. Keep hoping for those 36 straight engine failures. Take great delight in the idea of him sitting on a tack. But think twice before you take such joy in a person’s misfortune when he is putting his life on the line for your entertainment. Think twice before you rejoice without knowing if a child will grow up without a father, a wife without a husband, a friend without the other. Remember if you mourned the death of another driver on another day. Show a little sportsmanship. And don’t cheer another wreck. Just don’t.

Did you cheer on Saturday night when Jimmie Johnson slammed into the wall so hard he moved the SAFER barrier nearly two feet?

You ought to be ashamed. You aren’t a race fan.

This Monday, the racing world mourns the death of a driver, husband, father, and friend. It could very easily have been the second time this weekend; at Charlotte, we certainly got lucky. But don’t be fooled; next time, the racing Gods may not be so forgiving.

Will you cheer then?

Hoping for the best,


Somewhere, in some faraway place that we cannot see, there is one hell of a race going on. Today, one more great driver joins them, running flat out, belly to the ground, as they turn for home. Goodbye, Dan.

Contact Amy Henderson

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

10/17/2011 01:22 AM

Hey Amy,

Would you have cheered if that had been Kyle Busch?

Be honest.

10/17/2011 01:27 AM

So…we’re all supposed to act high and mighty now?

You damn right I cheered.

Of course, knowing nascar, they’ll probably make some kind of change in the chase for next year because of this.

Like, “a driver is allowed one wreck with no penalty” or some stupid thing like that.

10/17/2011 01:50 AM

Hey Paul

Since I made it clear in the column that “It is equally unacceptable to cheer for a crash involving anyone“…

No, I would not.

RaceMan, I sincerely hope that you never have to face the death of a loved one through tragic circumstances. Nobody deserves to face that.

10/17/2011 01:50 AM

If that had been Kyle Busch the production team would have put up a wide angle of the crowd cheering and waving their hats in the air.

We’ve seen it many times.

10/17/2011 06:35 AM

I’m no fan of JJ, and originally I wanted him to end up being knocked out of the race, mostly from a blown tire or an engine expiring. But, when I saw that hit, it reminded me all too much of what happened to Dale Earnhardt 10 1/2 years ago, and I was concerned for JJ. However, once he got out, looked ok, I cheered the fact that he’s probably not going to be the Champ again. While I don’t like Eddie Haskell in the #99, at least we’ll have somebody different this year as Champ.

RIP Dan Wheldon.

Stephen HOOD
10/17/2011 07:35 AM

If fans are cheering at crashes it is because it has been a long time since anyone has been seriously injured and we have bought into the seeming invincibility of the safety measures of the race tracks and the COT. We have watched crash after crash in which the drivers jump out of the car with a smiles on their face and waving to the fans. There are a whole generation of NASCAR fans that started watching the series after the death of Dale Sr., so we don’t have a perspective that auto racing can kill your hero as well as the driver you loathe.

So, don’t blame the fans for a lack of sportsmanship. Put the blame on naivety and a lack of awareness and on the promotion machine that glorifies the seeming invincibility of the modern stock car. I have the sense that the drivers have bought into this ideal as well. They punt each other into the wall because of a perceived slight or to gain a track position. How may cars did Kyle Busch put his bumper to to get to the front at Charlotte going 180 mph? Doesn’t “have at it boys” encourage the fans to cheer when their least favorite drivers smash into the wall or blow a motor or loose their brakes?

My guess is Wheldon’s death will be a reminder of the possibilities that exist in our beloved sport and a sober reminder that being upside down and on fire can be gloriously cool as it was when Clint Bowyer crossed the finish line at Daytona a few years ago or terribly tragic as it was yesterday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I came home from work to catch a nap and watch a little Indy Car. I fell asleep during the opening ceremonies but was woken by the anxiety in the announcers voices. I sat for the next two horrifying hours watching the consequences unfold.

I have to admit I’ve had second thoughts about my yearly pilgrimage to Talladega next Sunday. Yet, I’ll be in the stands rooting for Junior and Harvick and Keselowski and Stewart, and I’ll pray that no one is seriously injured. I witnessed Carl’s flight into the catch fence several years ago and I don’t remember any cheering. I remember the fans sobering up for a moment and waiting for the word that everyone was OK. I’ve been known to say that the best place on the track for Kyle or Carl is upside down and on fire, and I’ll be more careful now because I don’t want anybody to die racing cars. Sometimes I forget that the drivers aren’t caricatures and demigods,but human beings made of flesh and bone and blood and muscle and their bodies are just as fragile and susceptible to death as anybody else.

May the soul of Dan Wheldon and the souls of all the departed, rest in peace.

Don Mei
10/17/2011 09:20 AM

Good column Amy, and right to the point. Most of the people who cheer in those circumstances dont have the b**** to get on a racetrack themselves. If they had any idea what it was like they would stay quiet. Sad, very sad. Theodore Roosevelt said it best;
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

10/17/2011 09:24 AM

No, Amy though I call him names and I call his crew chief names I did not cheer when Jimmie hit the wall. I have been an in-person witness to two fatal wrecks: Fireball Roberts and Sr. and when the 48 spun up from the apron at full speed I held my breath. It was so very reminiscient of Dale Sr.‘s wreck.

I waited until he got out of the Care Center and then I cheered; and I cheered some more when the cameras showed the deplorable, despicable Knaus slink away into the night.

Had anything happened to Jimmie I would have felt quite differently and would feel quite differently now.

As The Mayor said, “This is a game. It’s supposed to be fun!”

Someone getting badly hurt or killed is not fun.

10/17/2011 10:08 AM

I have had the unfortunate luck of being present to witness the deaths of 5 different nascar modified drivers. The worst was Tony Jankowiak at stafford motor speedway. I had heard on my scanner that he had died and no sooner did they cleanup that wreck I had morons around me cheering when another driver was invlved in a similar incident. That for me was enough I no longer go to the races if you have never seen a driver killed consider yourself lucky.

Bob Stafford
10/17/2011 10:46 AM

In my 74 plus years I have attended many NASCAR races and I am sure at some time we (Amy included) have all cheered for something that happoned at a race track that we did not like or agree with. I think when you (Amy) put yourself in a position of “holier than thou” in this article!! It make me think you think of yourself as a “little better than everyone else”. Quit looking down your nose and talking down to everyone.

10/17/2011 10:49 AM

Good column Amy. The cheering by “fans” when JJ hit the wall during Saturday’s race is indicative of a bigger problem. We as a society have become so desensitised to violence and hyperble that we have lost a few notches on the civility scale. Nascar, NFL, NBA, NHL,politics….it doesn’t matter. We have devolved to the point where boorish thug like behavior at “sporting” events is not only common, it’s become the norm. There is no sportsmanship in sports and that is sad.

10/17/2011 10:59 AM

Outstanding piece of work, Amy.

I have been at races where drivers gave their life for this sport. I immediately thought of my hero Dale when he gave his life for his passion. There is no joy, omly that dreadful silence and lead weight in the pit of your stomach when the terrible instinct you feel in your heart is verified.

I am not a huge fan of IRL racing but I still feel a bit guilty for watching the misfortune of others that fill the need for our excitement by being a surrogate for the dangers we never face.

May God bless their souls.

Bill S.
10/17/2011 11:03 AM

Paul is 100% right. Amy would have been LEADING the cheers if Kyle Busch were killed or seriously injured.

Why Frontstretch chose the Queen of Mean to write this column is beyond me. Amy is a vindictive, bitter shrew who hates Kyle Busch so much that she cannot let a single column go without releasing more of her venom.

You are the ultimate hypocrite, Amy. And it is incidents like the one Saturday night when fans cheered JJ’s wreck that make me embarrassed to admit I am a race fan. But as much as I dislike certain drivers, I don’t HATE anyone the way AMY HENDERSON despises Kyle Busch and wishes him dead every day of her useless life.

Admit it and at least gain some credibility.

And Stephen Hood, Kyle did not hurt a living soul in his march to the front Satruday night. Almost all crashes are caused by mechanical failure or driver error. Driver error is what killed Dale Sr. Kyle made no such error Saturday night and for you to imply that he is a danger on the track shows that you are a bitter, venomous, vindictive hypocrite yourself! Tag team with Amy for your own reality hate show!

10/17/2011 11:12 AM

No Amy, I haven’t cheered for a wreck. I get sick to my stomach everytime. I love to watch racing and some bumping but I want everyone to go home and kiss their wife and child(ren) afterwards.

Matt L
10/17/2011 11:20 AM

This seemed a little bitter to post the day after Wheldon’s death. I agree with your point completely, the dangerous similarities between the wrecks were frightening. It was an eerie reminder that a serious accident should be treated with respect. But the piece seems more focused yelling at people than trying to connect the two situations.

Don Mei
10/17/2011 11:23 AM

Paul, Bob S., Bill S., you guys really dont get it do you. I guess I should not have expected anything else.

10/17/2011 11:27 AM

After reading the Headline and seeing that it was written By Amy, My first that was the same as Paul’s.

Would Amy have cheered if that was Kyle?

While I root for all Hendrick Drivers to have problem (I believe nascar favors them, and can show example that show this).

After seeing the replay and also watching the Indycar race. I was thankful that most walked away. Both of those crashes were serious and even considering Dan Wheldon death, the safety of both series were highlighed in the minor injuries the other drivers escaped with.

10/17/2011 11:29 AM

Bill S: Please try reading for comprehension next time. “It is equally unacceptable to cheer for a crash involving anyone.

I have never, nor will ever wish catastrophic injury or death on any human being, most certainly not a racecar driver who puts his life on the line to entertainment. I do not cheer when any driver hits the wall, ever. I was at the track the day Kenny Irwin died, and I would not wish what he and his family went through on my worst enemy.

If you don’t agree with the opinions expressed in my columns, I’m fine with that. But please refrain from unfounded and completely untrue accusations in the future.

10/17/2011 11:57 AM

This is reactionary tripe Amy. EVERY PROMOTIONAL VIDEO IN NASCAR prominently features crashes. Yes is OK to cheer, dont you dare pretend it isnt acceptable just because you want to feel part of the race journalist community that is now lionizing Dan Wheldon and take a swipe at the fans of the sport. What a hypocritical article. Your fairweather stance disgusts me.

Joe W.
10/17/2011 12:42 PM

Well I don’t like Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch. As a matter of fact I rarely watch races anymore because it seems one of them is winning. Have I cheered at seeing either the 48 or 18 limping around the track with a flat tire or down a cylinder. Most surely I have! But I’ve never cheered an ugly crash. I will admit that I too have been happy to see either of them out of a race, but only after I knew thay were O.K. It’s O.K. to root against people you don’t like, but I wish no one dead. I think that was the point of Amy’s story. I understand that and I hurt for the Weldon family even though not an Indy car fan. The emotions are still raw and some on here are being very insensitive to say say the least. Come on folks let’s try to get along better than this. It seems the whole “politics blame Bush, no blame Obama” mentality is everywhere these days. Can no one just agree to disagree anymore? Isn’t that what competion is really about? RIP Dan Weldon

10/17/2011 12:50 PM

Wow, I’m coming down on the this-is-way-too-judgmental-and-self-righteous side. Of course, I cheer certain wrecks, unless its one of my favorites, then I howl and wail. It’s a part of the drama and competition, and in a tight chase, it a single wreck can dramatically swing the outcome.

Now, if a wreck looks particularly nasty I await the post care center interview. I went through several reactions as Jimmie wrecked Saturday- Oh yes, yes, yes, please oh please damage the car, Oh crap, that looked nasty, I hope he’s okay. If Jimmie, or any other driver gets hurt or, heaven forbid, dies, that’s entirely another story. I attended an Earnhardt memorial service even though he was my least favorite driver.

But to say wrecks shouldn’t be cheered is like saying football fans shouldn’t cheer a hard hit, because someone might get hurt. It’s a load of crap.

10/17/2011 01:45 PM

Most fans cheer when a driver they don’t like wrecks, but it’s not out of meanness. They don’t even think of somebody dying, they just think “ok, he’s out of the race”.

Amy, don’t tell us you’ve never cheered when a driver YOU don’t like wrecks.

If Nascar was worried about it they would change ‘degas layout.

10/17/2011 02:14 PM

So am I allowed to cheer at boxing matches? Does getting excited when someone gets knocked out make me a bad person? Please help me enlightened Don because I just “don’t get it”.

10/17/2011 02:15 PM

I think some are missing the point of Amy’s article. It was the instantaneous cheer that flowed over the TV mics and the roar of the engines that I think is where she is coming from. I could see cheering for a crash similar to the 16’s that saem night but I, no fan of 48 either dispise the whole HMS org, but was the car hit the apron and shot back up track and hit the wall I too GASPed in horror at the possibility of injury. It was way to similar to Earnhardt’s crash to be giddy about anything. Gald he was walking to the ambulance afterward. I was still not sure it he was ok after the hit until I saw the actually driving of the car versus it moving on its own. really was wishing he would have at least but the window net down sooner but the in car camera shots after he stopped told the entire story. Extremely scary incident and glad that NASCAR with all the stupid things they have done and do do, have the safety stuff right on the money. SAFER barrier, car design (crumple), HANS, seat design, etc. ALL did the jobs as designed.
Remember Martin’s crash at Charlotte a few years back as well. He had zero time to react, at minimum Johnson at least could see it coming and “be prepared”.

10/17/2011 02:30 PM

Amy had no idea you were such a fool..Great way to sensationalize your ?column today …Got to say I cheered when JJ was out,,(what a FAN does) Cause this ones good for Nascar…When some thing happens that you know theres some thing wrong most people I know arn’t cheering regardless of who the receiver is..You Know (or maybe not) COMMON Sense & respect …God Bless to the Wheldan family so sorry for your loss

10/17/2011 02:48 PM

I believe Dan hit it on the head. That was my thought, Come on Jimmie damage the car, hit the wall. OH SH!T
I hope he’s alright, that was a hell of a hit.

I do not know anyone who wants to see any driver seriously hurt or killed.

I agree with Tim, if nascar was worried about these wrecks they would do something about Dega and Daytona and “suggest” to the networks they not use the “BIG ONE” to advertise these races.

sylvia richardson
10/17/2011 03:18 PM

I am not a big fan of JJ but i would {NEVER CHEER FOR ANY DRIVER THAT HAPPEN 2.SHAME ON THOSES FANS. That could have been my driver{MARK}

Roger T
10/17/2011 03:59 PM

Glad JJ was okay, that was scary.You are right, it is bad sportsmanship to delight in a crash. That is why I cannot like Cousin Carl;he has a whole list of unsportsman like antics. Seems he is being rewarded by ESPN; now he can be a commentator, reporting on at least 5 fellow racers he has crashed or intimidated.Wonder how they feel about that??

10/17/2011 04:13 PM

This is well written and I totally understand where you are coming from, but I think that you took it too far. Ultimately racing is a competition. It is no different from many other forms of sport in which people could lose their lives. How many people cheer like crazy when a linebabcker makes a huge hit and tackle in football? How many cheer in boxing when a competitor is knocked out? Both are examples of things that can lead to (and have) to serious injury or death. Rooting for one and cheering for the misfortune of another is simply a part of the psychology of sport. Those competitors know that what they are doing is dangerous and risky. I don’t think that anyone wants to see anyone die…and saying that could have happened is just too much of a stretch because it happens all of the time in sports every single day. If you want passionate fans it is simply a part of it. I don’t think that you can ever have it both ways. That is not how rivalries work.

Bill S.
10/17/2011 04:32 PM

Don’t patronize me, Amy. My ability to read for comprehension is just fine, as is my ability to discern your true feelings expressed week in and week out in your column. You DESPISE Kyle Busch. You can proclaim that you would never wish death on anyone, but those are just the politically correct words you have to use.

It is like a KKK member saying he doesn’t really like people of color, but would never wish any harm to any of them. Everyone who reads your column knows your feelings about Kyle. And a great many of FS readers irrationally share those feelings, which is the only justification for your still having a job.

You write an opinion column and thus you are entitled to an opinion. It does NOT give you the right to use your column as a forum to express your personal animosities.

You are, indeed, a hypocrite, and I am glad to see I am not the only who has called you out on it.

Bill S.
10/17/2011 05:08 PM

Don Mei, I “get it” just fine. I just believe that with her venomous attitude, Amy Henderson is the last person who should be lecturing fans about appropriate behavior.

I don’t cheer wrecks. I also don’t throw beer cans on the track when an Earnhardt is not automatically awarded a victory. As a Packer fan, I did not wish a career-ending injury on Brett Favre as many Packer fans did when he became a Viking.

Amy is right in dissing the Jimmie-haters. But Amy fosters a climate of hate with every column she writes. So she should not cry foul when that hatred is on display as it was Saturday night.

I get it, Don. You obviously don’t.

Don Mei
10/17/2011 05:24 PM

Bill, I get it just fine. You obviously have never done any racing yourself, you are the kind of guy they make the ads full of crashes for. As to Amy’s attitude, I have disagreed with her on numerous issues, but on this one she is right. The sad thing is if you talked to any drivers you would discover their absolute contempt for anyone who is so immature as to personalize nastiness towards any one of them. Maybe you should be going to the figure eight races…they seem more your style.

10/17/2011 05:24 PM

I did cheer, but not until it was clear that he was in control of the car and driving back to the garage. My general pattern of emotion following the crash of a driver I don’t like, and I think this is true for any real race fan, is the following: immediate initial happiness which is a natural reaction to a positive outcome in a competitive setting, followed by a worry that the driver could be harmed that easily eclipses the initial happiness and lasts as long as their condition is in doubt, followed by either further happiness or sadness as the situation dictates. This is not a situation limited to racing. Fans cheer when opposing players get injured in football or hockey or any other sport, and then they cheer in relief when they’re taken off the field. The expectation is that no one is going to be seriously, permanently injured, either in racing or in other sports, and the competitive feeling takes initial precedence. You can’t be emotionally invested in a competition and be thinking of all of the possible negative outcomes at the same time.

Shayne Flaherty
10/17/2011 05:40 PM

We’re always talking about racertainment. It’s my position that “recertainment” killed Dan Weldon in Las Vegas. It’s all about the show, the hype, the racertainment. Assemble a huge 34 car field with inexperienced drivers and you get what we saw yesterday. Dan Weldon’s life ended because “the show” mattered more than each driver’s personal safety. What happened yesterday should have never happened. Period.

10/17/2011 05:50 PM

NASCAR fans that cheer wrecks are dumb or drunk. Not one person cheered when the crash began at Las Vegas. We could have drivers flip over and burst into flames and some would still cheer. It is people like that that make me wonder how much of a racing fan they truly are.

10/17/2011 06:06 PM

@Matt 5:24PM, You wrote exactly how I feel.Fans never want a driver to get permanently injured or die. Even if they don’t like them.

Don Mei
10/17/2011 06:06 PM

Well said, lugnut.

Carl D.
10/17/2011 06:19 PM

Not really a fan of this particular column; it feels sanctimonious and a bit over the top, but I certainly understand the point Amy was making. When I saw that car speeding almost head-on into the wall, all I could see was that #3 car in Daytona ten years ago. I’m no Johnson fan, but no one want’s to see someone seriously hurt or killed. Hell, I get sad when a football player gets a knee injury, even if he plays for Steve Spurrier. It says a lot about a person’s character when they cheer injury to another human being.

Bill S. … So Amy “fosters a climate of hate in every column she writes” and Matt McLaughlin is a “bitter old man”. Dude, read your own comments. The hatred and bitterness is coming from you.

Bill B
10/17/2011 06:27 PM

As I wrote in Matt’s column fans would have been just as happy if JJ would have finished 34th voluntarily, but he won’t agree to that for some reason.
Have you ever seen “Star Wars” Amy? Well to many of us JJ is “The Empire”. Him wrecking Saturday night was the equivalent of the Death Star being blown up to a lot of fans. Fans are tired of seeing the same guy win it every year so he is The Empire in many fans’ eyes. Short of death or permanent disability fans will take his being out of the championship any way they can get it.
Personally, I don’t boo drivers during introductions and I don’t cheer wrecks.

There were some good counter-points made above – specifically how fans in other sports react to hard hits (that could lead to a fatality) and how NASCAR markets the sport by replaying the worst (non-fatal) wrecks. So if this is so wrong why is NASCAR marketing the sport to people that want to see wrecks?

Being a Gordon fan I have witnessed the cheering of a violent wreck all too many times. IMO it doesn’t prove those cheering are hoping for the death of a driver, it’s that they have no class.

10/17/2011 07:12 PM

Would you have asked the ? if the incident at Las Vegas had not happened ?

10/17/2011 08:25 PM

Yes I believe Amy would have wrote this regardless

The death of Dan Wheldon just gave her a soap box to stand on and “justify” her outrage.

At one time I read ever article and writer on this site, over the years as the writers have changed and climbed onto thier soapbox’s, the number of articles and writers I read has decreased drastically.

10/18/2011 05:08 AM

I love how you have to throw in that it was the mistake of another that caused Dan’s death. Was that needed? Was it really? For you, I think, it was. Because it fits with the holier than thou attitude of this entire article. Did you cheer at the race at all knowing people could die? Did you honestly cheer knowing that an accident could happen and someone’s life could have been taken from the race that you were encouraging? I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Sounds ridiculous huh? Yours isn’t far behind.

I come from a family of racers. Four generations now. I raced myself. I took a hit so hard I can’t race anymore. I take pride in the fact that what I love doing brings joy to people. Love me or hate me, I don’t care. It’s all part of the show. We know the risks, we know the reward. It’s part of it. For most of us it’s just nice to make people happy doing what we love to do.

Bill S.
10/18/2011 09:52 AM

Don Mei, I suggest you practice “reading for comprehension.” Just exactly where did I say that I enjoy wrecks, or that ads featuring wrecks appeal to me? In fact, I said just the opposite – I do not cheer wrecks, I do not throw beer cans on the track, and I do not wish injuries on any athlete. What part of that did you not understand?

Furthermore, it is AMY who consistenly personalizes her nastiness against certain driver(s) on a weekly basis.

After Bill Elliott and Ricky Craven both suffered career and life-threatening injuries in one horrible day at Talladega in 1996, I refused to even watch the carnage there. I called NASCAR a “blood sport” for continuing to promote restrictor plate racing. And Matt McLaughlin at that time essentially told me to go to hell for criticizing his sport. It wasn’t until Saint Dale Earnhardt died that Matt had his great “enlightenment” and decided life (or at least Dale’s life) was more important than sport.

As for Amy, she had no business writing a column about hateful fan behavior when she is so full of hatred herself. I said that and I stand by it. I don’t wish her dead, but I certainly do wish her unemployed. Or maybe she could get a job at Gitmo, if there is anybody left there to abuse. In any case, she is a worse embarrassment to sports journalism than even Tom Bowles, who was ostensibly fired from Sports Illustrated for failing to uphold professional ethics. And Matt is just a bitter old man.

One thing I can always count on is that no matter how great the tragedy or triumph, FS writers will find a way to inject their personal prejudices into everything they write. Taking advantage of Dan Wheldon’s death was just the latest example. Amy used Dan’s death as a chance to be sanctimonious and self-righteous. And that is just exactly what we expect from Amy.

Bill B
10/18/2011 10:03 AM

….And yet you keep coming back to take this torment.

10/18/2011 10:41 AM

Bill S. you need to find another racing web site. One that u can identify with the writers ..nough said

Bill S.
10/18/2011 10:58 AM

Somebody has to keep these people honest. Otherwise, you get a bunch of arse-kissers saying “great column,” “well written,” when the truth is about 180 degrees away from that.

And I don’t mind standing alone for my principles. That used to be the whole point of free speech. But Americans don’t much believe in that liberal stuff anymore.

I also give Kyle’s arse-kissers hell when they get enthralled with a second place finish that even Kyle hated. I am an equal opportunity curmudgeon and proud of it, but I am happy to dole out the praise if that is deserved. In fact, back in the really old days, I thought Matt was one of the best. Sad to watch what has happened since.

Don Mei
10/18/2011 03:11 PM

How noble; how pathetic. Most of us come on here because we are gearheads and love racing. Its supposed to be enjoyable, something we all care about. If it causes you such anguish, perhaps you should just stay away; and spare me the first amendment routine…thetruth is what you make of it my friend. There are too many curmudgeons already in the day to day world of most of us. We sure as hell dont need it here. Anyway, you should be very secure in your rightousness.

10/18/2011 04:30 PM

Totally disagree with this article. When you have Nascar patting themselves on the back continuously spewing how safe these cars are to better their own agenda and race tracks glorifying wrecks on a weekly basis to get people in the turnstiles, you can probably tone down your holier than though attitude.

It took Earnhardts death for Nascar to even act on the safety of the sport, so one might say even Nascar loves the wrecks and probably cheer themselves when someone hits the wall, because that means more people might watch because the crash will be on ESPN highlights that night. Why do you think Nascar goes to Talladega/Daytona 4 times a year? I’ll answer. Because “The Big One” sells tickets. And whether you like it or not, there is a section of the fan base that watches just for the crashes.

I guarantee you fans who do not like JJ, but are real racing fans were not cheering that he might be injured or worse. They were just happy to see that he was out of the race and maybe out of the championship. You do know that it was a big moment in the Chase when he crashed. That’s why they cheered. Saying they were cheering because he might be hurt brings lunacy to a whole different level.

Mary in Richmond
10/19/2011 04:13 PM

I don’t cheer until after I see a driver is okay after a crash. I want the car to be irreparable, not the driver.


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
Earnhardt Out For Charlotte and Kansas After Talldega Concussion
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