Toni Montgomery · Thursday September 22, 2005
The Busch Series returns to action this week after a much deserved weekend off. Hopefully the teams have had some time to recharge their batteries so they can finish off the season strong. Especially the top two teams in points. A combination of a run of bad luck and some questionable gestures has closed up the standings and put Clint Bowyer well within reach of leader Martin Truex Jr. This may yet be an exciting run to the finish.
This week though I’m more concerned with stepping back a little to the last Busch race at Richmond. More specifically I want to return to some remarks made by Cup regular Tony Stewart. Stewart parked his car early, saying he wasn’t having any "fun" out there because the car wasn’t that good and also that he didn’t want to race with "idiots" who didn’t know what they were doing. I’m not saying that Stewart speaks for all of the Buschwhackers but some things about those remarks trouble me.
First of all, the part about not having any fun. I agree that to some extent drivers should be enjoying what they are doing. No one forced them to go out there and risk their lives for our entertainment after all. If a race car driver does not enjoy racing, he should consider another career option in my opinion. That being said, I wonder what would happen on a weekly basis if every driver in any series who was not having any fun just parked the car. Everyone has those days where the car just isn’t right, luck isn’t on their side, or they just can’t keep up. It’s a simple fact of racing. Usually they run anyway if for no other reason than the fact that it’s about the big picture. There are still sponsors and other members of the team to think about. What I mean by that is that you still can’t let those people down because you will need them on the days that are fun.
Another side of that issue is the fact that Stewart ran only part way and parked a car that could have run to the finish because he just didn’t want to run it. Meanwhile, other teams packed their stuff and went home early because Stewart took up a spot in the field. I feel bad for young drivers or new teams just starting out and who are in dire need of track time and didn’t get it because someone took a spot who didn’t even run the entire distance because he just didn’t want to.
In Stewart’s defense, he was having some issues and it’s entirely possible his continued presence on the track may have eventually gotten him into trouble. More trouble with NASCAR is not something Stewart, the Cup points leader, cannot afford since he is already on probation for an earlier incident at Watkins Glen after a Busch race. From his point of view I can understand if those gremlins were in his head that it was the prudent course of action to walk away before they came out. However, then I have to wonder if his best course of action would be not to run in the Busch Series at all for the rest of the season. That way Stewart avoids a potential situation that may draw unwanted attention from NASCAR and another driver and team who may need the track time more have one more opportunity to make the field. Seems like the fairest solution to me.
The other part of Stewart’s comment was in regard to the "idiots" on the track with him. Excuse me, but is Mr. Stewart referring to the other Busch drivers? I seem to remember Stewart’s first on track incident of the evening involved an argument over real estate with Busch regular Ashton Lewis Jr. Lewis runs for Team Rensi, a regular Busch operation employing driver Jason Keller, another series staple, in addition to Lewis. The gist of their argument as far as I could see involved Stewart trying to pass on the outside and in the process pushing Lewis down almost to the apron. In a reaction that I do not find surprising from a Busch regular who may be tired of his series being overrun by Cup drivers who constantly push the Busch guys around, Lewis refused to give and stood his ground. Stewart ended up in a spin. As far as I’m concerned, I share some of the frustration I believe Lewis feels and I say "Go Ashton!"
I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that in addition to taking all the top spots and big money, the Cup drivers have done their share of running over Busch regulars. Sometimes racing is just racing and I’m not necessarily saying the Cup guys should just tippy toe around. I understand sometimes racing can get a little physical. I’m not saying they shouldn’t race a Busch regular, but I am saying they could be a little more respectful at times. There have been some incidents where Cup guys unnecessarily knocked Busch regulars around. Poor behavior toward a host when you are just a guest.
As I said, I don’t believe Stewart speaks for everyone, but his attitude that evening toward the Busch regulars at least gives me cause to wonder. Are there other drivers who share that opinion of the Busch regulars? That’s cause for concern if they do. Cup drivers have gone a long way toward making a joke of the Busch Series. Many are coming to view it as just an extra practice session for Cup drivers. If I thought that they held that little respect for the regulars trying to compete in the series, that makes the situation even worse.
Personally, I hope those comments were just a little of the old Tony Stewart making an appearance and that they were nothing more than a little bout of petulance. I certainly hope it’s not the way Stewart and the other Cup drivers view the Busch Series and it’s regular drivers.
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