The Frontstretch: NASCAR's Punks by Toni Montgomery -- Wednesday January 11, 2006

Go to site navigation Go to article

NASCAR's Punks

Toni Montgomery · Wednesday January 11, 2006

 

Kurt Busch is most definitely a punk. At times, his younger brother Kyle is, too. Kasey Kahne? Casey Mears? Brian Vickers? All punks…how could they not be? They are all young men under the age of 30, and it’s just a fact of nature that this is what I think young men do at that age. Some are better than others at projecting the idea that they are mature beyond their years, attempting to show the cool demeanor of a veteran. It’s an image they have to project because it is what the sponsors and the fans expect from them…but underneath? They are still young men and thus, they still have some punk in them no matter how hard they try to bury it. Push any young man far enough, and the punk will come to the surface.

In the letters sections of other publications, I keep reading submission after submission from readers complaining about these drivers and their behavior. Some fans, admittedly mostly older ones, feel these drivers lack respect for their elders, respect for their teams, and even respect for themselves at times. They don’t like the image these drivers project. They worry about the future of NASCAR if it is to be left in the hands of these drivers.

Their fears are not without basis. But these fans are missing the big picture. This might be the new generation of NASCAR, and these drivers may be the ones who are left to carry on as the veterans depart, but Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and all of the others will not be twenty-somethings forever. They will most likely mature and truly develop the temperament the fans seem to desire, but that’s only going to come with age.

Don’t believe me? Turn back the clock on some of NASCAR’s current veteran stars. Better yet, start with the reigning champion. No one will argue that Tony Stewart spent the early part of his NASCAR career being the biggest punk out there. He has always had a fun and caring side to his nature, but it was often lost behind the tantrums and the bad attitude. NASCAR’s reigning champion is now 34 years old, and what do you think of him now? He’s all grown up, and the mature side has started to come out. Few will argue that he’s a changed man, and his popularity has gone from NASCAR deadbeat to fan favorite nearly overnight.

Michael Waltrip once tried to punch out Lake Speed. Waltrip was a punk. He was only following in the footsteps of his older brother Darrell, who was the biggest loudmouth punk NASCAR had ever seen in his younger days. Kyle Petty, son of NASCAR’s version of royalty, had a few scraps in his day too. If memory serves me, one of those fights was with Michael Waltrip. Punk. Davey Allison had a temper that would’ve rivaled Tony Stewart. Punk.

Ask Richard Petty what he thought of Dale Earnhardt in his early years, and you know what he would probably tell you? Punk. It’s no secret that the veterans of that time didn’t think much of Earnhardt or his driving style when he first appeared. Ricky Rudd? Rusty Wallace? Punks, all of them. And yet, today, they are the respected veterans and the ones most fans point to as the example of what the younger drivers should aspire to be.

Most young men grow up eventually, and with that growing up comes the maturing of manners and attitude that Tony Stewart has undergone. It’s just going to take a little patience on the part of the fans. If you’re still not convinced, I know who you might be thinking of…Robby Gordon. Still a punk and older than Stewart. Well, I can account for that too. First thing you likely think of when you think about Robby is that he’s a punk. The second thing you might notice about him (or at least the second thing I think of anyway) is that for a guy in his mid 30’s, there still a lot of a little boy left in him. Gordon is one of those who surrounds himself with "toys" and approaches things with the enthusiasm of the young. What can I say, it just takes some men longer than others to grow up. For those of you unfamiliar with Paul Tracy, you’ll see when he arrives in NASCAR that the "Thrill from West Hill" approaches life in much the same way. I guarantee you the powers that be at NASCAR are well aware of this fact, and I can also guarantee you that as we speak, Mike Helton is already preparing a seat for Tracy in the big white trailer in anticipation of his imminent arrival in the NASCAR ranks.

Still don’t believe me? OK then, I have one more little exercise for you. Think back. Think back to when you were a twenty-something. This is for you women, too. I’m not sure if women are properly called punks, but that’s what we all were. See Danica Patrick. She’s a punk, too. Anyway, think carefully about yourself. Maybe you had excellent manners, and that’s great, but think deeper. While you were respecting your elders and minding your manners, think about what was going through your mind. Did you believe everything they say every single time they said it? Or did you turn the other cheek?

Now, the next time Kyle Busch or Brian Vickers flash that temper and act like a punk, remember that they are young men, and put yourself in their shoes. Fast forward twenty years, and I can just see myself writing this same article to explain the behavior of the sons of these same young drivers. Twenty years down the road, those sons will be the punks, and today’s young drivers will be the veterans we wish their sons would emulate.

NASCAR NEWS, RIGHT TO YOUR INBOXAND IT’S FREE.
The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

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
FREE NEWSLETTER! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP

 

©2000 - 2008 Toni Montgomery and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

M. B. Voelker
01/12/2006 06:44 AM
permalink

AMEN!

camino
01/12/2006 04:04 PM
permalink

Don’t even mention one of the classless Bushes with the likes of Allison, Wallace,Rudd, Petty. No comparison

Jerry
01/12/2006 04:22 PM
permalink

Times are different Wallace, Rudd, Petty, Elliot, Labonte(s)and Martin all grew up in a different era, when kids were all taught to respect their elders. By the way im 25

Toni
01/12/2006 05:11 PM
permalink

We may have been taught to respect our elders and perhaps we outwardly showed some degree more of it (although in the search of my memory to find a decade when that was truly the case—that the young truly respected what their elders stood for instead of rebelling against it, I have to say historically I’m back to the 1920s visualizing flappers and still looking…) but in truth, most of us still have to pee on the electric fence for ourselves and suffer the consequences before we really grow up and admit they may have been right. By the way, I’m somewhere over 30.

Robby
01/12/2006 09:34 PM
permalink

Well, I can tell you this, I am 31, just hitting the wall (no pun intended)...and I know I handle things differently now than I used to, though I am still a punk, I am changing…I believe every man does. Those who bitch about nascar’s youth are missing the big picture. Sales. If you dont have the youngins you dont have nascar, period. No one wants to see a bunch of old guys (no offense to any vet) out there driving perfect and doing it w/no emotion. Youth have passion, conviction, emotion, determination, tenacity, and lots of talent and balls….this is what sells tickets and tv packages….and that is the bottom line.

Jack
01/12/2006 10:17 PM
permalink

Perhaps the “silver spoon” shines brighter than in the past.

Harry
01/13/2006 01:35 AM
permalink

Tony, I agree with all you said 100%, Thanks, hag

Nikki
01/13/2006 09:45 AM
permalink

Robby, I respectfully disagree with your post. I don’t think you have to be young to have those qualities you mentioned (passion, conviction, etc.). I look at guys like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, and several others, who have all those qualities you describe. And while it may be the younger drivers that have brought NASCAR a little more publicity, there are plenty of people who watch NASCAR because of the veterans. But it’s not about age. It’s about respecting those who have come before you and who have made the sport. From Lee Petty to Tony Stewart, these “kids” coming in today need to remember that tenacity, determination and talent are fine, but they need to respect their competitors, too, whether it be a veteran or a fellow “punk”.

HUDSON HORNET
01/13/2006 04:00 PM
permalink

Hello,

My name is HUDSON HORNET, and I’m a punk.

I’ve been around at least as long as NASCAR and, although I have mellowed somewhat, I still haven’t successfully completed a 12 step program.

I often wonder if there’s any hope for me? Getting this through my head is about as hard as it was passing Dick Trickle before he retired. But, with age goes memory. I forget what Dick called his farewell tour.

Interesting light you shed on the subject. Two thumbs up.

Carl Pieper
01/14/2006 07:38 AM
permalink

Toni:

Very good points and I personally feel that the new young guys have physical ability but the lack of seat time the way we did it in old scholl was to earn it not buy it. NASCAR,Hendrick,Rousch etc. ate allowing the wealthy to buy their way in and the “kiddies” simply lack maturity,both knowledge and personal respect.
Very few of them know anything about a car. The Musgraves,Trickles etc. would make these kids look sick if they had the monies to back them like the “punks” do.
NASCAR makes me sick that they are allowing this.
Point Blank. NASCAR made racing and NASCAR is destroying racing because Brian France and his harrem are punks as well.

77KJAX
01/14/2006 03:44 PM
permalink

... IT’S EASY TO JUST MAKE A LIST & CALL SOMEBODY A PUNK …... WHERE ARE YOUR EXAMPLES OF WHY EACH OF THEM ARE A PUNK ? I AGREE ON SOME , SOME NOT …... CASEY MEARS IS ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTFUL YOUNG PEOPLE I’VE SEEN IN YEARS AS IS KASEY KAHNE ( HE SHOULD NOT HAVE LOST HIS TEMPER ON THE RACETRACK THO , FOR WHICH HE LATER APOLOGIZED ). I CERTAINLY AGREE THAT THE BUSCH BROTHERS ARE PUNKS WITH A CAPITAL “P” (WITH SO MANY EXAMPLES , YOU CAN’T LIST EM ALL ) & VICKERS STILL HASN’T STOOD UP LIKE A MAN AND ADMITTED HE TOOK OUT WHAT’S HIS NAME IN THE ALL-STAR RACE …. HE’S THE BIGGEST PUNK IN ALL THE SPORT …...

Toni
01/14/2006 07:51 PM
permalink

Kurt Busch—well we all know why…Kyle Busch-Richmond and the post race press conference in Phoenix (although I personally agree with Kyle on that and would likely have walked out too-I felt like the media were the punks there)...Kasey Kahne-Loudon and his comments on TV after that incident…Casey Mears-got ticked off by requests from Chasers to be more careful around them or move over for them-declared he intentionally got in their way and made it difficult for them after that…Brian Vickers—the All Star Race. Far as that goes…Rusty Wallace-The Winston (aka The All Star Race)...Dale Earnhardt-The All Star Race (Bill Elliott is still mad about that by the way)...Ricky Rudd-got in a pissing match with then-teammate Ken Schrader—they took each other out with absolutely no regard for the equipment or what it cost owner Rick Hendrick. Mr. Hendrick had a little talk with both gentlemen the next day. Did I miss anyone that I didn’t give an example for before?

Toni
01/14/2006 07:59 PM
permalink

By the way—I should mention—I’m just the messenger here—I’m not saying this is necessarily my personal opinion of any of these drivers or that I dislike them—I’m just saying these names have all been complained about in one place or another and called punks and the above examples are some of the “offenses” these drivers have committed to offend fans to the point of firing off a letter to one publication or another. The point of the article was actually more a defense of the punks by showing that today’s respected elders were once punks too. And no, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. You’ll find some of those punks among my list of favorite drivers below.

CAW
01/14/2006 11:22 PM
permalink

I guess that’s why Adam Petty touched so many people so completely. There wasn’t a punk bone in his body, and you could tell that just by looking at him.

Charlie D.
01/15/2006 06:14 AM
permalink

First off, I think you should have defined your definition of a punk. There are several.

Secondly, just because a person does not follow the status quote, does not make him a punk. We already have a generation of people who blindly follow each other step for step. We need more people who will take the less traveled road.

You wrote of respect. It goes both ways, you have to give if you expect and demand that you receive it. I do not care how long you have been doing your “thing”.

Lastly, I can think of only two in cup that I would consider punks and yes, I think they are the Bush brothers, but there is quite a few that needs a wake-up-call and they are not necessarily in their twenties.

Sabrina
01/17/2006 09:41 AM
permalink

“Casey Mears-got ticked off by requests from Chasers to be more careful around them or move over for them-declared he intentionally got in their way and made it difficult for them after that”

You’ve GOT to be kidding. That makes Mears a punk? Because he wants to race, no matter who’s on the track and when? Since when are “Chasers” untouchables, anyway? Casey has every right to be out on that track, same as them. And considering his finishes in those last 10 races, and how he almost won several of them, he did WAY better than most of the “Chasers”. If those races proved anything, it’s that those “Chasers” who can’t keep up better get out of HIS way on the track.

Toni
01/18/2006 08:57 PM
permalink

I agree with you completely Sabrina. I had no problem with Mears getting angry with the chasers. I probably would have too. I didn’t say I think it makes him a punk, as noted in paragraph two, these are complaints I’ve seen in letters submitted to various publications from other fans, not me. My intent was to complain about the fans who constantly dump on these drivers for every little thing and to maybe give them a reason to give these guys a chance.

Sabrina
01/19/2006 12:39 PM
permalink

Toni, I never meant to say you were calling him a punk, sorry if that’s how it came out. I’m just more incredulous that people think that kind of behavior is punkish. It’s certainly not what I think of when I think someone’s a punk.

 

Contact Toni Montgomery

Recent articles from Toni Montgomery:

IndyCar Race Recap: MAVTV 500
Five Hundred Miles For All The Marbles
IndyCar Roundtable: Season Grades, Schedule Tweaks, And Possible Title Upsets
IndyCar Race Recap: Hunter-Reay Makes It A Repeat Performance
IndyCar Race Recap: Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ

 

IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.