The Frontstretch: Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday April 7, 2005

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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series

Toni Montgomery · Thursday April 7, 2005


Before I get into the Busch Series this week, I have to make one correction to last week’s column. In it I mentioned that the only team I could think of off the top of my head that had entries in both the trucks and the Nextel Cup Series was Bill Davis Racing. It seems I completely forgot about Roush Racing somehow. Somehow I knew I should have checked that closer, but to be fair I did say it was off the top of my head. Still, how can I write about the truck series on a weekly basis and forget about one of the power house teams that always finishes in the top ten? Well, all I can say is “whoops.”

Now on to the Busch Series. I was very tempted to make Shane Hmiel the direct and sole subject of this week’s column, but then everyone else did too. Besides, I already took most of my Shane shots in this weeks installment of Miror Driving on Wednesday. Strange thing is, after I decided not to do that, I couldn’t think of another subject to focus on this week. So Shane will still be the inspiration behind this week’s column, but it isn’t just about him. This week, we’ll talk about exactly what a young driver can and should learn from the Cup veterans who race with them just about every week.

While the Busch veterans grumble about the Buschwhackers, the young drivers more often express enthusiasm for getting to race against the best of the best. Most of them feel it’s a good learning experience to face some Cup level competition, especially since many of them are there for the express purpose of learning on their way to the Cup series. There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes out of beating the Cup drivers for a win too which is felt among all the Busch regulars but even more so among the younger drivers.

Having the Cup drivers come to their level to race gives them a hint of what they might face when they move up. It’s also probably more desireable that they get that taste of the experience in the Busch Series instead of by jumping into any available Cup car on any given week to test the waters. They are far less likely to find themselves racing above their ability if they are on their own turf, yet they still have an opportunity to observe close up and maybe learn some things about racing lines, car control, what kind of moves you can and can’t get away with in traffic and on any given track, and strategy as well as a little about the personalities and tendencies of the drivers they will be facing when they reach the next level of competition. The style of Kevin Harvick is different from that of Matt Kenseth and knowing what to expect from each of them if you should find yourself battling them for a win could be the difference between victory lane and second place someday.

Most of what young Busch drivers can learn from the weekly invasion of Cup drivers is on the track, but there are still some off track things that will be important that can be learned if one is paying attention. Many of the young drivers moving up will likely tell you those little extras are the biggest part of the Cup Series that they were not prepared for. The demands on time, the sponsor, media, and fan obligations are multiplied many times from what they experienced in any other series. Since the Cup drivers are likely to still have these obligations going on at least to some extent when they are racing in the Busch Series, having them in the Busch garage gives upcoming drivers a chance to see some of the dos and don’ts. They can keep this in mind when they may have these same obligations some day.

Perhaps one of the biggest plusses for young upcoming drivers racing against Cup drivers is that it is a golden opportunity to make a good first impression and lay the groundwork for a good working relationship with those drivers. One of the bigger obstacles rookie drivers in the Cup Series have to overcome is the respect factor. They don’t have it from the veteran drivers and have to earn it. It’s important because many drivers will race you the way they expect you to race them. There are also tracks where it’s vital to have other drivers willing to work with you. If you don’t have their respect, they won’t work with you. If they know you are going to knock them out of the way, they may do it to you first.

Since Daytona is the first track most drivers will face when moving into the Cup Series, having already established a good relationship with at least some of the Cup drivers might get you some drafting help. Cup drivers are more than likely to dump rookie drivers they don’t know and trust to the back of the field.
On the other side of the coin, I have to wonder if getting a bad reputation among the veterans while still in the Busch Series will make things even more difficult if you make it to Cup. No impression at all would be better than a bad one in my opinion. This is where Shane Hmiel comes in. He can get a little rough on the track to put it nicely. He can get a little rough off of it too. He’s not doing much toward making friends and earning respect among the veteran drivers or the fans. His actions and ensuing comments about Dale Jarrett on Monday didn’t help his efforts any.

Hmiel seems unconcerned about what Jarrett thinks of him, either not understanding or caring that it could come back around to him in a Cup race one day. He also doesn’t seem to realize there are other veteran drivers besides Jarrett who may be watching and forming an opinion of him that may come into play if he ever makes a go of it in Cup. There are sponsors watching who may decide this driver is not presenting the sort of image they want to represent them. There are definitely fans watching who are forming opinions and most of them are not good. If Hmiel thinks none of this matters, he may want to go have a chat with Kurt Busch, who put himself in much the same hole and now spends a good deal of his time and energy working to dig himself back out of it.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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04/08/2005 12:42 AM
Well Toni, I know you wouldn’t be able to resist “jumping on the bandwagon” or “beating the dead horse.” Whichever image you prefer. I think the latter is the one most have slanted towards since the “Bristol incident.” Glad to see you didn’t spend all your time ripping him up though. In fact, I found it odd you didn’t spend any time rippin’ on the “unproffesional” and “disrespectful” actions of that driver who instigated a televised, on track confrontation and totally embarrased his sponsor Citifinancial. I mean really, we all know the guy is getting up there, but come on. You, as well as the announcers of the race and many other so called fans, fail to mention the defending Busch Series Champion’s actions against a “respected veteran.” And then he announced it on his radio! Its amazing to see such hypocrisy. Such two-faced criticism. Piling on Hmiel and not reprimanding Truex. Facts are facts and even after a week of reflection you fail to mention the only proveable, absolutely disrespectful and intentional neck-snappin’ activity on the track. I guess Truex doesn’t have to spend any time digging himself out of that hole. Let’s face it, DJ put himself in a bad position. Second by walking up to a car and threatening the man strapped in that car, how convenient. And firstly by trying to pad his stats with wins on his way to retirement in a lower “development series” that all his money, sponsors and team support can’t buy him. In the eyes of true race fans that would be like Michael Schumacher racing in the Formula 3000 series. Does DJ need the money that bad? I think not. And has DJ never spun or bumped anyone, ever? What did he expect, it’s Bristol!!! I like the way Shane looks at it. He said he respects DJ, but he wants everyone to know that he doesn’t race to make friends and he doesn’t race to make enemies. As well as he mentioned that he’s not backing down from anyone on or off the track, especially if they trhreaten him. I bet if Dale Earnhardt would have been in that car DJ would not have walked up to it under that red flag. DJ walked up to a younger driver, that in one form or another, will have his seat soon enough, and tried to talk to him like he was his daddy. And if you look at the tape again and read Shane’s lips through that finger, he possibly replied, “Oh yeah, look at your car and tell me ‘Who’s your daddy?’”
M. B. Voelker
04/08/2005 10:48 AM
Reputation matters so much more than many people can imagine.

Truex, for whom I do NOT root (nothing personal Martin—I’m a Kyle Busch fan), has spent over a year building up a reputation for being calm, levelheaded, and respectful. So its easy for people to grant him the benefit of the doubt and figure that he just had an abberant Bristol tantrum—like Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray did last year.

D.J. has been building his reputation as a gentleman and a professional at the Cup level since before Shane Hmiel was toilet trained. Thus the vast majority of fans accept that he has more than earned the right to explain some facts of racing life to Shane.

Shane, on the other hand, has built up a lot of black marks in a BIG hurry. With the reputation he’s earned so far its no surprize that he has not and will not get any benefit of the doubt. Kurt Busch learned his lesson and made the turnaround so I suppose its possible that Shane Hmiel might. I doubt it though—one would think that since he’s already on his second chance Shane would have already altered his behavior if he had enough brains to do it at all.
04/08/2005 01:06 PM
You’re right Voelker, we’ve had enough, we give up. Its all a one way street and Hmiel should just be grateful to follow DJ around the track. Maybe it’ll all be cleared when Jarret spins Hmiel, or one after another in the payback line and we can get back to racing. Instead of just focusing on the opinions that some have of what is “really” in the mind of Hmiel and the intentions behind his actions/reactions. Here’s to opinions and reputations. We all have them and either one are rarely the truth. Don’t ya just love Bristol? Thanx for the writing Toni, G’day!
04/15/2005 10:25 AM
Little late on my response here but thanks for reading and the comments—I’d say more but I couldn’t put it any better than M. B. Voelker already did up there. Keep reading! Lest you should question whether I have any bias toward or against certain drivers, I don’t even have a favorite in the Busch Series at the moment so pretty much no.



Contact Toni Montgomery

Recent articles from Toni Montgomery:

IndyCar Race Recap: MAVTV 500
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IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.