The Frontstretch: NASCAR: Still Showing What's Right With Sports by Vito Pugliese -- Monday July 30, 2007

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NASCAR: Still Showing What's Right With Sports

The Voice Of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Monday July 30, 2007


For all intents and purposes, 2007 has been an absolute disaster for professional sports. Major League Baseball is about to have its most coveted and hallowed individual accomplishment bested, and the commissioner of the league’s position regarding his attendance of the event is predicated on if he doesn’t have anything else better to do. Not to mention the player who is preparing to beat the home run mark of 755 by Hank Aaron is in the center of a grand jury investigation for using steroids and human growth hormone, among other unsavory allegations, including an affair and funding his mistress’ lifestyle through the sale of baseball memorabilia.

In Virginia, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is under an Federal indictment for not only participating in, but running an elaborate dog fighting operation known as Bad Newz Kennels. The indictment spells out his role in the torture and killing of dogs who would not fight through strangulation, electrocution, and slamming them into the pavement until dead. Another NFL Player, Tennessee Titans DB Adam "Pac Man" Jones, when not "making it rain" in strip clubs, has been accused of being involved in fights and shootings where people have wound up paralyzed. Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals is due to be picked up for another DUI shortly, and feel free to name whatever member of the Indiana Pacers this week is going into the stands or emptying a magazine outside of a strip club.

This, coupled with the debacle that the Tour de France has degenerated into since Lance Armstrong hung up his Huffy, the worst and lowest rated NBA Finals in history, a lackluster Super Bowl, and the NHL barely keeping it’s head above water, it is times like these we thank NASCAR for being part of the national consciousness, and showing once again what is right with sports.

This past weekend’s Brickyard 400 was one of the more memorable races since stock cars were allowed to run on the historic 2.5 mile oval. Kevin Harvick and Hoosier native Tony Stewart diced back and forth over the final few laps while nearly 300,000 people looked on. As always, there was a strong military presence, a pre-race invocation and prayer, as well as performances of God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner, replete with a fly-over by pair of B-1 Lancers. It was perfect weather for a great race, albeit one with some controversy, what with the fender-banging incident by Stewart unto Harvick, which effectively crippled the No. 29 Reese’s Chevrolet, sending it back to 7th place by the time the checkered flag fell.

Then Tony Stewart had a few choice words on ESPN.

Yes, NASCAR is packaged as a family friendly sport. The bright colors and accessible drivers, their image and likeness emblazoned on pretty much anything you can stick a price tag to, are very popular among children who play with die cast cars and proudly wear their favorite drivers t-shirt on the playground. With Stewart’s comments regarding bovine by-products being uttered as he was finishing his interview while parked along the yard of bricks at the track where he would rather win than anywhere else, some parents might have cringed and went "ear-muffs" on their kids.

Hey, at least he didn’t bodyslam a Collie onto the bricks or bust a cap in the air. Our guys aren’t showing up on Dateline NBC or doing the perp-walk into a Federal arraignment hearing. Let’s be honest: It’s nothing Junior’s never heard from his dad in the garage before.

That slight incident aside, there were a number of other great stories surrounding the event. Juan Pablo Montoya, a driver of ethnicity that extends past Kannapolis, qualified next to his teammate on the front row, and after falling back, finished 2nd at the track where he won at in 2000 in the Indianapolis 500. And how about his teammate? Reed Sorenson became the youngest pole winner in event history in the Target Dodge, after a rough season that had him sitting 28th in points before his 5th place finish. Ward Burton, struggling to get the Morgan-McClure No. 4 back into making races on a regular basis had a fantastic top 15 run. Dale Earnhardt Jr., trying to make the best of a difficult situation that has played out publically, had a car that could have won the event, suffered engine failure late in the going and handled himself with aplomb.

And rumor has it, none got in a gun fight at a strip club the night before either.

This season has also seen a number of great finishes. The initial Car of Tomorrow race at Bristol was a last lap affair, as were the races at Martinsville and New Hampshire. Atlanta and Texas provided more close finishes, and the two photo-finishes at Daytona this year were among the greatest finishes in the sport’s history.

But then things did get a little ugly.

Truck series driver Aaron Fike was arrested along with his fiancée after striking a security vehicle with his SUV in a North Carolina Ohio amusement park. Fike was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and spoons containing the residue of the granddaddy of all controlled substances, Heroin. NASCAR immediately suspended him "indefinitely" (i.e., forever) for the incident. While it is an absolute baffling and tragic story, it wasn’t in the premier series of NASCAR, but essentially the Triple A farm club of racing. Don’t get me wrong; it is still something that no sanctioning body wants to be a part of, but considering how other organizations have endured, NASCAR got off easy. While 90% of drivers want a drug testing policy in place, NASCAR has been reluctant to go to mandatory involuntary testing, for the simple fact that they want to control it and not appear to be susceptible as competitors in other major sports.

That one incident aside, 2007 has been quite a stellar year for auto racing and NASCAR in particular. While the ratings have slipped a little bit, the atmosphere and action on the track has been something to behold. Although we may nit-pick some of the calls on the track (note that the number of "debris" cautions have been all but eliminated), bemoan some of the soap-opera/professional wrestling-type events (what else would you have to complain or read about?!), the fines and penalties assesed to teams stretching the rules, the dominance of a certain manufacturer who’s emblem resembles neckwear…when you take a deep breath, sit back and compare it other sports, we’ve still got it pretty good. The race to make the Chase is shaping up to be as close of a battle as ever for the last spot, and with Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex beginning to pick up steam, we could have a Chase finish that was every bit as close as it was in 2004.

And we don’t have to put up with Barry Bonds’ bull$&^ either.

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:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

M. B. Voelker
07/31/2007 05:01 AM

My DH and I were talking about it the other night while watching the Braves game. We’ve decided that other sports need to adopt Nascar’s Section 12-4-A — Actions Detrimental to Stock Car Racing. Its Nascar’s ability and willingness to jump on troublemakers when they first get out of line instead of being forced to wait until they’ve blown up completely is the key to their success in this area.

Its the well-proven “Broken Windows” theory of police work. You take care of the little problems while they’re small and the big stuff never happens.

And that is why Tony needs to be punished for his thoughtless slip of the tongue and why Biffle needs to be dealt with for his refusal to complete his post-race, press duties.

07/31/2007 05:46 AM

Just too bad NASCAR does not have REAL RACING and REAL COMPETITION!


NASCAR tries to portray the lillywhite image! Unfortunately that reflects on the lack of racing and competition in NASCAR!

A simple question????


What a watered down version of auto racing!!

07/31/2007 05:54 AM

Oh, I forgot!

No, we do not have to put up with the likes of Barry Bonds!

We do however have to put up with Brian France , Mike Helton & company! How sick is that I ask??

07/31/2007 06:05 AM

You are right. NASCAR is a minority when it comes to scandal. However, don’t forget Mikey’s very suspect reaction to his “accident” and the police’s very lax investigative techniques. You or I would not have been fortunate enough to have had them wait for hours when it’s to late for testing. Then there is Brian France’s favored treatment by the Daytona Police as well. I think NASCAR is on the brink with the flood of younger drivers. It is a matter of time before it has it’s share of scandal. That is, unless you can count the poor rules enforcement and lack of integrity in the sanctioning body.

07/31/2007 11:15 AM

I’don’t like baseball..I don’t follow it.

I don’t like football..I don’t follow it.

So if you folks hate NASCAR, the rule enforcement, the France’s, Helton, the COT and on and on why do you bother watching it. Pick something else.

Great article Vito, I really like the way NASCAR handles drivers/crewmembers and drugs. NO TOLERANCE..the way it should be.

07/31/2007 11:40 AM

NASCAR has handled drug problems very swiftly…but so far they have been minor characters. Let’s wait and see what happens with a Jr. or a Jimmy Johnson. Will they be as swift if one of their stars gets in trouble or will there suddenly be a tier of punishments that are less severe depending upon who it is? Remember, NASCAR is not consistent.

07/31/2007 12:03 PM

Vito, Aaron Fike was arrested in Ohio not in North Carolina. It was at Kings Island outside of Cincinnati. He was there for the truck race at Kentucky speedway. Just thought you should know someone gave you the wrong info!!

07/31/2007 08:04 PM

NASCAR continues to get what they deserve – lower attendence and lower TV ratings.
Get professional NASCAR and make the rules the same for every driver.
Parity is gone. I’m done with NASCAR – watching real sports now.

Steve Cloyd
08/01/2007 10:15 AM

Let’s see, a driver is busted with heroin, and another wrecks his car and runs away in socks before the cops can get there and bust him for DUI while the leader of the sport is driving into cars, allegedly inebriated.

Don’t get me wrong, NASCAR has fewer problems than some sports but they have the same type of problems to a degree. For some reason, the people that get busted aren’t vilified to the same degree as in other sports.

You need to clean the smudge off of those rose colored glasses. ;)

08/01/2007 07:55 PM

Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, PacMan, theres a common thread running through all these names. It is prevalent in today’s society. You figure it out.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
08/01/2007 10:52 PM

…..they all have ear rings?

There is a thug mentality that permeates much of professional sports. I would not put Barry Bonds in that category. Probably the best baseball player of our generation, if not ever. He’s just kind of a jerk.

08/02/2007 07:37 PM

Barry Bonds will not admit steroid abuse. He may not be a thug, per say, but he is not a proper role model. He should come forth and set the record straight, whatever the consequences.

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