Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Dear NASCAR Drivers, Manners Still Matter

Now boys, please listen. Manners are important. It is what people will remember about you when you’ve left for the day. Whether you’ve bumped someone out of the way or let them move in front of you, those actions shape how you are perceived by everyone, now and in the years to come.

I’m talking NASCAR here, in case you weren’t sure. Maybe life, too, but this is a NASCAR newsletter, so I’ll keep my preaching to the sport at hand.

Perhaps the best illustration of “manners making the man” this past weekend at the Brickyard and Lucas Oil Raceway, was David Ragan’s paint job on the normally brown No. 6 in the Sprint Cup. The car appeared blue — not Petty blue — but a softer shade that had been associated with Ned Jarrett in his glory days. Not only did Ned’s name grace the car in bold white print, but also his nickname, “Gentleman Ned Jarrett.”

Not Brat Boy, the Intimidator, Spinning Spencer… need I go on? Ned Jarrett’s Hall of Fame career will always be marked with the polite addition of Gentleman, because that’s who he is. A nice guy. Fierce competitor, but a nice guy. Wouldn’t we all want to be remembered as such?

I propose the question to all competing drivers, how do you want to be remembered? And what actions will you take to ensure your fans recall your career in the manner you desire?

After bumping Austin Dillon’s No. 3 into the wall in the last lap of the truck race because he just plain ran out of track and truck, Todd Bodine had a choice. He could just let it be and leave the sophomore thinking he was taken out in the name of competition, or he could apologize. Mr. Bodine took choice B and earned a few kudos from me for taking responsibility for the mishap. Yeah sure, the Onion is known for being a ruthless competitor, but he’s also known for his quick smile and enthusiasm. He’s earned a slot in my character scrapbook, one I wouldn’t want the Truck series to be without.

Now, after Bodine and Dillon bumped each other, trucks were running out of gas left and right. With such a long green run at the end of the race (really, who ever thought a race at Lucas Oil Raceway would ever stay green for 107 laps?) nobody had a solid handle on the gas mileage. Timothy Peters sailed his way to the finish with gas left in the tank, thanks to a flat tire and spin that just made him pit on the final caution. Luck smiled on the white and black No. 17. That is truly a moment to celebrate, and worthy of a burnout.

But, Ricky Carmichael wasn’t so lucky. His Monster Energy drink truck slowed on the backstretch, all but stopping in turn 4 out of fuel. But, if he kept hitting the starter, his truck kept rolling forward a bit more… and a bit more. Peters pulled up on the finish line, in front of Carmichael’s crawling vehicle, and commenced to lay down enough tire smoke to stop Ricky in his tracks. Not only was the No. 4 on the bottom inching forward, but Dillon was trying to finish out his lap up by the wall.

It would’ve been nice to see Carmichael and Dillon cross the finish line. It would have been nice to see Peters peel out down by turn 1, away from the boys just trying to prove they could finish a race. It would have been nice to have Peters’ spotter fill him in on all this.

If you’ll notice, I’m not talking about an action that really affected the outcome of the race, but only how I perceived those running the race. Timothy Peters is a nice guy, someone who deserves the win, and always has a smile for the camera and the fans. But, I would think better of him if the excitement of the win didn’t erase all thought for others.

There are a lot of competitors in this sport who have practiced their speeches and work hard to maintain a shiny reputation, but a plastic smile and rote replies don’t truly win over the fans. It’s more often the time it takes to sign an autograph, respond to a tweet, shake a hand and display a responsible demeanor on and off the track that will draw my attention and keep it.

I love watching drivers get into it on the track. Clean fenders do not endear me to anybody who sits in the cockpit. A race that finishes with a few red faces and even a bit of swearing on the radio doesn’t put me off. Finger pointing, name calling, retaliating with bumpers, sulking, displaying entitlement to anything — these will sour me faster than anything.

Ultimately, it is up to you, dear drivers, to show me the very best of yourself. By all means, show me your humanity as a competitor, but I hope to see a bit of humility with it. Otherwise, you won’t be added to my scrapbook of favorite characters in the sport. You’ll just be remembered as someone I rather I didn’t, or perhaps not to be remembered at all.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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