If Bristol was exciting, then Fontana was the Cirque de Soleil of the season. Yes, that Fontana, where every fan groans at the sound of the name and shudders at the dull racing they will watch (psst … sleep through) on Sunday. It’s just not a race that people circle on their calendar when looking at the schedule.
Yet, when you think about the major storylines that came out of the race — swearing, fighting, and dumping — you think Bristol, maybe Martinsville, right? But, Fontana? No way!
It was true, though. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin fighting for the lead post-Bristol/Twitter feud on the final lap of the race and I think we all knew what was coming next. Regardless of all those who were looking to Martinsville for “Round 2”, the 22 and the 11 were just inevitably drawn together in Fontana. Logano slides up the track, into Hamlin, and Hamlin takes the ride of his life that eventually sends him to the hospital.
It was scary, of course, and I hope Denny makes a quick recovery. It doesn’t matter how exciting a race is, we never want to see a driver hurt.
There were quite a bit of things wrong with what happened, though, that could have stopped Hamlin from having to get into that ambulance. They were things that didn’t need to happen and, frankly, need to stop.
Don’t get me wrong. The race was fantastic and I hope we have a finish that exciting every week. We need that in racing, especially at racetracks like Fontana which take up the majority of the schedule. I hope the excitement factor doesn’t change. But there are three things that need to adjust in order to keep some of the crap out of the track.
First things first … those SAFER barriers. Why, oh why, in 2013, does NASCAR allow sanctioned tracks to keep any part of their track free of SAFER barriers? If there is one thing in almost 70 years of NASCAR that everyone should have learned by now, is that if there is a part of the track that can be hit, the drivers will find it. It doesn’t matter how abstract, obscure, or unoccupied that part of the track is. If it’s within an area of the racetrack, eventually they will hit it.
So why risk it? Either spend a few thousand dollars or have the stain of injury on your speedway. NASCAR has made some amazing safety innovations lately and have had very few injuries, let alone fatalities, in years. But while all injuries can never, I believe, be completely eliminated, they can at least try. After all the money both NASCAR and the tracks alike have put into keeping racing as safe and exciting as possible, it just doesn’t make sense. Had Hamlin hit an area of the track with a SAFER barrier, more than likely he’d have hopped out of that car, given a smart aleck interview on FOX, and proceeded to do some trash talking on Twitter. Logano would have probably gone right back at him, and this whole thing would continue to entertain us all.
Now, it’s been marred by the fact that Hamlin had to stay overnight in the hospital and the rivalry really isn’t fun anymore. We’re all too worried about safety and when Hamlin will race again. Wouldn’t an all out war of words be much more enjoyable rather than waiting to hear as to whether or not a driver is going to leave the hospital? Please, NASCAR, make it mandatory for racetracks to have SAFER barriers all the way around their ovals.
Secondly, this culture of “I’ll wreck you if I don’t like you” has to end. I don’t care what it used to be like back in the “good old days” or what short track racing was built on. Logano’s move was unacceptable. Yes, I know he didn’t hook Hamlin in the right rear and send him straight into the wall. Yes, I know part of what happened was Logano screwing up his corner and finishing the deed. But he didn’t quite hide the fact that he intended to follow through on what he had promised a week prior.
I always hear people attempt to define what “real racing” is. “Restrictor plate racing isn’t real racing.” “The end of that race wasn’t real racing.” “Racing with this generation of racecars isn’t real racing.”
Well, let me tell you something. What Logano did was not racing. It was wrecking, and it was dirty. It shouldn’t have happened. “Rattling his cage” is one thing, but sending him on a merry ride through the infield is not acceptable, especially on a professional level.
Unfortunately, it happens too often. Hamlin did it to a lesser extent at Bristol, albeit at lower speeds. We shouldn’t have to have Hamlin sitting in a hospital tonight for drivers to say, “Oh gosh, golly, gee, maybe wrecking the hell out of each other just because our testosterone won’t stop flowing may just not be the best idea!”
Don’t get me wrong. Rivalries are a blast to watch and I do hope to see this Hamlin/Logano feud continue because, for once, it looks like Logano will be someone to contend with this year. But let’s hope they can do it without doing any serious harm to one another.
Finally, double standards. I know asking drivers to see things from each other’s points of view are like mission impossible, but it’s really aggravating. Though it has less to do with the wreck and more to do with Stewart’s complete mental breakdown, it would have at least made sense had Stewart said, “Yeah I’ve blocked before and made a mess because of it, but that s—- pisses me off so I went after him!”
Logano is guilty of his own double standard, though. He took “standing up for myself” to basically mean “on-track bully.” Hamlin has taken “give me respect” to mean “but I won’t give it back.” I don’t give a rip about Logano’s youth. He’s been around, and known Hamlin, long enough for Hamlin to stop treating Logano like a second class citizen.
On the flip side, Logano needs to quit acting like a diva whenever someone so much as makes slight contact on the racetrack. It’s racing! You race, and sometimes that means things aren’t going to go your way. Stop whining about it, and take your position back.
My thoughts and prayers are certainly with Hamlin, but this incident shouldn’t have happened at all. NASCAR can address one of the problems (and should), but the drivers need to get a grip on reality. There’s a difference between standing your ground and sheer stupidity. It’s also ridiculous to get pissed off at someone else for something drivers do all the time. To sum this whole thing up … shut up and race!
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