Welcome to the Frontstretch Five! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers and the storylines that drive NASCAR and produces a list of five people, places, things and ideas that define the current state of our sport. This week, Amy dispels come common NASCAR fallacies.
1. The bump-and-run is a dirty move.
It might not be 100% squeaky clean, but the bump and run, if done right, is hardly a low-down dirty move. The emphasis here is on done right. A correctly executed bump-and-run is a move where one driver roots underneath another with his bumper and moves him up the track in order to execute a pass. A correctly executed bump-and-run does not – I repeat, not – wreck the other driver. Kevin Harvick‘s move on Joey Logano at Texas was a bump and run, properly performed. Logano lost several spots, but he didn’t crash. If you were wondering why Logano wasn’t angrier afterward, that’s why. Sure, the move might ruffle a few tailfeathers at the time, but if it’s made in the closing laps of a race for position or a win and as long as it doesn’t crash the bumpee, it’s not dirty pool.
The video below is a correctly executed bump-and-run, in the closing laps, for the win. Nobody got wrecked, and the move was legit.
2. Fuel mileage wins are somehow lesser.
It was only a fuel-mileage win. That’s something you hear a lot, and it’s really a silly statement. A win is a win is a win, and at NASCAR’s top level, it’s an impressive feat. Winning by strategy is not somehow less legitimate than winning by force. Fuel-mileage racing is a high-stakes gamble that doesn’t always pay off. When it does, it might mean that the race winner is someone who would likely not have won otherwise, but that doesn’t mean the win was undeserved or not as good as if a more dominant driver had won. When races are 400 or 500 miles in length, a variety of strategies come into play: fuel, tires, pit stops. They’re all important and any of them can mean the difference between a win and second or 15th place. That’s why winning at the Cup level is so difficult and why you can’t put a value on how the win happened, unless the car was found to be illegal afterward, which is something else entirely.
3. If a driver isn’t winning, he’s not talented.
While it’s a given that some drivers are more talented than others, nobody gets to the Cup level without a talent that’s far above average. There are a number of reasons that drivers don’t win or win often, and it may be that a few aren’t quite up to that monumental task, but for the most part, they’re all good enough to win. What separates the winners from the rest of the pack is more often money and resources. Even among the elite, teams hit dry spells where their drivers aren’t as competitive as perhaps they should be, all things being equal. That certainly doesn’t mean that anyone has forgotten how to drive or wants it any less. The best in the game can hit a slump, and the lowliest team can have a great performance during a given race weekend. But if a team doesn’t win, writing off the driver as a second-class hack is simply not accurate. Nobody got to the top by accident, but not everyone has the total package of money and equipment needed to win in Cup.
4. Only a few teams bend the rules.
When allegations of tire-tampering on the No. 31 team of Ryan Newman came to light a couple of weeks ago, many immediately jumped to the conclusion that the team’s 2014 success was entirely due to cheating the system. That’s a pretty big leap. Fans like to question success, and there’s a tendency to assume that any team that’s extraordinarily successful is bending the rules. Nobody wants to admit that talent and hard work alone could produce such results. There’s also the perception that some teams get away with more than others, but there’s no reason for NASCAR to play favorites at the end of the day.
That’s not to say that every team is 100% on the straight and narrow every week. If anything, it’s the opposite; everybody is pushing the limits somewhere, or if they’re not, they’re falling behind the competition. It’s much more a matter of how far they’re pushing and whether they get caught pushing too far. When they do, they deserve the punishment, and when they’re legal, even if it’s by a fraction of a fraction, they’re legal. It’s part of the game and has been since day one. If anything, any cheating today is far less blatant than in the past, when NASCAR’s inspection process was far less technical and more lax.
5. Winning is somehow a bad thing.
Sure, it gets monotonous when one team is dominating. If you don’t like Harvick or Jimmie Johnson, you might not be too happy with the way 2015 is going, especially if your guy isn’t having that kind of season. But bad for the sport, as some would have you believe? It’s not. NASCAR has had dominant drivers since the start, and the sport has survived just fine. And I’m talking about the sport’s top level, here; the top-level drivers dominating at lower levels is a whole other ball of wax. If anything, from NASCAR’s standpoint, a dominant season is a marketing tool if it compares to the best ever.
For fans, it’s totally understandable why one driver winning a lot is frustrating. But think about it… if that fan’s favorite is the one winning seemingly every other week, it’s not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a great thing. If it’s a driver he doesn’t like, it’s a far different story. That’s called being a loyal to your driver, and it’s a part of why the sport’s fanbase is pretty great as a whole. But to say it’s bad for the sport sounds more like sour grapes than a legit gripe. The sport has survived dominance before and it will survive the next dominant driver too. There’s no such thing as winning too much. Anyone who has ever competed successfully at anything knows that.