Ah, short track tempers. They are the stuff that NASCAR was built on. Unfortunately, an altercation at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday night sets an example nobody should follow. The night ended with an owner in the emergency room and a driver in handcuffs.
What happened? Joe Ryan Osborne got into it on track with James Civali. Blocks were thrown, Civali’s Modified Division car spun out and tempers ignited. Osborne drove for the owner of Civali’s machine last year and the bad blood has been boiling throughout the beginning of the season. When Osborne pulled into the pits, he was met by Civali’s owner, David Hill. This is where the story goes two ways…
Hill says he was simply at the driver’s window, explaining his displeasure with the way Osborne has been racing the Hill machines this year. 20 year old Osborne told Speed51.com http://speed51.com/wild-night-at-madhouse-ends-with-modified-driver-in-handcuffs/ that six Hill crew members were trying to pull him out of the car, throwing punches at his head and yanking his head around. Osborne then said he just had to get away from the group and gunned his engine.
The Winston-Salem police on detail at the stadium were summoned to the pits for Osborne doing donuts.
David Hill reported that Osborne kept gunning the engine, then simply put the pedal down and Hill’s arm was caught between the wheel and the fender. He was ultimately flung off the car. Hill was released from the hospital early the next morning with stitches in his hand and road rash on his arm. Osborne was arrested back at his hauler and charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, but released on his own recognizance pending his court date.
This is one of those cases where I can understand the fear Osborne might have felt if he was being hauled out of his Modified by an angry mob bent on beating him. However, when I picture a modified doing donuts in a crowded pit area after the end of a race, my blood runs cold. It could have been the worst possible scenario–a race car running amok through a crowd of innocent bystanders. Fearing for his life or not, that was a very unfortunate choice that Osborne made.
In the back of every racing fan’s mind lingers the sad story of Kevin Ward and Tony Stewart. We’ve all examined in our hearts the possibility of a driver getting so angry with a competitor they might aim their car at a person. I don’t think we ever considered a driver getting so pissed that he would send his car into an uncontrolled spin in a crowd. It’s just inconceivable.
Osborne is a young twenty years old and his age does add a maturity angle to the situation. Would an older person react the same way? Well, 37 year old Kevin Harvick played tug of war between his truck and a couple crew members from the Camping World Truck Series No. 3 at Martinsville in 2013. After repeated on-track incidents between the two teams, Harvick parked in Dillon’s pit. He ultimately ended up trying to fend off angry fists through his window net by gunning his truck forward. So, no, age does not award cooler heads.
What perhaps differentiates the Osborne incident from the Harvick altercation is one of money. At the top tiers of NASCAR, pit road and even the garage area tend to be roomier and the number of people allowed on them is limited. However, if you consider the fact that if Osborne turned differently or revved his engine a little bit more, the whole evening could have gone from a single person injured to somebody dead, then the number of people around the car becomes moot.
When all is said and done, Osborne should be suspended from competition for the remainder of the year. Other young men and women fighting their way through the ranks of local short tracks don’t need to use his actions as something to aspire to. Nobody does, no matter how threatened he may have felt at the time.
Daniel Hemric shares his memories of his first go-cart when he gets it back after many years. How did that Little Red Wagon song go? The front seat’s broke and the axle’s draggin’. It doesn’t matter when it was your first.
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