If you go in the garage of any NASCAR series … well, at least if you did before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to see the divide: the one between the haves and the have nots.
On one end of the garage are teams that have the resources to run near the front each week and compete for wins. In most cases, if there’s a type of technology or part needed, chances are good that it won’t be too far away.
Then there’s the other end of the garage, where teams do the best they can with what they have, sometimes relying on fewer crew members to get a racecar ready. For many of these teams, a good day is a top-15 finish and bringing a racecar home in one piece.
This undercurrent was jerked up to the surface in the closing laps on Saturday (Feb. 27) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With Noah Gragson running away with what appeared to be a win, those hopes were dashed when he collided with the MBM Motorsports entry of David Starr on the high side of the race track. Gragson was unable to avoid Starr, who was running on the lead lap at the time and had a tire go down.
The key words are this: “lead lap.”
Understandably, Gragson was frustrated afterwards. And who wouldn’t be? There’s no doubt that he had the car to beat, so some grace is afforded to him for being frustrated. But it’s one thing to be frustrated. It’s a whole other to demean the side of the garage that’s doing the best with that they have, not to mention in a case where that driver is on the lead lap. If Starr had been multiple laps down, there’s a leg for Gragson to stand on. But when it’s a car on the lead lap? That leg is about as sturdy as a mud fence.
Noah Gragson tells FS1: "What are you gonna do? You've got dipshits in the way every week…It's a shame, we dominated the last three races and you got nothing to show for it."
— PRN (@PRNlive) February 28, 2021
Rightly, MBM kept things raw and organic to begin the week, hitting Gragson back with a salvo on the team’s official Facebook page. And who can blame them? When a JR Motorsports driver wads up a car, there’s a fleet back in the shop waiting to be prepped. Teams such as MBM don’t have that luxury, and to be called something on live TV that can’t be told in front of a family audience didn’t sit well.
So in theory, an incident like this would be buried and glossed over … if MBM Motorsports wants it to.
So much for that. Gragson was given a microphone on Tuesday and took full advantage of the bully pulpit.
“In this form of motorsports, you should feel a tire cording,” Gragson told SiriusXM, reiterating that he doesn’t take Starr and MBM Motorsports’ excuse for the accident as worthwhile. “We corded a right-front tire in the first stage. It is really hard to get your point across with uneducated people or ignorant people.”
The MBB, JD Motorsports and Martins Motorsports of the world are a critical part of the fabric of every race weekend. Sure, the realistic goal most weekends may not be to run top three, but like drivers from the past such as J.D. McDuffie, Dave Marcis and Ken Ragan, they’re beloved because of one thing: they’re here to race. One of the tremendous things about going to a race live is that there are so many races within a race beyond the Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racings and other types toward the front.
Drivers toward the back of the field matter a lot in this sport. And, as the season goes on, they’ll be on the track. That includes drivers such as Starr, who would be excused for having payback in mind for anyone who thinks that it is okay to insult the intelligence of his race team.