Rubbin’ is Racin’ But Dropkicking is Not

Big Bend, WI (June 30th, 2011) – Listening to some of the pundits on television, they love it when a driver gets dropped-kicked out of the way as a way of “payback.” This is the “have at it drivers” era of NASCAR. We saw a lot of that this past weekend. NASCAR’s two top divisions were at picturesque Road America in Wisconsin and Infineon Raceway in the Sonoma Valley of California, both natural terrain road courses. Multiple times drivers smashed into the rear of the car in-front with no response from the powers to be in the control tower. It has become a series of paybacks and blocking. This is not your father’s racing.

In 1990, Ricky Rudd received a black flag after punting Davey Allison out of the way on the penultimate lap at Sonoma, everybody with the exception of the Ricky Rudd Fan Club agreed with the decision. Why? It was the right decision. The old rule was a driver had to get alongside, if contact was made, heck, the rubbin’ is racin’ mantra was born. That’s what this sport was raised on. What’s happening now is akin to a wrestler distracting the referee in a tag-team match and the other wrestler hitting the other with a chair. Is this where the sport is going?

No one likes an over-officiated race. Brian Barnhart in the IndyCar Series has taken some well earned criticism of doing the same thing. However drivers just blasting each other is getting out of hand. At Road America Jacques Villeneuve took himself out a chance to win with taking a ill-advised banzai move going into Turn one with a handful of laps to go. Why? He knew he had nothing to lose and there was no way he’d get penalized. Sanctions against JV for his next scheduled race in Montreal? Not a chance. Same thing with Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers, both made moves last weekend they wouldn’t have made several years ago-both ended up as losers in the end.

What happens as the stakes get higher? Perhaps your favorite driver will get punted out of a chance of winning the championship. NASCAR’s worst nightmare is a serious injury to a driver or fans. A situation they narrowly avoided when Carl Edwards retaliated against Brad Keselowski at Atlanta last year. What is the reaction if fan-favorite Mark Martin is on his way to his first championship and gets punted and Jimmie Johnson wins his sixth consecutive championship? Think that will turn off some fans?

The NFL went through their dirty hits period and cleaned it up. The sport remains the strongest and continues to grow. Perhaps NASCAR should clean up its sport. Rubbin’ is racin’ but drop-kicking and continuing is not.

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