The latest in a recent spate of scraps between drivers saw Denny Hamlin end up in a hospital with a broken back (see related articles) that may keep him out of racing for awhile. Joey Logano had an ongoing clash of words with Hamlin and their cars eventually clashed, leading to Hamlin’s injury. Furthermore, Tony Stewart joined the fracas, feeling Logano unnecessarily blocked him late in the going and proceeded to physically attack Logano right after the race (see related articles). However, the winner in all this chaos of fights and crashfests isn’t the drivers, so much as NASCAR itself.
The teams had just come from Bristol where a half-mile coliseum like gladiator atmosphere presents the typical bumping and banging that short tracks often give. Drivers easily get hot under the collar and that was true this time around (source: Sporting News). Tempers flared between Hamlin and Logano which then boiled over to the following week.
This past weekend’s race at Fontana was exciting as usual at a facility that is two-miles long and as wide as any track in the country. That offers incredible amounts of racing with multiple grooves – but still bunches them up at certain points, making it interesting to say the least. Therein lies part of the reason for the aggressive moves late in the race at the Auto Club 400.
Having at it
NASCAR declared at the beginning of the 2010 season (source: ESPN) that the “boys have at it” and that appears to be what they have now. This is a sport where cars are driven often over 200 mph — there aren’t many other professions with as much danger and risk as motorsports and in this case, stock car racing in NASCAR is one of the most dangerous. Also, when NASCAR stated to have at it, President Mike Helton also reiterated the old adage that rubbin’ is racin’. It would appear the drivers finally took to heart these meanings and are rubbin’ and having at it.
That is why tens of millions follow NASCAR every year, making it one of the more popular sports. The courage that it takes to run at these incredible speeds door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper is almost inconceivable to most, but to stock car drivers, every week is nearly like a Sunday drive. Nearly.
So it goes without saying that displeasure and even rage would develop. And who benefits? NASCAR. Look how many extra articles are being written across the country. How many television sports shows, both national and local, are showing the debris field left by the crashes and the resulting fisticuffs? What’s the adage? All PR is good PR. This is obviously true with these incidents in NASCAR.
As it heats up, so do the ratings & attendance
Who doesn’t like to see a fight between racecar drivers? They’ve shown the over 30 year old video of the Cale Yarborough and Allison brothers brawl so many times (source: YouTube), it’s surprising the tape hasn’t worn out. No, they don’t use tape anymore — just making a point. Anyway, the feuds, fighting and scuffles have more people talking about the sport. That will bring better TV ratings and more people in attendance. The winner again is NASCAR.
The cursing (Stewart is good at it) and fighting seems on the surface to be silly but champions like Stewart say,
“If NASCAR wants us to let the guys have at it, it shouldn’t be any different than hockey. Let the guys have at it, and then when one guy goes to the ground, it’s over.”
Not sure what hockey fight Stewart saw that ended when one guy hit the ground (ice) but nevertheless, personally, Stewart is taking NASCAR at its word. NASCAR knows it wins if the drivers keep extra drama involved like a few expletives and wild swings without any injury – Stewart has done all of the above.
Drivers didn’t win
Hamlin certainly didn’t win for his cause by ending up in the hospital. Logano isn’t winning any popularity contest and is being criticized in some corners for going over the top, plus not apologizing to Hamlin isn’t going over well (source: Fox Sports). Stewart too isn’t winning while people call him a hypocrite for being mad at something he himself has done regularly.
The Recession hasn’t been a friend of anyone in NASCAR so emotional fights with entertaining crashfests and action both on and off the track are generating needed dollars. Plus, attendance was solid at Fontana and TV ratings are up (source: Sports Media Watch).
Aside from Hamlin’s back injury, which may keep him out of the car for awhile, the brouhaha with Hamlin and Logano and Stewart was also good for attracting NASCAR manufacturers’ fans. Hamlin drives a Toyota, Logano has a Ford and Stewart is in a Chevrolet. Also, you have the young guy in Logano, with Hamlin in his early 30s and Stewart as the veteran 40-something. This is perfect for NASCAR … and a winner for sure.
Additional source: NASCAR