Monday, October 13, 2014

Nascar.... Again

This is going to be an atypical post for me.  Nothing political for the government, no rant against anything that I typical rant about.  Above you is Tony Stewart.  I am sure you all recall the incident between him and Kevin Ward Jr, which resulted in the Ward's death.  But, as a fan of NASCAR, I want to take a moment and comment about the events during and after the race.

Now, after the race at Charlotte this past weekend, there were more fireworks than usual after the race.  Honestly, it looked more like the types of things you would see after a short track or road race, where people break checked others, cars were bumping around on the cool down lap and on pit road.  People shouting at each other in anger, and the occasional punch thrown.  So, here is how I see it, being neutral to all the people involved.

With around sixty three laps remaining in the event, a restart ensued in which Kenseth (in the #20 Toyota) restarted the race behind Keselowski (#2 Ford), in the dogleg of the track, Keselowski moved up on Kenseth, and bounced him off of the wall.  Now, often times these things are common occurrences, drivers are pushing and fighting to gain all the ground they can, things happen.  From there it is said (and I didn't see it) that Kenseth "swiped" at Keselowski with six laps to go while under caution.

From there it went from the typical "rubbin's racin" to out of control.  So, we get a second restart with two laps to go, and Keselowski starts pushing on Hamlin (#11 Toyota).  Yeah, I checked on that, it wasn't a push as much as it was Dale Earnhardt Sr, pulling on someones chain.  No it wasn't that, Keselowski bumped him in the turn (which I do not imagine as being very fun).

So, we have a few racing incidents.  We have Keselowski pinching Kenseth into the wall, he was either blocking the position, or he washed up on Kenseth.  He gave Hamlin a shot in the turn, which could have been momentum at work, maybe even a misjudgement after a long night behind the wheel of a car.

What followed is totally uncalled for.  The checkered rag had flown, the race is finished, and some post race activities start.  Hamlin brake checked Keselowski as a show of displeasure.  Keselowski retorts by attempting to spin Hamlin out.  Alright, brake checking and attempting to spin out someone on the cool down lap...  I really cannot say that I wouldn't do it, actually, I think lots of people driving around on the road have done that to someone.  That first instance of I am pissed at you.  But Keselowski should not have responded with attempting to spin out another driver.

Then we have Keselowski hitting Matt Kenseth again, along with the above pictured Tony Stewart (#14 Chevrolet).  Now, at this point, everyone is on pit road, after the cool down lap.  At this point, Kenseth had unhooked all of his safety equipment, and was creeping to a stop to allow traffic to ease, when his car is side swiped, and Stewart was ran over (in his car).  Stewart retaliates by putting his car in reverse and backing up.  Keselowski backs up, pulls around Stewart and goes through the NASCAR garage.

This is where it goes from being on the track between drivers to outright insane.  Keselowski hit Hamlins car while it was inside of the building, he then did a burnout as he left the garage.  I am sorry, no matter how angry you are, no matter how bad the situation is, I cannot condone activity that puts fans, at risk in an already dangerous area.  He put several fans, crew members, officials and media members at risk doing that.  Sure, some people might say he has excellent car control, and he knew what he as doing.  But so doesn't Tony Stewart, and we see what that was worth, didn't we?

So, at this point, Hamlin pulls out, then gets out of his car to verbally express his displeasure with Keselowski, but his crew managed to snag him before anything happened, telling him "It's not worth it." Finally a bit of sanity returns, as Hamlin was escorted by crew members and at least one NASCAR official to his car hauler to calm down.

Now as Keselowski is walking between two haulers, Kenseth jumps him from behind, and fists were thrown, a headlock applied.  This has a long history of happening after races.  It is part of what made NASCAR as popular as it was back in the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Tempers flair, it builds up, punches get thrown eventually, or the drivers sit down and talk it out.

So, here is my take on it all, the big picture.  NASCAR's new Chase for the Cup started this.  Drivers are fighting to keep championship dreams alive.  But coming into one of the more dangerous tracks on the circuit, I am very concerned.  You have several people, Keselowski being one of them, who are going to be fighting tooth and nail for every inch of real estate on that track, and it may get someone severely injured or worse.  Racing, even with the many safety improvements made, is still a very dangerous sport.  I think the system needs to be tweaked again, just to ensure that people are fighting hard for a championship, but we do not have situations where people are taken out on purpose.

As for what to do with the drivers involved in all of this mess.  Starting with Keselowski, he needs to be suspended for the remainder of the season.  He instigated the majority of events Saturday night.  I already know that some people will complain if he is, but look at everything that happened that night.  He endangered not only his fellow drivers, but officials, and media with his stunts.  Harvick was parked for a race because of antics not nearly as bad as what Keselowski pulled.  Kenseth will likely get pulled for at least a race, because he threw a punch, and assaulted a fellow driver.  I would suspect that Hamlin and Stewart might get a fine, and lose some points out of the deal.  Everyone will likely be on probation until the end of the year.  

Now, I say that Keselowski needs to be park for multiple reasons.  First, he was the instigating factor in most of what happened after Saturday night's race.  Second is his general demeanor afterwards.
"For some reason after the race (Hamlin) stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight, I don't know what that was about. He swung and hit at my car. I figure if we're going to play car wars under the yellow and after the race, I'm going to play, too.  Those guys can dish it out and they can't take it. I gave it back to them and they want to fight."
One thing I can only say, this has been brewing all year, and if some drivers aren't parked for Talladega this week cars will be wasted, fans might be injured, and it is always a real possibility we might be mourning the loss of another driver.  But NASCARs chase is exciting right?  It has more drama, right?  It will put people in the seats, and by penalizing drivers for what they do, will anger some.  But at some point, we must all remember they are wheeling around 3400 pound cars with 950 horses under the hood at speeds of 180-210 mph.  Those are not things to be tempted, or used as a weapon.  At some point Keselowski, Kenseth, Hamlin, and Stewart for his limited role in this, should have been the bigger man and walked away.