Thursday, October 15, 2009

NASCAR Hall of Fame Day Reveals Current Flaw in Sport

There was some awesome NASCAR programming on television Wednesday. It was the day they announced the first induction class for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a group that includes the likes of Junior Johnson, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhardt. There are no arguments with these three, and founding fathers Bill France and Bill France, Jr., are very deserving, even if they could have waited on the younger France for the next class.

ESPN2 re-aired the hour-long special about Rick Hendrick, as the new DVD comes out commemorating his 25 years in the sport. It really gives you a great insight into the kind of man Hendrick has been, and why he is so well-liked across NASCAR. There is some super stuff on that special from Jeff Gordon, along with the always-hilarious pictures of him with that ridiculous hair and mustache.

Also re-airing was the two-hour long movie "Dale" on SPEED. It's a documentary-style film that chronicles Earnhardt's career in racing. The most interesting part -- for me -- was introduced by Steve Byrnes and features longtime rival Darrell Waltrip talking about racing against The Intimidator.

When was the last time you saw racing like that in NASCAR? Yes, there have been some great finishes over the last few years, but when you have 36 Cup races in a season, they should happen a lot more often than they do.

Instead, we get something like Daytona in July, and it turns into a week-long controversy about who we should blame for it.

Why can't something like that be just "two guys racing for a spot"? Why do we have to find a reason to fault one driver or the other?

Moreover, what the hell has happened to that kind of hard racing?

Juan Pablo Montoya made it clear after the first Chase race that he wasn't pleased with Mark Martin for what Montoya termed a "brake check" heading into a corner at New Hampshire. Montoya insisted on racing clean, it seems, and refused to wreck Martin.


Race for the damn win. That's supposed to be your job. Instead, everyone is so obsessed with points that the wins just don't matter anymore. And when someone comes into the sport with the mentality that it's all or nothing, people decide that he's a waste of a human being.

Is there risk associated with racing someone hard and going for a win? Sure. There's also risk in putting the racecar on the track in the first place, but that doesn't stop anyone from trying.

The mentality in NASCAR just isn't what it used to be. Yes, safety is important, and no one wants the COT to go away if it means a higher risk of serious injury among the drivers. However, there's no denying that racing has become largely boring. There is less bumping and rubbing on the tracks, and we certainly never see people (outside of Kyle Busch) racing for the win the way Waltrip and Earnhardt did on that fateful day in 1986.

If we can ever return to having that kind of desire, hunger, and intensity on the track, the COT might start looking like a "racier" kind of car, instead of the parade-inducing snore we have today.

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