Fisticuffs and Finding Our Way
By Clint Knight
It has been a busy month in the racing world. All three NASCAR series are back on the track, they’re running 27 classes a night on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway (exaggerating), the World of Outlaws are back on the road, local tracks are firing back up – racing is happening. It’s exciting to see the light at the end of the quarantine tunnel.
One of the most beautiful things about the sport that I care so deeply for – is the passion. It takes a lot of passion to strap yourself to a 135 mph rocket that goes around in circles – encaged by concrete barriers and fencing – for everyone’s safety. One would argue that you have to be a little crazy to do something like that. It also takes a lot of passion to load the whole family in the Astro van, drive 75 minutes around Atlanta to get to the race track, and spend nearly $300 on tickets – knowing that you still have toy flags and t-shirts to buy.
On the competitor side – we occasionally see that passion come rushing forward in the form of retaliation. Things happen on the track. Drivers make poor decisions; after all, those decisions are often made in .45 seconds. The margin for error is very high. But the factors that amplify that – are the stakes. An owner/team/driver can lose a lot of money based on someone else’s irresponsible driving or bad decisions. Or even worse – someone could get hurt.
This week, we saw an unusual amount of these instances. Kevin Thomas Jr threw helmet-punches at a charity go-kart event. Stuart Brubaker and Chris Andrews had a dust-up at Attica Raceway Park, Daniel Hemrick interrupted Noah Gragson’s interview following the Xfinity race – only to get manhandled by Gragson’s 7ft tall crew member. And on top of all that, Sammy Swindell gives the interview of the year after getting up-ended at Devil’s Bowl.
It’s clear that folks are emotionally charged. We’re all looking for things to be drastically different in 2021. We want to put last year in the rear-view; making this one bigger, better, and overshadowing. Drivers and teams want to win. Coming off a year where the difficulty of getting sponsorships is 3 fold – they don’t want to trash equipment. The fans are ecstatic to be back in the grandstands. They want to buy t-shirts and get their kids out of the house. They want to roar when they see their driver get to the front and they need to be passionate again.
Welcome to racing in 2021. It’s going to be different. You’re gonna have to wear a mask when you don’t want to. You’re gonna have to give some space in the concession stand line. You might even have to sit 6 feet apart in the grandstands. But the passion is still the same. After just a few weeks of racing, we’ve already seen the evidence. So bring your kids, bring you cash, and bring your passion. We’ve weathered a crappy year – and we deserve to see some fast cars, fisticuffs, and fiery Sammy Swindell interviews.
And drivers – if your opponent still has their helmet on – just use your words – they’re far more effective than punching something that’s made to withstand a plane crash.