Home Again

As many of you know I spent the last seven days on vacation. As far as the particulars, no rain, no arrests, too much food, too much beer, not enough days. The down side of going on vacation is you get so weary trying to get back up to speed after returning home you need another vacation. Here are a few random comments on stories that developed in my absence. I would ask as a simple courtesy next time Mr. Spencer decides to punch someone in the yap he not do so while I’m at the shore. I’m considering legal action and have contacted the Atlantic County sheriff’s department.

Ah, yes. Spencer-gate. This story is all anyone is talking about right now. Here’s my take.

Many years ago I had a great friend of Spencer like proportions who developed an alarming habit of getting into fistfights all of a sudden. Fearing eventually he’d wind up shot or arrested I tried to tell him that he needed to back it down a notch. Tom told me, “I ain’t never punched no one who didn’t need punching.” And in my humble opinion Kurt Busch has needed punching for quite some time now but he really crossed the line at Michigan.

Getting punched in the face is not pleasant. Neither is hitting a concrete wall at the wheel of a stock car at a speed approaching 200 MPH. Of those two situations it’s the wreck that is more likely to cause catastrophic trauma. Kurt Busch admitted on the radio he had purposely tried to cut down Jimmy Spencer’s front tire by banging into his car. He made a joke about not being good at being bad. The situation was no joking matter. Had Spencer cut down a tire he very likely would have wrecked and at the sort of speed the cars are running at Michigan wrecking there is no joking matter. Ask Ernie Irvan who was nearly killed there and eventually had his career ended by a Michigan wreck what it feels like to hit the wall there. If Spencer earned a weekend off for his actions after the race, it would seem young Master Busch should be invited to sit out the rest of the season for his reckless and irresponsible actions. Using a car as a deadly weapon at 190 MPH borders on criminal, and I applaud Spencer for handling things like a man after the fact. The fact of the matter is this sport would be far better off with a few more Jimmy Spencer’s and a few less Kurt Busch’s.

Spencer is a driver who tends to polarize the fans. They either love him or they hate him. But give Spencer credit for being one of the last honest voices in the garage area. Ask Spencer a question and you’ll get an answer. You might not like the answer, you might not agree with it, but you know he’s saying what’s on his mind, not what some PR flak told him to say.

For all Jack Roush’s outrage about how badly Busch had been hurt in the assault, the fact of the matter is you can barely see evidence he was hit at all only days after the attack. The only thing that was grossly swollen was his jug handle ears. I’m phobic about dentists and I don’t downplay the discomfort of dental injuries, but talk about much ado about nothing. And it’s not like Busch hasn’t been warned about purposely wrecking other drivers. He did so during the Winston when he needed a caution flag to get back in contention and was fined for his actions. Apparently Busch has begun to think he’s as big as his ego. If you mess with the bull, you get the horns. And Sunday at Michigan Busch got his comeuppance. The fact tapes of the radio exchange between the pits and Busch exist and NASCAR had to date allowed Busch off with probation while suspending Spencer probably has everything to do with comments Spencer has made in the past NASCAR didn’t appreciate and nothing to do with justice.

Though Spencer didn’t wreck, one also needs to keep the 7 team’s circumstances in mind. Their sponsor has already announced they won’t be back next year. Both Spencer and crew chief Tommy Baldwin were cast aside by their teams last year (and you’ll note neither the 41 or 22 team have improved appreciably while the 7 teams certainly has.) A good run at Michigan (or Bristol where Spencer historically runs well) could have gone a long way towards helping the team find financial backing for next year. Obviously the team had worked long and hard to prepare a good car for the event and Baldwin’s strategy was working. One would guess that Busch doesn’t have a problem with Baldwin of the other members of the team so if he had an issue with Spencer he should have handled it like a man and taken it behind the trailers. Where he would have gotten punched in the face anyway.

In a released statement that Busch may possibly have initialed off on but certainly didn’t right he said he was willing to accept his punishment to show he was a clean racer and willing to abide by the sanctioning body’s decision. Had Busch himself written the statement it would have started with “In my contemplation of the adjudication processification I have metamorphosized my opinionization of my verbalization of the situation….” Is it possible for NASCAR to suspend a driver for mutilating polysyllable words?

As for the police getting involved, I think it’s insane. If this incident is to set precedent the cops might as well have a riot squad and a school bus outside every NHL hockey game ready to haul away all those who commit assault and battery during the game. The way I see it, if a driver assaults a fan or a media member (or visa versa) that’s criminal. The victim (or perp) wasn’t part of the game. But two athletes involved in a sporting contest are occasionally going to wrangle. What’s next, cops writing speeding tickets for drivers who violate the pit road speed?

I don’t condone punching people in the face. Given my preference I’d rather not be punched in the face. (Though like Busch I’m goofy enough looking that it would be unlikely to do any lasting damage.) But I dare say that if another driver in a fit of road rage tried deliberately to run you or a loved one off the road and could have badly hurt you, at the next traffic light most of us would be inclined to leap from the car and let that fellow have it upside the head.

In another startling development rumors persist that Mike Helton might step down from the role of president of NASCAR to take over management duties at DEI. I was talking to a friend who knows more about this stuff than I do and he’s of the same opinion I am. I hear it’s true but I refuse to believe it. Sure, having Helton as president of DEI is one option. Another saner notion would be to have Teresa Earnhardt fire all three drivers, cancel her insurance and burn the shop to the ground. I can almost hear Helton’s first public statement as president of DEI. “While traditionally the Earnhardt family has been associated with Chevrolet it’s important to remember many years ago Dale drove Pontiacs and even Fords. Thus we feel we are modernizing tradition by having DEI switch over to Toyotas in an attempt to grow the business….”

The friend I mentioned above was none over than Jay of Jayski’s page. We had a nice lunch together one day this week and despite the site’s success he remains as down to earth and real as ever. Jay seems equally amused and confused as to how his site got to big such a big player on the racing landscape. One day later this week, August 26th, Jay’s site will celebrate its seventh anniversary. From a humble beginning when Jay just wanted to find out what was going on with Lake Speed and couldn’t find the information on the Internet, JSSP has grown into the most influential racing site on the net. How often do you hear drivers talking about getting their information from the sport’s official site? What site did Dale Earnhardt Jr. list as his favorite place on the web over the weekend? In addition to keeping hard core fans up to date on what’s going on Jay’s site has become the engine that keeps the independent stock car racing Internet rolling along. When Jay links to a story on another site on his links page, that story gets read. Were it not for Jay’s site about all you’d be left with is the official NASCAR site and it’s watered down politically correct reporting on what happened last week. Keep on rolling my old buddy. I appreciate all you and your site have done for me (Ed. Note: and RacingOne!) and congratulations on seven years and 2058 straight days of updates.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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