Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Pleasant thought isn’t it? But while even for those lucky enough to have chosen a career that really is considered their dream job, some days the well-worn phrase feels like just a motivational coffee mug or t-shirt.
The reality of life is sometimes work is hard. Like driving a racecar for instance.
Now consider that already difficult profession being made even more challenging by a new rules package. But not just any rules package, one dramatically different than anything before. One that is counterintuitive to every braincell ingrained in driving a stock car at NASCAR’s top level.
Welcome to the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
As the schedule races past the halfway point of the regular season, the voices of dissent from around the garage and inside the cars remains loud. Aerodynamics, dirty air, turbulence and the inability to pass fill page after page of driver transcripts both before and after races.
The chorus of opposition was again loud and clear from a number of high profile drivers after Monday’s rain-delayed FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
“It’s not racing, I’m sorry, I’m just biting my tongue,” said Clint Bowyer, even more frustrated after exiting the race in an early crash. “I’ve never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody and you can make a complete pass, but by time you get the corner, you’ve been passed by four people.”
Bowyer wasn’t alone.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. “It’s frustrating to race this way. You beat someone through the corner and you get penalized for it. It’s kind of silly.”
You get the idea.
While there are undoubtedly several flummoxed and angry about how the rules have impacted their jobs, it hasn’t stopped some drivers from excelling. Kyle Busch, who hasn’t wavered from his disdain for the package since it was tested in January, has somehow found his way to Victory Lane four times this year and outside the top 10 just once in 15 races.
Two of Busch’s JGR teammates Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have a combined five wins on the board. Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have also combined to win five times so far.
It’s possible to be sympathetic to the views of the drivers while at the same time grow tired of the weekly barrage of condemnation. While what constitutes a good race is subjective at best, it is not a fair assessment to say this year’s on track product has been a disaster by any means.
A combination of both statistics and more importantly optics adds up to more than a number of races producing entertaining and compelling competition. Monday’s Michigan race had had an intriguing mix of several components including yes passing, some side-by-side racing and pit strategy to at least take some of the sting out of being postponed a day by rain.
NASCAR officials have stated in no uncertain terms this year’s rules will be in place without even a minor tweak planned the rest of the way. That said it would be in any driver’s best interest still not enamored with the package to figure out how to succeed with it in a hurry. All the griping, complaining and grumbling in the world won’t change anything and has accomplished only in creating an air of unhappiness around the sport.
The self-proclaimed “best stock car drivers in the world” should be able to figure out how to adapt their many skills and talents to these rules. Some have, proving it’s possible.
No job is perfect. Remember when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
I read that on a t-shirt so it has to be true.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.