CALABASAS, Calif– Following the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon, the attention wasn’t so much turned towards the winner, Martin Truex Jr., but more towards the action on pit road, as Kyle Busch and Joey Logano engaged in a fight on pit lane.
Busch, unhappy about a last lap incident with Logano that sent his No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota spinning into the infield, marched down pit road and gave the Team Penske driver his best impression of a Muhammad Ali right hook. He then proceeded to get trampled by Logano’s pit crew members shortly thereafter. Leaving the 2015 Cup champion bloodied and fuming.
While this wasn’t quite the “Thrilla in Manila”, this altercation has proven one thing. The once appearing robotic drivers, are finally showing their emotion, instead of just talking to reporters or going to social media to air their grievances, they are approaching the offending drivers and giving them a “what for.”
For far too long it seemed drivers weren’t able to show their true displeasure due to possible fines or penalties associated with a backyard brawl of sorts on the pit lane being handed down from the powers that be in NASCAR.
But as NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France said Monday morning on “Tradin Paint” on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, he doesn’t believe any fines will be coming from this incident.
Finally, as we start a new season with a new sponsor Monster Energy, there seems to be a different mood in the garage area. There seems to be a more tense atmosphere as teams aren’t really showing the same P’s and Q’s as what we have seen in years past. Drivers aren’t mincing words and not holding back from telling it how it is and NASCAR seems willing to let the drivers settle it out on their own terms.
All of this, is fantastic for the sport.
Taking a quote from Kevin Harvick in 2012 following the Jeff Gordon V. Clint Bowyer brawl at Phoenix International Raceway, “This sport was made on fights. I like fights. I think we should have more fights.”
We are two years removed from the Gordon V. Brad Keselowski brawl at Texas Motor Speedway, and to this day it gets brought up contasntly. That raw emotion shown out of the old veteran in Gordon made the moment so much bigger. He was pissed and he was going show Keselowski exactly just how pissed he was.
That is only the beginning, NASCAR’s popularity exploded due to a fight. The infamous 1979 Daytona 500, Cale Yarborough V. Bobby and Donnie Allison scuffle on the infield in turn 3, that erupted this sport from backroom whispers to water cooler shouts on Monday morning.
Long are the days removed when we would see the likes of Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, or Ricky Rudd do battle with their cars, fists and words, if need be. Where tracking a driver down wasn’t a publicity stunt, but more so a way to survive in this dog eat dog sport.
The closest we have seen in this era of a guy not being afraid to show his true emotions and maybe a fist or two, was Tony Stewart. A lot like his idol, the great A.J. Foyt, the driver nicknamed “Smoke” wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is and get a little physical if need be. Whether that be on track scuffles with Kurt Busch, in the garage area with Robby Gordon or Jeff Gordon, in the pit lane with Joey Logano or going after Goodyear after a race for a tire he thought was horrible. He was not afraid of any repercussions that followed from NASCAR or a company.
Alas, in the last 15 years or so, the sport has changed and so too have the emotions of racing. It seems it has become far too commercial and casts a driver in a bad light when they let some emotion out. Companies are less likely to sponsor you, due to their look of their brand they must maintain to stay with the family culture that we find ourselves in. Back then you were touted as a hero, a “badass”, now you’re looked at as a “cry baby” or a “poor loser”.
I’m not saying that after every race, we need two drivers to beat the hell out of each other. No, but showing emotion and getting up in their face will do. If a fist or two flies, hey, that’s just an added bonus.
What I am trying to say is this, the sport needs more moments like what we saw on Sunday, we need to be less robotic and be more human.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Rence Brown is Race Chaser Online’s West Coast-based correspondent, who currently resides in California and carries a deep passion for NASCAR, but is a follower of multiple forms of auto racing across multiple disciplines.
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