Story by Patrick Reynolds. Photo courtesy NASCAR.
I did what I had to do. I moved him out of the way. Bump and run. Dale Sr. did it and everyone loved him for it. And the absolute worst one of all- rubbin’ is racing.
The finish of the recent NASCAR Truck Series race in Bowmanville, Ontario Canada brought many of auto racing’s poor cliches back to the bench racing forefront. I wished they would stay on the back burner.
Proponents of the type of finish between John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer dragged these phrases out to defend what we witnessed. Also piled onto the justification were comparisons to classic crashing NASCAR finishes: Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison at Daytona, Richard Petty and David Pearson also at Daytona among others.
“How are these finishes different?” the collective group rhetorically asked.
I will tell you how they were different. The classic crashes were two drivers racing hard for the win. I will again emphasize the word racing.
There are some drivers that do not race and unfortunately the trend is growing. This is in the stock car world from NASCAR Cup to the unsanctioned hobby class at your local speedway.
If I may generalize, the attitude of anything-goes-in-order-to-win-a-race-after-the-white-flag-waves is prevalent. The bump and run and moving a driver out of the way are seen as acceptable to some.
The attitude and driving style are wrong.
Let’s explore our above listed cliches when a driver knocks the car in front of him out of the way on the last lap and thinks it is acceptable.
- I did what I had to do. No, friend you did what you wanted to do, not what you had to do. If you have to hit the car in front of you to win the race, you do not have the talent to be driving in the division you are in.
- I moved him out of the way. Since when is this OK? Answer- never. Racing is just that- racing. You pass other cars. You drive around them. If you drive through them, then see above. Your talent and style needs refining.
- Bump and run. This used to be a shameful move to win a race. It was looked down upon with disrespect by the entire pit area and grandstand. Rarely was this type of victory ever celebrated because officials did the right thing and gave the trophy to the next driver that crossed the line. Somewhere, somehow, things changed and not for the good.
- Dale Sr. did it and everyone loved him for it. No, they did not. That is revisionist history. The entire grandstand reacted to Dale but not completely positive. He was 50-50 cheers to boos and, depending on a race’s location, the boos could far outweigh the cheers. His death and years passed made him a beloved hero. While he was alive he had a tremendous fan following- and also a large number that rooted against him. Count me as one who thought Dale was indeed a great driver, however I was not a fan for what I viewed as his dirty driving manner.
- And the total fallback excuse- Rubbin’ is racing. Like the Earnhardt reference above- no, it is not. I had never heard of “rubbin’ is racing” until the phrase was said by actor Robert Duvall playing the part of crew chief Harry Hogge in the movie “Days of Thunder” released in 1990. Also known as fiction.
Bumpers bump, nerf bars nerf, and paint is traded. I understand and am fine with all of that. The using of the front bumper as a tool is something I am not fine with. Nemechek dived into the final corner at Bowmanville using his front bumper to move Custer as a manner to win, the same way a crew chief would use a shim stack on a shock absorber to increase speed through a corner.
This wasn’t right in “Days of Thunder,” it wasn’t right in Earnhardt’s prime, and it isn’t right in 2016 during a Truck Series race on a road course in Canada.
“Rubbin’ is racing” is not racing. “Rubbin’ is racing” is a bad line from a bad auto racing movie.
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Speedway Report Mondays 7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT on www.racersreunionradio.com. Follow on Twitter @SpeedwayPat.