I had to laugh this morning when I saw the penalties that were handed down to JR Motorsports for the post race altercation on Saturday. Denny announces on the radio that he is going to wreck the 88 car, and does so under caution. A brawl ensues after the checkered flag, and the JRM fellows mix it up with the Gibbs fellows. JRM gets penalized, but Denny and the "Don't you dare race me hard" crew comes out smelling like roses. And then on Sunday, Kyle has a problem with Jeff Gordon racing him. Kyle, winner of how many championships? Oh, that's right, Zero, gets in Jeff's face and lectures him about racing. Last night, Nascar sent a clear warning: Don't race the Toyotas anymore.
Nascar might as well put it in the rule book. When you see a Toyota approaching your rear bumper, you should move over and slow down. If that car happens to be a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, you are not to race it at all, and you must allow that car to go by unscathed. More to the point, that rule apparently does not apply to the 20 Joe Gibbs car, but only to the 18 and the 11 cars. Is it any wonder that Tony Stewart wants out of this kindergarten that JGR has become this year? Everyone used to complain about Tony's antics off the track, but even Tony can't hold a candle to these two babies, especially in terms of pure immaturity.
Over the years, Joe Gibbs has built his team slowly, first with Dale Jarrett, and then Bobby Labonte. When Smoke came along, he was considered a brat at times, but obviously a very talented driver. When Denny came along, he seemed like a nice kid, but last year the brat emerged from the all American kid persona that most saw in the young man from Virginia. This year, Denny has been overshadowed by the new brat on the block, who's talents include supposedly being able to wheel a loose race car, but who has definitely proven that his true talents also include wrecking a lot of other cars, including his own from time to time, and the ability to shoot off his mouth at the drop of a hat. Kyle has made quite a few snide remarks about the man who replaced him at Hendrick Motorsports, and has claimed more than once that it's apparently unfair to race Dale Earnhardt Jr. The truth is, Kyle, that you don't like it when anyone races you. Jeff Gordon raced you hard, and you blamed him for costing you a shot at winning the race? Boo Hoo. Denny Hamlin thinks he should only be racing Cup drivers in a Nationwide race? Boo Hoo. If Denny Hamlin wants to only race Cup caliber drivers, stay the heck out of the Nationwide series!
It is heartening to notice some of the youngest class of Nascar drivers that seem to thrive on their on track performance, rather then their post race comments or sarcastic bows. Kasey Kahne has had quite a special 2 weeks at Charlotte, winning both the All Star race and the Coca Cola 600. Kasey is smart enough to let his racing skills do the talking for him, and he seems about as controversial as an altar boy. My hat's off to this quiet, polite young man who achieved two spectacular victories that unfortunately were overshadowed by the antics of two of his less well behaved contemporaries. David Reutimann as well has been quietly putting together some solid on track performances this year. Regan Smith, David Ragan, and veteran but still young drivers Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. quietly go about their craft, without having to mouth off to the entire world about their driving prowess or whatever it is that Kyle and Denny keep yapping about.
I suppose part of the problem for me is the non-stop love affair that FOX broadcasters Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds, and Jeff Hammond have had this year with Kyle Busch. We all know that Kyle reminds DW of his early days. I remember those days as well, and even though I was just a kid at the time, I remember what an idiot that guy Waltrip was. He wrecked a lot of cars, and he won some races, but the mouth just never stopped. Young DW had the audacity to call out Richard Petty and announce that the old man was over the hill. When a rookie named Dale Earnhardt came along, he questioned whether Dale could read or write.
Only time could heal some of the wounds that a brash young kid named Darrell opened back in the 1970's and early 1980's. DW drove for some of the greatest teams in the sport, then began running as an owner and driver of his own team, and soon the wheels began to fall off operation DW. Darrell struggled, and eventually gave up owning his own team, and went back to the position of driver. Darrell eventually won 3 championships, and 84 races, and became a respected man in the garage. In the waning days of his career, he even helped out his old nemesis, Dale Earnhardt, driving the 1 car while an injured Steve Park was on the mend. On the day that Fox Sports kicked off its coverage of the Daytona 500, in 2001, Darrell's voice trembled with emotion as he said "I hope Dale's ok" after the tragic accident in turn 4.
All of this teaches us a lesson, and that lesson is that even humility can be learned with the passage of time. But as the old song says, "Time goes by, so slowly, and time can do so much." Eventually, even Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will be old, respected men in the garage, if they hang around long enough. Someday, years ahead, young, eager drivers will seek out the old men's advice, and hopefully they will be told to drive hard, don't complain, and don't ever mouth off to the public, or to the fans that make this sport so great.
Stock Car racing. It truly does turn full circle.