Much has been said about how difficult it is for NASCAR drivers to lead comparatively normal lives, such as living safely in their own homes, being members of or being the heads of families, being able to go to the local restaurant and having a bite to eat without being mobbed by the media or fans, or being able to go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk without being molested.
Let me go on record as saying that I’m certainly for drivers, crew, owners, and even music and movie stars to have the ability to do all of those things. When you get right down to it, we’re all human beings, and we all need a little space and privacy at times. We all need a place to feel totally safe and secure in.
Personally, the only way I get by in public is to wear a mustache, glasses, and often go unshaven and wear a baseball cap when I go out to buy a gallon of milk. So far, that disguise seems to be working, because I am seldom mobbed, unless you consider the cats in my yard, and sometimes even in my house. Thus far, I have been successful in escaping my throng of fans when appearing in public. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for my ability to escape the attention of the South Carolina Highway Patrol when I’m driving a teensy bit over the speed limit, or the local tax collector when I neglect to pay taxes on my almost brand new eleven year old pickup truck. Even the mustache didn’t work that time. The Highway Patrol trooper was kind enough to only give me a warning. “Teensy” was not exaggerating. I was going “46 and a half in a 45 zone.” It says so on my warning ticket. Notice to all travelers: Speeding is a fruitless pursuit in the state of South Carolina. Plan early and take your time when you head to Darlington next year.
But as usual, I digress. This column is about NASCAR drivers, not me. When any driver signs a contract to drive in any of NASCAR’s series, there should be a disclaimer: “I, (YOUR NAME HERE) agree to the most intensive examination of my life, family, ancestors, pets, personal automobiles, favorite movies, TV shows, Internet sites, adult beverage, food, and bathroom habits, etc., etc., that only a CIA operative or NASA astronaut could appreciate. For the rest of my life. Plus 50 years.” Hmmm… Would Jeremy Mayfield have signed that disclaimer?
Seriously, though. I don’t mind listening to drivers lose their cool on their radio links to their crew chiefs and spotters. How many of you have not lost your temper at least once in the course of doing your job? I know I have. I have probably lost my temper two or three times already just writing this column. Needless to say, however, it’s all part of the job when it comes to the drivers. They are, after all, in the heat of battle, and sometimes things just slip.
When a driver agrees to give an interview, and voluntarily puts his mouth in front of a microphone and his face in front of a TV camera, that’s a little different. The driver may not have his emotions under control, but he has to know that his actions will be seen by thousands, and most likely millions of people. If a driver can make it all the way to the big leagues, such as is NASCAR, a driver should have plenty of experience with composing himself and controlling his emotions. I say this with one exception, however.
Putting a microphone in the face of a driver who has just 10 seconds before crawled out of a smoking heap of ruined sheet metal, the result of an indiscretion by the guy that was his buddy last week, is simply asking for controversy. I think that discretion should be the rule here. Give the driver time to go back to the hauler, clean up a little, and compose his thoughts before asking for a live interview. Heated words reported around the world might be fun for fans, but probably not too good for racing relationships. Give the guys a chance to cool off, for goodness sake.
The drivers in NASCAR are professionals. They didn’t get there by accident. They got there by virtue of their God given talent. They’re not babes in the woods, but they are human, strangely enough.
Just like you and me.
How much privacy should a NASCAR driver have? So far as being able to live his life like a normal human being when he’s away from the race track, I am all for drivers being able to live a normal family life, or at least as much as they are able to. Fans sometimes get carried away in their attempt to meet drivers in informal settings, and I hope that fans will understand that this type of situation is both uncomfortable for drivers and their families. After all, how would you feel if total strangers came up to you and wanted to talk to you or ask for your autograph when you were minding your own business? How would you feel if you were having a quiet dinner with your spouse and kids and suddenly a total stranger walked up to your table and started taking pictures of you and your kids? I wouldn’t like it very much, and doubt if you would either.
Again, how much privacy should a NASCAR driver have?
As much as they can get away with.