Why I Love NASCAR: Rivalries

Kevin Harvick versus Kyle Busch is the latest in the NASCAR rivalries and
stems from this accident at Darlington where the tempers flared on pit road afterwards.
Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
I love a good rivalry. A rivalry is a competition. In NASCAR there have been numerous rivalries on the track. The most famous include names like Richard Petty and everybody, Dale Earnhardt and everybody, and Jimmie Johnson and, well, everybody again. There have been battles on the racetrack that include David Pearson, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, and Carl Edwards, but those racing deals stayed on the track. Rivalry is competition, fights are fights, and the two should not be mixed up.

When racing hard, vying for wins, and ensconced in the race for Victory, passions run high. If you are in the top series in NASCAR it is a given that you are a highly competitive person. If you don’t have a drive to win, every time, you probably won’t make it in NASCAR. So, it stands to reason that forty-three drivers on the track and their crews, owners, etc. off of the track, all have a vested interest in the driver finishing well which means winning. Anything that hampers that goal, especially another driver, will cause frustrations, anger, and outrage. In the heat of the moment it is very difficult to curb those raw emotions if winning is no longer a viable goal. Some who have faced this scenario are able to check their anger well enough to not lash out at the object of their annoyance; others cannot. Donnie and Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Junior Johnson, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, and Kyle Busch are just some of the names that immediately come to mind who have allowed their flared temper to result in fisticuffs or worse at an event. With the ever-present media, cell phone cameras, and instantaneous Twitter feeds a part of the modern world, every move, mood, and action is documented before better judgment can reign. Before such media coverage and fan scrutiny, things could be solved quickly and quietly without an audience in the garage area and the fans were none the wiser. But those days are long over. Fights break out; “Have at it, Boys” is applauded, and then criticized while the ratings continue to climb.

This 1979 battle between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough took their anger out  in
an infield brawl during the 1979 Daytona 500
Credit: RacingOne Multmedia
I do not condone violence on or off the racetrack. I do, however, enjoy a great rivalry. But a great rivalry is not a punk getting up in somebody else’s grill. A rivalry is racing hard week in and week out, laying it all out on the track, and, once the race is over, keeping it on the track. I’m not naive; I realize when tempers flare and anger bubbles over, words will be exchanged, shoving may occur, and a fistfight may indeed break out. But those aren’t rivalries the way I understand it. And although those types of incidents do tend to raise the ratings in the short term, it gets the attention too far away from the intended entertainment, the racing. To me, a rivalry isn’t bad feeling between to immature egomaniacs. A rivalry is between two (or more) sportsmen competing at the top level of their abilities. In a professional sport I expect professionalism between the competitors. At the end of the day, the winner receives handshakes and kudos from his fellow competitors. Then, the next time they go racing together, they race pure, hard, and flat out to win again. A rivalry should imply good sportsmanship; gracious winners and no sour losers. Yes, it’s tough to lose. Yes, anger is difficult to curb, but separating the actions on the track from those off the track is imperative. Watching a photo finish and drivers involved in a rivalry leaving it all on the track for a win is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187 is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187 Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.
Why I Love NASCAR: Rivalries Why I Love NASCAR: Rivalries Reviewed by Chief 187 on Monday, June 13, 2011 Rating: 5