Friday, August 18, 2017

Troubling: Five Questions for Bristol

(Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
By Kristen Schneider

This week was full of emotions; from fear to joy to worry, people experienced a rollercoaster ride that left a lot of people drained. It was a troubling time.

NASCAR wasn’t immune to these feelings, yet that’s not a bad thing in my eyes. Rather, it helps us better understand everything that’s going on.

Sugar packets, closing doors, and political chatter infiltrated our racing world over the past seven days. How does this all fit together?

Let’s talk about that in this week’s Five Questions.

That’s a crazy story? Our favorite wild child Kenny Wallace avoided an insane Interstate accident this week. On Wednesday, he tweeted a video of himself at a Ruby Tuesday, using sugar packets (actually sugar substitutes, but the effect was the same) to describe the accident. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. responded with his own video reply; he took a nice swig of a beverage (I’m guessing Blue Moon because of the color) and quipped, “That’s a crazy story.” Landon Cassill mimicked Earnhardt’s video with his own drink. Thus, a trend was born, leading to multiple replies and two Twitter moments. I couldn’t stop laughing at the different takes, from Nascarcasm chugging some pickle juice to a race fan guzzling strawberry syrup. Who knew Twitter could be a fun place?

Does BKR’s departure signify a bigger problem? Thursday brought some troubling news for a team vital to the Camping World Truck Series. Brad Keselowski announced his decision to not field Brad Keselowski Racing in the series next year, which sucks a monumental amount. Still, this isn’t a huge shock; Red Horse Racing closed its doors earlier this season, and this news further proves that the system is flawed. The ROI is low in Trucks, meaning the incoming revenue usually fails to exceed the cost, much generate profit. Long story short, that isn’t a sustainable business model. Keselowski’s team regularly gave chances to up-and-coming racers and crew members, something the sport needs. The team closing eliminates two young, capable talents. In addition, this basically removes Ford from Truck competition altogether. Nothing breaks race fans’ hearts more than seeing organizations shut their doors. Something needs to be done to counteract this downward trend. I just can’t tell you what. I’m wishing Keselowski’s drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric a successful rest of 2017 as they both race for a championship—and future rides.

Can Hemric build upon his runner-up finish? As predicted, Sam Hornish, Jr. mastered the Xfinity’s visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course—but who came in second was a usual suspect. Daniel Hemric piloted his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing machine to a runner-up finish. His first season in the series has been quite successful; the young driver earned three top-fives and nine top-10s in 21 races. These are fantastic stats in a series that has been dominated by William Byron and Cup drivers. Hemric’s only experience with Bristol comes from this season’s earlier Xfinity race and his prior Truck starts. His 2017 Spring start led to a fifth-place finish. Truck-wise, he holds third- and fourth-place finishes. Hemric might be a dark-horse pick for Friday night’s race. 

Where oh where will KuBusch go? Another Silly Season domino fell, and it’s the most recent Daytona 500 winner. Lines got crossed when Kurt Busch said he and Stewart-Haas Racing wouldn’t be working together next season, but the organization suggested otherwise. The latest word is that they’re looking for a co-primary sponsor. How will this play out? I think Busch re-signs with SHR; I can’t see a Daytona 500 champion not having a ride, and the team will pull some strings. However, him being in this position is a bit crazy to me. It speaks to the weirdness of the entire 2017 season; a former series champion and a continually successful driver wouldn’t be searching for a ride any other time, but this year is just special. KuBusch stays put, but that doesn’t make the scenario any less mystifying.


Let’s get…political? Before Earnhardt created a fun Twitter trend, he spoke out after the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. His tweet, in response to a fan, says, “Hatred, bigotry, & racism should have no place in this great country. Spread love.” Earnhardt was the only driver to touch upon this topic at the time. The other person to discuss this is Jeff Gluck, who caught flack for asking people to unfollow him if they disagreed that “People of all races and religions deserve love and should never be afraid to be themselves in the USA.” Gluck responded to a disparaging remark by clarifying that the statement wasn’t political or personal—“It’s a simple statement about basic human dignity.” Let me remind you that readers/donations fund Gluck’s ability to travel and cover races, so this is a risky thing to do (except Gluck also said he doesn’t want the money of those who disagree with his statement on humanity, so go him!). I respect both these men for speaking out and highlighting what’s going on in our world. Angry fans aren’t “peeved”—they’re uncomfortable. The beauty of sports is that it allows you to unwind and shut out the world. It becomes a safe space, which is why people are so mad when political talk infiltrates their sports feeds. This is where “Stick to sports!” comes from, of course. The fact of the matter is when your guard is down is the best time to listen. I understand the purpose of sports is to get away from it all and that having ideologies "fed" to you can be troubling, but to get angry when the real world comes in? When other human beings express how they wish others would spread love? The term "escapism" can only explain so much. If you get upset when an athlete “gets political,” you should ask yourself why it displeases you so much. Earnhardt’s tweets should create a productive discussion within the sport and about its fans. Put things aside and open your mind. Politics and racing can work as long as we all respect each other’s right to have differing opinions. I love a good debate about racing, politics, journalism, whatever—I just like hearing other people’s viewpoints and understanding why they think the way they do. Let’s do a little more of that.

Editor's note: Daniel Hemric finished seventh in Friday night's Xfinity Series Food Series 300. Kyle Busch swept all three stages and is a threat to sweep the weekend after his win Wednesday in the Camping World Truck Series. 

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