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Shut up and drive

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – SEPTEMBER 08: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, leads during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on September 08, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has become the season of the whine. And, yes, I mean whine, not wine. From the new 550 hp package to a younger generation of drivers who “race too hard,” some of the series’ veterans can’t seem to stop complaining.

Maybe I’m missing something, since I’ve never climbed behind the wheel of a race car, and I probably am. So I’ll make the disclaimer that I’ve never driven a race car. But some of these complaints just don’t make any sense to me.

The biggest gripe of the 550 hp package used at larger tracks is a so-called inability to pass. What gets me is the claim by drivers including Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick that they can’t pass with that package sometimes comes immediately after races in which drivers start in the back and drive up to the front to win or finish in the top-five. And, for the most part, they didn’t do so through pit strategy. Instead, they passed cars — pretty much an entire field of them — to get to the front.

One example of this was Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in May. He started in the back because of an issue getting through inspection. And here’s the kicker. Alex Bowman also started in the back. He wound up second to Truex at the checkered flag. But after two drivers started in the back and finished first and second, Busch went on a rant about not being able to pass with the new rules package, and Harvick, on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show, seconded Busch’s sentiment. When show co-host Matt Yocum pointed out that Truex started in the back and got to the front, the only rebuttal Harvick could come up with was, “Eventually.”

Well, yeah. What’s the point of penalizing a driver by making him start in the back if he could get to the lead in just a handful of laps? Besides, we’re talking the top level of a professional sport, here. Should it really be that easy to drive from the back to the front? I don’t think so.

Then, there’s that gripe from veterans of the series that the younger drivers are racing them “too hard.” Really!?! Again, this is the top level of a professional sport, competitors should be trying hard. Do they expect their fellow-competitors to just pull over and let them go by? This complaint is the latest variation of a gripe that used to come from Cup drivers who would run the occasional NASCAR Xfinity Series race and complain that the Xfinity regulars raced them too hard. Denny Hamlin used to be guilty of making that gripe. I guess the Xfinity Series regulars were supposed to bow down to the almighty Cup drivers and let them pass on by. I don’t know.

Now that Cup drivers are limited on the starts they may make in the Xfinity and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, so the veterans are turning on the newcomers in their own series. I’m glad to see that these newcomers, including Darrell Wallace Jr., refuse to back down.

The latest gripe came from Busch after a 19th-place finish at his home track of Las Vegas Motor Speeday on Sept. 15. Busch had a hard time getting around the lapped car of underfunded driver Garrett Smithley. Even though Smithley held his line and William Byron and Bowman made passing Smithley look easy, Busch rear-ended Smithley and, after the race, griped that there was a problem with drivers who get to the Cup level without so much as a win at the Late Model level.

When Smithley defended himself by bringing up his status as driver of an underfunded team, Busch fired back, pointing out that well-funded, successful teams hire winners, so maybe he should win a little more. Here’s the rub, don’t you pretty much have to be with a well-funded team to get those wins, most of the time? According to Smithley, he was also in underfunded cars at the Late Model level.

Besides, Smithley held his line. What more could he have done? Other drivers were able to pass him, seemingly with ease. Busch said that his spotter told him that Smithley would go high. Sounds like the spotter’s to blame here, not Smithley. And if Busch was unable to steer his car left or right to go around a driver who was holding his line, that’s not Smithley’s fault, either.

I want colorful personalities in the sport. I want honesty. I want drivers to give their proverbial two cents. But when drivers seem to simply be making unfounded excuses to avoid accepting responsibility for their own mistakes and shortcomings, I just want to say, “Shut up and drive.”

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Posted by on September 21, 2019. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.