Sunday , September 14 2014
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Racing to the Point: Some Drivers Need to Stop Being So Nice
Credit: CIA

Racing to the Point: Some Drivers Need to Stop Being So Nice

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is lucky he has friends.

Two weeks in a row, a driver with Hendrick Motorsports horsepower eased off the throttle and allowed Earnhardt to catch up and clean his front grille by sucking up on their back bumper. The kindness of his competitors kept Earnhardt in the hunt in both races, instead of down pit road to remove the debris or up in a ball of smoke after his engine overheated.

NASCAR racing sure has gotten friendly. Maybe at the next oval, Kevin Harvick will slow down after he learns that Jimmie Johnson’s crew made a mistake on their last pit stop. Well, it wasn’t his fault Kevin, and he is sort of your teammate in a roundabout way.

It didn’t used to be this way. We don’t have to go back to 1953 to find a time when it wasn’t, either.

 

The Dynasty NASCAR Built… Or Is It Hendrick?

Sometime in the last decade, when the sponsorship money started drying up, and everyone became a satellite team of everyone else, the racing became too nice. Even 10 years ago, if you had a piece of debris on your grille, you better hope to hell the caution comes out, you can track down the car in front of you or your teammate is the next car in front you. Even in situations where it was your teammate right in front, there was no guarantee he was going to slow down to help you.

The whole idea of slowing down to help one of your top competitors in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race is backward. The point of running these marathon 400- or 500-mile races is to weed out some of the field through attrition. You don’t just have to have the fastest car, but it has to be reliable, and you have to consistently have a team that executes on pit road, a crew chief that makes the right strategy moves, a driver who makes intelligent choices and a little luck, too.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. races in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. (Courtesy CIA)

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. races in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. (Courtesy CIA)

Helping the car that is trying to track you down makes about as much sense as a deer helping a hunter. That’s part of what made Jamie McMurray’s actions on Sunday so disturbing.

In case you missed it, McMurray was all over the back of second-place Paul Menard with 38 laps to go when all of sudden he pulled low and slowed down the frontstretch to help fourth-place Earnhardt rid trash from his grille. Earnhardt wasn’t anywhere near McMurray when he initially slowed, so it took about two laps before he even reached McMurray.

The commentators in the TNT booth questioned McMurray’s move — and for good reason. He is winless this season (outside the All-Star Race) and outside the Chase, and intentionally backed up to help a driver with two wins and is solidly in the Chase that isn’t even a teammate. And once again, this wasn’t lap two; there were 38 laps to go and McMurray was on the rear bumper of the second-place car.

Why would the Chip Ganassi Racing driver feel so compelled to help the Hendrick driver that would he would risk his own shot at a victory? McMurray doesn’t get a lot of shots, either. The Ganassi cars run Hendrick engines, but last time I knew the partnership between teams wasn’t nearly as strong as with Hendrick and Stewart-Haas (Hendrick 2 is a better name).

Is there now a Hendrick 3? Are there 10 Hendrick drivers now? All I know is that two weeks in a row, Earnhardt beat the driver who helped him to the finish line.

Maybe McMurray is just a really, really nice guy, or maybe he felt like he owed Hendrick something — but regardless, everyone helping everybody else get to the finish line is good for running marathons, but it shouldn’t be happening at the top levels of auto racing.

The racing doesn’t need to be cutthroat. It’s OK to let a car pass, instead of fighting tooth and nail for 17th. But during an era of slumping TV ratings, watered-down personalities, robotic interviews and everyone in the garage partnering with everyone else, it would be great if the drivers stopped being so nice.

About Brett Poirier

Brett Poirier
Brett starts his fourth year with the Frontstretch in 2014, writing the popular Racing To The Point commentary on Tuesdays. An award-winning Connecticut Sportswriter and Editor, Brett resides in the Constitution State while working towards his dream of getting involved in racing full-time.

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  7. Brett, the real question is why isn’t NASCAR fining and taking major points away from the 88, the 1 and the 14? Didn’t NASCAR state after Richmond, when a teammate helped his teammate make the chase only to have Rick Hendrick overrule the fact his teams were outsmarted, that NASCAR would not tolerate helping competitors, including teammates, with the plate tracks the exception? Didn’t NASCAR not state that if it happened and that each driver didn’t give 100% they would fine, and take major points away? But yet when it involves Rick Hendrick and his stable of vehicles NASCAR looks the other way. That is the question reporters should be asking Mike Helton

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  9. The truly sad part is that Jr had a lapped car right behind him when the debris got on his grille. Instead of slowing hisself down and using that car, he asked his nearest competitor to slow down and wait up. THEN, three laps later, he comes in to pit, after PASSING Jamie. I don’t know why anyone would give favors to this guy, he ain’t gonna give any back.

    • Well, it looks like my membership in this circle jerk has expired. Only those newbs who have re-signed in have a profile pic.

  10. Where is the 100% rule enforcement that BZF rambled on about? He went into overdrive about “100% rule” and not a darn thing has been said since. Nascar is so full of it.

  11. Brett, you’ve realized the danger of not doing your research and believing everything the TV broadcast says. McMurray absolutely did not intentionally fall back to help Dale Jr. rid his grille of debris. If you did your research, you’d find that McMurray scraped the wall a few laps before he fell back to Dale Jr’s front bumper. He was screaming on the radio about his fender and possible flat tire. That’s why he fell into Junior’s clutches. He didn’t “help” Jr. on purpose. Thanks for doing your research.

    • Also, TNT was just flat out wrong in their analysis of this situation. If they would have monitored the #1 team’s audio, they would have realized they were wrong. Instead, they went with what they thought and misinformed everyone. McMurray’s a nice guy, but he’s not an idiot.

    • Nick, you watched a totally different race than everyone else. Jamie was trying to get into 3rd place with Kurt Busch and he was underneath him all the time. It’s amazing after Junior got the trash off his grill Jamie took off again. The only good thing was Jamie never got back into the top 10. Pull your nose out of the Rick Hendrick south end.

  12. Every time someone comes along and shows some “personality”, Nascar is quick to respond. And many times the nascar media is too, which in turn gets the fans worked up enough to contact the sponsors who in turn get cold feet and threaten to pull out. ( I, for one, will no longer do business with NAPA. But l’ll buy twice as much 5 hour energy). Big money runs the sport.

    There’s so much money that nascar has become like golf. You never have to win to become a multimillionaire. It’s a great gig if you’re in on it. After Stewart compared nascar to wrestling, Nascar had a driver’s meeting and basically told them to quit crying and keep the show going and everybody makes money. Now Stewart is an owner running Hendrick power.

    So many say they want personality but they really don’t. Thirty years ago Kyle Busch wouldn’t have gotten the hate he gets today. So much of that is driven by social media and group think. There’s less testosterone in society these days with PC running rampant and taught in schools.

    It all adds up to the Hendrick Cup series we have today. Congratulations people. We deserve it.

    • Personality is Jimmy Spenser spanking Kurt or Boyer running all the way to Gordon’s hauler. Kyle Busch is a run your mouth and go hide behind the teacher type. Thirty years ago someone would have stuffed him up his own behind until he disappeared. You can have plenty of personality without being an asshole. Danica has more testosterone than both Busch boys combined. We can argue all day about where exactly the personality/asshole line is crossed but I bet we can agree that no amount of personality makes up for a boring single file “race” on a 1.5 mile ISC track.

    • Pete, It’s funny that ears ago it would have been the norm to have some brand and sponsor loyalty, its what drove this sport. Now I don’t know if people even notice the difference anymore. For what its worth I did complain to Napa 5 hour and Aaron s last year and some do listen so I bought something at Napa this year for the first time since Waltrip took them from DEI but I’m still bitter that they left Hornaday. I didn’t think anyone listened but obviously some do care, 5 hour and Arron’s I guess are going after a different demographic.

      • Mike why was you upset? If it was because Mikey bowed down to NASCAR and didn’t fight, I’m with you. But if you think they did something wrong. SHow me in the rules where the crew chief cannot call his driver in the pits. MWR outsmarted the HMS teams and Rick cried to NASCAR and NASCAR gave him two cars in the chase with the Newman and Gordon cars and took the 56 out.

  13. Debris clogging the tiny air openings is such an every race problem that perhaps McMurray figured that if he helped now someone may help him later. As to “not nice” drivers, I personally do not find assholes entertaining under any circumstances. Forty Kyle Buschs, I’m guessing would not be exactly a ratings bonanza, and we would be lucky if a half dozen cars made it to the halfway point.

    • 40 Kyle Busch’s would be a reality television show. The ratings would probably go up but it would be a completely different crowd watching. They would be watching to see people acting badly not the guys in cars racing each other.

    • I would like to hear Jamie’s take on it and how bout that 100% rule. Remember when Edwards got pissed when Biff wouldn’t back up to him last year (can’t remember which race)

  14. Well Brett. congrats to you..this is a start…we hope. Everybody in Nascar has bent over backwards or turned a blind eye to anything Hendrick, it is maddening to say the least. Hopefully we can see more of this type of reporting in the future, but I am not betting the homestead on it…:) Let’s see Nascar grow a pair (not gonna happen..$$$) and at the very least have some drivers/teams give pushback and just say no.