Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? Polesitters Falling, Professionalism Rising & NASCAR Fans Simply Have No Shame?

Did You Notice? Well, you couldn’t have noticed this one. But I was absolutely appalled by an incident I saw in the NASCAR garage Friday at Texas. Kyle Petty – already coming off a rather traumatic week in his driving career – was talking animatedly on a cellphone while walking down by his trailer. All of a sudden, out of nowhere a fan runs him down from over 50 feet away, with a picture in hand and a marker, obnoxiously asking for Petty to sign.

Now, I understand the urge for athletes to sign something as much as the next guy; but wouldn’t you want your one meeting with your favorite driver to be more of a “special” moment? And don’t you think there’s still some rules of common courtesy that need to be followed – especially when you’re in the middle of a working garage on a Friday?

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Voice of Vito: Is Petty Enterprises Circling the Drain?

To my surprise, Kyle ended up signing the picture for this man; no doubt, that’s the type of easygoing fan interaction he learned from his father Richard. But if it were me, it would take everything in my being not to give this fan the middle finger. I’m wondering how many crazy people like that race drivers have to deal with over the course of the weekend; incidents like that make it easy to see why people complain a lot of drivers aren’t as personable as they used to be.

Did You Notice? That on the heels of Dale Earnhardt Jr. fading fast from his pole position at Texas, NASCAR is in the midst of an extensive drought in terms of drivers winning races after qualifying in the top spot? The last time a driver won from the pole was Clint Bowyer at New Hampshire last September – a span of 16 races. Instead, the outside pole has been the place to be; drivers who started second have won three out of seven events so far this season.

Did You Notice? A new addition to the back of crash carts along pit road? OK, maybe it’s not all that new, but most carts have a fake hub built in where tire changers can practice removing lugnuts on pit road. It’s yet another sign for how pit crews are just as athletic as the drivers themselves these days; one tenth of a second could mean the difference between first and fifth.

Did You Notice? Something small, but notable. During driver introductions at Texas Saturday, David Ragan turned his hat backwards for the crowd, showcasing a little personality for the fans as he went around the track. But no more than five minutes later – once Ragan had ended his tour around the garage – he turned his hat back around, looking every bit the consummate professional during an interview with ESPN’s pre-race show for the Nationwide Series race.

Now, there could be a silly, simple reason why Ragan turned his “look” around; but part of me can’t help but think he’s got it ingrained into his brain that he has to be a certain way once the cameras are rolling. Why can’t the man wear his hat backwards during an interview? What’s the problem with that, sponsors? Are we to the point where these corporations feel their drivers need to act like they’re in private school in order for people to buy the product they’re representing? I just don’t get this era of over-political correctness, I really don’t.

Did You Notice? Something else during the Nationwide Series this weekend. ESPN spent an extensive amount of time hailing the progress of the “young guns” during their pre-race show, based on the previous race at Nashville. To an extent, they were justified: Kelly Bires and Brad Keselowski both scored top-five finishes as Nationwide-only drivers. However, they also led a total of three laps during the race. The move was a sign of how difficult it is to market other drivers in this series; people are looking for any spark from these guys in order to try and push them as successful competitors to the onslaught of Cup teams and drivers.

In case you were wondering, last weekend went back to the same old story; Jason Leffler was the sole member of the Nationwide-only crowd to crack the top 10 at Texas (ninth).

Did You Notice? That in the aftermath of Michael McDowell‘s crash, people automatically jumped on the Car of Tomorrow bandwagon to the point people feel the man wouldn’t have survived without it? Really? You mean nothing else developed in the past decade besides the CoT contributed to McDowell’s survival? Nothing against the new car, but I find that hard to believe.

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Thompson in Turn 5: The Verdict Is in - NASCAR Scores Big With the CoT

Did You Notice? That with Haas CNC’s release of Jeremy Mayfield, they continue their streak of hiring drivers for one year or less. Jeff Green continues to be the only one since their inception in 2003 who survived to a second season; but after struggling mightily throughout his tenure at Haas, Mayfield may be much better off starting over elsewhere.

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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