It takes commitment, NASCAR does. It doesn’t much matter whether you’re talking about racing or watching, it’s a long season that has the ability to eat up your entire life if you’re not careful. 36 races, 40-some-odd teams, more than 20 tracks, at least three series. Drivers, crew chiefs, owners, engineers, commentators….
If you’re in love with stock cars, NASCAR just isn’t something that lends itself to dabbling. Unless you hail from the land of pointy cars, so it seems. After a confusing statement this past weekend by Kyle Busch regarding the future of one Kimi Raikkonen, the former F1 champ’s US racing manager, Todd Hirshfeld, cleared up the matter of whether we will ever see the blue-eyed racing wonder on a NASCAR track again.
“Who knows if we want to do more.”
Oh. OK. Sorry for finding anything interesting about Raikkonen and spending time getting to know the latest invader from the open-wheel world. I mean, after the previous press release announcing the partnership of Kyle Busch Motorsports where Raikkonen stated, “Kyle is one of the best in NASCAR, and being able to draw on his knowledge will be a valuable asset as I make my transition to a new form of racing,” I assumed that this young star would be putting down some roots and making a new home.
I thought maybe he wouldn’t be doing the one foot in/one foot out approach that has hampered Danica Patrick’s chances at building knowledge and a fanbase on more than pretty looks.
I was wrong.
I spent the last two weekends pleasantly surprised with Raikkonen’s on-track results in the Truck and Nationwide series. He appeared able to bang fenders, save a sideways car and generally kept his vehicle under him as best as a brand spankin’ new rookie could. Not bad.
Even the rumblings that he was seeking out a Cup ride didn’t really rankle, as I believed he was getting ready to make the jump. I wouldn’t mind the invasion, as long as he was serious. Dedicated. All the hoopla about a crossover champ would have the opportunity to be validated.
And then the race was over and so, too, was the love affair, before it even had a chance to blossom. At least Patrick has given her love-struck following the chance to swoon over her presence for half the season. Ah well. There goes another one.
So if I haven’t had the time to really get attached to Kimi and his blond locks, what else ticks me off about his here today/gone in a blink approach to NASCAR?
It harkens back to the whole blue-collar image I embrace about our sport. Most of our champs grew up on American tracks, in junior racing series and getting their elbows greasy. Perhaps Mom and Dad funded their trip to the top on those tiny tracks, but the grittiness of a career focused on NASCAR sticks to the up and comers. I watch the boys and girls working their way through the Camping World Truck Series and grin as they stumble over their tongues the first few times a microphone is shoved in their face.
It takes time — years — to build a persona that fans want to plaster on t-shirts.
Raikkonen arrived all shiny and perfect from the top of world-class racing. With his pockets bulging and a personal image consultant in the wings, it didn’t take much to find any team willing to find a ride for him lurking in the depths of their garage. Got Money? Instead of grit, he has moolah, enabling him to make a bang in our world just a little too fast.
In the long run it wouldn’t make much difference how he landed a ride if he committed to the path of chasing our Cup and won. NASCAR fans can respect just about anybody able to best our season. But if he’s only here to sightsee, I wish he would’ve just stayed home.
You don’t arrive in a Cup victory lane solely by having the biggest wallet — although sometimes it does seem that way. There’s also a bit of luck, a whole lot of effort and a dream, the desire to be something bigger than you could ever imagine. Dreams aren’t made of instant gratification, they are built of many things, but rarely of money and certainly not passing curiosity.
Mr. Raikkonen, if you so chose to return to NASCAR Nation, don’t pussyfoot around. Do it or don’t. Love us or leave. We require one thing above all else in this racing world built of fenders: your commitment. One year, no less. Otherwise you shall never be seen as nothing more than a tepid interloper, which would be a shame for one with your storied past.
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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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