NASCAR’s got to change! Isn’t that the platform just about all of NASCAR Nation has been chanting for the past few years? And yet even though we go to the voting booth (um, er, track) or don’t, things haven’t changed. Somehow the cookie-cutter tracks still make up the vast majority of our schedule, the leader always drives off into the sunset without being challenged, Jimmie Johnson is going to be the champ yet again and those damn kids are just around messing things up for the big boys.
Uh, wait a minute. What kids? For the past couple years there’s been a dearth of applicants for the Rookie of the Year honors in the Cup Series. The ones that have appeared certainly haven’t done anything to create any excitement in the “new kid on the block” world. Does the name Kevin Conway ring a bell? No? Oh. Well… anyway.
If this is all true, then how could Denny Hamlin possibly be having a meltdown post-Nationwide race in Texas over a very young, inexperienced driver failing to show the proper respect to his elders?
Because things never change. And in this case, that’s all to the good.
In the closing laps of Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, rookie Austin Dillon got a little close to Hamlin’s No. 18. There was a little rubbin’, some wiggling and a door-to-door conversation exchanged between the pair. They drove on, bumper to bumper and Hamlin finished a very respectable fifth just in front of Dillon’s sixth. But neither driver appeared pleased.
They continued their discussion all the way into the pits, where both teams got together for some polite conversation over exactly who was supposed to be giving and taking. Nobody was accepting of the other’s point of view, but it was Hamlin who managed to snare the cameras and microphones and offered up some of the best of this year’s “I’m Top Dog around here and I don’t know what he was thinking” quotes.
“First of all, he got his ride because of his name.”
Alright. You got me on that one, Denny. The older Dillon brother undoubtedly is driving the No. 3 Chevy because Grandpa is Richard Childress. Still, it sounded a bit petulant right off the bat.
“If he’s points racing, you can’t crowd a guy that’s running [for wins].”
Oh, please. Right there, you’ve lost me. So, the guys running for points in Nationwide are supposed to ride around in the back and not ding up the Cup boys’ rides? What? Furthermore, you probably don’t expect a rookie, who it so happens already has a Truck Series championship under his belt, to be able to rattle your cage. It’s an entitlement thing. And it comes to every driver who has ever lived at the top of the mountain, only to have one of the new kids in town try to become king.
Yes, Dillon has a very good machine under his butt, thanks to the money and knowledge of his extremely successful grandfather. On the other hand, he hasn’t done too bad in backing up the nice ride with competitive driving ability. We have watched him take the dive through the tri-oval grass more than once. But he is relatively new to the garage area, and if there’s one thing we’ve seen through the years, the veterans of this sport love nothing more than giving the rookies crap.
Wasn’t it just a couple years ago a certain Bad Brad lingered on the tongue of every reporter and competitor in the Nationwide garage? Too cocky. Too impetuous. Doesn’t have any respect. Aggressive. Don’t know what he’s thinking… Boy, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Or going back a ways, who can forget the classic jibes that flew back and forth between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and a certain young gun driving in a rainbow-colored car? He needs more experience, hasn’t paid his dues, can’t just walk in and think he’s the best thing ever… maybe he should have some milk and cookies in victory lane. The milk mustache looked mighty impressive at the Cup championship banquet, didn’t it?
The fact is there is a large percentage of rookies that arrive in the upper echelons of NASCAR in slow machines funded by relatives who want to see their kid succeed, often combined with a limited amount of experience and talent. Invariably, the resident winners get a little jaded when yet another new eager face appears and proceeds to do every stupid thing in the book, as it is usually combined with an exceedingly large sheetmetal bill. The insults regarding driving ability start to fly, along with unhelpful suggestions on how to improve. The cycle continues. The veterans get cranky and the rookies look foolish.
But every once in a while the unexpected happens; a new star begins their climb to the stratosphere. Along the way we are treated to stunning examples of luck, good and bad. Wrecks happen due to somebody’s fault or not and those tried and true faces we know so well from media appearances get a little bent out of shape. I believe Austin Dillon just might be the next driver to create a little havoc amongst his “betters.” He’s already doing a stellar job.
Times in these NASCAR parts never change, and in this instance, that’s a very good thing. It means Mr. Hamlin will just have to get over it and rub elbows with Austin Dillon and that silly hat over and over again.
About the author
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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.