In stock car racing’s early days, NASCAR gained popularity from automakers and consumers alike. If Fred Lorenzen‘s Ford could handle so well that he just dominates the competition at North Wilkesboro Speedway, then surely that same Ford could handle well on Main Street.
In other words, as the old adage suggests, the mentality became win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
But as NASCAR became more sophisticated as the true stock car era faded and speeds got faster, different examples were developed. As supposedly the best drivers in the world, their top-notch precision and decision making have became the example for motorists.
So then there must be a correlation to a professional driver’s ability both on a closed course and on the open road. For example, take Kenny Wallace’s descriptive and ultra scientific explanation for his tremendous wreck avoidance on an interstate back in 2017.
That happened this month: the arrest and subsequent suspension of two drivers in two separate incidents in the past two weeks.
Chris Hacker and Jason White may not be household names to many race fans as they often compete in subpar equipment in developmental series, but their recent driving-while-intoxicated arrests should concern every person in the NASCAR world.
OK, sure, every sporting league in the world has to deal with a small share of competitors who get in trouble with the law for a variety of things such as driving impairment.
But this is auto racing. It’s a sport where its competitors should be held to the highest standard on the roadways. If our heroes can battle one another at breakneck speed inches apart while maintaining incredible amounts of focus, skill and perfect decision making, they should rightfully be held to the highest standard and serve as an example for the rest of the motorists on the road.
This may sound like an overbearing bash on Hacker and White. Yes, we should not judge someone by one mistake. But for the nearly 43,000 people killed on American roadways every year, one mistake was the ultimate judgment of life and death. Rather, we would be ignorant if we did not hold Hacker and White accountable.
Take, for example, the most prolific incident of roadway ignorance by a professional driver. It is the story of Rob Moroso, a promising young driver who was well on his way to earning Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Cup Series in 1990, until he crashed head on into another motorist after a night of drinking, killing the driver as well as dying himself.
That landmark event prompted a series of deep dives into the driving histories of many top drivers. And it wasn’t pretty.
It was unearthed that drivers like Kyle Petty and Brett Bodine were habitual speeders. Morgan Shepherd topped the list with 32 traffic infractions, including speeding, seatbelt and driving under the influence charges.
This prompted a wave of safe driver public service campaigns that saw superstars like Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd compare their driving intelligence on the race track to the intelligence needed to operate a motor vehicle.
Relatively speaking, NASCAR drivers generally do not make headline for negative roadway driving, but they are not immune to it. Even one NASCAR current superstar made national news for one glaring mark on his record. Kyle Busch temporarily lost his license after pleading guilty to a speeding charge after he was clocked driving a whopping 128 mph in a 45 mph zone. Later, he simply brushed it off.
Sure, a lot of us say this and can be hypocritical, too. I am no exception as even I sit here and talk about safe and intelligent driving while having a few speeding tickets on my record.
But on behalf of the 43,000 people killed on roadways each year, slow down, take an Uber and make smart decisions. Follow the examples of most of the drivers in the garage who can be like Wallace and make great driving decisions as the best and most intelligent motorists on the road.
About the author
Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.
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