‘COMMENTARY: Stop Whining about Respect and Focus on Racing’ is an opinion piece by writer Mike Orzel and may not reflect that of Fan4Racing.
A common complaint lately is about drivers not showing ‘respect’ on the track. This trend was on full display this weekend at Martinsville and hit the high-water mark for what is becoming a far-too-common theme in post-race (or post-crash) interviews. Some drivers feel they have been wronged by their fellow competitors, and lately, they seem to be willing to chalk it up to a lack of respect on the track.
Two Glaring Examples from Martinsville
Probably the two most obvious examples from this past weekend at Martinsville came from John Hunter Nemechek in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Denny Hamlin in the NASCAR Cup Series race.
On lap 130 of the Truck Series race Nemechek was racing Austin Self. Nemechek had been racing aggressively all day, and this trend continued with how he raced Self. He roughed up Self getting into the first turn, and Self returned the favor going into the third turn.
The payback sent Nemechek hard into the outside wall and ended the No. 4 team’s day. Both trucks were racing for position, but given Nemechek’s position in points and the number of laps remaining in the race, the spot was of little consequence. It certainly wasn’t worth wrecking over.
Toward the end of the Cup Series race, the No. 88 of Alex Bowman was racing the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin for the lead and likely the race win. With seven laps remaining, Bowman washed up the track and got into Hamlin’s left side. The contact sent Hamlin’s No. 11 spinning and out of contention, while Bowman went on to win the race.
A displeased Hamlin then rammed Bowman’s car after the checked flag as Bowman was setting up for his victory celebration burnout.
Of all people, Denny Hamlin certainly doesn’t even have a pinky toe of a single leg to stand on about dumping the leader inside of ten laps to go given what Hamlin did to Chase Elliott in the fall of 2017 Martinsville race; or even what he did to Bowman at Texas a year ago. From Bowman’s perspective in his post-race interview with the media, he gave his thoughts.
“We’re even I guess, after that.’ Bowman referring to the end of the race incident with Hamlin at Martinsville.
A Common, but Not a New Theme
In addition to these two examples from Martinsville, there have been multiple instances this year with veteran drivers criticizing younger drivers for their perceived lack of respect.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and others have all made mention of it in recent interviews. There are plenty of fans who have been around the sport long enough to remember the exact same criticism being leveled against these same drivers by the likes of Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Tony Stewart, and Ricky Rudd.
The Bottom Line: Drivers aren’t Owed Anything on the Track
No driver is entitled to expect another driver to yield their position to them, period. To get respect, you must first give respect. Whether a driver is in the playoffs, or from a big-name team, is not the point of racing.
If a driver has a faster car, then use that car and talent to pass the slower car. The other driver is entirely within their right to defend their position on the track. On the other hand, if the slower car holds up the faster car and they get moved out of the way, that’s part of racing too.
Drivers with more on the line should be more cautious and give more respect before ever expecting to get any respect from others. Nemechek and Hamlin were both fortunate that their strong points position still allowed them to advance to the Championship 4 at Phoenix.
Now, stop whining about ‘respect’ and focus on racing.