Good Intentions Gone Wrong: The "Boys, Have At It" Era of NASCAR
Let's be completely honest here -- no matter if you're a writer or a fan, everyone wants to see a good, competitive safe race that has some entertainment laced with it.
After all, if we wanted vanilla entertainment, we'd watch sailing stones in Death Valley while having a popcorn and some sun screen on hand. Maybe that's your cup of tea.
However, what was supposed to be a good intention in loosening up the tight reins on NASCAR racers has turned out to be almost like artificial aggressive action on the track.
Back in January of 2010 during the NASCAR media tour at Charlotte, Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton uttered the famous four words, "Boys, have at it."
At the time, it seemed like the sport's way of letting the racers and teams revert back to their predecesors' aggressive ways of trading paint, using the chrome horn, and simply racing hard without concern.
Drivers like Kevin Harvick, Kurt and Kyle Busch, and Tony Stewart were some faces that fans considered in terms of the announcement, as it meant that it allowed their brand of racing to finally happen without reprecussion.
Like most things in life, the announcement led to a pro and con, at least as a matter of perspective depending on the individual. While it has produced racing that has somewhat returned to the roots of NASCAR, it's somewhat cheapened the value of good hard racing that seems believable.
Feuds are short-lived, as the sport still penalizes a driver for crossing the line, which seems to be as ambiguous as a set of Robert Smigle cartoon characters on SNL.
To some, maybe it's what tickles their fancy, as fans can see the likes of Jeff Gordon shove and punch Jeff Burton and a week later make ammends as if a grinding crash (intention or not) seem forgettable.
Also, remember the Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski crash at Atlanta last March? While some patted Edwards on the back for wrecking Keselowski late in that race, it wasn't exactly good racing.
In fact, it was just downright dirty, an act of vengeance that made Edwards just as bad as Keselowski. Sure, it might be tit-for-tat or the Code of Hammurabi, but if it means doing more than what the other did to you, is that just?
Earlier this month, Kyle Busch was racing hard with Richard Childress Racing truck driver Joey Coulter in the final laps of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway for a top-five finish. Coulter traded paint and raced the aggressive Busch to the stripe, holding him off successfully.
Following their epic battle, Busch sideswiped Coulter's truck, which the former claimed was a "congratulatory" tap for good, hard racing. It's a practice seen in stock car racing, which either means "thank you for the good race" or "thanks for ruining my life."
Childress thought it meant the latter and as a result, he physically assaulted Busch in the garage area, landing some blows on the 26-year-old Las Vegas native before the young racer reportedly laid low on the ground to defend himself.
Again, while some felt that Busch had it coming to him, is that truly a good precedent for "Boys, have at it?"
No, the real question should be, should there even be a time when the sport has to ask its participants to try to race and be aggressive at basically all times?
Good intentions gone wrong, it's more like the sport needs to have this message understood without words. Yesterday's heroes like Earnhardt, Waltrip, Allison, and Yarborough didn't need "Big Bill" France Sr. or the benvolent Bill France Jr. to remind them to be race fiercely on the track.
Just imagine if MLB's Bud Selig had to ask every player to proceed with benchclearing brawls every game to bring fans into the stands or for the NHL's Gary Bettman to allow "goons" to fill up every roster spot with all the teams in hockey?
If today's young talents are supposed to be a chip off the stars of the past, then they ought to truly embrace it or just admit that they're more vanilla than Jimmie Johnson.
Otherwise, if racing fans want to see real drama that doesn't need four words for aggressive, real action, head to your nearest Saturday night short track. After all, "Madhouse" is where that sort of racing can be seen on a weekly basis.