Much of the discussion over the past week has been about the last lap wreck between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano during the Sprint Cup race in California. The fact that the wreck was seemingly intentional and that Denny Hamlin suffered a back injury that will require him to miss at least five races made this a serious matter.
The situation had been brewing for some time. Denny and Joey had never shown a great deal of respect for each other, even during their time as teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. When you consider that the third driver on that team, Kyle Busch, has often been accused of dirty driving, it brings to mind a question about the younger generation of drivers; do they have the same respect for the sport, the other drivers and the authority of NASCAR that was apparent and expected from the past competitors?
With the youth movement in NASCAR, the racing seems to have become more exciting, more competitive but perhaps more dangerous as well. There was a time when the race leader could expect that cars at the tail end of the lead lap or those a lap or more down would give way to the leaders. It was an unspoken rule that they would move to the inside or outside lane and allow the faster cars to pass with ease.
For the past several years, it has become more and more apparent that this is no longer an accepted practice. Every driver seems to feel that they have the right to race the lead cars. There is no give and much more take.
In years past, if a car entering or leaving pit road came anywhere near another team’s crew member, there was immediate concerned expressed over the radio. If a driver was injured in a crash, the entire community of NASCAR would express concern and offer whatever assistance possible.
When the wreck happened between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took place, Joey never bothered to ask if Denny was okay before he told the media and the world that Denny had gotten what he deserved. Joey has apologized for his insensitivity but that somehow made it even worse.
Perhaps the effort put into making the sport and the cars safer has had the unwanted affect of creating drivers who no longer respect the danger involved in running 200 miles and hour with 42 other cars on the track. Perhaps the generation that has grown up witnessing more violence in the world has less respect for the value of a life. Perhaps the huge paychecks earned by today’s drivers brings an attitude of winning at all cost.
Whatever it is that is creating this tension that leads to ongoing battles that are being settled on the race track, it is time to address the problem. It is sad to think that NASCAR would need to make rules on how a person should act and how they should treat others. You want to hope that this is something that you learn well before you would climb into a 3500 lb machine and propel yourself and the car at others cars, people and walls. It is certain that something terrible will happen if we don’t call upon the sport and its participants to be more respectful of the opportunity that they are given and of each others lives.