NASCAR: Shut up and drive your race car
Opinion by Kelly Crandall | RACER.com NASCAR correspondent
Race car drivers are insane.
A race car driver risks life and limb every week, for a living, and with a passion. They battle extreme heat while variables like g-forces take a repeated toll on their body. And then of course, there are the speeds, and the nerve to stick their car in a hole or dive into a corner, hoping it sticks.
They also say the most insane things, the latest example being Aric Almirola toward Joey Logano after the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“The 22 just went down in Turn 3 and put it right on my door and about wrecked us both,” Almirola said last Sunday night. “I’m not sure. I’ll have to talk to him. He just continues to make things harder on himself. If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine. When Homestead comes around, if I am not in, he will know it.”
Those comments came after Almirola exploded over the in-car radio, cursing Logano off. All Logano had done was go into the corner side-by-side with Almirola late in the race. Logano, said Almirola, had already won a race, and Almirola was peeved Logano was racing him.
Over the radio in the heat of the moment is one thing, be it Almirola or any other driver. But for Almirola to double-down on his feelings after he had climbed from the car and, hopefully, saw a replay or thought about it – maybe even took time to talk to Logano – is absurd.
Drivers racing each other too hard? Drivers racing each other when already locked into Homestead? Whether as a noun or a verb, ‘race’ means a competition, even if a driver and team already know they will be competing for a championship in a couple of weeks.
When the helmet is pulled on and the engines fire, the goal becomes winning, or, at minimum, performing well for the team standing on pit wall, working back at the shop, and the sponsors investing time and money in that race car.
Logano did absolutely nothing wrong at Texas. The No. 22 appeared to hold its line going into the corner, and Logano drove and competed as he’s getting paid to do. Post-race, when asked When asked about Almirola’s outburst post-race, Logano didn’t know what his rival’s issue was, but his simple “it’s just racing” was enough. The Penske driver had every right to be racing hard.
Just a few months ago, the shoe was on the other foot for Almirola. He defended himself for racing Matt DiBenedetto hard late at Pocono Raceway when they were mid-pack, which ended with DiBenedetto spinning Almirola after the checkered flag and confronting him on pit road.
“I guess he thought that I shouldn’t race for 25th,” Almirola said at the time. “I race for every spot all race long; I don’t care if it’s for 25th or for the lead. I guess he thought I should have let him finish 25th, and I wasn’t going to do that.
“I passed him in the Tunnel Turn on the last lap, and he said I took his line away from him and he was upset about it. I don’t know. I hate it for him that he didn’t finish 25th, but it’s called racing.”
Do as I say, not as I do, huh?
Almirola isn’t the only driver to pull this, though. Also this year we’ve seen Kurt Busch mad at teammate Kevin Harvick, apparently because Harvick chose to race Busch for a stage win at Chicago. Chase Elliott ran into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after the spring Kansas race and then confronted him on pit road. Elliott said he was mad at a slide job Stenhouse pulled with two laps to go that ended up costing Elliott additional spots.
Then there is Ryan Newman’s well-known reputation for being the hardest driver to pass. As Newman has always argued, he’s doing his job. Just like Logano, just like Stenhouse, Harvick and even Almirola back at Pocono.
Racing is a competition, and race car drivers are competitive. So, this apparent uptick in recent years about being raced too hard or a driver expecting his peer to roll over because a race is supposed to be meaningless to them is infuriating. Absurd. Ridiculous.
The expectation between green flag and checkered flag is for hard competition and every driver doing what is best for him and his team. The sight of drivers racing is the desire of every viewer. Hearing whining afterward is not.
Unfortunately for Almirola, Texas winner Harvick made it known he’s going to Phoenix this weekend to race and win. Because that is what race car drivers do, and should be doing, regardless of the lap or their win column.
This is racing. Just race, and remember that is what this insane profession is all about before making any more foolish comments.
FOR THE BEST IN RACING NEWS, ANALYSIS AND MORE VISIT RACER.COM
ABOUT KELLY CRANDALL
Kelly has been on the NASCAR beat full-time since 2013, and joined RACER as chief NASCAR writer in 2017. Her work has also appeared in NASCAR.com, the NASCAR Illustrated magazine, and NBC Sports. A corporate communications graduate from Central Penn College, Crandall is a two-time George Cunningham Writer of the Year recipient from the National Motorsports Press Association.