A long time ago, the short track ace and 89 Winston Cup Champion Rusty Wallace made the statement, “It’s not cocky if you can get it done. It’s confident.” Then there was the standard that was attributed to Dale Earnhardt, “When the green flag drops the BS stops.” Both come down to one thing, if you can do what you say you can do you are speaking from a position of confidence not arrogance. Tony Stewart has proven over the last 8 weeks that he is confident and can back up what he says.
[media-credit name=”Mike Holloway” align=”alignright” width=”232″][/media-credit]Confidence turned around Tony Stewart’s season and made him a serious contender being only 3 points out of the chase lead. But confidence can be a bad thing in excess. This weekend we saw that as well with Kyle Busch who was parked for the weekend after the Camping World Truck Race in which he retaliated and drove Ron Hornaday into the outside Safer Barrier, destroying both trucks. When asked if he was concerned about NASCAR parking him or removing him from the competition on Saturday and Sunday he said he wasn’t concerned and didn’t care.
On Saturday morning, when NASCAR handed down it’s decision to maintain his parked status through this weekend, he seemed more concerned and to care a great deal more. Busch issued a letter of apology to his fans, the drivers, the team, and ownership for his actions. He watched the race from atop of the pit box and seemed to be seriously depressed and contrite. Although, he has granted no interviews or made any statements other than the letter of apology that he issued Saturday night, the emotion was all over his face.
The question was asked by many of why Kyle Busch and not Carl Edwards. The answer came from Mike Helton in the form of history. Kyle had already been placed on probation this year for similar aggressive driving. And basically they found the line for have at it boys. That was the limit and he went past it.
The real victim this weekend was Ron Hornaday. If you take yourself out. If you make a mistake or the engine blows and you are taken out of the championship hunt it’s difficult but you can swallow it. When you are taken out for a normal racing incident that has to be gut wrenching.
I think that the one thing that we are missing here is the probability of contributing factors to the incident. The length of the season is a primary factor. Sprint Cup drivers compete for 10 months out of the year. That is longer than a woman carries a baby. And if you ask any one who has had that honor, they will tell you that it is an exhausting experience. The drivers are fatigued simply by the length of the season. When you add the stress of the chase and the PR commitments that go with it you have compounded the issue yet again. It comes down to one common factor, they are tired. We all know that people deal with tired differently. Kyle is known to be short tempered and aggressive. He had gotten himself together and showed himself worthy of his championship contention until 3 weeks before the end of the season and after 4 weeks of being involved in wrecks. He snapped. What he did was very very wrong.
NASCAR’s action was very appropriate. But the solution maybe not in parking him but looking at the cause. Obviously the young man’s temper is a part of it. But the schedule and pressure of the chase also have to be considered as a part of that.
Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are obviously handling the stress and long schedule much better. Leaving Texas the Championship race is separated by 3 points going into the “new” Phoenix. Stewart has proved that he and his team are worthy contenders and capable of taking Carl Edwards to the very line in Homestead. Stewarts dominating performance at Texas left little doubt that Smoke intends to sit at the front table in Las Vegas. Carl Edwards left no doubt that he has the same intention.
Perhaps the chase contender performance that slipped through the cracks was that of the 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt struggled all day but stayed solidly in the top 20 all race. Finally, crew chief Steve Letarte hit the nail on the head on the next to last caution and Earnhardt flew through the field into the top ten. The final stop of the race came under green and Earnhardt’s crew redeemed themselves for earlier chase race failures getting him out and picking up one spot when all the stops shook out. The 88 finished 7th and moved up to 7th in the points. He made his move quietly and without fan fare. But the last 2 weeks have shown the Earnhardt that JRNation had hoped to see from the beginning of the chase.
The 48 of Jimmie Johnson continued to struggle eliminating themselves from any possibility of recovering for the 6th championship in a row. Johnson who spun the 48 off of turn 4 late in the race and then received a commitment cone violation for driving straight to his pit stall rather than going around the track finished a hard fought 14th while maintaining 6th in the points 24 points ahead of team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The race itself was a long drawn out follow the leader affair. No different than the spring race at Texas. But it’s hard to pan the race with a promoter like Eddie Gossage. Gossage put on an incredible show. From the infield rodeo to the incredible black hat 6 shooter display in victory lane. Without a doubt Eddie Gossage has stepped up and into the role of the most theatrical and entertaining promoter in all of racing.
With that in mind, the racing on the track was unexciting. But the activities that surrounded it made it difficult not to enjoy the weekend even from afar.
Confidence is a powerful thing. Whether it’s positive or negative it is the attitude that will carry us through on top or leave us flat and defeated. Talent will carry you a very long way. It will smooth ruffled feathers. It will open difficult doors. But the one thing that talent can’t over come is a negative attitude. But nothing lasts forever, and attitudes change, when they do confidence reigns and talented young men become Championship contenders.
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Congratulations to Kevin Harvick on his victory in the Camping World Truck Series and his victory as in the car owners points in that series.
Congratulations to Trevor Bayne on his first Nationwide Series victory.
Congratulations to Tony Stewart on his second consecutive victory in the Sprint Cup Series.
To all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.