Category Archives: RACING

Four Years Later, Remembering Jason Leffler

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day former NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series driver Jason Leffler lost his life in a savage Sprint Car crash at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway. Our eulogy for “LefTurn” remains one of the most-read articles in the history of, and we re-post it today in memory of our friend Jason. 

He is gone, but not forgotten.

Dave Moody

Charlie Dean Leffler’s daddy died last night, torn from the world in a crash so stunning, so horrific that it once again causes us to question our devotion to a sport that all too often breaks our hearts.

NASCAR driver Jason Leffler was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, after a grinding crash at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway. Witnesses said his 410 Sprint Car impacted the Turn Four wall during a qualifying heat race and flipped wildly down the front stretch of the 0.625-mile dirt oval.  Safety teams extricated the unconscious driver from his vehicle, with plans to transport him to Cooper University Hospital in Camden. His condition deteriorated rapidly while awaiting arrival of a medivac helicopter, however, and responders elected to transport him by ground ambulance to nearby Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
As word of the crash began to circulate, I did what I always do in situations like this. I told myself that the reports were untrue or exaggerated; the sad result of internet hysteria and a public raised on reality TV. When it became clear that a serious crash had indeed occurred, I prayed that Leffler’s injuries were not severe, assuring myself that he would back in the cockpit in a few weeks, or months.
Just before 10 p.m., however, a phone call from a colleague brought the horrible reality home. Jason Leffler was dead, leaving us to mourn – and remember –once again.
I have so many memories of the man we called “LefTurn.” He was a weekly guest on our Sirius XM Speedway radio program for years, sharing his life – both on and off the track – with a degree of candor that was both refreshing and rare. There were plenty of good days; wins in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, championship-contending rides with elite owners like Joe Gibbs and Chip Ganassi, and a trio of runs in the legendary Indianapolis 500.
There were also a few bad days; crushing race-day defeats, championship shortcomings and the loss of his Nationwide and Truck Series rides. When he and Alison decided to end their marriage a few years ago, Leffler made his weekly appearance as scheduled, despite a heavy heart.
“Leff, we don’t have to do this today,” I told him. “If you want to take a pass, we can catch up next week.”
“Nah, dude,” he replied. “It’s OK. I got no secrets.”
In the months that followed, Leffler spoke constantly of his desire to be a loving and involved father to Charlie, despite the demands of his racing career. Our weekly, 4 p.m. conversations often coincided with the end of Charlie’s afternoon nap, and the unpredictability of a newly-awakened two-year old made our visits an absolute joy.
A year ago, I crossed paths with Jason and Charlie, sharing a “Boys Day Out” lunch at a local restaurant. While Jason and I talked racing, Charlie demolished a massive salad, shoveling huge forkfuls of lettuce into his mouth while simultaneously carrying on a silent flirtation with my wife.
“Charlie, you ate the whole thing,” laughed Leffler at the end of our chat. “What am I supposed to eat?”
“Sorry Daddy,” replied Charlie, “I was very hungry!”
How do you tell a five-year old boy that daddy is not coming home tonight? How do you explain that his father, his best friend and his hero – all rolled into one – has been cut down by a sport that exacts such a horrible toll from its brightest lights?
The loss is unfathomable, unacceptable and unbelievable.
Today, I mourn the loss of a phenomenal talent; a man who could run an entire, 10-lap heat race at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals on three wheels, his left-front tire twitching in mid-air in an awe-inspiring display of chassis-bending bravado.
I mourn the loss of a friend whose zest for life, winning smile and goofy, faux-hawk hairdo never failed to make me smile.
I mourn the loss of a father who adored his son and deserved to see him grow up.
A quote attributed to the author Ernest Hemingway said, “There are but three true sports — bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games.”
All sports include a varying degree of risk, but auto racing is especially adept at destroying its own. Racers have a special relationship with death. They brush shoulders with it daily, acknowledging its presence with a passing nod while clinging stubbornly to the belief that it’ll never happen to them.
“Last year, I did a part-time truck deal,” said Leffler to Motor Racing Network’s Winged Nation recently. “It was the least I had raced since I was 18 (and) mentally, it wasn’t good. I don’t like being home. I just like being in the race car at the race track.
“The (NASCAR) start-and-park deal is not for me,” he said. “I had a good run for over a decade, so it’s time to get back racing.”
Big-league NASCAR racing had not suffered a fatality since the great Dale Earnhardt crashed to his death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. In that time, SAFER barriers, HANS devices, improved helmet and seat technology and car construction have made the sport safer than at any point before. But make no mistake about it, auto racing is not safe, and it never will be.

As long as men and women strap themselves into objects capable of eclipsing 200 miles per hour, as long as they test the boundaries of human endurance at places like Daytona, Lemans, Winchester and Bridgeport, horrible things can – and will — happen. Until the laws of physics are repealed, the immovable force will always trump the unstoppable object. And when it does, racers will die.

Jason Leffler knew that. We all knew that. But it doesn’t make what happened Wednesday evening any easier to accept.

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COMMENTARY: The Numbers Don’t Lie; Teams Are To Blame For 2017 Inspection Issues

It’s been one heck of a year to be a NASCAR inspector.
With fewer boots on the ground than ever before due to budget cuts and layoffs, NASCAR’s foot soldiers are being called upon to do more than ever these days, in less time. An influx of new technology has required NASCAR’s officials’ corps to learn new ways of doing things, while guiding race teams through previously uncharted technical territory.
And when things go wrong – as they frequently have – it’s the officials who take the heat when an over-aggressive crew chief gets caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
Numerous times this season, teams have been unable to make qualifying attempts after failing multiple pre-qualifying inspections. And when that happens, team members point the finger of blame in the direction of the sanctioning body, claiming that major adjustments on their machines produce little (or no) impact on the readouts.
“They’re out of calibration,” they claim. “They’re thrown off by the sun. Or the heat. Or the cold.”
NASCAR has countered those allegations, utilizing a non-adjustable test car dubbed “The Lunar Rover” to perform multiple re-calibrations of their inspection machinery, each and every week. And yet, the accusations continue.
Now, with 13 races in the record book – one half of the regular season schedule – it is possible to look back on the 2017 campaign and draw some cold, hard conclusions.
And the numbers don’t lie
A check of 2017 qualifying records shows that teams had no trouble passing pre-qualifying inspection at the circuit’s two restrictor plate races. In the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in February, all 42 drivers successfully completed inspection in time to attempt qualifying. That trend continued at the 2.5-mile Talladega Superspeedway on May 6, with all 41 drivers attempting to qualify, without incident.
The series’ short track venues have been similarly devoid of pre-qualifying drama. Every driver made a qualifying attempt at Bristol on April 21 and Richmond on April 28, while qualifying was rained out at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, with the field set via the NASCAR rule book.

The one-mile ovals have also been trouble free this season, with all drivers successfully navigating pre-qualifying inspection at both Phoenix (March 17) and Dover last weekend.
It’s NASCAR’s intermediate tracks – the 1.5 and 2-mile ovals where aerodynamics are of critical importance — where the issues seem to arise.

At Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 3, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Derrike Cope and Cody Ware all failed multiple inspections and were unable to complete even a single qualifying lap.

Three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding did not make qualifying attempts, after failing multiple inspections.
Texas Motor Speedway saw nine drivers — Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chris Buescher, Timmy Hill and Derrike Cope – start at the back of the pack after failing to clear pre-qualifying inspection.
Kansas Speedway provided the season’s low point, when a total of 12 drivers — Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kahne, Jones, Earnhardt, David Ragan, McDowell, Landon Cassill, Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, Hill and Carl Long – were forced to start at the rear of the field after failing pre-qualifying inspections and being unable to turn a qualifying lap. 
On All Star weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all 16 drivers passed inspection in time to attempt qualifying for the Monster Energy All Star Race. However, Sorenson and McDowell both failed inspections prior to qualifying for the companion Monster Energy Open.
One week later, Larson and LaJoie failed to pass pre-qualifying inspections at Charlotte and were forced to start the Coca-Cola 600 from the rear of the field.
Interestingly, the only 1.5-mile track to experience no pre-qualifying issues was Las Vegas Motor Speedway, arguably one of the hottest venues on the schedule.
If NASCAR was truly experiencing equipment issues – with LIS tables and other measuring devices succumbing to the vagarities of heat and humidity – why have the issues occurred only at tracks where rear camber and skew offer the largest advantage? Shouldn’t there have been just as many problems at Martinsville, Daytona and Bristol, where the same measuring devices were used under the same varying weather conditions?
Common sense says `yes.’
And yet, no such issues occurred.
In the absence of such across-the-board problems, regardless of the size of the venue, it is virtually impossible to blame the yardstick for this season’s inspection debacles. NASCAR’s LIS and template stations are inanimate objects, capable of neither human bias nor error. They don’t see names and car numbers; only concrete, indisputable measurements.
Every car is the same as the others. It either complies with the rules, or it doesn’t.
Chad Knaus had it right a few weeks ago when he said teams “have nobody to blame but themselves” for this season’s rash of high-profile inspection failures.
“We are paid to push the envelope,” admitted Knaus, the most successful crew chief of this (or arguably any) era. “NASCAR gives us a rule and a tolerance beyond the rule. As competitive as we are, we take all of that, and sometimes a little more.”
So enough with blaming the yardstick. Enough pointing the finger at Mother Nature. It’s time to place the blame where it has belonged all along; with the men and women who live their lives in the gray area of the NASCAR Rule Book.

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Notes And Observations From 10 Days in Charlotte

With the Memorial Day weekend now behind us, it’s finally safe to examine a few trends that have emerged from the first 12 races of the season, while simultaneously emptying the notebook from a busy 10-day stretch in the heart of NASCAR Country.

One Win May Not Be Enough NASCAR’s Youth Movement continued at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday night, with Austin Dillon joining Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the list of first-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winners this season. Dillon becomes the ninth different victor in just 12 races this season, casting NASCAR’s traditional “Win And You’re In” playoff mantra into doubt for the first time ever.
Fourth-place points man Kevin Harvick and fifth-place Kyle Busch are comfortably nestled into playoff positions at present, despite being winless on the season. But with drivers like Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all high on the list of potential 2017 winners – and Joey Logano still gunning for an unencumbered win to replace his April 30 win at Richmond – with only 16 total playoff berths available, things could get uncomfortable toward the end of the regular season.  
“The Goop” HelpedHigh marks to Charlotte Motor Speedway officials for their decision to apply a resin-based traction enhancing compound to the middle and high grooves of the 1.5-mile speedway in advance of Sunday’s race. One week after a ho-hum All-Star Race that produced little or no on-track action, Truex called the move it a “good addition,” calling the VHT compound “a huge factor” in the competitiveness of the Coca-Cola 600. “I think last weekend the middle groove… was nonexistent,” said Truex after leading 233 of 400 laps and finishing third. “It was the slickest part of the racetrack. Tonight, it was the main groove. It definitely played a factor. It changed the race quite a bit.”
Dillon Saves The DayUnfortunately, all the “Goop” in the world cannot change the laws of aerodynamics, which once again saw the race leader enjoy a substantial advantage over his pursuers at Charlotte. Dillon’s larcenous, fuel-mileage aided victory added some excitement to what was shaping up to be a decidedly dull finish, but most of the passing Sunday – at least up front – occurred immediately following an on-track restart.
The addition of a fourth stage Sunday did not appear to ramp-up the intensity, and quite honestly, the action at CMS tends to mirror the height of the sun. Day racing at Charlotte is generally competitive and entertaining. But once the sun dips below the horizon, “single-file” becomes the phrase of the day. It could be worse, though.
It could be Indy.

Larson Drops Points Lead Kyle Larson slapped the wall twice Sunday en route to a season-worst 33rd-place finish, losing the championship points lead to Martin Truex, Jr. for the first time since Phoenix in mid-March. The young phenom is unlikely to be shedding any tears over his loss of the top spot, since he was once again one of the fastest cars on the track at CMS. Teammate Jamie McMurray was also a contender before settling for 12th at the drop of the checkered flag, continuing a season that has both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in solid contention for the championship.
With A Little Help From His FriendsDale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Coke 600 start was good, but not great, as NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver overcame a miserable performance in the previous weekend’s Monster Energy All Star Race to finish tenth in the Coca-Cola 600. When it was over, Earnhardt gave a full measure of credit to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, saying, “We’ve got to thank Jimmie and the No. 48 guys. Jimmie was communicating with me all week, calling me, talking on the phone. He would come across the garage and get in my window, even during practice. Get out of his car and come talk to me. What a great teammate.
“We would have liked to have run a little bit better than that for sure,” he added. “We think we should be running in the Top-5 every week as a team, so that is still not really good enough, but compared to last week, it’s a huge improvement.”

Things Looking Up For JGRJoe Gibbs Racing once again showed signs at Charlotte of turning their lackluster 2017 around.The team is still collectively winless, but had arguably its best collective performance in the Coca-Cola 600. Kyle Busch led 63 laps Sunday and finished second, with teammates Matt Kenseth (fourth), Denny Hamlin (fifth) and Daniel Suarez (11th) close behind. JGR is still winless , after racking up seven wins at this point of the 2016 campaign, but seems to be finding the speed they have lacked in the early part of the season.  “Our speed is better, but we still have some work to do,” said Kenseth. “I still can’t run with the 78 and the 18 if they’re out in front of me. They’re still better than us. We still have some work to do, but we do have more speed and that’s encouraging.”

Busch Still A ChallengeDespite a solid, runner-up finish behind Dillon Sunday night, Kyle Busch once again reinforced his status as the most ingracious loser in all of professional sports. NASCAR’s resident Bad Boy answered just one question during his mandatory Infield Media Center appearance, saying, “I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations,” before tossing down the microphone and refusing to participate further.
Busch continues to hear more catcalls during pre-race driver introductions than any driver this side of Joey Logano, and honestly, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver doesn’t seem to care. In fact, he actually seems to enjoy tossing off the occasional toddler-style temper tantrum.

One can only wonder how his team and sponsors feel about it.

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COMMENTARY: All-Star Race Missed The Mark

NASCAR made a number of changes in Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race, hoping to ratchet-up competition and build suspense. The sanctioning body utilized the multi-segment format that has energized Cup racing this season, adding a single set of softer “Option Tires” to each crew chief’s arsenal in an effort to increase passing.
None of it worked.
The annual Monster Energy Open provided cause for optimism, with plenty of passing and side-by-side competition. Once the sun set and the track cooled, however, Charlotte Motor Speedway became a one-lane race track, with the dreaded “aero push” providing the race leader with a substantial – and apparently insurmountable – advantage.
Time after time, second-place drivers ran down the leader from 12-15 car lengths back, only to encounter dirty air and stall out within sight of the lead.  
“You can’t pass anywhere,” said Wood Brothers Racing driver Ryan Blaney, who earned his All-Star spot with a spellbinding drive in the earlier Monster Energy Open. “It’s not great track conditions, to be honest with you.”
Kyle Larson led wire-to-wire in the opening two segments and clearly had the fastest car. But he was unable to overcome a balky final pit stop that left him fourth at the start of the final, 10-lap sprint, fighting mightily to wrest the runner-up position away from Jimmie Johnson on the final lap, a country mile behind winner Kyle Busch.   
Good night for Kyle, bad night for fans.
“I think we had the car to be the winner,” said Larson afterward. “(But) you’ve got to be perfect to win a Cup race. I knew being the leader off pit road was going to be the big thing. When I could tell that the rear changer wasn’t around nearly as fast as the front, I knew we were in trouble.”
While failing to spark the kind of side-by-side racing many had hoped for, Goodyear’s new “Option Tire” at least offered hope for the future. None of the 10 surviving teams utilized the tires in the final, 10-lap stage, deciding that the 3-5/10ths of a second per lap speed advantage they offered was not enough to overcome a back-of-the-pack starting spot.
“There’s no doubt that mile-and-a-half racing puts on a certain type of show,” admitted Johnson after the race. “I think Charlotte Motor Speedway works as hard as they possibly can put on a great show. They’re open minded to any and every idea… (but) we all run the same speed. The rule book is so thick and the cars are so equal, we run the same speed. You can’t pass running the same speed. The damn rule book is too thick. There’s too much going on.”
 “Mile-and-a-half racing is mile-and-a-half racing,” he said. “When all the cars are qualifying as tight as they do (and) we can’t pass as easily, we have to logically look at it and say, ‘Hey, we’re all going the same speed, no wonder we can’t pass.’”
“I have an opinion, but I don’t have the answer.”
Not a good enough option.
In the weeks leading up to the race, Goodyear predicted a 3-5/10ths of a second speed advantage for its new “Option Tire.” Saturday night, however, they were good for only about half that.
“There was a fair amount speed difference in practice,” confirmed Adam Stevens, crew chief for race winner Kyle Busch. “(But) as it cooled off, the discrepancy got smaller and smaller.”
“I don’t think Goodyear hit the tire very well,” said Brad Keselowski. “They missed pretty big. The tire was supposed to be much faster.”
An even-softer “Option Tire” for next year’s race could help turn the tide, trimming lap times to the point where the leader’s aero advantage can finally be overcome. Expect Goodyear and NASCAR to conduct extensive testing before next year’s race, to ensure a better result.
While they’re at it, perhaps they should consider moving the All-Star event back to the heat of the day, eschewing a prime-time TV audience in favor of compelling racing on a hot, greasy race track.
Or perhaps it’s finally time to heed the cries of those who lobby for a traveling All-Star Race, taking the event “on the road” to venues that can provide a better, more exciting race than the competitively challenged CMS oval.
Sadly, none of those changes can be made in time for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600; a race that was dominated a year ago by Martin Truex, Jr., who used a perfect race car and the aerodynamic edge all leaders enjoy to lead 392 of the race’s 400 laps.
With a month of wildly competitive point-counting events in the rearview window, the last thing NASCAR needs at this point is another “No Doze 600.”
Based on what we say Saturday night, however, that may be what we’re in for.

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COMMENTARY: Almirola's Crash Reminds That Stock Car Racing Will Never Be Safe

In an era of HANS devices, containment seats, impact-absorbing form and computer-generated chassis technology, it is tempting to believe that people don’t get hurt in race cars anymore.
But Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, Aric Almirola reminded us once again that stock car racing remains a dangerous game.
Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 199 of Saturday night’s race, when a broken brake rotor on Joey Logano‘s car triggered a violent, fiery crash that demolished his car, along with those of Almirola and Danica Patrick. Almirola plowed into Logano’s car as it skidded along the outside wall, hard enough to send the rear of Almirola’s Ford high into the air.
The RPM driver slid to a stop against the SAFER barrier at the exit of Turn Two, and immediately dropped the window net. He failed to exit the vehicle, however, and safety workers were forced to remove his car’s roof to extricate him safely.
While conscious and alert, Almirola was placed in a cervical collar and removed on a backboard, grimacing in pain. He was transported by ambulance to the speedway’s Infield Care Center, before being airlifted to University of Kansas Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with a fractured T5 vertebra.
He was held overnight for further observation, before returning to his home in North Carolina the following day.
“I’m saying a lot of prayers for Aric right now,” said a visibly shaken Logano afterward. “A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don’t know what it was. I tried to back it off, but you’re going 215 (mph) and it’s hard to check up. The car just took a big step sideways into the corner and I hooked Danica.
“You can see the right front (tire) popped,” he said. “I just hope everyone is OK. I hope Aric is all right. That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone. It’s unfortunate for everyone.”
Patrick was animated and angry after bailing out of her flaming Ford on the track apron, and confronted Logano on their way to the ambulance.
“I told him, `I’m not sure if it was you, but I’m pretty sure it was you,'” she said. “He said it was a failure of some sort, which didn’t make me feel better in that moment. I hope Aric is OK. He’s definitely feeling the worst of everybody.”
Winner Martin Truex, Jr. also spoke of Almirola in Victory Lane, saying, “He and his wife (are) great people. Just such a nice family and such a nice guy. I was really scared when I saw that and worried for him, obviously. I hope he’s doing good.”
Runner-up Brad Keselowski spoke for many after the race, saying, “It’s a dangerous sport. It always has been and it always will be.
“Sometimes, we take for granted that you see real hard hits and people walk away. Then you see one where someone doesn’t, and it puts things back into perspective about just how dangerous it can be.”
It has been a long time since NASCAR fans watched in stunned silence as the roof of a race car is peeled back to enable the extrication of its injured driver.
It’s been a long time since we averted our eyes from the action on the track to look skyward as a Life Flight helicopter lifts off from the infield, saying a silent prayer for the injured driver on board.
It’s been a long time since we were reminded that the laws of physics still apply in motorsports; that despite all the carbon fiber and impact absorbing foam, race car drivers remain fragile human beings, susceptible to bruises, burns, broken bones… and worse.
Aric Almirola will be sidelined for a time, giving his broken back sufficient to heal. Someone else will strap into his #43 Smithfield Ford this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, attempting to earn the team a spot in the sport’s annual All Star Race. NASCAR will examine the remains of his battered, beaten race car, hoping to learn how to prevent the type of injury he suffered Saturday from ever happening again.
And in a few days, we will once again begin the process of deceiving ourselves into believing that stock car racing is no longer a violent game.

Until next time.

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Overdue Thoughts On The Passing Of Tom Curley

Tom Curley passed away Friday, and I haven’t had much to say about it, until today.

As someone who makes his living with words – both written and spoken – I found myself uncharacteristically speechless at the passing of a man who did so much to shape both my life and my career.
It wasn’t like we didn’t see it coming. Tom had been in failing health for years, as the crippling effects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease slowly extinguished the competitive fire that had burned so bright for so long. Last fall, we made plans to have dinner together the night before the annual Milk Bowl at his pride-and-joy race track, Vermont’s Thunder Road International Speedbowl. But Tom was under the weather than evening, and was forced to cancel.
“We’ll catch up next time,” he promised. But I think we both knew that might not be true.
Tom was singularly the most complicated man I have ever known. His childhood was filled with turmoil and upheaval, and as an adult, he was more comfortable with conflict than most. He was a feisty Irishman, a “my way or the highway” kind of guy who could be your biggest supporter and greatest tormentor, all in the same day.
And when it came to promoting stock car races, he was the greatest of all time.
Curley had an uncanny ability to see 10 years down the road, properly positioning his tracks and series for what was to come. I only saw him get conned once, when the Detroit automakers convinced him (and NASCAR) that V8 engines were on their way out, and that V6 power would be the wave of the future.
He was among the first to rail against the skyrocketing cost of competition, and absolutely the first to do something about it. He took control of the engines, implementing a low cost crate-engine program, despite violent opposition from the engine builders who had lined their pockets for decades at his racer’s expense. He mandated spec shock absorbers, then ensured compliance by periodically requiring competitors to unbolt their shocks after qualifying and swap them with a fellow racer. He implemented track tires that were often harder than ideal, ensuring that deep-pocketed racers could not simply spend their way to Victory Lane.
Curley implemented a “ladder system” at his local tracks, allowing entry-level drivers to test their skill and resolve in a dirt-cheap, four cylinder race car, without mortgaging their home to do so. Those who experienced success graduated to the second tier – the Flying Tigers class at Thunder Road – where they spent a little more money and went a little bit faster. The ACT Late Models were the headline class; the “thunder and lightning” division where the top drivers showcased their skills.
Over the years, lots of drivers climbed Curley’s ladder, all the way to the top. Nick Sweet, Mike “Beetle” Bailey, Jason Corliss and a number of others became Late Model winners — even graduating to the traveling American Canadian Tour – after beginning their careers in Curley’s Street Stock class. Sweet won the ACT Tour championship in 2016, and few moments made Tom happier, or more proud.
Curley’s pit meetings were the stuff of legend. He had definite opinions on the way drivers should conduct themselves on the race track, and he had no qualms about expressing those opinions, often at top volume.
Hundreds of times over the last three decades, I heard him preach his motorsports gospel.  
“If a guy has the balls to run the high groove, get alongside you and pinch you down in the turn, you owe him the lane,” he said. “Either concede the position, or be a jackass and wreck both of you. He earned that spot, give it to him!”
Tom was also a stickler for “taking what the day gives you.”

“If you’re having a shitty day, take your 15th place finish, bring your car home intact and come back next week,” he’d say. “Don’t screw with the guy who’s having a good day. Let him have his day, just like he’ll let you have yours when it’s your turn.”

Tom was also a big fan of props, often bringing toy race cars to the track as part of an animated demonstration of what did (and did not) qualify as acceptable on-track behavior. More than once, he demolished the cars with a hammer for effect, captivating his audience and delivering his message loud and clear.
Once, at a time when ACT’s core group of officials oversaw three weekly race tracks and a traveling tour each week, Tom would elect to repeat the previous night’s pit meeting; something the traveling officials corps jokingly referred to as “a rerun.”
“Tom,” I said on one particular late-night drive back to Vermont, “you need new material. I’ve seen the same damned driver’s meeting, four nights in a row.”
On the rare occasion where a pre-race sermon failed to have its desired effect, Curley took a more hands-on approach. He was known to red-flag a race that produced multiple crashes in the opening laps, stopping the cars on the front stretch, marching down through the grandstands, pulling the drivers out of their cars and reading them the riot act in front of the entire house. Invariably, he received a standing ovation on his way back to the official’s tower, before enjoying a caution-free event, the rest of the way.
One on especially egregious night at Thunder Road, the Flying Tiger class compounded a lengthy rain delay by throwing off three caution flags in the opening two laps. Tom parked `em on the frontstretch and stormed trackside, delivering a patented, arm-waving T-Bone tirade for the ages, punctuated by a crack of his umbrella across the race leader’s windshield.
He re-entered the tower wearing an impish grin, prompting me to ask simply, “What happened?”
“Goddamnit,” he replied, holding his demolished umbrella. “This was my Norwich Alumni umbrella. I really liked this one…”
Curley was an innovator, once adding a pink flag to the standard mix of green, white, yellow and checkered.
“This is the Pig Flag,” he announced to an incredulous group of drivers. “If you want to be a jerk and hog both lanes, we will show you this flag. Do it again and we’ll show it to you again. Do it a third time and you’ll be parked for the night, because you’re a lousy racer.”
The “Pig Flag” is still in use at Tom’s race tracks, and no one has ever gotten it more than twice.
There were no names in Tom’s pit area, just car numbers. He was as likely to penalize the point leader as any backmarker, and one year, he gave the most popular driver in the history of Thunder Road, Dave Dion, the heave-ho after his crew ran onto the race track to confront a driver who had triggered a wreck that turned their car upside down.
“I need to behave myself,” said one driver known for his temper. “If Tom will throw Dave Dion out, he’ll sure as shit send me packing.”
Curley also had a knack for painting the “big picture,” convincing a group of tough, take-no-quarter racers to look out for each other on the race track, while also doing what’s right for the fans. Every Opening Day at Thunder Road, Tom would deliver a variation on the same speech.
“Ken and I don’t own this place,” he’d say. “We just pay the mortgage. Those people up there (pointing to the grandstands) own this place. Without them, we’re all out of business. They spend their hard-earned money to come and watch you race, and you owe them a good, respectable, competitive show.”
During the height of the GM National Stock Car Series in Canada, Tom and I traveled to Toronto every few weeks, where I would voice-over the TV broadcasts that aired north of the border on TSN. It was an eight hour drive each way, just to do a 90-minute voiceover, turn around and drive home again. 
We made nearly a dozen of those trips, creating a slew of unplanned adventures and new “Tom Curley Stories.”
One night, TC and I were heading back to Vermont after a midweek voiceover, driving a Chevy Lumina Pace Car that had been provided by GM of Canada. The car was pretty trick, with some extra horsepower-producing doohickeys under the hood, a multicolored graphics package and side exhaust pipes that ran the length of the vehicle.
As anyone who knew Tom will attest, he loved wringing every last drop speed out of whatever he was driving, and this Pace Car was no exception. Unfortunately, after a few months of high-speed T-Bone abuse, the car had begun to show clear signs of fatigue. Halfway home, the passenger-side exhaust pipe came loose from its bracket and began dragging across the asphalt in a shower of sparks. Pulling over the examine the situation, we quickly determined that some “guerilla engineering” was required, if we were to make it home before dawn.
Tom and I removed our leather belts, knotted them together and wrapped them around the dislodged exhaust, running the other end through the open passenger-side window for me to hold. That may have been the longest ride of my life.
A few weeks later — during another top-speed Toronto return – we drove up on a State Police roadblock at the entrance to what was then called “The Indian Reservation” in upstate New York. The trooper in charge informed us that the resident Akwesasne Tribe was up in arms over the latest in a decades-long series of tax disputes with the State of New York, and had constructed a large bonfire in the middle of the highway to express their displeasure.
“I wouldn’t go in there,” he warned. “If you get in trouble, we can’t come in after you.”
“Are you saying we can’t keep going,” asked Tom, knowing that doubling back would add at least an hour to our already too-late arrival time at home.
“No, but if you do, you’re on your own.”
Tom gunned the throttle and drove on, saying, “I guess we won’t have to worry about speeding tickets for the next few miles.” Not far down the road, we did indeed encounter a roaring bonfire in the center of the two-lane highway, with a few dozen locals huddled around for warmth. Tom matted the accelerator and blasted past – two wheels on the asphalt and two on the shoulder – showering the Native American “protestors” with gravel as they dove for cover in an adjoining ditch.
Tom was infamous for running past “E” on the gas gauge before stopping to fill up. I don’t know if he saw it as a test of manhood, or an opportunity to thumb his nose at the universe and its conventions. Either way, his penchant for “running on fumes” often resulted in him being stranded by the side of the road — at all hours of the day and night — out of gas.

One night, we were driving back from Toronto at 1 AM, doing 85 mph in a 45-mph zone. As usual, the “low fuel” light had been burning for at least a half hour, and as we approached one of the last gas stations we would see for a while, I said, “Tom, if you run us out of gas again in the middle of the night, you are going to push this car, while I steer.”

“What do you mean,” he said. “I can’t push this car, I have asthma!”

“You have asthma,” I replied, “but I have brains enough not to drive past another goddamn gas station at 1 o’clock in the morning!”

He chuckled under his breath, and pulled into the gas station. I think that is the only argument I ever won with Tom Curley.

Not all of my memories of Curley are happy ones. Like anyone who worked with him for any length of time, I felt his wrath on a number of occasions. He fired me twice during our 30 years together; once from my part-time post as a PR rep/college student, for failing to collect admission fees from the crowd at a Saturday night concert during New England 300 weekend at Catamount Stadium. It didn’t matter than I had never been told to do so. In Tom’s mind, I should have known.
I have always suspected that my firing had more to do with not wanting to keep me on the payroll during a long, cold, PR-starved Vermont winter; a suspicion that was bolstered when he happily hired me back the following spring.
But hey, I can’t prove a thing.
My second firing came prior to what would have been my 31st season on the public-address microphone at Thunder Road, and in truth, it was less a firing than a mutual parting of the ways. Two years earlier, I had accepted a position hosting the afternoon drive program on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s NASCAR Channel. It was a great career move for me – not to mention a substantial increase in pay – but for Tom, it was a difficult decision to accept. In his mind, you were either with him or against him; all-in or all-out. After nearly three decades, the announcer who had always been waiting at the pit gate when it opened at 2 p.m. was now rolling in at 7:15, missing the first heat race of the night.
It bothered him, and to be completely honest, it bothered me, too. I felt like I was short-changing Thunder Road and its fans, something I had never wanted to do. I was caught between a rock and a hard place, forced to either give less than 100% for the first time in my life, or resign the position I had dreamed of since I was a little boy.
Tom solved the problem for both of us, sending me a polite-but-firm note the following spring, saying he had decided to “move in a different direction.” It broke my heart, but I understood his rationale.
Thunder Road was his top priority, and he needed people around him who made it their top priority, as well.
There was also a softer, gentler side to Tom that not everyone got to see.
In the mid-1990s, ACT was hired by owner Michael Liberty to operate Maine’s legendary Oxford Plains Speedway for a couple of seasons. It was a lot of work, with Thunder Road, Oxford, New York’s Airborne Raceway and the traveling American Canadian Tour all under the ACT umbrella. A number of us traveled the entire circuit, racing 4-5 nights a week and sleeping little.
I personally considered Liberty to be a $100 haircut on a $5 head; an untrustworthy opportunist who used people to pad his bank account before kicking them unceremoniously to the curb. He proved me right at the end of the 1995 campaign, throwing ACT out on its collective ear and refusing to pay a substantial amount of money he allegedly owed. I was at the Radisson Hotel in Burlington, Vermont, preparing for ACT’s annual post-season Banquet of Champions, when my phone rang.
“Can you come down to Tom’s room? We need to have a meeting.”
Once assembled, we were told that Liberty had defaulted on his financial obligations, essentially leaving ACT bankrupt. The point fund would be paid – with some delay – but the series was shutting down, effective immediately. It was crushing blow for a group of people who had poured their hearts and souls into the series for many years. None of us knew where our next paycheck was coming from, but Tom demanded that we dry our tears and proceed as planned that evening.
“These people deserve their night,” he said. “They busted their butts all season long, and they deserve a celebration tonight, not a wake. We’re going to go out there and do our jobs, and only at the end will I tell everyone what has happened.”
Emceeing that banquet was one of the toughest things I have ever done; pasting a smile on my face and talking about what a great season it had been. But it was absolutely the right thing to do, and we did it because Tom wanted it that way.
T-Bone could be a tough guy to work for. There were days when I wanted to take him by the throat and shake him. But there were other times – the vast majority of the time, really – where I and dozens of others would have walked through fire for the man, if he had asked us to.
Last month, Curley and longtime partner Ken Squier sold their beloved Thunder Road to former racer Cris Michaud and local real estate developer Pat Malone, ensuring that “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” will survive and thrive for decades to come. Just days later, Thomas Michael “T-Bone” Curley was gone.
I like to think those two events were connected, in some way.
I like to think that Tom hung around just long enough to ensure that race fans in Central Vermont got what they deserved, one last time.
Have a good ride, Tom.

And Rest In Peace.

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Junior Wins At Talladega!

It’s always a good day when Junior wins at Talladega.
Sunday’s GEICO 500 was no exception, even though the “Junior” in question was not exactly the one most fans had in mind.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., carried Roush Fenway Racing back to Victory Lane Sunday for the first time since June of 2014, starting on the pole and prevailing on a green-white-checked flag finish to claim his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in 158 career starts.
Stenhouse’s upset victory puts his name at the top of a lengthy list of darkhorse victors at the 2.66-mile Alabama tri-oval, joining inaugural winner Richard Brickhouse, Dick Brooks, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard, Bobby Hillin, Jr. and Phil Parsons. Racing just 260 miles from his childhood home in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Stenhouse received a warm – if not quite Earnhardt-esque — reception from the packed Talladega grandstand as he celebrated with team members, sponsors and girlfriend Danica Patrick in Victory Lane.
“This is for all the guys at the shop,” said Stenhouse. “Every race, we’re getting better and better.  We knew Talladega was a good track for us. It’s been good in the past and I’m glad we parked it for my buddy, (the late) Bryan Clauson. 
“This Fifth Third Bank Ford was so fast today. We qualified on the pole and got the win. It’s cool to have Jack Roush back in Victory Lane. This is cool. (It’s) the closest race track to my hometown and the fans were out here this weekend.”
Stenhouse’s win was the culmination of an early season competitive resurgence for Roush Fenway Racing, an organization that has had little to celebrate in recent seasons. The team contracted from three cars to two this season, allowing veteran Greg Biffle to seek his fortune elsewhere. Equally important were a series of management changes that revitalized RFR’s approach to winning races. Lifelong Roush man Robbie Reiser was reassigned from his post as General Manager; part of a long-overdue shift to newer, younger, more engineering-based minds.  
The results have been impressive, to say the least.
Stenhouse’s win was his fourth Top-10 finish in the last five weeks; following a 10that Martinsville, a ninth at Bristol and a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at Richmond. Teammate Trevor Bayne also contended for the win Sunday, before being eliminated in a 15-car backstretch melee with less than 20 laps to go. Bayne has recorded seven Top-15 finishes in 10 starts this season, and if the post-season playoffs began today, both Roush Fenway Racing drivers would receive tickets to the dance.
There is still a bit more work to do before RFR returns to the ranks of championship favorites, but Sunday’s GEICO 500 was proof positive that progress is being made.
“There was no panic,” stressed Jack Roush Sunday, beaming from beneath his trademark fedora in a raucous Talladega Victory Lane. “I’ve been a racer for nearly 60 years – 30 of them in NASCAR – and I’ve been in holes before.
“I’ve climbed out of every one of them.”
While never doubting his ability to rebound, Roush admitted that Sunday’s win “comes with some relief.”
“It doesn’t get any sweeter than this,” said a happy Stenhouse Sunday. “It’s awesome to finally finish it off. I look at our first 150 (races) and I can only hope that the next 150 are going to be kind of like Joey Logano’s. He’s had 300 races. The first 150 weren’t great, the next 150 were. Hopefully this is the start of that.
“Pulling into Victory Lane and seeing Jack and Danica standing there together, it was super special. They’re the same height,” he laughed. “She supports me through anything I need to do, whether it’s spending more time at the shop (or the) need to…spend a little bit more time with the guys at the shop. She’s been so supportive and knows how hard that I’ve worked, and to have her there was really awesome.
“Every race, we’re getting better and better,” he added. “My confidence has been really high all year. We know what race tracks we need to work on. I feel confident in the guys back at the shop, Brian (Pattie) and everyone. There are not many teams that pay attention to the details like the No. 17 team does.”

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COMMENTARY: Dale Junior Calls It a Career

It’s official. 

The 2017 season will be Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s last a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver.
The third-generation driver met with team owner Rick Hendrick to inform him of his decision on March 29 of this year, and the team confirmed just moments ago that after 18 seasons and more than 600 career MENCS starts, Earnhardt will step away at the end of the 2017 campaign. Earnhardt has driven for HMS since 2008, collecting nine of his 26 victories with the organization.
One year ago, concussion symptoms forced Earnhardt from the cockpit of his No. 88 Chevrolet for the second time in his career. NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver missed the final 18 races of the season, prompting widespread speculation that he would never return to competition.
“You want it to be on your terms,” said Earnhardt during the lengthy recuperation that followed. “You want to be able to say, ‘Alright, I’ve had enough. I’m done.’ If you get hurt and are forced to quit, that’d be incredibly emotional.”
Earnhardt refused to be carried from the battlefield on his shield last season; vanquished by a foe hidden deep inside his brain. After months of healing and therapy, he returned to competition in February at Daytona International Speedway, climbing back behind the wheel of his familiar, silver-and-blue Chevrolet and running up-front until a mid-race crash spoiled his bid for Victory Lane.
He returned to the sport on his own terms. And now, he will leave it the same way; walking away — of his own accord — while ranking as one of the most competitive and popular drivers of his era, or any other.
It is a fitting exit for a man who has given so such to the sport that has framed his existence from the beginning.
His childhood included a superstar father who was habitually absent while fulfilling the obligations of a NASCAR champion, often at the expense of his own children. Many of the photographs of Earnhardt, Jr.’s youth feature him in the background of various Victory Lane ceremonies, home from military school just long enough to stand on the sidelines as his legendary father celebrates with team members, sponsors and a stepmother who — to this day – did little to include him in her husband’s happiness.
After such a rocky start, the relationship between Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. took many years to repair. And just when it had finally begun to bear fruit, “The Intimidator” was killed on our sport’s grandest stage, leaving his youngest son to shoulder an impossibly heavy burden of expectation that he had neither asked for, nor welcomed.
Despite a pair of championships in what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Earnhardt, Jr. has heard his share of criticism over the years.
“He’s not his daddy.”
“He’s not aggressive.”
“He’s not a seven-time champion.”
Admittedly, Earnhardt, Jr. has never won a MENCS championship in his 18-year career. Currently ranked 24th in the championship standings, he is unlikely to do so this season, either. But at this point, who really cares?
When fans look back on Earnhardt’s career, they will certainly remember the wins and losses. But more importantly, they will remember the easygoing style that made him so beloved across NASCAR Nation. Last season, 25% of all NASCAR souvenir sales included Earnhardt’s name, number and/or sponsor. His fan base crosses international, economic and intellectual borders, and NASCAR will be hard-pressed to replace him in that regard.
Equally difficult to replace will be the honesty, humility and sense of humor that have made Earnhardt a Media Center favorite since his earliest days in the sport. No one puts more thought into an answer than Junior, and while he has never been a standard-bearer or spokesman for his fellow drivers, his opinion carries a weight and importance that very few competitors have ever equalled.
Despite his multi-million dollar bank account, Earnhardt remains a man of the people. Like his father before him, Junior resonates with the working man; the guys who build tree houses in their backyards and fill the woods with old junk cars.
Make no mistake about it, however. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not his father. Never has been, never will be.
They share a name and an avocation, but that’s where the similarities end. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is no Intimidator. The “bull in a china shop” style that made his father a cult hero has never been part of Earnhardt the Younger’s racing DNA. With Junior in your rear-view mirror, you are more likely to be outfoxed that outmuscled; a fact that never sat entirely well with the small segment of his fan base that cheered him because of his genetics, rather than his personality.
Earnhardt has always been his own man. A man that we will miss seeing behind the wheel of a 200-mph NASCAR race car.
But let’s be honest. Since his injury at the midpoint of last season, most observers understood that Earnhardt’s driving career would likely be measured in months, rather than years. In many ways, he has raced on borrowed time since then, willfully dodging the high-speed impact that could end his career at any moment. If he is able to do so for another 28 weeks, the third-generation driver will walk away with life and limb intact, able to devote his attention to his JR Motorsports Xfinity Series organization, and – more importantly – to life outside of racing.
Recently married to the former Amy Reimann, Earnhardt spoke in January of last year about the impact marriage has had on his life.
“It’s a very cool thing,” he said, “and I am so frustrated with myself that I didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t know things could be this good. It’s a great feeling to be able to depend on someone and (have) them be accountable and be there.”

“Having her in my life has made my life an amazing thing.”

Now, there will be time for Dale and Amy to grow and explore as a couple, perhaps even starting that family he has spoken so glowingly of in the past.

And as for us, we will be just fine, you and I. NASCAR will survive without Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in the starting lineup, just as it did 15 years ago with his legendary father.

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Atlanta Waves Off Resurfacing Plan For Another Year

After an in-depth review and consultation with NASCAR, Goodyear, race teams and drivers, Atlanta Motor Speedway has elected to postpone its plan to resurface the 20-year-old racing surface until at least after its 2018 NASCAR weekend.
Last paved in 1997, the abrasive AMS surface is known for producing slick and challenging racing conditions, with some of the fastest tire fall-off of any track on the circuit. A number of  drivers voiced concern when plans to resurface the track were announced in January of this year, urging track ownership to delay the project.
AMS will continue a meticulous maintenance program in an effort to maintain the surface and prevent further deterioration. Additionally, patch work on the current asphalt will be completed, where necessary. Track officials will reevaluate its condition following the 2018 triple-header NASCAR weekend and determine whether to undertake a complete resurfacing, with new asphalt to be laid over the current surface.
“We appreciate all of the input we have received from key individuals in the NASCAR industry, as well as our customers,” said Ed Clark, Atlanta Motor Speedway president. “The overwhelming majority have urged us to hold off on paving so that we can enjoy at least one more weekend of high-speed slipping and sliding in 2018 before the new surface is installed.”

Since it was paved in 1997, the track has hosted 32 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, 20 NASCAR XFINITY Series races, 16 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, eight ARCA Racing Series races, four IndyCar Series races and countless U.S. Legends and Bandolero car races on its quarter-mile “Thunder Ring.”

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COMMENTARY: Rulings Leave Drivers On Uncertain Ground

Less than two weeks ago, NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell appeared to lay down the law in the aftermath of a post-race skirmish between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
O’Donnell, the sport’s chief spokesman in times of strife and upheaval, warning that the sanctioning body would not tolerate any on-track retaliation and would react strongly to instances of drivers using their car as weapons.
Just days later, the sanctioning body failed to act when Austin Dillon did exactly that, squeezing Cole Custer’s car into the outside wall under caution at Phoenix Raceway after Custer inadvertently wrecked Dillon late in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
NASCAR parked Dillon for the remainder of the event – a token penalty, since his car was already too damaged to continue – then declined to assess any further sanctions or penalties.
“Don’t do it again,” was the official response. “Or else.”
That mixed message leaves drivers and fans to wonder exactly what is – and isn’t – allowed these days, especially in the aftermath of a similar no-call for the pit road imbroglio between Busch, Logano and their respective crews a week earlier.  
“Every situation is different” said O’Donnell last week, insisting that drivers know where the line lies between acceptable behavior and actionable offense.
Unfortunately, the drivers say they don’t.

Dillon wrecked Custer under caution
“I don’t know that it gives us an answer of what we can or can’t do,” said Ryan Newman, Dillon’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing. “You have to do what’s best, and what’s best is not always the same in everybody’s eyes. Being aggressive — whether it’s with your race car or your hands — doesn’t always lead to the answer. But it sometimes gets your point across, and sometimes that’s what’s needed.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., also weighed-in on NASCAR’s response, saying, “It’s not about trying to teach (Dillon) a lesson. It’s really (about) what we are trying to tell everyone else, all the other drivers.
“I know NASCAR takes these guys into the haulers,” he added. “They have conversations with them and tell them what they expect in the future, But no one else is privy to that conversation. That is not sending the message to anyone, because we don’t know what the message is.”
NASCAR has fined drivers for fighting in the past. They have also declined to do so.
NASCAR has fined drivers for intentionally damaging competitors’ cars — under green or under caution – in the past. They have also declined to do so.
O’Donnell: “No two incidents are alike.”
It’s all a matter of degree. And in the words of William Shakespeare, “There’s the rub.”
As is often the case, NASCAR finds itself in an untenable position. The sanctioning body is expected to rule consistently on a series of incidents – both on and off the race track – that vary wildly in both severity and circumstance. Fists are different than fenders, and high-speed takeouts are different than harmless bouts of post-race fender rubbing.
No two incidents are alike, and no written rule can cover the myriad ways that drivers express displeasure with each other.
“I don’t particularly envy NASCAR’s position,” said former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski last week. “There is something to be said for our responsibility in this sport to be role models, and I’m as guilty as anyone else of not doing the best job of that, sometimes.
“We’re all trying to ask ourselves… ‘What’s too much emotion?’ I’m not sure anyone has really got a great answer to that.”
Clearly, NASCAR cannot allow its garage area to degenerate into a 700-horsepower version of the OK Corral, with drivers and team members taking matters into their own hands with impunity. They also cannot afford to take the emotion out of the sport, however, turning speedways into Safe Zones where conflict and disagreement are strictly forbidden.
Somewhere in the middle lies a line between acceptable and unacceptable. Unfortunately, that line isn’t always straight.
“I got punched in the face and I still race hard,” said Keselowski, harkening back to a 2014 dustup with Jeff Gordon that left him battered, bruised and unpenalized. “Everybody has got their own way of looking at it.”
“There is a very fine line” said Dillon with a smile. “I have morals of my own. I try to stick by a moral code that my family brought me up by. Everybody makes mistakes and NASCAR did a good job being a father-like figure to me in this situation. They expected more out of me… (and) I need to handle the situation differently.
“I really don’t know what to do,” he smiled. “I haven’t gotten my UFC license yet.”

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