“If it comes down to Homestead and he is one of the four and maybe somebody else isn’t, they ain’t going to make it easy on him,” Kenseth crew chief Jason Ratcliff said. “Are they going to wreck him? No. I don’t think anybody would do that. It’s just uncalled for regardless of the situation.
“But it ain’t going to be no cakewalk, either.”
And so it has come to this. Back in the day (well, years ago), there was a great driver named Dale Earnhardt. There were others, of course. Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty readily come to mind as well as many others, but too many to name who lived by the rule of doing what had to be done to win a race. Many were at Bristol so long ago when Earnhardt punted Terry Labonte to win a race. He just rattled his cage, you know. He was cheered.
It’s certain the cries from the new breed of NASCAR fan will be loud and furious. Logano is not the most popular driver in the garage anyway. Most fans remember his father, Tom, taking up for him in various situations and it just didn’t set well with fans of the sport who appreciate manly men. It’s tough to be a manly man at 18 or 19, but that’s how Logano was judged when he took over the No. 20 ride from the ultimate manly man, Tony Stewart. And Tony didn’t have his father following him around.
Since then, Logano fell in love, got married, and has become a tough racer. He’s now 25 years old. He has won 10 races the last two years and he and his teammate, Brad Keselowski are continuously picked on by the so-called stars of the sport. Last season, Keselowski made moves that not only upset the usually docile Kenseth, but none other than Jeff Gordon. If Earnhardt or Yarborough had made the same moves, people would have cheered. These days, it’s not so much hard racing as it is knowing your pecking order. It was funny to hear Denny Hamlin, Kenseth’s teammate, say he would rather be respected by his peers than win a championship. I’m sure Cale and Richard and Ironhead would be appalled.
The Chase apparently has different rules. In the NFL, MLB, and the NBA, there are playoffs, but once you beat someone, you don’t have to play them again. In NASCAR, everybody plays, so if one of Kenseth’s teammates drops out, they can play enforcer to Logano. Back when people were leaving tickets to Bristol in their wills and finding a ticket to the Southern 500 was difficult, NASCAR was the hottest ticket in town. It’s not that way anymore, and today we saw one reason why.
Yes, the economy tanked, but with gasoline at 2.15 a gallon and ticket prices stabilizing, folks aren’t coming back. The campgrounds at Charlotte were nearly empty last week. It’s the product. Until that changes, things will not get better for the sport we all love.