I have three words to describe yesterday’s Camping World Truck Series finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park: It. Was. Awesome.
Plenty of beating and banging, with the No. 8 of John Hunter Nemechek and the No. 00 of Cole Custer leaning on each other coming to the checkered flag, smoke flying, metal crunching as both trucks were hooked together unable to pull apart. Then, for an added bonus, Custer straight up sacked Nemechek as he was going to grab the checkered flag. Don’t let anyone tell you differently; that’s usually the best way to settle any racing issue when you’re not in the mood for talking and explaining. Face-to-face or hand-to-hand is how all disagreements should be settled at the race track.
Now, do I understand why Custer was upset? Absolutely. The incident was, in fact, Nemechek’s fault. On top of that, in his first full season, Custer has yet to score his third career CWTS win, and his JR Motorsports truck has not been operating up to par in 2016. He isn’t solidly in the Chase and with one race left before it begins, he’s under a lot of pressure. So yes, of course, he’d be furious after seeing his best shot at a Chase spot go up in a cloud of smoke and dirt because of a guy who has already won this season.
That said, has Nemechek deserved the hate and vitriol he’s been getting over social media? No. Absolutely not. He did what he was paid to do, and he wanted that win just as badly as Custer did. It’s a racer’s prerogative to go for the win; why should we hate on that? Yes, he was at fault for the incident. He drove a little over his head, had a rare lapse in car control, and both he and Custer ended up in the grass. Keep in mind there, they were in the grass. With slicks. Hooked together coming to the checkered flag. Going for a win, it would have been stupid to let off the gas to regroup, but even if he did do that it would have taken a little longer to get their trucks unstuck.
Yet after the race, people made it as if Nemechek was a dirty, soulless driver with a habit of wrecking others. It makes no sense, honestly. Nemechek races other drivers as respectfully and clean as possible. Sure, he’s slipped, he’s had issues, but which driver hasn’t? Kyle Larson let loose with this tweet following the race:
Hey @JHNemechek that was not big picture racing there. Hope the 00 makes your life trouble in the chase….
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) September 4, 2016
I find it funny Larson showed a bit of savagery with this tweet, considering Larson dumped C.E. Falk at Daytona in 2013 for a win.
Other tweets from the NASCAR contingent include these:
Winning should be honorable
— Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) September 4, 2016
— Larry McReynolds (@LarryMac28) September 4, 2016
When you're leading the next race and I'm in 2nd, I'm going to 'entertain' everyone
— Justin Marks (@JustinMarksDG) September 4, 2016
I love how some of these guys plus plenty of other drivers were quick to bash Nemechek like they were bastions of clean, respectful racing and had never pulled a similar stunt on a race track.
I bring all that up because I want to point out a few things regarding this latest blatant example of a double standard. All this outrage, all this anger, where was it when Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch were beating and banging for the win at Darlington in March of 2003? They were leaning, turning into each other, bumping each other, rubbing each other, and to this day we as fans eat that up. That was as big an event to us as the 1979 Daytona 500.
What about the 2012 CWTS season finale at Homestead when Cale Gale squeezed Kyle Busch into the wall to score his first career win in the series? Where was the outrage there? Where was the seething hatred for Gale? Does anyone have any idea? I don’t.
What about a personal favorite, last year’s fall Sprint Cup race at Martinsville where the lapped car of Matt Kenseth crashed then-leader Joey Logano in the first-turn wall? I don’t recall this much outrage for Kenseth’s actions. Instead, I hear nothing but cheers for Kenseth handling Logano. Never mind the fact that they weren’t going for the checkered, but were still several laps away and Kenseth had already been involved in a crash. That only goes to further accentuate the double standard. When it came to a lapped car taking out the leader, everyone was overjoyed. But yesterday, when two hungry drivers slammed and banged for the win, everyone was ready to crucify Nemechek.
It makes no sense.
The finish at MoSport is exactly what the CWTS needs. Gripe and complain now, but years from now this finish will be remembered fondly. That was good racing in a season full of great finishes. This has been a banner year for the trucks, as only two non-regulars have won this season, race quality has been spectacular, and on top of that, we’re seeing the rise of stellar young drivers like William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Daniel Hemric.
Instead of dropping the hammer on a driver for doing nothing more than racing hard for a win, accept the fact that MoSport was a heck of a race with a fun finish. Accept that, and leave it at that. Don’t go harebrained and take to social media to bash Nemechek for doing his job.