It’s fair to say today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors are the very best stock car drivers in the world.
Only 43 starting positions are filled during 36 race weekends per year on a variety of race tracks throughout the United States.
Racers spend years trying to build their resumes in an effort to gain a top Sprint Cup ride. It can be a lifelong mission that takes a huge financial toll.
If they make it, they become the best in the business. They become drivers who can adapt to a variety of track configurations, meet media obligations, and become comfortable with public and sponsor appearances.
They also deal with all the pressure involved in qualifying for, and competing in, a NASCAR race.
The vast majority of today’s drivers in all three of NASCAR’s top division are very happy and honored to be where they are.
But at least outwardly, it seems a few are not – or at least they need to evaluate their situations.
Kurt Busch’s tirade against motorsports reporter Bob Pockrass at Dover begs the question: Why do some drivers show so much anger toward against other drivers, NASCAR officials or media members?
It’s simple. Their passion for success and their competitive nature produce, at times, verbal or physical assaults that can be difficult to harness.
Competitive people tend to lash out when they think they have been wronged – or have failed to meet the goals through no fault of their own.
This can be especially true after a long day of racing. It’s hot. The competition is extremely close. Radio chatter has caused one whale of a headache and to top it off, what should have been a win has transformed into a disappointing sixth or seventh-place finish.
It happens. It’s part of the reason why it happened to Busch, again, at Dover. But I make no excuses for him.
It’s time that all drivers who are privileged to have a place in NASCAR’s elite circuit never lose sight of the fact they have a sweet deal – a very sweet deal.
Fact is, today’s drivers are pulling in incredible amounts of money, even before they sit in the car or turn the first lap of practice.
Their multiyear contracts are worth many millions of dollars. They get to drive cars that are built and maintained by some of the most talented crew chiefs, engine builders, engineers and fabricators in the business.
Even those drivers who race with lesser-funded NASCAR teams are millionaires, for the most part, by the end of their first season.
In most cases large corporate sponsorships fund the operations. With that money, team owners pay the bills and mechanics take all the responsibility for providing competitive race cars each week.
Drivers fly in on private jets and have team personnel escort them to their $1 million motorhomes.
As mentioned, an army of people presents them with pristine race cars to drive for practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself.
If the driver gets in the wall his crew pulls another car off the transporter that’s as good or better than the one just waded up.
Now, how many family-owned short track operations would love to have that luxury?
Busch was suspended Monday by NASCAR for the threat of bodily harm at Dover. He has apologized.
We’ve all said things we shouldn’t have. Emotions at times get the best of us all. When it happens there’s no taking it back and there are consequences.
All public figures, as NASCAR drivers are, very often have a camera and microphone in their faces. It comes with the job.
Drivers have known it – and once wished for it -since their street stock days back at the Saturday night short track.
Sprint Cup racing is a high stakes game played under an international microscope, where every action and every word is scrutinized live, on video or in print.
No driver should ever forget that. There’s no escaping the spotlight during a race weekend.
There are 10,000 short-track drivers who raced over this past weekend who would gladly take Busch’s ride this weekend at Pocono Raceway.
There are millions of race fans that would love to make the money drivers do and enjoy the lifestyles they have. I also know a motorsports journalist or two who would love to experience such, at least for a day.
When another blatantly puts a driver in the fence, the natural reaction is to retaliate. I get that.
But that’s where drivers need a system of checks and balances. They need someone to pull them aside before they speak – and if they don’t have that, they must contain themselves.
By whatever means, drivers must never forget to control their tempers in public. That includes pit road when members of the media are gathering information.
Certainly it is not always done. After all, given the intensity of a race and the natural competitiveness of the drivers, that is understandable.
However, it is still a job requirement. It serves the team, the sponsor – and let’s face it, the driver himself – very well.
It would appear that given the wealth and notoriety that comes with achieving a lifelong, coveted dream, it should not be difficult at all.
Even though, at times, it is.