Monday, May 22, 2006

But It's Good TV!

Saturday night, I once again found myself shouting at the television, "You guys cut it out!"
I have made it clear, on this blog, that Tony Stewart is my favorite driver, and that Matt Kenseth is very close to the top in my hierarchy of secondary favorites. And here they go again, saying angry words about each other after the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge.
Honestly, even watching replay after replay, it just looked like a normal racing incident to me--two guys went into the corner, racing hard, bumped each other and wrecked. But Matt had some harsh words to say about Stewart's driving, and Smoke, watching it on TV in his hauler, came out with harsh words of his own.
If only they could be like Mark Martin, who, whenever he wrecks somebody, looks concerned and says, "I really didn't mean to do that."
Or maybe they could be like Carl Edwards, who wrecks somebody, flashes his charming smile and says, "I made a mistake."
Dale Jarrett, a seasoned veteran of much bumping and banging, usually shrugs such incidents off with, "That's just racing."
But Stewart and Kenseth, both world class racers in every aspect of the term, have a rivalry going. This isn't just since the 2006 Daytona 500--it has been going on since, at least, the very beginning of their NASCAR careers. I was at the ill fated PPIR for the Busch Series race there in 1998. Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr were in a heated battle for the points lead, and Tony Stewart was trying to get his first win in the Busch series. (By the way, that would have been an interesting win, for Pike's Peak International Raceway was where Tony had gotten his first win in the IRL series in 1997). Jr was in the lead, with Stewart close behind him, and Matt nearly on Tony's right rear fender. Approaching turn three, Tony saw the opportunity to go low and pass Jr. At the same time, Kenseth thought it would be a good opportunity to pass Earnhardt, himself. If there had been just a little more room at the bottom of the turn, it would have been three wide. However, there was not enough room, and Stewart lost out on the position, spun out and wrecked. Smoke, perhaps correctly, felt that Kenseth's disingenius move had deprived him of a win.
But it is not as if they are mortal enemies. They have often made appearences together at various events, and have appeared sincerely friendly with each other. Near the end of the 2003 Winston Cup season, while Tony was taking flak from the press and the fans for his anger management problems, and Matt Kenseth was taking flak from the press and the fans for having such a huge points lead without having won a race, Stewart talked to Kenseth on the telephone and gave him support, telling him to just take the criticism and stay the course, that he would be champion and that he would deserve it. Kenseth did express his appreciation for the encouragement from the 2002 champion.
Okay, so Matt could have held his line in the turn last Saturday night, or Tony, seeing that the #17 car was loose, probably should have let up off the gas. But they were equals, at the time, and they were racing each other. If the positions were reversed, there is little doubt that it would have been the same result. Rivalries make for exciting racing, and NASCAR and the TV and radio broadcasters know that. The fans love it. And while either, or both, of the could have shrugged and said, "That's just racing," the harsh words make for good TV.

2 comments:

Babs said...

Yep! Looked like racing to me.
And as far as I know Kenseth is still racing at Eldora and Tony at Kenseth's Dad's track this summer.

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