With only three races remaining in a 10-month season, emotions in the Sprint Cup Series are heated. Patience has been replaced by frustration and anger; give and take has turned into a lot more taking than giving.
Drivers in the Chase for the Championship are fighting, sometimes literally, for the championship. Everyone else is trying to make the most of an otherwise disappointing season. Everyone’s on a different agenda and nobody’s backing down.
“There’s a point and it’s almost like it’s out of control,” Denny Hamlin said after Sunday’s crash-filled race at Martinsville Speedway. “Eventually, someone’s going to get hurt in this whole thing because we keep sending guys in the corner and in the wall. These are deadly machines. Eventually, there’s nothing good that’s going to happen from everyone to keep retaliating like this.”
This time Brian Vickers was the focus. At times, it seemed like the only car he didn’t hit during the race was the pace car. Everyone left the track upset at him.
This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, somebody else will get pushed too far – and they will push back even harder.
A year ago Kyle Busch’s playoff hopes were crushed when he ran into David Reutimann at Kansas Speedway and Reutimann retaliated by running Busch into the wall.
A month later at Texas, playoff drivers Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton crashed, which led to one of the most-famous images of the season – Gordon throwing punches at Burton a few feet away from their mangled cars.
Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch have run each other into the wall this year and Tony Stewart was knocked into – and on top of – a wall as part of retaliation with Vickers at Sonoma, Calif.
Everyone is so desperate to successfully close out the season many have let their feelings get in the way of common sense, Stewart said. And the best way to solve it is with fists, not race cars.
“NASCAR is going to have to, at some point, make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby sit and not protect these guys,” he said. “Let them get their butt kicked. That’s what used to happen in the old days. You didn’t have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that.”
Stewart believes NASCAR should take a portable boxing ring to the racetrack. When drivers have a problem, they can settle it in the ring. That way crews don’t have to work overtime to replace crashed cars, and nobody else will get hurt.
“People just have no regard,” Hamlin said.
Carl Edwards has an eight-point lead over Stewart in the Chase.