There Are Young Drivers Who Bring Talent, And Personal Responsibi
Unfortunately, NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has featured its fair share of hot tempers in 2012.
Drivers such as Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch kept printed pages and internet sites buzzing with the latest fines, probations and apologies.
Mild-mannered team owner Richard Childress was also the subject of scrutiny when his temper got the best of him after an on-track confrontation at Texas totaled one of his Camping World trucks driven by Joey Coulter.
The primary sponsors, those paying single season tabs in the millions, signed up to win races while putting their good names in a positive light with fans. They didn’t get involved to be a party to immature outbursts and unsafe actions on the race track. That was never part of the overall plan.
I’m not perfect by any stretch. I’ve made my share of mistakes. But I’ve always tried to keep a very simple rule in mind for every occasion: “It takes 20 years to build a bridge and 20 seconds to burn it.”
Once the words or actions are out there for the world to see they can never be completely forgotten or taken back.
Sprint Cup racing is blessed with a great crop of drivers who have been a tremendous asset to their sponsors as well as the sport. They are champions, both on the track and with the genuine, heartfelt gestures they perform off the track for those in need. They live true to the saying, ’”To those much is given, much is expected.”
It applies just as much among the younger drivers as veterans of Sprint Cup racing. Five of them were added to the all-time list of winners in 2011, which now includes 182 competitors.
Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500 at age 20. He was followed by Regan Smith at Darlington in May, David Ragan at Daytona, Paul Menard at Indianapolis in July and Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen in August. They were the most new winners in Sprint Cup competition since 2002.
All told, 18 drivers visited victory lane during the 36-race schedule, the most since 2002 and one short of the all-time record.
The younger crop had its struggles in what is considered to be one of the most competitive forms of auto racing in the world.
Unfortunately, Bayne finished outside the top10 in the remaining 16 Sprint Cup events he entered. He will continue to be affiliated with Roush-Fenway Racing in 2012 but may move back to the Nationwide Series in hopes of winning a championship there.
Ragan had a successful season as well. But as of Thanksgiving, Ragan’s plans were still pending. Hundreds of employees from RCR and Roush-Fenway were also laid off due to severe sponsorship difficulties. It put an end to Roush-Fenway’s flagship team formed in 1988 with driver Mark Martin.
Paul Menard is set to remain in the No. 27 RCR Chevrolets, as will Marcos Ambrose in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Fords. Their careers look promising. Add David Reutimann and Brain Vickers to that list - they two former winners who are currently searching for rides for 2012.
Bayne, Smith, Ragan, Menard, Ambrose, Reutimann and Vickers have something in common that all sponsors should pick up on.
They may not be winning on a weekly basis, but they possess something much more important in this image-conscious environment. They represent themselves and sponsors well, even under the worst of circumstances.
Each is extremely dedicated to a profession that they (and their families) built from a very early age. All drivers have spent years erecting their careers brick by brick from very humble beginnings. It’s important to never forget those humble beginnings, no matter how much success they enjoy as Sprint Cup drivers.
Yes, we all have frustrations that are extremely hard to take at times. As athletes, it’s possible that racers experience even deeper disappointments because they are subject to mechanical failures, crashes not of their making - things or circumstances they have no control over. So when things go wrong on the track, their reaction is to first battle their emotions.
We’ve all lost our tempers at times but the vast majority of us are blessed not to have to express our deepest feelings to millions of people through TV cameras and radio microphones immediately after we’ve encountered problems.
There is a time and place and TV and radio brodcasters understand that. They are polite and respectful and do give them space when things go wrong.
Looking back over the 2011 season, each of the aforementioned drivers have suffered through crashes that made them crazy just after they occurred.
But they always presented themselves with the utmost of professionalism as they faced the media eager for an explanation. Each is relatively young and, to a degree, inexperienced. But they are wise beyond their years for their ability to put on a strong front even when things are at their worst.
Let’s attempt to be fair who've been involved in heated confrontations. Hundreds of hours are spent by a multitude of crewmen who have given weeks of time and talent to built race-winning cars.
To have them torn to pieces by the mistakes or retaliations of another driver can get the best of the calmest of drivers. That’s understandable. They are standing up for their teams. The real battle comes when its time to make sense of it all in a rational way.
The point here is that in a world of extremely high demands, amid lucrative sponsorship packages that are extremely hard to come by, there are some great drivers presently available who represent NASCAR, their teams and sponsors in the very best light - no matter how tough the situation they find themselves.
It’s time all drivers and teams cherish their responsibilities as respected role models and always keep the larger picture in mind.
After all, people – and corporate America - are watching.