In all the years I have been in NASCAR, it has been my experience that there are three types of drivers.
Driver No. 1 is the kind that tries to avoid conflict on and off the track at all costs for whatever reason. Driver No. 2 is the guy that only wants to retaliate when he has a race car around him. Then, naturally, you have Driver No. 3 who doesn’t care whether he is in or out of the car to settle the score.
That then raises the question of what you want your competitors to think of you. The guy that comes to the top of my mind is Dale Earnhardt Sr. When he pulled up behind you in that black No. 3, you know he wasn’t afraid to move you out of the way, or confront you after the race either. That’s a big plus.
I was fortunate to work on Cale Yarborough’s team when he drove for Junior Johnson and we won those three consecutive championships. Cale wasn’t a driver anyone wanted to tangle with on or off the racetrack either. That was a big plus for him.
So when you are a driver that will stand his ground on and off the racetrack, I believe it helps you. After what happened Saturday night in Darlington between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, a lot of fans have asked if this hurts Kyle’s standing amongst his competitors because he refused to get out of his car?
I think all the competitors know that Kyle has zero problem with settling things on the racetrack when he feels he has been wronged. Just because, unlike Kevin, he didn’t get out of his race car and go bare knuckles with Kevin is simply driver preference.
On the flip side, you also see Kevin is no dummy. Every time he climbs out of car to go confront someone, you can see he is smart enough to leave his helmet on. That’s pretty smart.
Look, both guys did what they thought was right Saturday night. Naturally NASCAR took a dim view of things, especially since Kyle pushed Kevin’s car out of the way on pit road after the race. Naturally, not only does it tear up a man’s race car, but it ran the risk of hurting someone that wasn’t even involved.
So NASCAR has voiced its displeasure. It levied a $25,000 fine and probation on both drivers for the next four Sprint Cup points races.
As NASCAR said when it issued the fines Tuesday, it was all about what happened after the race between those two guys and about maintaining a safe environment on pit road.
You also saw the crews on both teams get into the melee. When I was a crew chief, my position was you have your driver’s back. Now it’s the driver’s fight and let them settle it. I made it clear to my guys, that if any of them ever touched another driver, they were fired.
I and my guys were there to make sure the other driver’s crew, or a security worker for instance, didn’t interfere and give the other driver an unfair advantage. Again, you are there strictly to cover his back and not to do anything more than that. Let the two drivers settle it themselves. That’s what it is about. It’s between those two and those two only.
Those teams Saturday night knew that. It’s like an unwritten code.
Sure, you are there and mouthing with each other, but you let the drivers settle it and only step in if he gets in over his head with others. You never ever touch another driver.
That’s the way it was when I was at Junior Johnson’s, Hendrick Motorsports, working for Darrell Waltrip or working for Jack Roush.