NASCAR is undeniably a contact sport. Rubbing is racing. However, according to several Cup Series champions, including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, the level of aggression has increased in recent years, and the level of respect has correspondingly decreased. It’s every driver for himself, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in or out of the playoffs. Ryan Blaney unapologetically admits he’s one of those aggressive drivers.
Daniel Suarez makes contact with Martin Truex Jr. at Texas
With fewer than 20 laps remaining at Texas Motor Speedway, Daniel Suarez, a non-playoff driver, tapped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr., who is in the Round of 8, and the No. 19 car made a sharp right turn and violently slammed into the outside wall, ending his day.
Immediately after the big hit, both drivers spoke over the radio about their version of events.
“Ah s***. I thought I gave him enough room,” Truex said.
“I don’t know what the f*** he was trying to do, man,” Suarez said to his team. “I was right there all the time.”
And so the debate began. Should Suarez have lifted, cut Truex a break, and not ended his day and severely damaged his chances of advancing in the playoffs? Did the No. 99 car do anything wrong?
Up in the broadcast booth, Jeff Burton summed up both sides of the argument, saying, “it’s really frustrating to have somebody get into the back of you when they’re not in the playoffs with a chance to win a championship, but they’re out there trying to get their race in as well.”
Multiple NASCAR Cup Series champions say there’s a ‘lack of respect’ on the track today
While no one suggested Suarez was driving aggressively and at fault for the accident with Truex, it’s those types of incidents where media, fans, and the drivers attempt to interpret what happened and decide who is to blame. Kyle Busch, who is never one to shy away from sharing his opinion, said that a lot of blame can be assigned to aggressive driving and, more specifically, a lack of respect.
“There’s a complete lack of respect everywhere all over the place,” the two-time champion told RACER. “So it doesn’t matter if it’s a playoff driver or a non-playoff driver. The way all this has gone on the last four or five years, with a newer generation coming in, has completely ruined it from what it used to be. Now it might be exciting for the fans, but all you get is more torn-up stuff.”
Brad Keselowski agreed.
“Yeah, there’s no respect out there at all,” the 2012 champion said. “No, we’re all outlaws. So you just shut up and deal with it.”
Keselowski’s Penske teammate, Joey Logano, appeared on NASCAR Race Hub and said he can see it from both sides.
“You’ve got to realize everybody out there is racing for something,” the 2018 Cup Series champion offered. “It may not be a playoff position. It may not be racing for a championship, but it might be someone racing for 20th in points, and that’s a big bonus for their race team or for them as a driver.
“You’ve got to keep in mind it’s not just about you out there. And sometimes that’s hard to do when you’re racing for a championship. You feel like that’s bigger than everybody else. But in a lot of ways, it’s not. You have to realize that everybody is selfish on the race track. Everybody has to go race for their race team.”
Ryan Blaney admits to driving like an ‘a******’
Ryan Blaney openly admits to being one of the aggressive drivers. He said it’s out of necessity because the racing is considerably different from when his father, Dave, competed in the NASCAR Cup Series in the late 1990s to 2014. Now with stages and restarts, not to mention packages that keep the pack of cars grouped together, passing comes at a premium.
“You have to be an a****** now,” Blaney candidly admitted. “That’s just what it is. Whether it’s on restarts, on the racetrack, you have to be that because if you’re not — to an extent, you just can’t go run into everybody — but if you’re not on the aggressive side, as far as calculated aggressiveness, you’re just going to get taken advantage of. That’s just how you got to do it.
“So, I think it’s different because from back then, the cars were maybe a little bit easier and fast for them than what these are now. And it just calls for being super aggressive because you have to take every inch you can, because you’re not going to get it back if you don’t make the moves on them.”
There’s obvious a difference of opinion from the drivers’ perspectives. But all the fans can agree aggressive driving leads to three things — exciting racing, potential crashes, and conflict. Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott, anyone?