Overly aggressive driving has always been frowned on in NASCAR, from the earliest days of the sport to today, even with the instructions from series officials to the boys earlier this year telling them to “Have at it.”
Back in 1957, Lee Petty received a letter from NASCAR warning him about his driving tactics that had ruffled the feathers of many drivers. Pat Purcell, executive manager of NASCAR, wrote, in part: “We have received a great many complaints this season about rough driving on your part, and they are now piling in so fast and from so many different directions that it is going to be necessary for someone to put the ‘eye’ on you for the next several race meets.”
On Sunday night at Charlotte, the normally mild-mannered Jeff Burton appeared to be threatening to put the “eye” on Kyle Busch as he confronted him on pit road following the Coca-Cola 600. Burton yelled at Busch about his moves late in the race, moves Burton say led to the flat tire that cost him a strong finishing position.
“He cut the left rear tire,” Burton said. “I like racing with Kyle, I really do. I enjoy it, but when he gets over aggressive and I pay the price for it, I won’t tolerate it."
For those who drive race cars and for those who just watch, the question most often asked when the subject of aggressive driving comes up is: “What would Mark Martin do?”
Martin explained his philosophy this way.
“I live by a code, and that code works for me,” he said. “It has actually worked well for some others as well. I was taught that code partially by people I raced with.”
Those people were the short-track stars of the Midwest, who Martin competed against early in his career, people such as Dick Trickle, Bob Senneker, Mike Miller, Alan Kulwicki and Larry Detjens.
“We went to Wisconsin and raced Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with the same car -- no backup cars, and they only paid about $400 to win each night,” Martin said. “You didn’t need to bend a ball joint or a tie rod or a wheel or fix a wreck. … There was enough maintenance to be done as it was. ... I try to race people extremely hard, but with respect and the way I want to be raced.”
Stuck in the middle
Martin Truex Jr. said on this week’s NASCAR teleconference that he’s in a precarious position. He's not so secure in a Chase berth that he can take chances on getting his car significantly better, but he needs to get better to gain a spot in the elite 12 who will compete for the title in the final 10 races of the season.
At the midway point of the 26-race regular season, Truex is 14th in the standings but only 14 points behind 12th-place Ryan Newman. He said his team, the No. 56 at Michael Waltrip Racing, is gaining steam in his first year with the organization.
“We've done a good job of being consistent up to this point,” he said. “We're constantly working on trying to be more competitive, be quicker each week.."
Back home in Nashville
Nationwide Series driver Willie Allen will race at his home track, Nashville Superspeedway, this weekend, and he has plenty of motivation to secure a starting spot and back it up with a strong finish.
Allen and his family were affected by the flooding that hit the Nashville area earlier this year, and he also recently lost his father to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“With everything that has happened in the past month, I can’t put into words what a great feeling it would be to win at Nashville,” Allen said in a NASCAR news release. “My dad put in a lot of hard work over the years to help me with my racing career. He's the reason I get to do what I love, and it would mean the world to me to win this race for him."