I recently wrote an article talking about changes I would like to see in NASCAR, and one of the things I wanted to see was each of the current teams having one of the sport’s pioneers in their pits each week. Now I know this is a pipe dream, but there is logic behind this, and let me explain my thinking.
In the early days of NASCAR, drivers were so much more than just drivers; they were mechanics, transport drivers, cooks, tire experts, and team owners. These men, the legends and pioneers of the sport, did it all and they never thought twice about it, basically because it’s how it was done back then. There were no other options.
Nowadays, it has changed drastically. Today we have right front shock specialists, tire specialists, car engineers, engine guys, shock guys, spring guys… well, you get the point. This is one of the things that has pushed the drivers farther and farther away from the cars. The level of technology involved in these cars today would boggle the mind of our pioneers and rightly so. We no longer have “stock cars” turned into racing cars, what we have today are purebred racing cars, and that is ok, but only as long as the past is not forgotten.
Times change, and so does the sport; to survive it has to evolve with the times. Some of us may not like it but facts are facts and we cannot overlook them. So that takes us to one of the reasons, I made the rule that I mentioned.
My rule was this: “15) all teams in the top-10 in points will be required to have one of this sport’s legends in their pits each week, to give them a true understanding of how the sport began.”
I want you to think about this for a second and imagine this. Let’s say, Kyle Larson shows up at the track for practice, and sitting there in a chair, is Tiger Tom Pistone, a man who though small in stature, is a giant in the world of racing.
Tiger Tom looks at Larson and sizes him up, “Son just where the Hell you been? It’s time for practice, and you haven’t set your tire pressures or checked the work these pretty boys have done.” Tiger Tom stands up… Now boy, I know you make lots of money; Hell, you make more in 5 laps than I made in my entire career, but besides that, you’re supposed to be a race car driver; that doesn’t mean you just hold the steering wheel, it means you help get the car ready!” Larson stands there not knowing what to say.
There is lesson #1; Tiger Tom showing young Larson what it was like back in the day, and I am pretty sure Larson, as a sprint car driver, fully understands the point that Tiger Tom was making. The young lions of the sport need to know… they need to know that men like Tiger, Tim and Fonty Flock, Charlie Griffith, Bill Blair, Rex White, Tiny Lund, and so many others laid the foundation for what today we call NASCAR.
Now, while my little story here is purely fictional, I am sure you get the idea. It wouldn’t matter if you were getting dressed down by Tiger Tom, or a quiet, soft spoken word from a man like Rex White. The young guns of today need to know; they need to know just how much these pioneers of our sport sacrificed. Because it was a great sacrifice these men paid.
Let’s look at it this way; say you graduate high school and decide that you want to be a doctor. It will take 7 years of college to gain the degree you need to say you’re a doctor. Now during your first couple years of “doctoring school” you will learn one VERY important thing… the history of your profession. You will learn about how things were done WAY back in the day. You will learn how operations were done before we had the modern surgery theaters we have today. You will learn about the legends of your profession, and about the things they did. So why shouldn’t the current drivers of today learn about the history of the sport they make their living in?
To fully understand how a sport has reached its current level, you need to know what took place to get it there. You need to know about the men and the sacrifices they made, so that you can make the living you make today.
NASCAR has recently tried to push the true history of our sport into the dark folds of history, and cover up the fact that NASCAR was born in the hills, and on the back roads, with gallons of moonshine in the trunks of cars driven by men trying to feed their families; men who risked it all for the thrill and the money hauling shine brought. Yes, over the years the drivers began coming from other areas and professions, but the true roots of the sport were found in the Southeastern corner of America, and moonshine stills.
I know there are a few that are racing today who really and truly do understand the roots of the sport; two that come to mind are Dale Jr. and Chase Elliott. Wait… hey, those two had fathers who were champions! Yep, that’s right. Now you’re starting to see my point.
I will admit, I have been around this sport for over 45 years, in all forms, and until the past 8 years, I never really understood the sport. I didn’t have a clue why things happened the way they did. BUT, once I began to study the sport, to do my research, to hear the stories, and to meet the legends, it was only then did I fully understand the sport.
And that, is the point I was trying to make.