I am Motorsport.com contributor and racer Kelvin Hassell, here to give my thoughts on what went down last Saturday night at Canandaigua.
I have been racing for some 20 years now but even since Karting as a youngster, I have understood three basic rules of confrontation at the race track.
Unwritten rules of confrontation
1. If you throw your crash helmet at the ground or a competitor’s race car, the best possible consequence is that, you will have to buy another crash helmet.
2. Officials do not respond well to being shouted at. If you get out of your race car to fight an official or another driver, the best possible consequence is, you will get banned from racing.
3. If you get out of your car to confront a race car on a live race track, the best possible consequence is, you don’t get run over.
The worst possible consequence of all these scenarios, much like everything you do at the race track, is injury or death.
It still boggles my mind that drivers and team members cannot think these things through to their conclusion. People argue about how it is a “Heat of the moment” incident but racing drivers are supposed to thrive on keeping their cool under pressure. When they come off the track to “kick someone’s ass” on pit row, how do they think it will pan out? I can say with all certainty that it will not change the result of the motor race. But it might stop the driver throwing the punches from entering the next race.
Controlling my rage
The angriest I have been in a race car was a late model race in Belgium in 2011. I had come through from the back of the field to second place. I also had picked my own number in a sweepstake so, if I could win, I would leave the weekend with a tidy profit. I was catching the lead car easily when we got a caution with three laps to go. The 2x2 re-start would put me on the outside of the leader. I would be past him by the exit of turn two. This race was a full gone conclusion and everyone knew it apart from the pole sitter. He came into turn one so hot that he shot out of the bottom groove, ran over my car and went straight into the wall.
I was mad as hell. A race I should have won I was now not going to finish. Throwing a tantrum would not magically put my car back together. So I went back to the pits and started making preparations for the next race.
It's not okay
Saturday night we lost a talented young Sprint Car driver because we still seem to think it is ok to walk back onto a live race track and show your displeasure at the driver you feel has wronged you. This is a dangerous thing to do with a limited number of possible outcomes. None of those outcomes are good for the drivers, the fans or the sport in general. We saw the worst possible outcome here and I extend my deepest sympathies to all involved.
I hope we all learn from this and put safety at the forefront of every decision we make whether we be on the track, in the pits or in the grandstands.