Big bucks fuel rock star attitudes

The incident between Shane Hmiel and Dale Jarrett at Bristol Motor Speedway has brought up the question of whether younger drivers lack respect for their elders. In the highly publicized fight, Hmiel punted Jarrett in the closing laps of the...

The incident between Shane Hmiel and Dale Jarrett at Bristol Motor Speedway has brought up the question of whether younger drivers lack respect for their elders. In the highly publicized fight, Hmiel punted Jarrett in the closing laps of the event, gave him the finger, and went on TV and suggested that Jarrett's time in racing was just about up.

"When I was coming along, if we went to the veteran drivers it was for advice and because we looked up to them," said Jarrett, who pilots the No. 88 UPS Ford for Robert Yates Racing. "I'm not sure that's the case this day and time. A lot of them come in and a lot of it is because of today's society. You can't put it all on them, but it's kind of the way things are now.

"They come in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder thinking that's the way that they have to be - that they can't let anybody think they're not on the same level as what they are - no matter what anybody may have accomplished or what they may have done. They need everyone to feel that they're on the same level, so I think there's a little lack of respect, but it's not just in this garage area or not just within auto racing. It's in our society period."

Hmiel isn't the first young driver to rant about a veteran driver. Kurt Busch referred to Jimmy Spencer as a "has been" and "never was" two years ago securing the hatred of half the NASCAR nation, even winning a championship didn't help drown out the boos of a legion of race fans.

While the twenty-something's in the garage chalk up the actions of their peers as youthful exuberance, drivers that have grown with this sport from its grass roots to the multi-million dollar entertainment spectacle it is today think it's just plain disrespect.

"I think that when you're talking to a former champion and a multi-time race winner, and a guy that's done as much for this sports as Jarrett's done as much for this sport, I think it's okay to disagree with him and it's okay to not be on the same side of the argument with him, that's what we do," said Jeff Burton driver of the No. 31 RCR Cingular Wireless Chevrolet. "But I think we can do that in a way that's proper. I think that making a derogatory comment about a guy like that-or, the other way around- isn't really necessary. I think that when Shane did that, what he doesn't understand is that he offended a lot of people.

"He offended a lot of people that are in this sport that have been here for a while, he offended a lot of fans of this sport that have been here for a while and he didn't accomplish a whole lot other than making a lot of people mad. In the end, Shane came out the loser in that thing, in more than just points and money. I don't know if that's youth or what that is. Whether you're 22 or 43, there's a code of conduct that needs to be adhered to.

"That doesn't mean you can't disagree or have arguments, because that's what we do. I think we should show each other respect. It needs to go to the other way, too. Experienced drivers need to show the younger drivers respect too. I'll tell you what, when somebody makes a comment like that, in my opinion it's crossing the line and Shane didn't do himself any justice and didn't do the sport any justice when he did that."

The fact of the matter is this: the majority of veteran drivers deserve the respect of the new faces entering this sport. These are the guys that helped propel stock car racing to where it is today, which allows racers to be millionaires their first Cup series season.

Veterans suffered life without private planes and motor coaches. They were NASCAR when NASCAR wasn't cool. They are the foundation of this deal and not only deserve respect they command it.

"There has to be a mutual respect," said Ricky Rudd driver of the No. 21 Woods Brothers Motorcraft Ford. "When I came along my heroes were David Pearson, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. I raced against these guys all the time. At that time I had a tremendous amount of respect for those guys - not just so much how well they drove because when you're young coming into you know in the back of your mind it's just, 'give me the car that they've got and I'll show them I can run with them.'

"That was what we sort of lived and dreamed was to have a car equal to what those guys had. That's sort of different nowadays, but there was also a tremendous amount of respect for the dues that these guys paid. They paved the way for when I came into it and now the same has to be said here. Look at the money these guys are making. That wasn't always the case."

Perhaps it is the money that has gone to their heads. When Jarrett ran his first full season of Cup racing he made $118,640 for his efforts. Hmiel has only made two Cup starts this season and has already earned $140,348.

In a new era, where NASCAR is Hollywood and drivers show off their mansions, cars, and babes on MTV Cribs it's no wonder some of these guys have let the 'bling bling' inflate their egos to astronomical proportions.

Sometimes you have to wonder if they are living in reality at all. In the words of one rookie driver who was asked to present a million dollar check to a winning race fan, "Wow. Who can live on a million dollars?"

That pretty much says it all.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Dale Jarrett , Jimmy Spencer , Shane Hmiel , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing