In racing, especially NASCAR, contact has been a part of it before the series even existed.
Sunday, we saw Chase underdog Ryan Newman make a desperation dive on Kyle Larson, pushing him out of the way and as a result, into the wall on the final lap. Newman advanced into the final four with the pass, knocking Jeff Gordon out by a single point.
Taking out disgruntled Gordon fans, I was thrown aback by the overwhelming amount of people who were spitting fire and ready to start a riot over the incident. Some just called it dirty while others put together a petition to remove Newman from the Chase. Really?
Have you forgotten?
I just have one question for these fans ... Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten when Earnhardt tore through the grass after bouncing off Elliott? Yarborough and Allison ripping each other's doors off on the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500? Gordon punting Wallace at Bristol? The last three years at Watkins Glen? Petty winning his 200th race in a contact-filled photo finish, much to the delight of onlooker, President Ronald Reagan?
Oh, and we can't forget the malicious, churlish, and vacuous way Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch battled for the 2003 Darlington victory. How dare those barbarians race like such brutes! (That's how some fans today sound)
I am only 21-years-old and sadly, was unable to witness these historic moments first-hand. My father did though, sometimes even present for them, working as a tire changer/mechanic in the sport for just under a decade. I got into racing by watching those harrowing videos from days long gone. I became a lifelong fan of Ayrton Senna by the same kind of clips. He always went for the gap because the day you don't is the day you are no longer a racing driver ... His words.
How I became interested in racing
I feel cheated that I wasn't able to live in the era where drivers would put each other in the wall, brawl in the pits over it, and then shake hands on Monday morning. Now they brawl for no reason, maybe exchanging text messages, having press conferences apologizing for their actions, or arguing on Twitter.
I wasn't made a race fan by colorful commercials, the promise of some celebrity concert at the track, or other trivial gimmicks. As a little kid, I was attracted to NASCAR by Earnhardt yelling 'that's what you call an ass kicking,' Dick Trickle smoking a cigarette under caution, and guys finishing races with half the car torn off. And no, I don't swear when I speak (most of the time), nor have I ever smoked, and my driving record is impeccable. I just thought these guys were badasses. They walked through the garage like immortal titans who ruled the world and they raced the same way.
It's a contact sport
Hearing Denny Hamlin say last week that he would rather have friends than a championship floored me. Watching fans lose their minds over Keselowski's failed attempt to win Texas confused me. The unmitigated hatred spewed towards Ryan Newman since the conclusion of the Cup race has just annoyed me.
Racing, and even more so NASCAR, are contact sports. If you want to watch a sport where people don't rough each other up, try Golf. The NFL is far more vicious than stock car racing and I don't see any of those people complaining. This is a competition and these drivers are competitors with millions of dollars, careers, and childhood dreams at stake. They are there to win, not to be voted most popular driver at the banquet (not that they'd even have a chance with Jr. still around).
Thankfully, guys like Ryan Newman still understand that concept. As I said regarding the Keselowski deal at Texas, what he did wasn't reckless, it was just racing. If you don't understand that, maybe you need to spend some more Saturday nights at your local track.
The hypocrisy of it all
Again, I really can't comprehend why some fans who are shocked, horrified, and angered by Newman's move. Calling it unfair or dangerous is almost humorous. They are driving race cars at speeds topping 200mph ... 'Safe' wasn't part of the concept when this sport was conceived.
Unfair? What's unfair is going back to the shop and telling hundreds of employees who worked 20 hour days for a year straight, pouring every fiber of their being and then some to get to this point and telling them that we didn't make it because you 'wanted to be polite.'
The Newman incident - He didn't wreck Larson
Newman didn't turn Larson ... He didn't even wreck him. He pushed the #42 out of the groove and Larson opted to keep it in the throttle, sliding higher and impacting the wall. Meanwhile, Newman slowed down so he could make the corner. Larson has defended the move too, so it seems fairly cut and dry to me.
Feelings about the new Chase format aside, if you are against what Ryan Newman did at Phoenix and what Brad Keselowski did at Texas, it's time you found another sport.