Drivers need to learn lesson in give and take

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2001

CONCORD, N.C. -- Sunday's race was barely four crashes old when a voice of reason came over the two-way radio.

''Jeff, there's not a lot of respect out there. Don't be afraid to give a little. There's too many guys taking and not giving.''

Jeff Gordon, apparently got the message. In a race that featured 11 crashes, he came away from the Kansas Speed way without a scratch and with the winner's trophy.

The messenger, crew chief Robbie Loomis has seen this sport veer too far off course lately.

Gordon had a car that was capable of leading most of the laps Sunday, but he chose to be smart and careful. He hung around the top five all afternoon and waited for most of the contenders to fall out with crashes, blown engines and mental lapses on pit road.

The driver who's probably going to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Series title gave and gave and gave until it was time to take. Once he asserted himself, he didn't use a sledgehammer to create mayhem. He put his right foot flat on the floorboard and drove away.

At no time during the final 50 laps did Gordon tell other drivers to move over. He didn't assert his position as a former champion to demand special treatment. He didn't send anybody to the infield hospital to gain a spot.

Others could learn by his example.

''It used to be a pretty clear understanding of what was accepted and what wasn't,'' Ricky Rudd said. ''It seems lately that it doesn't matter if it's a short track or Talladega. It doesn't seem to matter on the speeds. Good, hard racing is a guy holding you up, and you politely let him know you're there. Now it's like you've got to go up there and rub a guy's door or something to let him know you're coming through. That's one way to do it. It doesn't seem like guys are patient enough to want to do that anymore. The first time they're going to let you know they're being held up is when they drive over your back bumper and spin you out. That's not acceptable to me.''

During Saturday's Mr. Goodcents 300 for the NASCAR Busch Series, points leader Kevin Harvick didn't have enough patience. And it cost him.

He passed a lapped car on the 55th lap, but he didn't give Andy Kirby enough room after the pass. When Harvick dropped back in line, he clipped Kirby's car and both were sent crashing into the second turn wall.

Harvick climbed from his battered car and starting yelling at Kirby. He also reached inside Kirby's car and poked him in the chest as he tried to free himself from the seat belts.

After the wreck, Harvick blamed NASCAR for allowing slower cars on the track, then he blamed Kirby. It never occurred to him that if he showed a little respect by giving the slower driver plenty of room, he wouldn't have crashed. And if he didn't crash, he might have won.

''I'm sorry, when you're that fast and have that good of a car, you need to be a little more cautious sometimes when you go around a car that's not running good,'' Kirby said. ''I hate it, but I guess that's racing.''

Lapped drivers get mad when they aren't allowed to pass the leader during a caution. They crash into each other. At Darlington, S.C., Scott Wimmer drove into Greg Biffle so wildly, Wimmer's car actually drove on top of Biffle's Ford, causing more than $25,000 in damage. Oddly enough, Wimmer wasn't mad at Biffle. He was after Jeff Green. But he was going so fast after the race he couldn't steer clear of Biffle.

After that race, Chad Little had Harvick stretched over the trunk of a car, and Rich Bickle also was looking for a fight.

''This is the worst I've seen it in all the years I've been racing, and the season didn't start this way,'' Rudd said.

Two weeks ago at Dover, Del., Rudd was turned around while leading late in the race by Rusty Wallace, who apparently was upset about being lapped. That frustration cost Rudd a chance to win.

''I mean, there's sort of give and take out there,'' Rudd said. ''I haven't seen it lately because it seems like there's a lot of taking and not much giving.''

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