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HAMMOND: Give Me Perfection Over Demolition

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I know some fans were upset after we raced at Texas two weeks ago when there were only two caution flags for the entire race. Saturday night under the lights at Richmond International Raceway, however, will probably be quite the opposite.

I struggle when folks complain about a lack of cautions. I really do. These are the top drivers in our industry and yet people want to criticize them for being very good at what they do and not tearing up race cars.

I think sometimes we lose sight, especially when seeing the replays, of how some of these guys get together with their fellow competitors in a race and yet still are able to continue on. You saw the No. 29 and No. 18, the No. 99 and the No. 18, race aggressively and yet not wreck. It seems like folks sometimes forget how good these guys really are. It’s that kind of awesome talent that lets them turn cars sideways but not wreck them.

I know there are folks out there that tune in hoping to see the wrecks. They like it when two or three guys run up over top of each other and then get out and start a shoving match. Yes, that’s a component of our sport. But that’s not our sport. Our sport is about being the best driver and bringing your car to the start/finish line first. Look, I make no bones about it — in my book I say that these are the best drivers in the world. They do a great job and buddy, when they are on, they are on.

But considering that, I still see Richmond on Saturday night being a lot like Martinsville was earlier in the season, and we will see some action as a result. I fully expect to see carnage and some torn-up race cars (not to mention some upset drivers). And I hope we still see some good, close, intense racing from these guys like we have seen all season.

So there aren’t as many cautions so far this season. So what? I have a real hard time trying to come to grips with criticizing a guy — in this case a driver — for doing his job and doing it well. Trust me, I do see both sides of it. Let’s take golf, for instance. You can go to the course and watch somebody play the perfect round of golf; but if you remember the Masters a few weeks back, the most memorable shot on Easter Sunday was Bubba Watson hitting a shot from a place he shouldn’t have ever gotten himself into.

How can you have it both ways? Which one do you applaud the most? Do you applaud perfection or the guy who performed like Houdini when it was necessary? As racers we all grew up on the short tracks where beating and banging was a given. Guys and gals are honing their craft and trying to learn to be race car drivers. Patience at those types of tracks is never a virtue.

When you get to the big leagues, well it is just that, the big leagues. You don’t wreck your buddy, tear up your equipment and sometimes trade fists with somebody after the race. That’s not the nature of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. When you reach that level, you are the best of the best.

You are paid to go out there, race hard, win races, score points, make the Chase and hopefully win the championship. Along the way, you take care of your sponsor by helping them as best you can to sell their product. Most importantly you take care of the fans, because they are the ones shelling out their hard-earned money to buy a ticket, spend on a souvenir or give up four hours of their life to follow you on TV.

That’s a whole different mindset. That’s why I feel sometimes we lose sight of what we are really watching here. Again, we are watching the best of the best do their job to near-perfection, yet there are some that still want to criticize them for it. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t add up in my book.

Let’s use a baseball analogy — a perfect game, to be more precise. The pitcher allowed no runs, no hits, no base runners. His defense committed no errors. How exciting was that game to fans of the team that got beat? But to the true fan of baseball, regardless of your loyalty to a specific team, that was likely the greatest game they will ever watch. For one team, and in particular for one pitcher, it was perfect.

Racing is the same way. When you do what you are paid to do and you bring that car back in one piece and not on a roll-back, why should you be criticized? Again, don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t believe we will see only two cautions Saturday night as we did at Texas.

Short tracks are like volcanos. They may lay there dormant, but when they do erupt, they bring spectacular fireworks. So when I look at a place like Richmond on Saturday night, that is what I am expecting — spectacular fireworks. While you have to anticipate and expect the explosion, you also can’t lose sight of the grandeur of the volcano if it doesn’t erupt.

I just think you have to have a balanced perception to make it all work the way you would like for it to. Anytime you go to a short track, anything and everything can happen. Can it be promised? No, it cannot. But if it does, no matter which way it turns out, you simply have to admire and respect these guys for what they did and not whine and complain for what they didn’t do.

NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at Richmond International Raceway is almost here! Tune in to FOX on Saturday, April 28, for live coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET