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HAMMOND: Contain Flaring Tempers

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I’ve had race fans tweeting me pretty regularly after the flaring tempers Friday night following the Nationwide race and then again on Saturday night following the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. The questions mostly center on how a driver, crew chief and team should react when things in the heat of the battle spill over to after the event.

Sure, a few years ago NASCAR issued those memorable words “Have at it boys” but there is a fine line there. The sport has changed a lot over the years. I can speak from more than one personal experience of post-race “issues.” To be honest, I always prided myself of not starting a fight, or even, for that matter, looking for a fight and definitely not looking to go after a driver.

Most situations that occur are spontaneous and never directed at a driver. I still believe even after 13 years now of being in broadcasting and not on the pit box, that drivers should take care of drivers. The crew members are there to support their driver and, to use a cliché, “have his or her back.”

What happened Friday night ended up being what I term “outside the playing field” and local law enforcement got involved. I have a real problem with that. I would never, ever condone a race team or even a driver feeling like they have to go outside the racetrack to finish something that got started inside.

You always hear us talking about the passion and the heat of the moment in racing. An hour and a half after a race, to me is not the heat of the moment and it really demeans our sport. Sure there is a time and place to stand your ground and defend yourself. Taking it outside the race track to finish something that was started inside the race track simply isn’t acceptable in my book.

If there is anyone out there that thinks I condone fighting, that simply isn’t the case. If it’s to a point where you have to defend yourself, your honor or your team to a certain degree, then yes there is a time and place for that. Going to pick a fight simply because you didn’t win a race cannot be justified.

What made our sport so good in the beginning is yes, you can have a difference of an opinion with a competitor. Yes, you can throw a punch or two or roll around the dirt a little, but when it was all said and done, you still respected that person for being in the same sport as you. Hopefully our sport is not facing another change based on what happened Friday night.

Again, passion immediately after a race is one thing. It’s that heat of the moment when you feel you need to go express your frustration to the other guy. Taking it completely to another level and taking it outside the race track long after the race is over, to me, really gives the sport of NASCAR a black eye.