It's always interesting when you go and see a sport at the grass roots level. Whether it's a minor league baseball game where managers stress the fundamentals or a minor league hockey game where the brawling takes precedence over the game itself, you tend to get that particular sport in its rawest form.
When you go to a minor league stock car race, whether its a local Saturday night short track or a touring series event somewhere, you're bound to see some excitement. Drivers are learning their craft and learning how to control their emotions as they fight it out fender-to-fender on some short track somewhere.
As could be expected, sometimes the drivers lose control of their emotions. While it's not good for the teams that must rebuild the cars it usually leads to some excitement for those in the grandstands.
When a driver gets put into the wall, sometimes he understands it was an accident. Sometimes he thinks he's been wronged and seeks to exact revenge. Sometimes the payback doesn't come for a couple of races or even the majority of the season. Sometimes the payback comes back before the end of the race.
I don't have a problem with retaliation. If someone truly wrecks your racecar, turnabout is fair play. But there is a right way and a wrong way to pay back that favor.
Exhibit A: The Right Way
Last fall Scott Speed was dumped going into turn three at Toledo Speedway. The guy who dumped him, Ricky Stenhouse, also was challenging Speed for the ARCA championship. It was the season finale, and rather than let the championship be stolen from him and given to the guy who crashed him, Speed made the decision to repay the favor immediately. It was a textbook payback that settled the score.
Exhibit B: The Not-So-Right Way
Sunday, Patrick Sheltra felt like Paul Menard dumped him going into turn one. Sheltra's car was significantly damaged but his crew patched it together enough to get him back out. He undoubtedly was looking forward to being lapped on the track by Menard, but due to a series of cautions the two never came close on the track. That is until the final restart - a green-white-checkered two-lap dash. Sheltra laid back and coasted around the track until Menard caught him in turn three of the final lap. Sheltra took a dive at him and instead of taking Menard out, caused a huge crash that took out Craig Goess who until then had never had a problem with Sheltra.
If you feel the need to retaliate, fine by me. But don't take out people who had nothing to do with the reason why you're mad. Sheltra's crew was seen laughing about the incident, and reportedly laughed about it when confronted by Eddie Sharp Racing team members. ESR is a four-car team, and should they so desire could make life very difficult for Sheltra over the course of the summer. Sheltra's team also tried to play off the incident as if he had a tire going down and that's what caused him to be off the pace and what caused him to swerve into Menard on the last lap.
Do what Speed did: be up front and honest about it. Say "we took him out" and move on. Everyone in the grandstands saw the initial incident and Sheltra's animated response to it on the pit wall as Menard drove past on the next lap. We all knew what to expect once the No. 60 car was back on track.