When a driver becomes a Cup Series champion a certain amount of gravitas is permanently attached to him. Being a champion puts a driver in the league with the sports all-time greats and marks him permanently in the annals of history in the sport. He’ll forever be introduced as a Cup Series champion. I digress.
There had been rumblings for a while that TRG would begin starting-and-parking. Given their limited sponsorship and their history with the practice it seemed incredibly likely that it would happen again this season. The one caveat I heard though was Bobby Labonte would not participate in the practice.
Unfortunately on Sunday Bobby did just that. After 65 laps, the TRG car pulled into the garage and ended its day early citing “electrical” issues. I think we all know what that means.
After 19 seasons, 594 starts, 21 wins, and one championship Bobby Labonte deserves better. He owes it to himself and to his legacy to not ever start-and-park again.
Now a lot of drivers have had less than spectacular years toward the end of their careers. Think Dale Jarrett, Darrell Waltrip and others. Still they went out with their dignity intact, knowing that they left nothing on the table. It’s just not realistic, especially in this day and age, to leave the sport (or any sport) on the very top, Ned Jarrett-style. What Bobby Labonte did though was far below not making races or running in the back.
At age 46 Bobby Labonte isn’t going to have a Mark Martin or Jeff Burton-esque rebirth or renewal. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I feel comfortable in saying Bobby Labonte’s best years are behind him. That said, I don’t have a problem with the guy continuing to race if that’s what he wants to do. He deserves better than a start-and-park ride with a mediocre team though.
As good a guy as he is, I’d much rather see him retire or look for opportunities in lower series, than to see this continue. Here’s hoping Bobby Labonte, the man and the Cup Series champion, realizes he and his legacy deserve better.
Casey Mears Is In the All-Star Race? What!?
If I was James Finch at this moment I would be furious. I would be on the phone wearing out Mike Helton, John Darby and anyone else who would take my phone calls. Why you ask? Because NASCAR allowed Casey Mears to sub for Brian Vickers in the All-Star race – something Casey neither earned nor deserved.
This puts James Finch in exactly the same situation as Red Bull – both had teams that won a race, but don’t have the winning driver in the car. Red Bull is allowed to sub a driver, Finch and Phoenix are not.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the seriousness and unexpected nature of the situation at Red Bull. It stinks for the #83 team that Brian Vickers is unable to compete because of his health. Certainly this was beyond Team Red Bull’s and Vickers control.
Still, NASCAR has a duty out of fairness to every competitor to uphold their rules (note these are THEIR RULES). If something unexpected happens the sanctioning body should not change set rules or guidelines to accommodate a particular organization or driver.
This is a admittedly a bit of a stretch, but NASCAR didn’t give Denny Hamlin his position back this past weekend after he was wrecked under caution by Clint Bowyer. Hamlin couldn’t control what Bowyer did – it certainly was unexpected. But there is no precedent for giving a driver his position back and it would have been unfair – NASCAR didn’t do it. This situation should not, in my opinion, be any different.
My point here is, it is ridiculously unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game and not make concessions for others in a similar position. Incidents like this do absolutely nothing to help the credibility of NASCAR as a sanctioning body – let’s be honest it makes them look wishy-washy. It says they’ll change the rules depending on who you are and whatever unfortunate extenuating circumstances you may be facing. Bad move NASCAR.