I fully understand the idea behind putting the best face on something. It’s in the best interest of companies, and in our case race teams, to make sure they’re portrayed in the best light possible. With the uptick of “funded drivers” in recent years though this desire to put the best light on things has taken a turn toward the laughable.
Consider the announcement this week that Nelson Piquet Jr. is joining Kevin Harvick Inc. to run the full truck schedule in 2011. In this case it wasn’t the team – their release was actually pretty moderated – but the driver himself that left me shaking my head.
Piquet said, talking about where he was at and where he wanted to be in the future:
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great he wants to move through the ranks of NASCAR based on merit, not on money. That said, I have a hard time believing his hire at KHI is a purely charitable move on the team’s part.
Coincidentally, Piquet settled a libel suit with Renault just last week regarding comments they made about Piquet following his involvement in the now infamous “Crashgate”. No figure was announced, but it was said to be “substantial damages.” I honestly don’t think the two are directly connected – you don’t generally get a contract worked out in seven days. I digress.
This rosy picture people like to paint though gets to be a little much. Remember last season when Richard Childress said at a press conference John Wes Townley had a lot of “talent”? He then cut Townley after five races – like he didn’t know what he was getting into. Apparently by talent, he meant money.
Or how about Brian Scott? After signing the young driver to run for his family owned team in 2011, J.D. Gibbs said:
We’ve done this enough to know we’re never going to do a deal just to do a deal. We learned in the past the hard way. Unless you have a guy there that you think can win races, win championships and compete week in and week out, it’s not worth doing. So, our guys really kind of got together a while ago and figured, ‘Hey, Brian is one of those guys when you see what he’s done in just a really kind of a short career span,’ and I think that’s really going to bode well for us.
Overly optimistic and rosy? Perhaps. I think the truth is, he’s a pretty competent driver and he brings with him a lot of money. Did they sign him because he was the best candidate to bring Gibbs another Nationwide Series championship? I doubt it.
I write this not to bring any of these guys down. I really do hope for their sake, and the sake of the sport they’re successful in their endeavors. I just wish we could come to a point when we can call an orange an orange, and not try to make it the apple that it will never be.