Who Are We? (Part 1)

I have been thinking, which I know is a scary thought to most, but who are we as fans to judge the drivers? I am as guilty as anyone else is. I do believe there are times when we need to though. If a driver is acting inappropriately then we as fans need to let the driver know that we do not approve. It is when we start trying to control all aspects of their lives that we step out of our bounds.

 We call them stuck-up and rude when they don't do interviews or stand and talk to us for hours at a racetrack. We think they are mean when they won't sign an autograph for us even though they've been doing it for hours.  We think they shouldn't have a bad day no matter what.   I don't think that is our place though. 

            There are two drivers I have been hearing the most complaints about.  They are Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Today I'm going to talk about Tony Stewart.  Let me preface this article though.  I do not know Tony personally; I have never met him.  I do not speak with anyone who does know him about this kind of thing.  I'm drawing my conclusions on the following; interviews I have seen articles I have read, and a few ‘documentaries' I have seen.  I may be totally off base with my conclusions and if so Tony or anyone close to him is free to call me on it.  With that said, I will now begin my article.

            Tony Stewart has had a roller coaster of a racing career off the track.  I did not follow him before him came to Nascar.  Since his arrival to the sport he has been a force to beat.  He is a good, tough driver.  He attempts, in my opinion, to race his fellow drivers fairly.  Off the track though he has been portrayed in a different light.  Many times what we see of him is the bad.  He loses his temper quickly.  He says things before he speaks.  Does this make him a bad person?  No, if it did many people I know would be horrible.  I think all of us at some point have done the same thing. 

            Try to put yourself in Tony's shoes.  Having a hard time doing that?  Let me help you.  You are a thirty-four year old man who races in America's top division of auto racing.  You come from a mid-western middle class family who sacrificed to get where you are today.  Family is important to you, but you are unable to spend the time with them that you want to do to your job.  One hundred two days a year you spend in a motor home in the infield of a racetrack.  Those same days you must deal with many people wanting your time for different things.  You must drive your race car to the best of your and the car's ability.  You have to spend time with your team.  You have to go to the mandatory meetings.  People in the media want to talk to you about your run whether it's good or bad.  Fans want your autograph.  Your sponsor wants you to do things for them.  I'm guessing that one hundred fifty-six more days are spent making public appearances all over the country.  There are approximately seven more days that you are at the racetrack near your home.  That is if you live near Charlotte.  That leaves you with one hundred days.  When you subtract time spent at the shop and the awards banquet in December you are left with about seventy-five days for yourself.  Don't forget that people know just about everything about you.  How do you think you would react?  Remember those days are not eight hour days when you are working. 

            I don't think I could do it.  There would be times that I would want to tell someone to shove it when they wanted me to do just one more thing.  Which is exactly what Tony has done.  He has told people no.  He has shoved people out of his way.  Is that the most appropriate thing to do?  Probably not, there are other ways he could have handle the situations.  Though his other options do not put him in any better light. 

            If he tells a reporter that he doesn't feel like doing an interview, he is moody.  He is too private.  He isn't fan friendly.  If he were, he would do every interview.  I think he has every right to tell someone it isn't any of their or our business who he is dating, why they broke-up, what kind of dog he has, what his favorite food is, etc. 

            Any driver, not just Tony, is rude if he refuses to sign something.  I am absolutely sure that every driver on the circuit understands that it is because of us buying those products that they are able to make a living doing what they love.  There are just times that they don't feel like it.  If I have a bad day I don't want people hounding me for something I might think is trivial.  It seems like when we are at the track we forget those things.  We forget that sometimes we don't feel like dealing with people.  We expect Tony and the others to walk up to us with great big smiles and sign our stuff after they have had one of the worse runs in their career. 

            Let me sum up Tony in my eyes.  He is emotional.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  That has gotten him into trouble more than once.  He has changed since he went to ‘anger management' classes.  I also think he has grown as a person.  Tony grew up having to fight for what he has.  He doesn't trust many.  He is just a reserved person. 

            The next time you are at the track and Tony turns you away or you read something bad about him remember what he goes through.  Think about how you would react.  Walk a mile in his shoes before you judge him.



By Melissa Meek

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