If the last three years hosting "Sirius Speedway" have taught me anything, it's the importance of perspective.
Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch moved Matt Kenseth up the racetrack and took the lead with four laps remaining; a lead he held to the finish. The "bump and run" is as time-honored at Bristol as the two-tire pitstop, and Busch is hardly the first to use it. Dale Earnhardt bodyslammed Terry Labonte out of the lead TWICE in his storied Bristol career, while Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and many others have made judicious use of their front bumpers en route to Victory Lane at Thunder Valley over the years.
And yet, when Kurt Busch did it, people lost their minds.
Kenseth reacted angrily after the race, saying, “He knocked me out of the way. If he had a run on me and had me beat, that would have been OK. But he drove extra hard and knocked me out of the way. I thought it was a cheap shot." Keep in mind, this is the same Matt Kenseth who spun Jeff Gordon out just three laps later to retake second place.
For those keeping score, bumping is a "cheap shot," according to Kenseth, while dumping is not. It's all a matter of perspective.
Now, let's play a game of "musical numbers." Had Dale Earnhardt, Jr., knocked Kenseth out of the way to take the lead Sunday, the Bristol grandstands would have been delirious with glee. And yet, when Busch did it, the fans were ready to have him tarred and feathered. When Tony Stewart does the "Boot, Scoot and Boogie," he's a dirty driving SOB. When Jimmy Spencer does it, well, that's just Jimmy bein' Jimmy.
Again, it's all about perspective.
We get lots of calls on Mondays after a race at Bristol. And usually, I can tell where each caller's allegiance lies within the first 60 seconds of the conversation. Some callers declare their loyalty right up front, saying, "I'm a (insert name of driver here) fan, and here's what I think..." Others keep their loyalty closer to the vest. But more often than not, if a caller is absolutely irate about an on-track indiscretion, chances are the offense occured at the expense of his/her favorite driver.
Kurt Busch has obviously caused a lot of his own public relations headaches, both within the NASCAR garage, and with the fans. As a result, people chastise him for conduct that they would likely overlook in others. Sunday's race was a perfect case in point. So the next time you're all fired-up and ready to unload on one of NASCAR's resident "Bad Boys," take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Would I be this angry if MY driver had done that?"
If the answer is `no,' you've just gotten another lesson in perspective.