Ryan Blaney and German Quiroga got it right Sunday afternoon at Bowmanville, Ontario’s Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
With a lap remaining in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Chevrolet Silverado 250,” Blaney and Quiroga delivered a stirring reminder of what stock car racing used to be, battling their way to the checkered flag in a duel that was as old school as it was thrilling. After stalking the leader unsuccessfully for more than a dozen laps, Quiroga pulled off a spectacular, high-line pass in Turn 8. Just as the three-time NASCAR Corona Mexico Series champion nosed in front, however, Blaney battled back with a classic crossover maneuver, setting up a side-by-side drag race to the checkered flag that Blaney won by just by 0.049 seconds.
In marked contrast to most last-lap duels of its type, nobody got wrecked Sunday. Nobody ended their day in the gravel travel trap or tire barrier, victimized by the neanderthal tactics that have somehow become an accepted part of our sport.
“That was a ton of fun,” said Blaney afterward. “We raced hard and clean. That’s how racing should be.”
“I tried hard and came in second,” said a disappointed Quiroga. “Blaney was in front of us (and) I tried really hard to make him make a mistake, but he didn’t. He got a really good run off the corner and beat us. I’m going to keep on trying.”
|Quiroga (R) led late...|
Sunday’s Blaney/Quiroga duel should be mandatory viewing at every Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series drivers meeting for the remainder for the season, if only to prove that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play are not dead, after all.
Wrecking the leader on the final lap requires no special talent. In fact, it is the most knuckleheaded, ham-handed maneuver in all of motorsports. Sadly, it is also the most common. Entry level drivers at short tracks across the nation routinely use the “chrome horn” to strong arm their way to the checkered flag, after seeing their heroes do it on national television, week after week. Just like the NASCAR stars, they climb from their cars in Victory Lane and act like they’ve done something worthy of celebration, spouting the unconscionable “I did what I had to do” excuse.
Truth be told, they didn’t “do what they had to do.” They did what they wanted to do, taking a lazy shortcut that just a few years ago would have branded them a no-talent hack in the eyes of the real racers.
|...but Blaney prevailed.|
Back when everyone owned their own race car and sponsors were few and far between, racers took care of each other. When a night at the races included hauling your car to the track on a winding, two-lane road with a pickup truck and an open wheeled trailer, tearing that car up in a senseless crash meant spending your final few dollars on replacement parts, instead of a meal. It meant a sleepless night of repairs and a long day spent dialing-in your twisted mount for the next race, 100 miles down the road.
Wrecking was a raw deal for everyone involved, and racers quickly adopted an unwritten code of ethics to govern their on-track conduct. Back then, if a competitor got a wheel under you in the turn – cleanly and without contact – he owned that position. It was your responsibility to give him the lane, and failure to do so branded you with a badge of dishonor.
Sadly, that kind of thinking has gone missing from today’s version of the sport.
Drivers don’t worry about tearing up equipment anymore. There’s a backup car in every transporter and dozens of fabricators back at the shop, waiting to repair the damage done when some talent-deprived knucklehead “does what he has to do.” I wonder what old-time racers like Sam Ard, Bugsy Stevens and Herschel McGriff think about all that. I winder what they think of today’s racers, and whether they’re embarrassed by the lack of respect and ethics.
And most of all, I hope they were watching Sunday when two drivers with an average age of 27 reminded us all how it’s supposed to be done.