| March 24, 2018

Column: Racing’s Blurred Lines

September 8, 2016

Five years ago, Kurt Busch said, “You want to race? Let’s race,” at Pocono Raceway five years ago. That quote struck a chord with me this week.

For the last few years, NASCAR lacked exciting conclusions that originally made me a racing fan. But this season, that excitement is starting to come back due to quality racing.

The best finishes occur when two or more drivers duke it out for the win. Whoever has the most drive to win usually comes out on top.

If a driver decides to be aggressive and put a bumper on an opponent, the intensity level increases. Legends like Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon weren’t afraid to do this.

Even this year, NASCAR saw several drivers collide at the stripe much like Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven 13 years ago at Darlington Raceway.

In many eyes, including mine, these are examples of great, clean racing.

But after Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, the question of what’s considered clean racing is up for debate.

Different opinions have circulated over the controversial last lap battle between NASCAR truck drivers Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.

Custer had the lead in Whites Corner — the track’s 10th and final corner of the 2.459-mile road course — until an aggressive Nemechek hit Custer. Custer kept the truck straight despite losing momentum and gave Nemechek enough room to pass by.

Some would say Nemechek drilled Custer, others would say Nemechek got loose.

Nemechek pinned Custer into the wall and barely clinched the win. It was one of the wildest NASCAR finishes I’ve seen. But the intensity didn’t end there.

A distraught Custer — who’s won at least one race a year for two years — made it known that he was angry with Nemechek. Custer tackled Nemechek to the ground at the finish line. Custer’s crewmembers separated the racers and the fight eventually fizzled out.

I don’t blame Custer for his anger, but Nemechek is receiving much of the heat. Television analysts and former crew chiefs Larry McReynolds and Steve Letarte described Nemechek’s actions as ‘not racing.’

Xfinity Series driver Brennan Poole received heat on Twitter after tweeting “racing is for entertainment.”

I’d side with Poole as far as entertainment value, but the resentment toward Nemechek’s aggressive driving overshadowed his second win of the season.

I believe Nemechek was willing to do what it takes to win a race.

Nemechek’s actions are no different from other top racers over the years.

There is a fine line between clean and dirty racing.

Nemechek’s driving style damaged Custer’s championship aspirations.But wouldn’t that make it a double standard, where at the heat of the moment, a driver gets all the blame while a previous incident is forgotten?

So the next time a person watches a race, consider what’s good racing and what constitutes dirty racing. Don’t let the entertainment value slip away because of a driver’s actions.

Nemechek’s driving style is subject to controversy, but the finish was great yet common.

Luis Torres can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @TheLTFiles

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