April 15, 2013



NASCAR Season Already Stirring Debate

By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press


This has been a rough start of the season for NASCAR, the sanctioning body of racing from the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, the Nationwide series and the Truck series on the national level to regional racing like the NASCAR Whelen modified tour to weekly racing at local Connecticut tracks like Stafford, Thompson and Waterford.

Some of it was pure racing bad luck, when the car of Kyle Larson literally exploded and disintegrated after the last lap accident at the start-finish line of the season opening Nationwide race.

None of the drivers were hurt in the massive wreck but more than 24 people were taken to local hospitals.

Some were in the hospital for more than two weeks. As soon as the race ended, it seemed that the lawyers were ready to take off with lawsuits.

Now having been to Daytona and other tracks many times, I have seen the fences and the catch fences that hang over the track to catch anything from a car that might get airborne.

In this case, I feel that NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway did everything they could to prevent injury to race fans but NASCAR, much like after the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. back in 2001 will look into what can be corrected and it will be fixed at all of their tracks across the country on the national level.

One of the ‘good’ stories to come out of the Daytona 500 was that Michael Waltrip was to run a salute car to the 26 students and teachers killed in Newtown, Ct.

NASCAR president Brian France flew to Newtown to speak with the parents of the deceased. Both France and the NASCAR Foundation each pledged a donation of $50,000 and fans could text the number on the side of Waltrips car to donate $10.00 to the cause.

The furrow that came out a few weeks later was when officials from the Texas Motor Speedway announced that the NRA (National Rifle Association) would sponsor their race in Texas tonight.

Now, maybe being in Connecticut we are jaded but it seems very odd that just two weeks after NASCAR and Waltrip make a pitch to help the victims of the shooting and the town of Newtown continue to heal; here is one of their tracks being sponsored by the NRA.

Many people have viewed NASCAR and their tracks as selling themselves to the highest bidder and while Texas Motor Speedway is a NASCAR track, it is not owned by International Speedway Corp which is a publicly traded company of which the France family, who owns NASCAR, operates.

NASCAR, though, does have the final say on whether or not a company or group can sponsor a car or a race and they gave their blessing to Texas and since then, the outrage over it has continued.

Most would think that if the NRA were to sponsor the second Texas race in early November, not much would have been made of it but to come just two weeks after France and company were in Newtown is very strange and upsetting to many.

The madness at NASCAR continued when Sprint Cup driver, Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 for saying he felt the new car, better known as the Generation 6 car is not as good as last years car but that they would work on it to get it to run better.

Hamlin, long known for his outspoken personality says he will not pay the fine and risk being suspended by NASCAR.

Well, in the end, Hamlin paid the fine and NASCAR said the issue is done with. Hamlin in his defense did say he still believes that NASCAR overreacted and it just wasn’t worth the fight.

In a country where we value our freedom of speech, it seems NASCAR doesn’t like their drivers being themselves.


Joey Logano of Middletown has made a lot of news lately. Logano, in his first year with Roger Penske racing had a altercation with Hamlin at Bristol and then the two wrecked on the last lap of the California with Hamlin hitting the inside retaining wall and having to be taken to the hospital. Hamlin was released a day later but will miss several races due to the injury to his back.

Logano then ticked off Tony Stewart when he went to block Stewart at the California race with less than 10 laps remaining. Most people believe Logano was covering his lane but Stewart saw it differently and charged after Logano after the race.

Stewart, though, must have a very short memory as he caused a 20 plus car wreck at Talladega blocking Michael Waltrip near the end of that race.

What ever it is NASCAR must be loving it because other than the California race, the others this year haven’t provoked a whole lot of excitement.


The NASCAR Whelen modified tour season kicks off this weekend at the Thompson Speedway with the annual Icebreaker. Today will be qualifying for all of the divisions with the modified tour lineup set by time trials.

Local drivers Ted Christopher of Plainville, Eddie Flemke, Jr of Southington and Ryan Preece of Berlin will be in the line up for tomorrow’s 150 lap opener. Doug Coby of Milford is the defending modified tour champion.


Since we finished our last column of last year, one of the people most responsible for me covering auto racing for the New Britain Herald, the Bristol Press and other national publications, Bart Fisher, the former sports editor at the Herald died this past January.

Bart is the reason that there were stories on auto racing in our paper. He was the one who helped me to try and write an interesting piece and too bring out little known facts and help educate ‘non’ race fans about the exciting sport of racing.

Bart was not only an institution at our newspaper but across the state and he helped many other reporters become better writers.

So while we will continue to cover on the sport of auto racing, it is because of Bart Fishers help, his friendship and his willingness to have racing in the pages of the Herald.

Thanks for everything. Brian Danko


Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.


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