Bowman Gray Stadium is a venue that commands respect because of the history that has taken place on its racing surface. NASCAR has been holding events there since 1949, with names like Fonty Flock, Glen Wood, Richard Petty and Junior Johnson all taking checkered flags during the speedway's illustrious tenure.
Yet for a place that commands so much respect, it sure has sunk low over the years.
No longer a Sprint Cup-sanctioned speedway, NASCAR still races there with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour and the K&N Pro Series East. Every event still continues to fill the stands. By business standards, it's something that NASCAR should be proud of.
Yet it shouldn't be proud of Bowman Gray Stadium's reputation as a madhouse. If anything, NASCAR should distance itself from the track.
Don't misunderstand me. I love watching fights every so often. Remember the August 2009 Nationwide event at Michigan? It looked like Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers were ready to throw down. Also consider how pleasantly surprised we were in November 2010 when Jeff Gordon went after Jeff Burton at Texas Motor Speedway.
Fights are awesome in moderation or when you least expect them. Not when they occur every other lap and when idiots decide they want to take it too far. Like this:
This was pretty stupid:
What was this moron thinking?:
The last one seems pretty foolish when you consider that when you try to climb into an already moving race car, chances are that your bell will probably get rung. However, this next clip just goes to show how absurd things have become at the Madhouse:
The last clip is unsettling to race fans, real race fans, on many levels. For every fan out there wanting to break into racing, seeing the blatant destruction of race cars is enough to make you cringe. Those cars would have been in better hands with drivers who truly respected and understood racing instead of meatheads itching for a fight.
On top of that, they did not seem to consider the other drivers who didn't have anything to do with their issue. They could have easily ruined another competitor's day—and don't get me started on the officials only a few yards away.
What is Bowman Gray Stadium trying to accomplish? Is it in it for racing, or is it in it for fighting? It's hard to make a fair assessment of what is taking place when it seems like every time you watch a race or see the track, half of you expects Vince McMahon or Triple H to come storming into the infield.
Sure, there is a police presence at the track in case something gets out of hand. Well, keeping in the spirit of my previous nod to the WWE, police officers there are about as efficient as "security" on an episode of Raw. Drivers will still try to reenact the chase scene from Bullitt and ram each other after a wreck like jilted lovers.
It's absolute nonsense.
Not to mention, it's a kick to the face of true race fans. Granted, Bowman Gray has produced some good racing ever since the first green flag dropped all those years ago. But how can you respect what goes on there when drivers are more apt to act like a bunch of crazed hooligans race after race?
All that goes on at Bowman Gray only serves to further the stereotype of race fans as uneducated hillbillies. It seems that the cheers get louder when someone gets angry and proceeds to wreck about seven other drivers just to get to the culprit. Not to mention, it seems like more excitement comes out of crashing than out of racing at Bowman Gray.
This is an image that NASCAR has been purportedly trying to shed. It wants to be considered a 21st-century organization that has a strong focus on progressing the sport. NASCAR yearns to be taken seriously. Yet how can it be when there are more demolition derbies than good old-fashioned short-track races?
Sure, racing there happens on the grassroots/sportsman levels, but the sanctioning body still has its name plastered everywhere for the world to see. NASCAR should drop the speedway from its roster of venues and take its business elsewhere for the sake of all involved.
If Bowman Gray Stadium is serious about racing, it needs to clean up its act. What goes on these days isn't an homage to the old heroes of yesterday, but instead resembles something you might find on Jerry Springer. There's too much drama and not enough racing.
It's not funny or humorous. As a matter of fact, it's downright disgusting and a slap in the face to the fans who truly appreciate racing and wish to be in a race car. If NASCAR and Bowman Gray even appreciate those types of fans, then it would probably be a good thing to not cater so much to the fans who are too hammered to know what's going on.
Something's got to give, NASCAR. If Bowman Gray Stadium doesn't clean up its act, then it doesn't deserve to hold NASCAR-sanctioned events. If drivers are going to continue acting like a bunch of punk amateurs, then let that be Bowman Gray's problem.
NASCAR should stay away from such ridiculous behaviors.
Follow Joseph on Twitter: @Shelton500.
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