When Does Being A Couch Crew Chief Turn To Abuse

June 21, 2016


When Does Being A Couch Crew
Chief Turn To Abuse

By Frank Velat

For anyone who didn't know, Tony Stewart was present at the Chili Bowl in January. He wasn't wearing a firesuit – didn't plan on strapping into a race car. He was there to help. Assisting in the preparation of the track for the event was as gratifying for Tony as running for the checkered flag.

So how did one oh-so-appreciative fan thank him for his hard volunteer work?

"I don't like you, and I never have!"

Granted, Tony has probably been showered with comments far worse in his racing career. But on this day, he was only trying to do good for a pastime that has done so much for him. After the confrontation, Tony spent the next two weeks answering unnecessary questions that seemed to focus more on him than his verbal assailant.

It was the visible tip of the proverbial iceberg. But, like an iceberg, there's much more here than is seen at first. NASCAR personalities are more accessible to the average fan now than they have been since the implementation of the hot pass. Most have Facebook or Twitter accounts, and many regularly interact with fans, answering questions, commenting, and "liking" one post or another. But like anything, with some people, when inches are given, miles are taken.

Log onto a social media site after a NASCAR race and you'll see a worldwide web of keyboard cowboys who spend hours intent on harassing anyone within earshot. They don't pull punches, and no one is off limits. From a driver to their significant other, from a crew chief to a sportswriter, apparently everyone is fair game. After all, that's what they signed up for, right?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. No, the crew chief shouldn't have to listen to you call him a moron because his decision didn't line up with what you would have him do. No, the driver isn't a crybaby because he said he doesn't like flipping over in his car at close to 200 mph. No, the sportswriter isn't dumb because you don't agree with the story he reported. No, the TV coverage didn't suck because you think the commentator talked too much. And no, the track executive isn't stupid because the racetrack didn't produce the kind of show you wanted.

Perhaps it's as simple as realizing that you are not the only person the show is meant to entertain. Recognize that not every race will have a photo finish, not every driver will be your favorite, not every broadcast goes off without a hitch, not every story will make you happy, and not everyone thinks like you do. Appreciate that hundreds of people put in long hours away from home so that you can sit on your couch and watch NASCAR racing live each week. Enjoy the sport for what it is rather than complain about all the things that you feel it is not.

Most importantly, understand that access is a privilege and not a right. Be grateful that you can talk to Jimmie Johnson post-race instead of just thinking about how you can "blame JJ." He doesn't have to let you into his world. Drivers could easily choose to deactivate their social media accounts and remove you from their daily life. They don't necessarily have to do many of the things that enhance a fan's experience during a race weekend. After all, Tony Stewart does have the option to stay home for next year's Chili Bowl.

Don't give him a reason to.

What do you think?  We would love to have your opinon in the comment section below!

See you at the track!



Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.





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