The following post was submitted by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Landon Cassill:
The great debate lately about short track racing in Sprint Cup has been the battle between "real racing" (whatever that may be) and the crash-fests we used to see at Bristol before the reconfiguration.
But really, what is "real racing," and who are we to just take the authority and define ourselves what stock car racing should be about?
I've seen some reputable people make statements directing fans to their local fairgrounds if they want to see crashes, or implying that if you don't like the new Bristol, you don't like racing.
I love side-by-side racing. It's one of the reasons I love going to the big, wide intermediate tracks. But who said that bumping and grinding wasn't real racing? Especially at a place like Bristol.
We drive stock cars and we have fenders for a reason. Our sport was founded on sleeves-rolled-up, hard-nosed, bump-and-grind racing. The greatest and most respected rivalries on short tracks in our sport have been the drivers taking matters into their own hands and using their cars to get around their competitors in any way possible to win the race (Google: Dale Earnhardt).
I know there is a blurry line between aggressive driving and just being a weapon and crashing people, but isn't that what stock car racing is all about? Leaning on each other? Fitting these big cars into small spaces and coming out the other end with the trophy?
That's what I dreamed of when I was a kid. That's what I watched my heroes do when they paved the way for the sport that would one day have a place for me.
I feel as though there are a lot of people in our sport who have forgotten where they got started. I can tell you that it wasn't long ago I was making my first starts at the local fairgrounds race track. To hear people that represent our sport say, "Go to the local fairgrounds if you want to see beating and banging" tells me that they may have forgotten that the sport we adore week after week was founded at the local fairgrounds race track.
Furthermore, where do you think the future of our sport is coming from? It's the local fairgrounds tracks. It's the garages across the country with normal people who just want to race, and will someday do it for a living because they earned it the same way the people in our sport now earned it.
This doesn't mean that I think we need to use the bump-and-run for every pass in every race, but I do think that we need to remember why people like tracks such as Bristol and Martinsville in the first place, and the purpose they serve in our sport.
There are many different ways to have a great race, and there is no rule that says you have to use your bumper to make a great race. There are plenty of tracks to focus on making a clean pass and using a wide racetrack to make a well-timed and set-up move.
As for Bristol? I was taught by the hard-working, hard-nosed racers in the Midwest. They made it clear that you had to earn your space on the short tracks and that you aren't entitled to anything.
I'm man enough to know when I've been moved, and when it's time to move someone. Are you?