Should race car drivers be friends with each other?

Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin are friends off the track(at least before Pocono)

Race car drivers should not be friends with each other. That’s it. That’s the answer to the question in the headline of this piece.

Each person who flips the switch when drivers are told to start their engines is there to do the best that he/she can do for their team, their sponsors, their families, and themselves. The split second it could take to decide what to do in a given situation because of a relationship off the track could be the difference in winning and losing a race.

If the decision of how to contest a position comes down to the fact that the two racers in question are planning to play golf later in the week or that their kids had a good time together at the pool, then the position is likely lost. Fans don’t give their time and pay their money to sit in a grandstand, watch on television, or a streamed broadcast to see that. They watch with the belief that the guy whose hat and shirt they spent money for at the souvenir trailer is giving it everything he’s got to win the race.

For those who follow dirt racing, do you think Scott Bloomquist or Steve Kinser ever worried about friendships with other drivers when they were racing to win at Eldora or Knoxville?

Over the past couple of weeks, the topic of friendship in racing has been discussed following the on-track bump-and-run used by Denny Hamlin at Pocono Raceway against his buddy Kyle Larson. Ultimately, Hamlin went on to win that race while Larson’s damaged car fell back to 20th place.

During his post-race interview with USA/NBC at Pocono, Larson lamented the fact that he had been pushed aside by his friend.

“No, it is what it is,” Larson said. “Yeah, we’re friends and this makes things shitty and awkward. He’s always right, all the buddies know Denny’s always right, so I’m sure he was in the right there as well. I’m not going to let it tarnish a friendship but I am pissed, and I feel like I should be pissed.”

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion went on to say that he felt as if he would have to race Hamlin differently in the future.

The next week during the pre-race television broadcast leading into the Cup race at Richmond Raceway, former driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered his thoughts on racing against friends.

“Racing for the win is racing for the win,” Earnhardt declared emphatically. “I wish I would have done that in some scenarios looking back on my own career. If I’ve got a car out there in a race, I want to see my driver doing whatever it takes to get to victory lane. These races are too hard to win, the opportunities to get into victory lane are too few.”

The 26-time Cup Series race winner and two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion went on to say, “You cannot pass them up because you’re racing your buddy, you should race your friends harder. You should take advantage of that relationship and push them around. It happens out there on the race track, it makes it difficult off the race track but what it’s all about is getting to victory lane, winning races and winning championships. I think that is at stake more than ever in this climate we have in the Playoffs and how competitive these cars are.”

In a recent Twitter, or X, poll I ran, the vast majority of respondents see things differently from how I do:

This is not to say that competitors can’t be amicable or accommodating toward each other. After all, that’s part of racing. However, there is a difference between helping someone out by loaning a tool or assisting with an engine change and being fishing buddies on Tuesdays.

But it’s more fun to hear Brad Keselowski come out during driver introductions at a packed Bristol Motor Speedway and proclaim, “Kyle Busch is an ass!”

Please keep in mind that business partners, such as Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon were with their apparel sales, is not the same thing as friends. The same could be said regarding Scott Bloomquist selling his chassis brand to other Dirt Late Model drivers. Frienemies might be a more appropriate term in both cases.

In 2002, New York Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan set an NFL record for the most sacks in a single season with 22.5. But the record breaking tackle seemed a bit odd. Late in the game that was seemingly in hand for the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Brett Favre rolled out and then essentially laid down at the feet of his adversary. Once touched down, he then handed the ball to Strahan to signify congratulations.

Favre and Strahan were buddies. If I were a fan of the Packers, I wouldn’t want to see that. If I were a fan of the Giants, I would think Strahan’s accomplishment was, to a degree, tarnished.

As a fan, media member, or someone involved in racing in any way, I don’t want to leave a race track thinking that two of the competitors on the track were racing each other gingerly because they didn’t want to upset a friend. Race car drivers can be friendly to each other off the track without being friends.

Offer your comments in the box provided below this post

Please consider also reading:

How do you not vote for Jimmie Johnson for the Hall of Fame?

Respond to this post on Twitter by following @RichardAllenIDR and @MichaelRMoats or by liking the Facebook page. 

Also, dirt racing fans can check out for more racing content.

Comments are closed.