Jan 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
As a generally good gauge of the public consciousness at any particular moment, Twitter tends to erupt in moments of controversy, outrage or shock value. In the racing world, that’s usually after a big crash, a questionable team order issued on track or a jaw-dropping “Did you see that?!?” pass.
But back outside the racing bubble, the thing that made Twitter blow up yesterday was Richard Sherman’s now-infamous post-game interview following the Seattle Seahawks’ win in the NFC Championship Game. Sherman was, as you’d expect, purely jacked up on adrenaline after a game in which he’d made a game-saving defense of a Colin Kaepernick pass, which caused an interception. And he exploded.
Still, the man has a Master’s degree from Stanford and writes a weekly column for Peter King’s TheMMQB.com, so he’s clearly no dummy. He’s a bright individual, a talented player and able to enter into a state during the game where he can be so intense after the game, that it all came flying out in the immediate moments after it finished.
Motorsports has those moments, but they’re rarer. The immediate post-crash interview comes to mind, if a driver has only just got back to his pit and speaks to a pit reporter.
In IndyCar for example, I don’t remember the specifics of most 2013 victory lane interviews, but I do remember Will Power saying of Sebastien Bourdais, “He once was a champ, now he’s a chump” after the two collided at Detroit back in June. I remember when Scott Dixon went off at IndyCar Race Control in succession at Sonoma and Baltimore, which was even crazier because the Kiwi is so calm and collected.
Sadly, both Power and Dixon were penalized for their emotional outbursts. Power’s this past year was probation while Dixon got probation and earned a $30,000 fine. Power got the same fine in 2011 after his infamous – but legendary – “double-bird salute” to former Race Director Brian Barnhart at the series’ race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
If IndyCar is going to be in the headlines beyond the bubble which it currently exists, it needs that emotional moment – likely more than one – and it needs to not carry a penalty for expressing it in the heat of battle. I have to admit I’ve changed my stance on this. For consistency’s sake, enforcing the same penalty year-on-year made sense, and as Power and others had been docked for previous infractions, Dixon was justifiably fined last year to match. It’s a new year though, and with it comes a fresh opportunity to right this in the rulebook.
Emotion in other series is also hard to find. We often think of modern-day Formula One drivers as corporate, emotionless automatons devoid of the lady-killing charisma of James Hunt or the “don’t care what we say” attitudes of a Jacques Villeneuve or Eddie Irvine – two drivers I grew up with in my F1 fandom infancy in the ’90s. Truth of the matter is they aren’t, but that can be the stereotype from the outside.
Still, when Kimi Raikkonen answers a question in the old school, “don’t care” mentality with six or seven words or when Sebastian Vettel does donuts after winning, we dig it because it allows them to be them and it’s freeing from the shackles of being reined in by their corporate overlords.
NASCAR interviews are probably the worst for this. You often can’t get through a victory lane interview – which usually occurs after a TV ad break and delays the spontaneity to begin with – without the first half of the quote being some variation of “Oh man, I just want to thank Pepsi, Doritos, Taco Bell, KFC, Chevrolet, Mr. Owner, ‘Slugger’ and the crew,” before you get to any tangible sound that actually describes how you won the race. Or, more importantly, how it feels to win the race.
I get that the sponsor parade is a necessary evil of the victory lane interview, but I’d love to see more erupting in pure emotion first, then getting to your sponsors second. Want to talk about how to do a NASCAR victory lane interview? Watch Kurt Busch, in an unsponsored car, winning the July 2012 Nationwide Series race at Daytona for the underdog James Finch team. And take notes. (Wait, maybe being unsponsored is the key to this victory lane thing…)
Or, alternatively, just watch any John Force interview over the last two decades. Yes, the man is one of the greatest drag racers who has ever lived with 16 NHRA Funny Car championships. But he’s as widely revered as he is within the motorsports world as much for his mouth as his 4-second blasts at 300-plus mph.
There’s a reason Talladega Nights is as funny as it is, because Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby lampoons the sponsor-laden culture of NASCAR and comes up with a pair of catchphrases in Victory Lane: “Shake ‘n Bake,” and “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” To this day, those two are still part of the lexicon.
In today’s entertainment-over-populated, soundbite-heavy world, the simple fact is competition itself is not going to get racing back into the public sphere beyond the series’ bubbles. If it did, IndyCar would be the most popular and widely watched form of motorsports in North America.
It’s going to take a series of moments throughout 2014 of passion … of pure joy … of anger … of “What the hell did they just say?!?” to help propel any of the racing disciplines to greater heights.
Because if racing has moments in 2014 that catch on like Richard Sherman’s last night, that will only help to collectively grow the sport.
Mar 9, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
The 18-year-old Nationwide Series driver won last year’s K&N Pro Series East title.
Mar 9, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Pre-race crowd at Las Vegas appears to not know they have a Sprint Cup star among them…
Mar 9, 2014, 1:27 PM EDT
The Texas-based firm provides processors for the ECUs that run the Sprint Cup cars’ fuel-injection systems.
Mar 9, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Former Ferrari and McLaren driver discharged from hospital over the weekend after skiing accident.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
Who are Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Marcus Ericsson?
Mar 9, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Heavy rain forecast for Australian Grand Prix; would be first wet race in almost 18 months.
Mar 9, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Australian driver ready to race in front of home crowd for the first time as a Red Bull driver.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Spaniard laments lack of testing ahead of new era for Formula 1.
Mar 9, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Finn returns to Ferrari after five years away; hopes to repeat win on debut from 2007.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:19 PM EDT
In one moment, the former Sprint Cup champ goes from battling for the lead to battling to save his skidding Toyota.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
NASCAR says both issues will be dealt with early next week.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT
Plus: Dale Jr. is pleased with the work from his JR Motorsports teammates and RCR has more than a few speeding issues.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
“Rowdy,” lapped traffic, and a failing alternator were all unable to keep Bad Brad from taking the win.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The Nationwide Series driver is the first NASCAR racer to take part in a major anti-bullying program.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
After finishing seventh in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, Jeb Burton will be back behind the wheel for ThorSport Racing later this month at Martinsville.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Although a number of Sprint Cup drivers were quite vocal Friday about NASCAR’s new “knockout” qualifying system, particularly when their cars enter pit road and how to keep their motors cool, NASCAR will likely keep the format as is for the time being.
Mar 8, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
Neither Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski have ever won at Las Vegas.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT
Jamie McMurray was the fastest driver in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. McMurray’s best lap was his first of the final session, covering the progressively-banked 1.5-mile surface at 186.942 mph. A close second was Daytona 500 pole sitter Austin Dillon at 186.896 mph. Third through fifth were Clint…
Mar 8, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT
The F1 supremo and the Russian president talk in Sochi, site of this fall’s Russian Grand Prix.
New online network prepares to launch, will feature lower-tier NASCAR series, sports cars, motorcycle racing
Mar 8, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
A new online-only network that will focus on some of NASCAR’s lower-tier series, as well as similar series in sports car and motorcycle racing, will make its debut this Wednesday, March 12.
- Instead of significant improvement, 2014 starting off the way 2013 ended for Danica Patrick (10)
- Kurt Busch gives IndyCar chance to show they’ve learned lesson on promotion (10)
- Chrysler orders nearly 100 pristine Dodge Vipers destroyed (7)
- Alonso discovers an F1 take on Ellen’s Oscar “Selfie” (6)
- Busch news kicks off what may be a busy Tuesday for IndyCar (5)