Murto: Childress has short memory

By Craig Murto

It seems that NASCAR car owner Richard Childress is suffering some memory loss in his senior years.

That’s really the only way to explain his reaction to the finish of the Camping World Truck race last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada, historically known as Mosport.

Childress’ grandson Ty Dillon and Bill Elliott’s son Chase battled side by side on the final lap for the win. Ty was having fuel pick-up problems and doing his best to hold position, nearly getting himself run over a couple times on that final circuit.

He would have finished better — and had a better points day — if he’d simply let Chase go. Instead they came to the final corner and Elliott shoved the nose of his truck into an opening on the inside; Dillon slammed the door shut and got spun off the track. Elliott regained control of his truck and went on for his first victory.

Emotions run high at racetracks, especially after exciting, controversial finishes. But isn’t it rich that Richard Childress was furious over the finish, making statements such as “what comes around goes around.”

Actually, that’s true; what comes around goes around, no matter how long it takes. How many people have Ty put in the wall this season alone? (I’m sure Johnny Sauter has an answer for that one). And better yet, how many people did Dale Earnhardt wreck on the final lap of a race to grab the win?

And Earnhardt did it in the No. 3, owned by Richard Childress Racing. With Richmond coming up this Saturday, it’s easy to remember the carnage Earnhardt caused that eventually led to Kyle Petty’s first win. Terry Labonte surely remembers at least two times Earnhardt tried to “rattle his cage” at Bristol.

That’s all well and good; it’s all part of the legend. It’s all part of NASCAR lore. And to this day NASCAR doesn’t penalize anybody for incidents that take place on the last lap; after all, a little controversy is good for ticket sales.

And through all those years with Earnhardt, more recently with Harvick and now with his grandsons, Childress chalks up other teams’ wrecked cars to “just racing.”

“What goes around, comes around,” said Childress, according to an Associated Press story. “That’s all I can say. Ty handled it a lot better than I would. Anybody could see that he never turned the wheel and just drove straight into him. He said it in his interview, ‘It’s the last lap, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.’ That’s not the way you end up making friends.”

But for years Childress lived by the sentiment that racing was all about winning races, not making friends. That’s the justification he used for all the cars torn up in his drivers’ wakes over the past years. But somehow now he doesn’t remember. I guess it’s easy to forget when the driver on the receiving end is his grandson.

There’s a lot not to forget about the first NASCAR Truck race in Canada; Max Papis certainly won’t forget.

Elliott and Dillon weren’t the only drivers to get together on the last lap; no fewer than seven trucks limped to the pits with damage. Two of those trucks belonged to Mike Skeen and Max Papis.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to have words after the race. We’ve even seen Papis slap a few drivers’ helmets a time or two, even some cheap shots. But after the race at Mosport, Skeen’s girlfriend walked up to Papis and slapped him across the face, hard. And it was caught on video.

A couple hours later, Papis claimed his ears were still ringing and the slap dislocated his jaw.

I have to admit, at the local short track level it’s not uncommon for the most disorderly people to be spouses and relatives of drivers. I’ve seen racers’ wives fighting in the stands a time or two. But I’ve never seen a girlfriend offer up a slap to the face of a professional racer after a professional racing event.

Some would say Papis deserves to get slapped now and then, not just for the slaps he’s doled out to other competitors, but for the driving style that resulted in his nickname ‘Mad Max.’ But no driver deserves to be assaulted by a bystander. Hopefully the woman will never be seen around a racetrack again.

It was even worse than the time Richard Childress put Kyle Busch in a headlock for wrecking Joey Coulter. I wonder if Childress remembers that.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.