Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick managed to stay out of each other’s way during Friday’s Truck Series race, but the same couldn’t be said for Brad Sweet and Johanna Long.
The result was Sweet in the wall, with both his front grille and his career prospects damaged. Sweet has a limited number of Truck/Nationwide opportunities to prove he’s a player before he descends into NASCAR’s bottomless pit of once-heralded prospects (Brad Coleman, Stephen Leicht, ect.). He was rather angry on the radio, and under today’s “Boys, have at it” mantra would be able to police the matter himself.
But what exactly is the proper way to exact justice when the object of your on-track disdain is a woman?
This issue is only going to get bigger, because high-profile female drivers will become the norm in the next few years. Danica Patrick is likely on her way to NASCAR full-time soon, and NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has finally found its way thanks to Max Siegel’s work with Revolution Racing.
Patrick certainly doesn’t want any special treatment, nor is she shy about conflict. The way she’s stalked down some drivers who she felt did her wrong in IndyCar action, you’d be much more concerned with their safety than hers. Jennifer Jo Cobb found her inner Johnny Paycheck when she pulled a “Take This Job and Shove It” on a car owner who supposedly didn’t tell her she’d be starting and parking — just minutes before the green flag. If a “Stroker Ace” bar fight broke out and either Patrick or Cobb ended up on my side, I wouldn’t mind.
But NASCAR’s core fan base still skews rather traditional. Take for a moment Joey Logano getting in Kevin Harvick’s face at Pocono last year. Now, imagine that Harvick was Johanna Long — a young adult male getting violently mad at a young adult woman on national TV. (Who knows, maybe an hour after that same TV viewer watched a PSA about combating domestic abuse.)
That scene will play out more and more, and not everybody will be able to see the difference between natural competitive discourse and what most people have been taught about the way a man is supposed to treat a woman.
NASCAR will eventually be able to guide its fans through this, providing it avoids the doomsday scenario of a male driver getting so angry that he lays hands on a female competitor. I seriously doubt that will ever happen.
The much more dangerous prospect is the folks who feign legitimate concern about women being treated right, when their only agenda will be keeping them off the track completely.
If that mindset didn’t still exist in large numbers, Revolution Racing wouldn’t need to be in business.