There are few things that test a NASCAR writer's creativity more than the dreaded offseason.
Every driver, team owner, crew chief and even PR person is either on vacation, working, testing or simply "unavailable."
So that oftentimes leads to out-of-the-box thinking, coming up with topics that are both informative and entertaining—and if we can have a little extra fun with it, all the better.
That's exactly what we've come up with for today's topic: nine things you should never say at a NASCAR race. Most of the picks we made are lighthearted fare—and hopefully readers will take them with a grain of salt.
Some of the topics we've chosen actually have a few sub-topics built within, so check out the variations to the theme, so to speak.
And, of course, if you have some sayings you'd like to add to the list, please do so in the comments section.
The beauty of NASCAR is the incredible fan loyalty, which is unlike any seen in most other professional sports. Fans love to tout their driver to the max while dissing opposing drivers to the max.
This topic is handy because you can fill in drivers' names interchangeably. It's like NASCAR's "actions detrimental to stock car racing"—it's a great catch-all for any driver you dislike.
So, non-Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans can say, "Junior sucks!" Ditto for non-Kyle Busch fans: "Kyle sucks!"
Or something like "I hate (expletive) Kyle Busch" or "I hate (expletive) Dale Junior."
And so forth with any driver you love to hate.
Another popular derivative that shouldn't be said at a NASCAR race is calling a driver's sexuality into play. You know, like the old Tim Wilson parody song, "Jeff Gordon's Gay." While it may get a bunch of laughs, fans of the driver you're berating have a tendency to not take something like that too well.
Just be forewarned: Saying a driver sucks or questioning his/her sexuality too loudly in a crowd at the racetrack or in a bar might cause a fan of the driver you're dissing to take offense, turn around to diss your driver and then things may turn out like the brawl between Jeff Gordon's and Clint Bowyer's pit crews at Phoenix last month.
If you're going to diss, do it quietly—even under your breath if you can. Opening your mouth and yelling too loudly may wind up with a punch to it.
Richard "The King" Petty and Dale "The Intimidator" Earnhardt share the record for most Cup championships in their respective careers at seven apiece. The closest drivers to them are Jimmie Johnson (five) and Jeff Gordon (four).
While this topic is a bit more genteel and may lead to a war of words, it won't necessarily lead to a war of fists (we hope). But there are definitely several camps when it comes to who was the best driver ever in NASCAR.
Some fans may say David Pearson or Cale Yarborough, or even "ol' DW" Darrell Waltrip, was the best ever. Others may pick Johnson, even though he's still a work in progress.
Any way you look at it, again, keeping your opinion to yourself rather than spouting off live at a track or a gathering of NASCAR fans may be in your own best interest—not to mention in the best interest of your health and safety.
This is one of my favorite sayings. For several years during the previous decade, NASCAR would throw the yellow caution flag, slowing a race down, for what became known as "phantom debris cautions."
In other words, NASCAR would say there was some type of object on the race track that posed a hazard to drivers, fans or cars. Oftentimes, though, fans would never see the object that was the direct cause for the caution.
Fortunately, however, NASCAR in recent years has become keen about dictating to its broadcast partners to use their multitude of cameras to find whatever debris brought out a caution. In other words, NASCAR wants to give TV viewers—or fans at the track watching a replay board—proof positive that the sudden slowing of a race due to caution was indeed legitimate and for good reason.
In fact, NASCAR has become so good at displaying what type of debris it is and where it's located that it's probably been maybe three or four years since I can remember a phantom debris caution.
This one is also a bit dicey. During his five-year run of Sprint Cup championships from 2006 through 2010, Jimmie Johnson was among the most beloved and hated drivers in the sport.
Beloved, because if you were a JJ fan, you were ecstatic that he not only won a bunch of races, but he also set a NASCAR record with five consecutive titles.
But if you were not a Johnson fan, or you simply got tired of seeing him win so much, it's easy to see why you'd say he was bad for NASCAR.
Unfortunately, as they say in Chicago, "Da facts is da facts," and Johnson is without question one of the best drivers NASCAR has ever seen.
On the one hand, Johnson has been a great champion and ambassador for the sport. Sure, he may have seemed a bit overly vanilla personality-wise, or his dominating got old quickly, but he definitely got people talking and cheering.
And that's both for winning races and championships, as well as when he suffered a pit road penalty followed by a broken drivetrain at Homestead last month that ended both his season and his bid for a sixth Cup title.
The resulting fan cheers you heard from the latter, though, weren't exactly kind; they were from fans who were glad to see Johnson finally fail after so many times of seeing him pull one miracle after another out of his helmet.
Joey Logano may be 22, but he doesn't look a day over 18!
Well, duh, that's because Joey Logano IS a kid—well, almost.
Even though he's still just 22 years old, as hard as it may seem to believe, Logano will be entering his fifth full-time season in Sprint Cup racing in 2013—albeit for a new team, shifting from Joe Gibbs Racing to Penske Racing.
Logano remains so baby-faced that it's likely he still gets carded at pretty much every bar he walks into. And even though he's a millionaire race car driver now, he still has the kind of youthful face and cheeks that grandmothers and old ladies just love to pinch: "Ohhhhh, you're just so cute, Joey."
To which, I'm sure, he'd likely flash his trademark toothy grin.
But when it comes to his age, Logano doesn't exactly do himself any favors by continuing to call himself "Joey." I mean, does a driver really want to be called Joey when he gets into his 30s or 40s?
Rather, calling himself a more adult-sounding "Joe" or "J.T." (for his legal given name, Joseph Thomas Logano) would likely help. I mean, it works for J.J. Yeley, right?
Them's fightin' words if you're a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and you hear someone heap disrespect upon your driver.
Other similar phrases include "Junior will never be like his daddy," "Why does Junior always get all the attention?" or "Junior will never win the Cup (championship)."
There obviously has to be something to Junior's lure and magnetism, however. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been named NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for the 10th consecutive year a couple of weeks back.
And when Junior broke his 143-race winless streak this past June at Michigan, it prompted runner-up Tony Stewart to quip, "It's not a national holiday, guys."
Although, some ecstatic Junior fans probably would have liked to seen that.
Still, if there were ever a driver who was both as popular and polarizing to a mixed bag of fans at the same time, his name would be one Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Make that "Juan Pablo Montoya Doesn't Know How to Drive" with a well-placed expletive included somewhere.
Speaking of polarizing drivers, the Colombian-born Montoya has been the bane of many fans' existence since he came to NASCAR in 2007. And for good reason: Montoya has become nothing more than a rolling wrecking crew. Face it, is there any driver Montoya has not wrecked in his Cup career?
I'd love to get a damage estimate of all the No. 42 Chevrolets that Montoya has destroyed in his six-year Cup career. I'm surprised team owner Chip Ganassi isn't bankrupt yet. And this from a guy who is a Indianapolis 500 winner and a former CART series champion. Yet he's won just two races in six years in his foray into NASCAR racing.
I mean, the guy drove off pit road and crashed head-on into a track dryer at the Daytona 500 this past February. What does that say? (Although, to be fair, a part on his car broke just seconds before, causing him to lose all control and send the car careening into the track dryer, which unfortunately just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time).
Granted, Montoya remains a fan favorite of sorts. But the name of the game is racin' and winnin', not wreckin' and losin'. Maybe JPM just never got the memo on that.
Granted, money is very important in the whole big scheme of things for NASCAR. Just the overhead alone of running 36 races, plus three different professional series, several amateur series and owning 13 race tracks is a multi-million dollar undertaking every year.
Then there's prize money, enforcing rules (and a large contingent of officials that do the enforcing) and a massive public relations and marketing program, among other things.
That's part of the reason why ticket and concession prices are so high. Someone has to pay for the majority of the overhead, and that someone is usually Joe and Jane Fan.
On the flip side, when you compare prices of attending a NASCAR race to, say, an NFL game, there's really not a great deal of disparity. Of course, ancillary things such as hotel rooms and transportation are significantly more than going to your typical NFL game, but many of those costs are things that are out of NASCAR's control.
While it's easy to blame NASCAR for out-of-control costs, believe it or not, the sanctioning body actually takes great care in trying to keep those same costs under control as much as possible (I can just imagine all the comments I'm going to get in response now).
Just like if someone disses your favorite driver, a diehard NASCAR fan is not going to put up with someone saying a rival motorsports series like IndyCar or NHRA or Formula One has better racing, is more competitive or that its drivers are better.
Even within NASCAR, there are divisions between fans. Some fans may say that the best, most competitive and closest side-by-side racing is not necessarily on the Sprint Cup Series side, but rather on the Camping World Trucks Series side.
Others may say the Nationwide Series is better because it spotlights not only up-and-coming drivers, but also former Cup drivers like Elliott Sadler.
Fortunately, inter-NASCAR battles are a bit more genteel than series versus series battles.
But if there's ever a line in the sand that can potentially put an end to that argument once and for all, compare the number of former IndyCar drivers that have gone from the open-wheel world to NASCAR. That list includes Tony Stewart, Sam Hornish Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick.
Now, how many drivers have gone from full-time NASCAR rides to IndyCar? You'd have to go back quite a few years, even as far back as the A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti eras, to draw a comparison.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski