Life's Not Fair, Deal with It!: 25 Unwritten NASCAR Rules To Live By
As a kid, my parents would always offer unsolicited advice or silly idioms in an attempt to get their point across.
An unwritten list of rules and anecdotes that we've all heard before.
At times these "parentisms" went in one ear and right out the other. Occasionally I took them to heart by accepting their literal meanings.
I can now look back on my childhood and say to my parents, "Thanks, for the most part you got it all right!"
"The Rules" have stood the test of time and provided me with the slogans that I live by to this very day.
They work in all aspects of life, even in the NASCAR Nation.
So here they are, a compilation of my parents favorite sayings as they apply to NASCAR.
25 Unwritten Rules To Live By.
1. Always Use Protection!
Always use protection!
An awkward conversation to have with family, but necessary for NASCAR drivers!
A major cause of death amongst drivers during races was through violent head movements, where the body remains in place because of the seat belts but the momentum keeps the head moving forwards, causing a Basilar skull fracture resulting in serious injury or immediate death.
After a string of fatal crashes, including Dale Earnhardt in February 2001,
NASCAR made the head and neck support device (HANS) mandatory for drivers its top three series in October 2001.
The purpose of the device is to stop the head from "whipping forward" in a crash, without otherwise restricting movement of the neck.
In a crash, an unprotected body is decelerated by the seatbelt with the head maintaining velocity until it is decelerated by the neck.
The HANS device maintains the relative position of the head to the body, with the device transferring energy to the much stronger chest, torso, shoulder, seatbelts and seat as the head is decelerated.
2. If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again.
If at first you don't succeed try, try again.
This reminds me of a stubborn geometry equation, no matter how many formulas I'd try, I could just not get to the answer.
My parents would sit there patiently pushing me to keep trying, when all I wanted to do was throw in the towel and accept myself for the "dummy" that I was convinced I was.
When I did finally figure it out they would congratulate me by saying, "Now doesn't that feel good?"
And it did.
Ernie Irvan once said, "If you look at the record books, Dale Earnhardt's done everything, except win the Daytona 500."
It took Dale Earnhardt 20 years to get that monkey off his back by finally winning the Daytona 500 in 1998.
The win was the stuff that legends are made of.
Crews from literally every team lined up on pit road to congratulate Earnhardt, making it one of the most heartfelt, memorable moments in the history of NASCAR.
3. Spread Your Wings And Fly
Spread your wings and fly.
Growing up, our parent's home was our safety zone, a place of comfort, but we knew that eventually it will be time to leave the nest. Our family prepared us for the day that we will spread our wings and fly into unfamiliar territory.
Carl Edwards racing career took flight in 2001 as he competed in seven of NASCAR's truck series races.
In April 2009, like a majestic bird, Carl Edwards truly soared.
During the final lap of Talladega's Aaron's 499, Edwards' car made contact the machine of Brad Kesolowski, flipping the Claritin No. 99 car airborne into the catch fence.
Edwards survived one of the most violent crashes in NASCAR history.
4. I Will Turn This Car Around!
I swear I will turn this car around!
My dad would start yelling this out at my sister and me about 10 miles into every family vacation that we took.
There is just something about being strapped into the backseat that brings out the sibling rivalry.
In 1988, Alan Kulwicki won his first NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway after race leader Ricky Rudd's car had motor problems late in the race.
Kulwicki led 41 laps and won by 18.5 seconds. After the race finished, he turned his car around and made a "Polish Victory Lap" by driving the opposite way (clockwise) on the track, with the driver's side of the car facing the fans.
"This gave me the opportunity to wave to the crowd from the driver's side," Kulwicki explained.
The Polish Victory Lap remains a staple in post-race celebrations to this day.
5. Live This Day As If It Will Be Your Last
Live this day as if it will be your last.
My parents taught me not to live life recklessly but rather purposefully.
Living life abundantly is a state of mind. You will always be filled and fulfilled when you truly appreciate and acknowledge your blessings.
Dale Earnhardt started his NASCAR career in 1975. Over the years, he won seven Winston Cup championships and three All-Star races.
"The Intimidator" was both loved and hated in the sport, yet despite his numerous detractors, he remained one of the sport's most popular drivers.
He still ranks as one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers.
On February 18, 2001, Earnhardt lost his life in a last-lap crash during the Daytona 500. His death drew a considerable amount of reaction from the nation, NASCAR, and his fans.
Earnhardt was the face of NASCAR and went out doing what he loved best.
6. There Is Always Reason To Smile. Find It!
There is always reason to smile. Find it!
Even on my darkest days I can still find something, no matter how small to smile about. Sometimes I have to look really hard to find it, but I always do.
In July 2001, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400 at the same track that just five months earlier had taken the life of his father.
As he dedicated the win to his father, the emotional storybook ending gave Junior and all of his fans a reason to smile again.
"I'll be crying sooner or later," Junior said. "I dedicate this win to him. There ain't nobody else."
7. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, otherwise known as "The Golden Rule."
A key element of the golden rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people, not just members of his or her in-group, with consideration.
I can still hear my mother say, "Kara, how would you like it if your sister did that to you?"
Instantly I would be schooled in the ethics of reciprocity and ultimately be forced to do the right thing.
NASCAR Rule No. 1: Don't call your fellow driver a "pansy," it will only make him mad.
NASCAR Rule No. 2: Don't pick a fight with Kevin Harvick, odds are that he will win every time!
8. Just Because You Don't Like Something, Doesn't Necessarily Make It A Bad Thing
Just because you don't like something doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing.
Butter Beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. In addition, their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal and provide virtually fat-free high quality protein.
Despite the many health benefits that they provide, I HATE Butter Beans!
As kids we couldn't leave the table until we cleaned our plates. As you can imagine, I spent many an hour defiantly staring at a cold plate of them, they weren't going anywhere and neither was I.
To this very day, you can't say enough good things about them. Nothing will ever change my mind. I will NEVER like them!
Kyle Busch is my own personal plate of cold Butter Beans.
9. Never Give Up!
Never, never, never give up. - Winston Churchill
OK, so maybe my parents borrowed that quote, but it is a good one.
Growing up I just never learned the word "quit."
Maybe that is a stubborn "Martin" trait.
At the age of 50, Mark Martin shows no sign of stopping.
With hopes to finally win the coveted Sprint Cup championship, he recently announced that he would run another full-time schedule in 2010.
10. Miracles Can Happen!
Miracles can happen.
This was one as a child that we never questioned.
In the wake of Dale Earnhardt's death on Feb. 18, 2001, at Daytona, Richard Childress Racing turned to Kevin Harvick to drive the team's flagship Chevrolet...however changing the number from 3 to 29.
For 2001, team owner Richard Childress had planned to accelerate Harvick's development with several Cup Series races with plans to run a full schedule in 2002. Earnhardt's death changed all that.
It was the third career Cup start for Harvick after taking over for Earnhardt. Harvick was driving the same car Earnhardt had used to edge Bobby Labonte the year before.
He won the race by only six one-thousandths of a second (.006), proving to be one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history since the introduction of electronic scoring in 1993.
"With about five laps to go," Childress said, "I just looked up in the sky and said, 'We need your help, old buddy.' I just kept praying for Dale to help us out. He gave us the help we needed. I can see that mustache smile right now."
Said Gordon: "There was a higher power that wanted to see that outcome."
"I don't even know how to put it into words, to tell the honest truth," Harvick said. "It took an extra cool-down lap just to get through the emotional part of it. I don't know how you could have scripted it any better.
After the win, Harvick performed a tire-smoking burnout on the front stretch with three fingers held aloft outside the driver's window.
Miracles DO happen!
11. Winning Isn't Everything
Winning isn't everything.
My parents were proud of me regardless of whether I won or lost. At least that is what they said.
They pumped my head with the notion that winning wasn't everything; it was all about being the best that you can be.
As a fierce competitor, I wanted to win always, but I must admit that it was sweet music to my ears when they would say "Hey,nice 11th place finish, at least it wasn't 12th like last time!"
Thanks mom and dad!
Even though Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not yet one a race in the 2009 season and is currently 18th in the points standings his fans remain loyal. We are content in the fact that he is "being the best he can be" right now.
From the moment he raced into the scene, Earnhardt Jr. has been a fan favorite. While some have always claimed that love was inherited, that Junior simply claimed fans of his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, it's difficult to believe that would hold people's interest for so long.
In December 2008, Earnhardt Jr. was named NASCAR's most popular for the sixth consecutive season.
12. Don't Make That Face, or It Will Freeze That Way!
Don't make that face, or it will freeze that way.
I never believed this when my parents said it.
The only thing that I really feared was that my eyes would get stuck in a cross-eyed position, so that was the only thing that I really steered clear of.
All other faces were fair game!
See Mom and Dad, Kenny's face didn't freeze that way!
13. Life Is Not Fair, Get Used To It!
Life's not fair, get used to it.
How many times did I hear this after every time that I said "No Fair!" while making the "don't make that face or it will freeze that way" face?
NASCAR rules have proven time and time again that life isn't always fair.
Despite crossing the finish line first at the Amp Energy 500, Regan Smith was ruled out of bounds and Tony Stewart was declared the race winner.
Smith went below the yellow line at Talladega when Stewart came down on him as he attempted to pass.
NASCAR stated that Smith illegally improved his position below the line and was placed in the 18th finishing position.
14. Live Well And Celebrate Often!
Live well and celebrate often.
This is the cherry part of life, the good stuff that we deserve and strive for.
With a combined total of 50 wins across NASCAR's three series, Kyle Busch is certainly living well and celebrating often!
15. Be Nice To Nerds. Chances Are You'll End Up Working For One.
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
OK, Bill Gates actually said this, but I can imagine that it would be something that my father would agree with, as he taught me to find the good in everyone.
The work ethic of crew chief Chad Knaus is the stuff of legend. Knaus may come off as a “NASCAR Nerd” but look what that single-mindedness has brought him!
For the last three years he has strategically pulled off three consecutive championships for the Lowe's team.
I (heart) nerds!
16. Always Wear Clean Underwear! You Never Know When You'll Have An Accident!
Always wear clean underwear, you never know when you'll have an accident.
Stupidist advice ever.
Now I can't say with 100 percent certainty what would happen as I have never been in a major accident, but I am quite sure that the chances of soiling oneself during such an event are pretty high.
So who really cares what your underwear looked like just prior to the collision?
Just prior to the August 2004 race at Watkins Glen, Tony Stewart was suffering from a nasty stomach bug. He began complaining of severe stomach pain just 10 laps in. His crew contemplated taking him out of the car and replacing him with another driver.
Tony toughed it out and won the race.
Instead of pulling into Victory Lane and celebrating, Stewart jumped out of the car and headed straight to his trailer. The commentator said that Tony was feeling ill and was going to rest for 10-15 minutes before coming out to do his interviews.
The remaining top 10 finishers were interviewed and still no Tony.
The commentator then announced that Stewart was still feeling ill and that his crew was getting him a fresh fire suit before he returned to the track.
It is rumored that Stewart had "crapped" himself during the race, hence the need for a new suit.
When my mother heard that story, you know what she said? "Gosh, I hope he was wearing clean underwear."
17. You Can Sort It Out Yourselves Or I Can Sort It Out, But Neither Of You Will Win Or Like the Result If I Have To Do The Sorting!
You can sort it out yourselves or I can sort it out, but neither of you will win or like the result if I do the sorting!
This was a huge mom-ism in my house growing up. It usually resulted from knock down, drag-out fights between my sister and me.
My mother was always inconsistent with her punishment, but when she would unleash these words of fury, we knew she meant business!
NASCAR is the world's strictest mother...sometimes.
Since its 2008 proclamation that the sanctioning body would let drivers be more emotional without fear of punishment, NASCAR has mostly kept to its word.
"There haven't been any points deductions, fines or penalties other than probation for emotional outbursts in the Sprint Cup series. Even a wrestling match between Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick in the Nationwide garage garnered just a short chat in the NASCAR hauler."
"But the inconsistency with which it enforces and interprets its rules sends a very clear message to the drivers. NASCAR is still in charge."
"All the rule book says is that drivers can be punished for "actions detrimental to stock car racing." There's no explanation of what that means, nor is there a guide as to what actions warrant what punishments."
That leaves everything up to the mom in charge.
18. What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
To this day my father still utters this to me in his slow, Southern drawl to which I reply, "If that is the case, I should have the strength of 10 men by now!"
David Pearson's victory in the 18th annual running of the Daytona 500 was perhaps one of the most dramatic in the 51-year history of the event that has become the crown jewel of the series.
The last half-lap was a Daytona classic. Pearson used the draft to pass Richard Petty going into Turn 3.
Pearson slipped high after making the pass and Petty slid back underneath him. They ran side by side through Turn 4, before the cars made contact exiting the corner.
Petty crashed into the outside wall, then spun into the tri-oval grass, justyards from the finish line.
Pearson spun to the pit entrance, made contact with Joe Frasson's car, then spun back toward the race track. Through it all, he engaged the clutch and kept the engine running.
When Pearson straightened his car out, he was able to stagger across the line and win the event.
19. Rainbows Are God’s way Of Reminding Us That Beauty Is An Optical Illusion
Rainbows are God's way of remaining us that beauty is an optical illusion.
I think this was my Mother's weird attempt to prevent me from wearing make-up in Junior High. Some shifty flim-flam into believing that I was a natural beauty.
For the record, I snuck some wicked blue eyeshadow into school each day to create that optical illusion that I so desperately longed for!
This theory proves true in everything except in a stock cars.
From 1993-2000 Jeff Gordon's Dupont Chevrolet carried a rainbow design that provided the No. 24 team the nickname "The Rainbow Warriors."
During that time Jeff Gordon went to Victory Lane 52 times and won three of his four Sprint Cup Championships proving that rainbows really do exist.
Seeing was believing and not merely an optical illusion.
20. Where There's Smoke, There's Fire!
Where there's smoke, there's fire.
This was always something that me think "no duh," every time one of my parents would say it.
It's a stupid idiom that literally means "if it looks like something is wrong, something probably is wrong."
In NASCAR' s case it use to mean that Where there's 'Smoke' there would be always be fire.
NASCAR's reformed "bad boy," Tony Stewart often found himself in controversial situations. His larger than life ego, bad behavior and fiery temper at times overshadowed his ability to drive a great race car.
Stewart's issues go all the way back to his 1999 rookie year when he tried to climb in Kenny Irwin's window under caution after an incident in Martinsville.
Other incidents include post race run-ins with a number of drivers, a shoving incident in Daytona with Robby Gordon, multiple incidents with reporters... and the list goes on.
Even during Stewart's Championship winning season of 2002 he was involved in a few incidents on and off the track. These incidents lead to NASCAR forcing him to take anger management classes.
As a first-time owner, Stewart seems to have settled down a bit this year. Gone are the outbursts and sarcastic comments. They have been replaced by smiles and encouraging team support.
For once in the last decade he truly seems content.
Don't mistake his new found kindness for weakness though, sitting just 29 points behind Jeff Gordon in the point standings proves that Smoke's still playing with fire and everyone else might just get burned.
21. Live Authentically. Live What You Love to Do!
Live authentically. Live what you love to do.
My parents didn't care what I did for a living as long as it was something that I was passionate about. I found that passion, but sadly a paramedic's salary comes no where close to what a NASCAR driver makes.
Victory Lane has played host to some of the greatest celebrations in sporting history, but in my opinion no one does it better than Carl Edwards.
He treats the crowd to a post-race back flip every time he takes the checkered flag.
He truly lives what he loves to do!
22. Fight For Your Rights!
Fight for your rights!
My mother would always say, "Violence is not the answer."
My father's take on things was much different. "Get 'em before they get you."
They raised a tomboy with a flair for fashion. Yeah, I looked all sugar and spice and everything nice but that didn't stop me from battling the boys!
In one of the strangest races in Daytona 500 history, the wildest moment turned out to be an unscheduled tag-team wrestling match.
Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison smashed into each other while going for the lead on the final lap. When Bobby Allison stopped to survey the damage, the three began swinging fists and helmets at each other, leaving a surprised Richard Petty to cross the finish line the victor, ending a 45-race winless streak.
Helmets and racing gloves became weapons as the Allisons and Yarborough kicked and clawed in the mud.
"It's the worst thing I've ever seen in racing," Yarborough said. "Bobby waited on us so he could block me off. It was evident. The films will show it. I had him beat. I knew how to win the race.
"They double-teamed me. My left wheels were over in the dirt, and Donnie knocked me over in the dirt further. He carried me on into the grass. I started spinning and Donnie started spinning.
"Donnie denied doing it. Bobby pulled up over there, and I asked him why he did it. He bowed up, and I swung at him. It was the worst thing I've ever seen in racing."
To no one's surprise, the Allisons saw things a little differently.
"Naw, I didn't block them," Bobby Allison said. "I wasn't even close. I rode up there after the race was over to make sure they were both OK."
"I don't think Bobby slowed down, and Bobby didn't move anywhere," Donnie Allison concurred. "Cale had made up his mind he would pass me low, and I had made up my mind he was gonna have to pass me high. I had already decided if he was going to pass, it was going to be on the outside.
"When he tried to pass me low, he went off the track. He spun and hit me. I feel like I had to keep from getting knocked out, and I didn't do that.
"When Bobby came over to find out if we were all right, Cale went over and punched Bobby through the screen. Then he came at me and started calling me names."
23. This Will Hurt Me A Lot More Than It Will Hurt You!
This will hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you.
This was usually said right before a spanking in my home. For the record, this was another silly saying that my parents got wrong!
Sadly for NASCAR drivers this hold true. Sure it might hurt our Fantasy points standings when a car wrecks, but that is nothing to what the driver goes through.
Jeff Gordon recently announced that he was suffering from chronic back pain, some of which he attributes to arthritis.
He also credits some of the pain from a terrible hit that he took in Las Vegas before the installation of the SAFER Barriers.
His teammate, Mark Martin suffered from the same issues and underwent surgery in 1999 to help correct the problem.
It is just now, 10 years later that he is completely pain free.
24. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously.
Don't take yourself too seriously!
My father is a great man of many accomplishments, but never once did I see it ever go to his head.
He taught me that personal accomplishments will speak for themselves, no need to force your "greatness." The harder you work to seem important the more of a fool you look.
Just be your own silly self and you'll do just fine.
From his NAPA commercials to his guest appearance on "My Name Is Earl," to his one-line zingers during post race interviews. It is hard to imagine a serious bone in Michael Waltrip's body.
25. Are You Going Out Like That?
Are you going out like that?
My mother would march me right back upstairs to change my clothes if I was wearing something that she did not approve of.
NASCAR fans would be so lucky to have me mother's discerning eye before they left for a day at the races.
As much as I love the sport, some of the gear is a bit much! There are some God-awful screen printed t-shirts being worn out there.
Flashy, gaudy images of "yer driver" plastered across the chests of so many in the stands creating a colorful, eye-catching bouquet of intoxication.