Cracking The Drivers Code: Saying One Thing But Meaning Another

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Cracking The Drivers Code: Saying One Thing But Meaning Another
(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Hey race fans; did you know that at the conclusion of each weekend’s race you have homework?

Media members and broadcasters are always quick to point out that they feel bad for such-and-such a driver for such-and-such a reason. The real people they should feel bad for are the fans.

Why?

It goes back to the race fans having homework. Every weekend a driver will give an interview and fans take it for face value.

When a driver says that an incident between himself and another driver was just an accident and hard racing, but then goes out and knocks their fenders off later in the season, people are shocked that he would do such a thing. 

But that's because the media will skip over what the driver said because they're too busy picking apart every little thing on the No. 88 team or writing about getting rid of Daytona and Talladega from the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. 

This leaves drivers spewing things out and only some fans catching on. It's normal for drivers to say something in an interview and mean a completely different thing and then go out on the track and do the opposite of what they said. 

In 2009, that is on display every race and every lap.

Take this past weekend's race in Chicagoland. Jeff Burton said he was tired with double-file restarts because he keeps getting caught up in wrecks. 

What Burton meant was that he didn't slow down enough, t-boned the No. 82 of Scott Speed, and is blaming it on a restart that happened nine laps before. Obviously we know that Burton isn’t going to admit he made a mistake.

This same race also had Jimmie Johnson saying he had no idea why Kurt Busch was mad at him and Johnson didn't know why people kept asking him questions. What he meant was that he screwed up, got loose, and hit Busch—who then hit him back.

Johnson, for the record, blamed things on his teammate Jeff Gordon, saying Gordon got him loose.

When Scott Speed and teammate Brian Vickers tangled on the last lap in a Nationwide Series race, Vickers was outraged that his teammate would do such a thing. Saying that Speed just drove in over his head.

Perhaps a refresher course of what took place on the last lap at Talladega in 2006 was in order for Vickers. Going down the backstretch, Earnhardt Jr. led, followed by Jimmie Johnson and teammate Vickers. When Johnson pulled out to pass Earnhardt Jr., Vickers misjudged and made contact with Johnson.

Vickers got the win and Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. got wrecked race cars. In victory lane, Vickers brushed it off saying he didn’t mean to do it, but at New Hampshire, it didn’t matter that Speed said that because the person with the wrecked race car was Vickers.

Once again, all is fair in love and war…unless I come out on the losing end of that war.

I don't know how race fans aren't as exhausted as the drivers after a race because they have to sort through all the drivers' spewing to know what is really going on and what they really mean. 

If you really want to see this theory in form, look no further than Kyle Busch.

Whenever there is a microphone, Busch is going to give everyone a sound bite. People call it entertaining, others call it childish, and some call it Kyle being Kyle. 

Here's what it should be called: Kyle Busch being a walking, talking, driving contradiction. 

Busch is not afraid to speak his mind and tell everyone when he feels he has been wronged. He blasts NASCAR and its rules as much as he blasts Dale Earnhardt Jr. But it's what Busch isn't saying that really gets my attention.

No, not when he stomps away. It's the underlying meaning in his words when he actually does give an interview.

Go back to the Daytona 500 where Busch had one of the best cars and would have been a factor for the win. He, however, was caught up in the backstretch melee when Earnhardt Jr. sent Vickers spinning into the field. 

Upon returning to the garage, Busch said he had no idea why two lap-down cars were racing the leaders and that Vickers and Earnhardt Jr. were pretty much fighting for "nothing."

Busch, though, isn't one to practice what he preaches. Just six races later, Busch was two laps down in Texas after having to pit for a flat tire and later losing another lap. 

During a restart, Busch lined up the second car on the inside and made it three wide going into turn one and knocked fenders with leader Earnhardt Jr. Didn't he say that lap-down cars shouldn't be racing the leaders?

Busch really meant that if he's the leader then get out of the way, but if he's a lap down then it's fair game to race the driver leading. 

Or look at his comments at Dover. Earnhardt Jr. had just been given a new crew chief and Busch remarked "It's never Junior; it's always the crew chief."

It was obvious that Busch meant that Earnhardt Jr. will never be held responsible and the blame is always placed elsewhere and that Earnhardt Jr. is the problem for the team's struggles. 

That's all good and great, but that doesn't mean that we can blame Busch when he has a bad race. He will never take the responsibility for having a bad day. 

Busch is constantly on the radio blaming his crew chief for the car being horrible and their performance, not blaming himself, the crew chief. That, once again, is the opposite of the statements he made to the media.

But as we’ve seen and will continue to see, Busch isn’t the only driver with a selective memory and who lives by the rule that whatever I do to you is fine, but don’t you dare do it to me mentality.

Fans love to see and hear their favorite drivers get interviewed and they live for the interview with the driver that had something go wrong or is angry with their fellow competitors for whatever reason.

The problem is, no driver is really going to say what’s on their mind, not even Busch. They aren’t going to come out and admit that the next chance they get they are going to return the favor to a certain driver.

No driver is going to admit that they were wrong and ruined another drivers day, instead they will place blame elsewhere, play stupid and then go to the next race like nothing ever happened.

Or if you're Busch, you'll claim that Tony Stewart dumped you like a bad date, but won't remember that you too have dumped a.k.a Earnhardt Jr. in Richmond, drivers in the past. 

Driver interviews are great…if you know what to look for because you certainly can’t listen to a word they are saying. Drivers have gotten so good at lying, saying things are in the past or not answering the question they should become politicians.

I wonder if that’s why Jeff Burton’s nickname is “The Mayor?”

From now on race fans, here’s some advice: When a driver is giving an interview you should listen to what they are saying, not because they are going to be insightful, but it will be a nice little quote for later on down the road.

But then after they are done talking and storm away, put on your psychologist caps and get to that homework for the root of what the driver is actually thinking. This way when said driver goes out and does what they said they wouldn’t do, it won’t be so shocking to you.

It will also save you some stress and anger over a driver that makes you so mad because they “act immature” or “pulled a stupid move," after a while I guarantee that you will just come to expect it and will become an expert in brushing it off exactly like your favorite drivers. 

It's time we all get used to a driver saying one thing but meaning and consequently doing something else. 

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