How much is too much?
That is the question being asked by many people on social media as a result of last Saturday’s fireworks between Burt Myers and Junior Miller at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Race fans, journalists, drivers, race teams and some of the most well-known names in short track racing have chimed in on the subject throughout the week following the incident.
During the final lap of Saturday’s 100-lap Modified feature, the thousands of fans in attendance saw second-place Burt Myers use “the chrome horn” to spin leader Junior Miller on the final turn and go on to claim the victory.
What ensued after the spin is what has many people still talking days after the completion of the race.
Following the spin, Miller chased Myers around the track and through the infield for two laps before making contact with Myers and spinning him in the infield. The police officers at the track quickly made it to the scene and prevented any sort of physical altercation between the drivers.
Key words: Between the drivers.
As Myers exited his car in victory lane to a chorus of cheers and boos, an unknown female entered victory lane and gave Myers a quick jab in the stomach. That set off a round of pushing and shoving between people in victory lane before more police officers arrived to escort the woman from the area.
The YouTube videos of all the events including the final lap incident and “the punch,” as well as reaction to those incidents have been posted on social media by short track racing fans all over the country.
Many people believe that the chain of events that took place during the race are not a good example of the way short track racing should work, while others believe the incidents that took place are a perfect example of the sports and entertainment balance that makes Bowman Gray Stadium so special.
Shawn Courchesne, editor of RaceDayCT.com, set the tone for one of the best debates seen on Facebook when he wrote a story calling Bowman Gray Stadium, “an uncontrolled, mayhem filled, three-ring circus.”
Matthew Dillner, host of NASCAR.com’s Garage Cam and founder of Lost Speedways, went to Facebook responding to Courchesne’s opinion and called Bowman Gray Stadium “the eighth wonder of the racing world.”
Dillner who has raced, worked and been a spectator at Bowman Gray Stadium was very supportive of the facility and what makes it special for the thousands of fans that attend every weekend.
“BGS is a historic place that showcases old school bullring action in an entertaining way,” Dillner posted on Facebook. “It’s a place that is special for many reasons and their formula cannot be duplicated. Personally, I’ll admit that I don’t agree with all of the stuff that goes on there. I do like the fact that the competitors police it themselves ‘mostly.’ The positives out-weigh the negatives to me. I’ve raced, spectated and worked there and have LOVED my experience doing all three.”
While most people involved in the debate believe that what goes on at Bowman Gray Stadium works for that race track and won’t change anytime soon, Courchesne believes that the extracurricular activities are a bad example for the sport and are not the fix that short tracks need.
“I was saying that recipe of regularly letting things go off track so to speak and letting drivers put on extracurricular shows – in many cases using their cars to angrily make their points – isn’t the fix short tracks need, because then you’re essentially just saying that short track racing needs a blood sport aspect of it to be successful,” Courchesne wrote.
“Bowman Gray is a unique spectacle that can’t be reproduced anywhere else, but every time one of these crazy things happens, there are hordes of people saying ‘Well if more short tracks were like that …. ‘ I just don’t think that’s the answer.”
Tony Hirschman III, brother of Modified driver Matt Hirschman and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotter for Kyle Busch, also commented on the topic and compared it to last Thursday’s Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. During that event, Tommy Barrett, Jr. made contact with leader Todd Szegedy on the last lap and went on to win the event.
“As for Thompson, I see all the same comments regarding ‘well that’s how they race there now,’” Hirschman wrote. “When did that type of racing become the acceptable norm? It’s not just Thompson. I see it at tracks big and small, from Riverhead to New Hampshire. I’ve been around racing for a while, I’ve seen my dad battle Stefanik, the Reg (Reggie Ruggiero), Steve Park, Magic Shoes (Mike McLaughlin) at these same tracks, and I know that’s not how those guys raced. Again, when an element of respect is present, the racing at these places is awesome.”
When looking at the events that happened at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday, Hirschman wonders why some drivers are able to battle side-by-side for position, while others resort to the “dump and run” strategy. He also wonders about the safety of all involved when a post-race incident like Saturday’s happens at a short track.
“I’ve seen plenty of comments saying ‘that’s how the racing here is’ regarding the ending, while on the next breath complimenting Burt and Tim, Kyle (Ebersole) and Chris (Fleming) for their great side-by-side battles,” Hirschman said on Facebook. “All that tells me is this-it IS possible to have good clean racing there, so why is the dump and run so popular, accepted, and not punished? Don’t tell me that is the only way to pass there, while others show that when there is an element of respect present, the racing can be great.
“Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to put the dumper behind the dumpee in the finishing order when something like that happens, rather than wait for the inevitable payback down the road? My solution seems a whole lot cheaper, these cars aren’t cheap to operate or repair. Not to mention having cars chasing each other around the infield, doing donuts, spinning each other out, all with officials and photographers feet away?”
Even with all of this said, what’s for certain is that the atmosphere and events that take place at Bowman Gray Stadium are not going to change anytime soon. The fights, the chases, and the punches are what keep thousands of fans returning on a weekly basis every summer when the gates to the track open.
The question remains to be, are the events that take place at Bowman Gray Stadium, like the one that happened on Saturday evening between Junior Miller and Burt Myers, good for the sport of short track racing?
What do you think. Chime in on our Five Star Race Car Bodies Facebook Feed and on Twitter by following @speed51dotcom and using hashtag #TheNew51.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51. Photo Credit: Matt Dillner/Speed51.com