On Monday, August 5th., NASCAR star Tony Stewart broke his leg while participating in a sprint car race in Iowa, ending his 2013 Sprint Cup season. Almost before he was transported to the hospital from the track, the debate had begun about whether or not drivers should be allowed to participate in other forms of racing or other activities which might jeopardize their safety outside of their Sprint Cup responsibilities.
Now, legendary iron-man Bobby Labonte has broken three ribs in a bicycling accident and will miss this weekend's Sprint Cup race in Atlanta. Ironically, Labonte's 704-race consecutive start streak ended earlier this summer at Sparta, Kentucky when team brass at JTG Daugherty Racing decided to replace him with A.J. Allmendinger in an attempt to get different feedback and improve the team's performance.
Between both men, they have 4 series championships and 69 wins. Each will be a future inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Each has a name that we expect to hear in conjunction with a Sprint Cup series race. Each has a fan base that is intensely loyal and passionate. Each was also sidelined in an instant.
My point? Be careful, guys and girls! I realize that sprint car racing for Stewart and a bike ride for Labonte is how they relax, rejuvenate and reload between Sprint Cup starts. Some drivers golf, some drivers fish, some drivers race late-model dirt cars, some drivers scuba dive... I get it. I fully support all of them and whatever leisure activities they pursue. Please balance those enjoyments with your responsibilities to your team, your sponsors and your fans wisely.
We need these wheel men for OUR relaxation each week. I want to see Stewart, Labonte and others drive an 800 horsepower race car each week and not a motorized scooter down the halls of a hospital. Wait a minute! I might have just stumbled upon a whole new NASCAR division... hmmm. What should we do first -- short halls? Intermediate? Fast restrictor-battery super halls? Night scooters with the lights on?