Revenge Factor by Mike Twist and Bob Dillner
Speed/Stenhouse & Satterfield/Middleton Have Sparked Recent Debate
We’ve seen it time and time again in short track racing. One driver bumps another driver and from there, it’s game on. The revenge factor comes into play and before you know it, battles are getting out of hand and wrecked racecars are everywhere.
It’s not hard to think of examples from both the past and recent history. We remember Joe Bessey’s team repairing his car at Thompson in the old Busch North Series to take out Kelly Moore after an early-race incident back in the early 1990’s. We also recall Mike Eddy playing head-games with competitors, saying he’d owe competitors one and then live up to his promise back in the glory days of ASA racing.
Stenhouse's contact with Speed (top photo) made for a wild revenge shot taken by Speed later in the race (bottom). (Video caps via SPEED broadcast)
More recently, a few fresh examples of revenge have brought this topic back to the forefront of short trackers’ minds. In the ARCA RE/MAX Series season finale at Toledo Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse made contact with fellow title contender Scott Speed early in the race. Many called the contact a blatant attempt by Stenhouse to take him out. Speed had his team prepare his car to head back onto the track and when he returned to the race, he promptly wrecked Stenhouse. Those incidents cost both men any chances of winning the 2008 ARCA championship.
“He started it and he ain’t going to win this championship with that attitude. That was ridiculous. That was the most blatant thing I ever saw in my life,” said Speed at the time.
That exchange was caught on film by SPEED TV cameras and video from various angles can be found all across YouTube. But it wasn’t an isolated incident either. Just this past weekend, a similar situation erupted when Jay Middleton and Taylor Satterfield tangled in the ASA Southeast Asphalt Tour event at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia. Middleton was sent to the rear by ASA SAT Officials, while Satterfield made it back on track and wrecked Middleton hard later on.
“That [first incident] was a total accident racing deal, and the next part was where the twilight zone begins,” said Middleton. “He goes from the top of the race track to the bottom of the race track and wrecks me. It’s just embarrassing for him. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen anybody do to anybody and I’ve been racing for a long time.”
“Scott Speed was done wrong, completely done wrong, and I haven’t so much as had contact with Taylor Satterfield all season. It benefited me none, it benefitted him none.”
After the race, Satterfield didn’t want to talk much about the revenge factor, but we found plenty of other short trackers who were willing to speak their minds on the general subject as well. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Speed51.com's attempts to contact Taylor Satterfield for comments were successful at 5:30pm ET Wednesday, approximately four hours after the original posting of the story. CLICK HERE to see Satterfield's reaction and comments on the incidents with Middleton).
Gary St. Amant has been around the short tracks long enough to know the real deal on revenge. (51 Sports Photo)
“I believe that you need to stand your ground,” said Super Late Model standout Travis Kittleson.
“I learned that going into ASA. I believe that you have to earn respect, but there are some people who just won’t give you any respect after you’ve proven to them that you can respect them. You’ve got to stand your ground and if that means that you have to take someone out, that’s what you do.”
“You race a guy the same way he races you. I’ve raced that way for years and my mentors kind of taught me that way,” said USAR Pro Cup Driver Gary St. Amant. “When something happens to me on the race track I always like to get it over with that particular day, be it on the race track or after the race. I never like to go to the next race with something else on my mind as far as having to get even.
“Should it be done on the racetrack? No,” St. Amant simply answered. “But you have a helmet on, you have your controls in the car and you have emotion. When something happens that keeps you from doing the best you can do, well, you can lose control.”
To Modified driver Ted Christopher, the best revenge is finishing well.
“I really don’t do any of that stuff,” said Christopher. “Whatever happened yesterday, happened yesterday and you can’t change any of it. When guys do it to me, I just try hard to pass them.
My focus is trying to get to the front all of the time. If you focus on revenge, you just get yourself in trouble.”
Christopher’s infamous three-tap rule has sometimes been thought of as a revenge or retaliation tactic. But the short track veteran just sees it as a way of competing aggressively.
Revenge on the track can often backfire, leaving the "hitter" and the "hittee" with junked racecars like it did at Cordele between Satterfield (top) and Middleton (bottom).
“That’s a philosophy that I have when if I catch you and you are in the same position that you’ve been in for five or ten laps, then obviously you aren’t going anywhere and I am going somewhere. You’ve got to either pick a lane or I will pick it for you. It’s not that I’m going to spin you, but I will move you. I’m not good at spinning people out though, I end up spinning myself out.”
But don’t think that Christopher is an angel either. He does admit that there are some instances where revenge is justified and he uses the Stenhouse vs. Speed incident as an example.
“Stenhouse just fenced the guy,” said Ted Christopher. “They were running for a championship, so that wasn’t right. So I totally agree with what Speed did after that. If you’re going to wreck me and take away my chance to win, I’m going to wreck you so you don’t have a chance to win either. For something like that, when you totally junk the guy and keep him from winning the championship…that’s just not right.”
But not all veterans see things the same way. After the Toledo race, multi-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel showed his disapproval of the incident – even though it helped propel him to a runner-up finish in the point standings.
"I don't like retaliation," the veteran ARCA champ Kimmel said to the Toledo Blade right after the incident. "My dad always told me, you can get angry and aggravated out there, but you can't let it affect the way you race."
Spoken like a true gentleman and racer, but even the most respected racers of all-time, like St. Amant, have let emotions get the best of them at times.
“There was a situation at IRP in 1990 (ASA race) where myself and an Iowa driver (Brad Loney) were racing for like eighth place,” explained the two-time ASA National Champion St. Amant. “It was the white flag lap and he had to hit me coming off of four to take that position. Coming to the start-finish line I never let out of the gas. I had
made up my mind that I was wrecking him and he hit the wall. I just never stopped. I came back around and I was yelling at him after I got out of the car. I was mad. At that point I thought I did what I needed to do. But, looking back on it, I probably looked pretty stupid. I wrecked a couple racecars that I shouldn’t have wrecked.
“20-years ago I’d have done a lot of things to get even and as you get older you realize some of those mistakes in the past and you react differently.”
Emotion and experience are definitely key factors in whether revenge takes place on the racetrack. But the most important factor of all in race is safety. And if a driver does decide to settle a score on their own, they need realize the possible ramifications.
“There is a certain time and place for it,” said Kittleson. “There is definitely the safety factor to think about. I’d hate to be responsible for hurting somebody, but if you are going to give it, you have to be prepared to get it.”
Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt, that’s a fact. Emotion is what fuels our sport and sometimes it can get the best of you. The Revenge Factor is also something that fans in this sport thrive on; they love to talk about it. But does that still make it right, or wrong?
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