Published Friday, July 9, 2010 | 3:25 p.m.
Updated Friday, July 9, 2010 | 3:27 p.m.
You’ve all heard and read the chatter this week about the exchange of words between A.J. Allmendinger and Richard Petty after last Saturday’s Daytona race. I’ve seen the exchange described as a “spat,” as “fireworks,” and as a “heated exchange.” The discussion may have been all of those things, but I think more is being made of this incident than it deserves.
It was unusual to see Petty in such a forceful mood as he leaned into Allmendinger's personal space in an attempt to hold his attention. That, and the fact that a camera was rolling, have made this event a story. We’re used to a calm and mannerly Petty who is quick with a smile and is gracious with the media and the fans. But The King didn’t seem overly worked up or intensely angry as he talked with Allmendinger. He did grab the driver’s uniform at one time, but as I said, he was trying to hold onto Allmendinger’s attention. It looked to me like Petty was just trying his best to impress upon the agitated driver, who obviously wanted to walk away, to take a deep breath and think before he acted on impulse.
There’s no doubt that Allmendinger was angry after his poor finish in the race. He sharply pulled away from Petty at one time and eventually walked away during the conversation. He wasn’t yelling or screaming, but he obviously didn’t want to hear any words of wisdom in his moment of extreme frustration. I probably wouldn’t have either. Nevertheless, this incident isn’t that big of a deal. It was just a wise and experienced veteran trying to provide some perspective to a driver who was frustrated and angry. Petty may have kept Allmendinger from doing something that he would later regret.
All in all, I find these aspects of NASCAR refreshing. I like to see drivers upset when things don’t go their way on the track. That means they are taking what they do seriously. And I’d rather see a driver angry than whining in a sarcastic tone about something that happened on the track.
This week the drivers head to the Chicagoland Speedway. Allmendinger finished 13th at that track last season.