Monday, December 08, 2008

Gillland:Forever Branded as a NASCAR Bad Boy!

When one action overwhelms perception!

NASCAR is filled with personalities, ranging from drivers through the owners, NASCAR officials, and indeed, the track owners. Sometimes, one instance can make an impact on how that person will be perceived forever. At Texas Motor Speedway, during the fall Sprint Cup race, we saw an event of pure payback that still is discussed in the media, and has indeed become a label for all actions both previous and future. David Gilliland suddenly became a Bad Boy!

David Gilliland was 2 laps down in 23rd position, and had been told by his crew chief to keep his spot, as they were racing for points position with many of the cars behind them. They also needed to maintain position with an eye on several cars that were only a lap down, as one of them having problems could mean the difference in points and in money for the beleaguered Yates Racing organization.

Many of David's fans, and a few fans of other drivers, were privy to the actions on the track that day. Apparently, ABC was not as informed, as they did not show any of the events leading up to David's 'moment'. Through the 3-D View of's Raceview, we saw David get punted several times by Juan Pablo Montoya. And those stalwart fans also know that this is not the first time that JPM has punted David. David 'lost it' and for many of his fans, it was about danged time! Would it have been better at a short track? Yes. Would it have been better for David to just loosen JPM? Yes. But it did not happen that way and it appears that David will now be defined by that act for the rest of his career in NASCAR.

To quote David, “Juan and I had been going back and forth for a few laps. Juan got into my left rear and actually lifted my car. I hate that both cars were torn up. I was out there racing. I meant to get him loose but I didn't mean to wreck him and ruin both of our days. I feel real bad for my team and Yates Racing."

Those who know David know that he is one of the nicest men on the track. Somewhat shy and a plain speaker, he usually does not give the practiced and polished persona that many NASCAR drivers ooze publicly. However his fans hear David on the scanner, and they understand that he is passionate and forthright in his communication, and yet the communication is clear of profanity and disrespect to his team members. There are many drivers in NASCAR's top series who cannot make that claim. I have always marveled that the Public Persona of some of NASCAR's top drivers can be at total odds with their persona in private, and the scanner chatter is one of the first places to hear the difference. And yet, many of the media will continue to discuss David's transgression as if he were the worst of Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick rolled into one!

For instance, we have a writer for Foxsports, Kristin Valus, who proclaims that David should go to Anger Management class! Huh? While she mentions the obvious issue at TMS, she also cites David Gilliland at Watkins Glen, as having issues with Michael McDowell. The situation there is widely accepted by the vast majority of NASCAR media not named Kristin, that the WG incident was not David's fault. In fact, the only person who proclaimed otherwise, was McD's team owner, Michael Waltrip, who has since dumped the same driver he so staunchly defended. (And yes, Mikey is totally believable, after Jet-Fuel-Gate, and Track-Bar-Gate!)

Many drivers in NASCAR become defined by specific acts. Those actions become a benchmark for all actions past and future. What is important to understand, is that one act does not define the personality for ever and ever. If it did, then we would see many of NASCAR's top drivers being defined only by their bad parts, and not by their 'good parts.' For instance, Tony Stewart would not be forgiven for many of his on track antics even though he is widely known as a very kind and generous man.

There is so much good about David Gilliland, and I am still a staunch fan! I know that he is not perfect, and yet what David IS, is something that anyone who takes the time to know David will find out, there is a good man under all of that negative perception. Given a half a chance, and a full sponsor, I have no doubts that David will show the world what he can do! And even if he doesn't shed the mantle of 'the dastardly deed' he will make his way into respect by most of NASCAR's drivers, especially those that have already felt the wrath of the JPM bumper!