NASCAR DADS – After helping sons to the top, fathers must adjust to the sidelines
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
Father’s Day on the NASCAR circuit is an interesting time. Most drivers in today’s Sprint Cup Series got there in large part because their fathers supported their racing from the beginning and in many cases paid for the race cars they drove in attracting the attention of the big NASCAR teams.
But once a driver reaches the top levels of the sport, there’s really no place for dad.
Some, like Joey Logano’s father Tom Logano, are very visible at the track and remain a big part of their son’s racing. But that can be problematic, as illustrated by the controversy surrounding the elder Logano’s participation in a post-race incident at Pocono Raceway between his son and Kevin Harvick. Tom Logano appeared to be urging his son to confront Harvick, and some say he shoved a TV reporter. It’s not the first time Tom Logano has been involved in a post-race pit-road incident.
Other dads, like Tony Stewart’s father Nelson Stewart, are there at the track most weeks but go out of their way to stay in the shadows. Nelson Stewart can be as fiery as his son, but he’s come to realize that his place is now on the sidelines.
Other dads rarely even show up at the track.
Logano, in meeting with reporters at Michigan last week, defended his father’s role in the incident at Pocono the week before.
“My father, I love him to death, and he’s there for me,” he said. “So I think that’s something that’s really cool, and a lot of people don’t have that.
“He’s always been by my side my whole life and maybe it was a position that maybe he shouldn’t have been there, but he’s a father and I bet 99 percent of the fathers would’ve been there anyway.”
Harvick, not surprisingly, saw it differently.
“His father needs to stick back and act like all of the rest of the dads, and be happy that his kid’s here,” Harvick said. “This isn’t Little League baseball anymore. He just needs to stay away.”
Harvick went on to say that his own dad is supportive, but there are others who can offer him better advice on dealing with the challenges of being a Sprint Cup driver.
“That is where I think my family sits,” he said. “They’ve never experienced anything at this level, and it’s hard to take that advice from people who haven’t ever experienced anything like that …
“For me, I was fortunate to have Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and those guys. They were always able to give me advice and do things. When I needed things, those were the guys.”
Eddie Wood, in addition to being a Sprint Cup team owner, has been a racing dad to his son Jon. But for the most part he’s stayed in the bacground there.
“When Jon was playing ball and my daughter Jordan was playing volleyball and soccer, I wouldn’t even sit with my wife because she was always yelling,” Wood said. “I tried to use the same [hands-off] approach in racing.”
Wood did serve as a spotter for his son in some Nationwide races, but that didn’t work out too well.
“I got him spun out at Atlanta,” he said. “I cleared him and he wasn’t clear.
“I retired after that.”
Wood said that when his son is racing, he generally sits in the grandstands, and listens in on the team radio but doesn’t hit the “talk” button.
“I still have the same emotions,” he said. “But you wouldn’t ever know it.”