It happens all across America.
From New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, to Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, to Anderson Speedway in Indiana, to Bakersfield.
Drivers gather for a night of short track racing, situations happen on or off the track and altercations break out.
Sometimes it’s just some yelling, pushing and shoving. Sometimes it’s a scuffle, other times a fight and once in a while a full-on brawl.
Heck, it even happens at the highest level of NASCAR.
The most famous, or infamous, racing fight came in 1979 when Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked each other on the backstretch while battling for a Daytona 500 win and wound up throwing punches on the infield while Richard Petty roared past en route to victory. All in front of a then-rare nationally televised audience.
It just seems to be part of the racing culture.
Sometimes the altercations are so notable they draw media attention. Such as recent incidents at all the tracks previously listed or any NASCAR fracas.
I recall a time at the old Mesa Marin Raceway where an upset driver charged out of his car and climbed the flagstand to confront the flagman.
And I remember multiple sheriff’s cars outside of Bakersfield Speedway decades ago — along with a sheriff’s helicopter, light shining down, after a post-race brawl.
Ah. The “good old days.”
Far more often that not, altercations at tracks go largely unnoticed and no one is worse for the wear, other than bumps and bruises.
But it has got to stop.
Twenty-year-old Zachary Diamond of Bakersfield remains hospitalized with serious head injuries suffered on Saturday night when a verbal altercation between different family members turned physical at Bakersfield Speedway.
Who started what, who did this, who said that isn’t all that important.
The end result is what speaks volumes here and the end result is that a young man, just starting his life, is in a hospital bed fighting for his life.
Because of some little thing that might have happened on the race track?
Or words exchanged between parties that ultimately led to physical violence and the ugly mess?
According to the Kern County Sheriff Department, Zachary Diamond, the brother of Jacob Diamond and son of Manny Valdez, who each were in the race, was apparently punched by Kyle Flippo, the father of racer Jerry Flippo. Kyle Flippo was arrested on assault charges.
A driver fighting a driver is one thing. Not that it should be accepted. But I fully understand the emotions of a battle and the adrenaline rush that comes from competition, whether it be weekend warriors on a softball field, an ice rink, or a race track.
But all too often at race tracks across America, it isn’t just driver vs. driver, the “old school” way of handling situations. Sometimes the conflict starts with friends in the stands, pit crew members or family members in the pits.
On-track situations can quickly escalate and get out of hand as the antagonists end up in the same confined area (the pits) where friends and family (all equally upset) are waiting.
There are times track officials can see trouble coming, such as a race where a driver wrecks and that driver then tries to retaliate, and send extra officials and security scurrying to the pits to try and defuse any potential trouble.
Then there are situations such as last Saturday night when there appeared to be nothing malicious occurring on the track, yet a powder keg explodes in the pits.
Again, to what end?
This is at least the third instance of extracurricular activities at the Speedway this year, all within the last five weeks.
Kern County Raceway Park, across town, has not been immune to some pit brouhahas either.
The bottom line is, the local tracks want none of it in this day and age and do what they can to discourage fighting (suspensions and so forth). Plain and simple, trouble in the pits is bad for their business.
But officials and security cannot be everywhere at one time.
It’s up to all of those on the track and in the pits to have cooler heads, be sensible and realize that a trophy, a few hundred bucks (if that) and bragging rights is hardly worth fighting over.
Especially when it can cost someone their life.