Commentary by: Andy Marquis ~ Andy@RACE22.com
Copper Hill, VA(November 29, 2012) – For days now, I’ve seen the relentless verbal assault on Brandon Brown and his father Jerry, who co-owns Southern National Motorsports Park. The sentiments have been unanimous. People have said Brown was not penalized for a late race incident because his father is the track’s co-owner, which explains the disqualification Brown received earlier this year.
Now, let’s revisit the controversy. Late in the race, Brown received damage in an accident, causing his fender to flap around. Brown tried to fix the damage by scraping the wall, hoping to pancake the car so the fender would remain intact. This strategy backfired and the young driver found himself with more damage than the car initially had.
Now, Brown should have been penalized for this. Danny McCall, who worked the race as Matt McCall’s spotter said drivers were told there would be a five lap penalty if they rubbed the wall to repair their car in a comment on the RACE22.com Facebook page that has since been deleted. However, he wasn’t But I don’t think that’s Jerry Brown’s doing. NASCAR Whelen All American Series Director Lynn Carroll was directing the race.
The following restart, Brown had problems getting the car going and collected Brandon Dean. Dean was furious over the incident. This led to a comical series of events under the caution that ultimately resulted in Mike Darne, who was ready to take a shot at eventual race winner Greg Edwards, running out of fuel and losing the race. A few days later, Brown and Dean discussed the incident, according to Brown.
Allow me to say that if I was a track promoter or owner, I would not let family members race at my facility due to the conflict of interest scenario. However, Brandon Brown insists his father is not the one who ultimately makes the calls when it comes to him. But it’s one of the many things Michael Diaz and Jerry Brown learned in their first year managing Southern National Motorsports Park.
In the fallout of Sunday’s race, Brandon Brown said in a Facebook post he would not compete full-time at Southern National next season. Brown will run some of the big races at Southern National but will focus on winning a NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Championship. Brown told me earlier he would run at Motor Mile, South Boston and Langley in 2013, citing his father’s co-ownership at Southern National as the main reason.
As people continue to beat up on Brandon Brown through social media, ask yourselves this: Is there anyone who feels worse about what happened than Brandon?
“I do want to officially apologize on a personal note for anything that happened on Sunday at the race,” Brown said in a Facebook post. “Brandon Dean being a victim of a bad start would be first… I have been in my car for (only) the third year and I am learning. I am far from being the best out there but that is my goal. I would like everyone to know that I so badly owe a big victory to Brandonbilt Motorsports and The Sign Shop. But I had been pushed all year and couldn’t say anything in fear of the tracks and my reputation.”
As for the track itself, I’m not sure much more can be said than what has already been said. The officiating was debatable. The cautions were lengthy. There were hiccups. These sorts of growing pains happen to new racetracks just like young racecar drivers also make mistakes. What happens is the track gets its metaphorical slap in the face and learns from the past.
The family connection seems to be something that is overstated far too often in this sport. Whether it is a driver like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. riding his father’s name in to a Sprint Cup ride or it is Brandon Brown racing at a track his father co-owns, the bottom line is racing is a family sport. Most people catch the racing bug because it’s more like a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation, and that’s something that should not be discouraged.
This sport was built as a family sport. Names like France, Earnhardt, Petty, Jarrett and Allison helped lay the foundation for stock car racing as families, from generation to generation. That aspect has not changed. Chances are it’s how short track racers and fans became interested in the sport. It can be a son working on his father’s late model sportsman car in the garage, or it can be a daughter sitting in the stands with her parents at Franklin County Speedway.
As for Brandon Brown deciding to race elsewhere next year, it’s the right decision. However, it’s completely insane to suggest Jerry Brown has acted in a role to help his son. Brown’s one win on the season, at Southern National, was followed by a disqualification. In other words, Brown violated the rules, the infraction was discovered and Brown was subsequently penalized for the infraction. The process worked as it should and no favoritism was shown.
Drivers should not race at tracks run by relatives. Robert Pressley doesn’t allow his son, Coleman Pressley, to race at Kingsport Speedway on a weekly basis. Brandon Brown should not race at Southern National. It puts the driver and the track owner or promoter in unfair positions.
In the end, however, lessons were learned and it’s time for fans, drivers, teams and track management at Southern National to look forward.