Memorable words from smartass drivers

What people say, and how they say it, often speaks more about something than any descriptive paragraph or passage ever will.

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

Being in the newspaper biz, I’ve always got my ear cocked for a good quote. What people say, and how they say it, often speaks more about something than any descriptive paragraph or passage ever will.

One of my favourites came from the lips of the late NASCAR owner-driver Alan Kulwicki, who was asked if there was any difference between racing on Saturday nights and the usual Sunday afternoons.

Said the Polish jokester: “It’s basically the same, only darker.”

Dale Earnhardt Sr. once described stock car racing this way:

“You win some, you lose some and you wreck some.”

So here we go with this year’s Roundup of Great Racing Quotes from 2006. Although they are not in any particular order, this first one is Number 1 – my choice as quote of the year.

Said Michael Waltrip, after viewing the front of Men’s Health magazine (that featured a photo of a “ripped” Carl Edwards): “I let Carl borrow my body for that cover shot.”

Close behind (for quote of the year, not physical fitness) was our own Paul Tracy, who had this to say after his fight with Alex Tagliani in the streets of San Jose, Calif., last July:

“Never punch a guy when he still has his helmet on. My hand’s a bit sore right now.”

Not as funny, but certainly telling, was this Tracy quote after he injured himself so severely that he couldn’t compete in Champ Car’s last scheduled event in Mexico:

“I’m sorry to say it (the injury) was self-inflicted. I had a little too much to drink and thought it was a good idea to go out on an ATV and jump sand dunes. Wrong – it wasn’t a good idea.”

People who are angry often come up with the best quotes. Toronto’s Marty Roth let forth with a few zingers following Indianapolis 500 qualifying last May (after which some U.S. reporters had said some less-than-complimentary things about his talent):

“Another guy crashed on Sunday, Sam Hornish. Didn’t hear any trash talk about him. My car was a handful. It wasn’t working. I was white-knuckling my way around that place. Hornish had a car that you could drive with your little finger on the wheel. There’s nothing easier to drive than a fast car. I had a slow car that I was trying to make go fast. I crashed, he crashed. Nobody trashed him – and he trashed a good car.”

NASCAR’s Tony Stewart is one of the best in the business when it comes to giving good quotes.

On meeting U.S. President George W. Bush:

“I said, `Hi, boss,’ and he said, `What’s up, dude?'”

On climbing up to the starter’s stand after winning races:

“I’m too old and too fat, but as long as those people keep cheering when I get up there, I’m going to keep doing it.”

On showing up at minor-league indoor events, like the “Rumble at Fort Wayne” midget race just after Christmas a year ago, and winning:

“Every year, all the other drivers go out to the bar and try to get me drunk so I can’t run the next day. It didn’t work this time.”

P.J. Chesson is a sprint car driver who had the time of his life last May in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500:

“I’ve flown in an F-16. I’ve gone to fires in fire trucks. I’ve knocked stuff over in bulldozers. I’ve qualified for the Indy 500 and I’ve been out with a whole lot of really good-looking girls. I’ve told everybody I’m happy to die tomorrow.”

The most significant quote of the year came from the lips of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Monza in September:

“At the end of this year, I’ve decided, together with the team, that I’m going to retire from racing. I’ve really loved every single moment of the good and the bad times. In particular, I should thank my family, starting, obviously, with my dad, my passed-away mum and obviously my wife and my kids who, at all times, supported what I was doing, and without their support, without their strengths, to survive in this business and this sport, and to perform, I think would have been impossible.”

Tiger Woods, when asked who was the greatest sportsman of this generation, replied:

“It has to be Michael Schumacher. His consistency does it for me. He has performed year in, year out under immense pressure. What he has done is phenomenal.”

Not everyone agrees with Woods. Said two-time world champion Fernando Alonso:

“Michael is the man with the most sanctions and is the most unsporting driver in the history of Formula One. Even Zinedine Zidane (the head-butting French soccer star) retired with more glory than Schumacher.”

Now, some guys seem to appreciate what they get in life. Here’s Jimmie Johnson after winning the Nextel Cup:

“This is the most amazing day of my life. I can’t thank enough people for this.”

Others don’t, apparently. Here’s Sam Hornish after winning the Indy 500:

“I had to stand around for three hours while the photographers took pictures.”

Are NASCAR races too long? Dale Earnhardt Jr. apparently thinks so. Here’s what he had to say on the subject:

“There is that point in the middle of the race where it’s sort of pointless. We’re just cutting laps, basically, to get to the end.”

Sprint car driver Danny Lasoski was confronted in the pits by his father after literally driving over his young nephew en route to winning a preliminary round of the Knoxville Nationals in August: Screamed Danny:

“Go ahead, then. Hit me! Hit me! Just like when I was a kid. Hit me!”

Okay, there are dozens more quotes I’ve accumulated over the past year – from Tony George essentially ending any hope of reconciliation in the Indy-car ranks to Ryan Newman blaming Sterling Marlin’s hairpiece for causing an accident at Texas to Juan Pablo Montoya on why he really left McLaren (“The car drove me to boredom”) – but I’m out of room.

I’ll end this, then, with a quote from Helio Castroneves after fellow IRL driver Paul Dana was killed last March while practising for a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida:

“I wouldn’t say it’s fate, I’d say it’s destiny. It’s the guy upstairs. If it’s your time, it’s your time.”;

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