PIKE: A Letter To Anthony Wayne, Part V – In Defense of A Man

James Pike Cup, James Pike Blog, NASCAR, Staff Columns 0 Comments

This is the conclusion of my “Letter to Anthony Wayne”. Read part four here, if you want to catch up. Thanks for reading! I hope to see you at Homestead-Miami, because I’ll be there too!

– James

Our champion. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images photo)

The celebrations from the 2011 championship carried on into December of that year. Of course I bought all kinds of gear, but this time, I went on a full-on bonanza: hats, t-shirts, flags, pennants, all five raced-win 1:24s, plus the two championship color chromes! I knew this probably wouldn’t happen again, and I didn’t hold back.

Eventually, things subsided, 2012 came along, and some cool things happened. To see you win at Vegas after dominating the year before and not winning was nice, as was picking up the win in Fontana and the epic woody wagon trophy that goes with that race. Daytona was fun too, I guess.

But at that point, even Daytona wins had lost a little bit of their luster. I was tired of them all coming in the July race. A first-world problem if there ever was one, I know, but that I was tired probably also should have been a good indicator that you were starting to tire out from the routine too. You had so little left to prove, and I think you were done with everything we all knew you didn’t love about NASCAR.

The time bomb was ticking in my head, and it totally permeated the Dover win in 2013. I wasn’t certain if you would get another one, so I kept telling myself to appreciate this.

The broken leg wasn't fun, but the scooter was the hilarious silver lining! (Geoff Burke/Getty Images photo)

The broken leg wasn’t fun, but the scooter was the hilarious silver lining! (Geoff Burke/Getty Images photo)

Of course, everything changed in August when you broke your leg.

It hurt me too, for sure, but it only hurt in that it killed your shot at “ironman” status. But I was much more concerned with your well-being and getting those screws out of your leg. So I could live with it.

Shoot, seeing another racer in your mold in Max Papis run at the Glen and seeing another F.C.D.S. graduate in Austin Dillon almost win at Talladega in your car had some fun in it, in a backward sort of way.

I just wish that 2014 had been as fun too.

I remember reading the updates on Facebook that night. That something had happened, that Canandaigua’s police office was going to make a report, that there was a video. All I could make out was that it was hard to tell what happened.

But the American media? They had other ideas.

They read up and quickly remembered how much of a hothead you had been in the past. It was easy, then, to draw dots and say that you had just been really angry, and that your temper had gotten the best of you again.

Except this time, you took someone’s life with it. Or so they claimed.

But we, the people of racing, the folks that are around this sport week in and week out, knew that that wasn’t necessarily true, and that it could have just as easily been a matter of Kevin Ward stepping out too far onto the track.

By that point, I was working with the folks at Race Chaser Online and a contributor to the Madness that we air on Monday nights. I had my first foray into the motorsports media world. I recognized that there would be an early precedent set here that carried for a long, long time.

Simply put: this was a time of need in which people just wanted the truth, and I was in a good position to deliver it. It was going to call upon all of my experience as a fan, and the small amount of experience I had in the media world, combined with the best that my own intuition had to offer.

In turn, I went out and told people about the uncertainty of the situation. There were people that asked me, and there were people who brought it up around me, and every time it came up, I was vehement and adamant in my discussion of the matter. Emphatic in saying that we don’t know what happened, and that the media had drawn conclusions that they had too little evidence at the time to be making. It was a message that I compiled via a ton of articles on the web, a lot of comments on social media, and a few letters to editors of media outlets that I feel like missed the point with their columns.

Of course, some of that came in order to defend you too. I had supported you for fifteen years at that point. How could I not have said something?

But you needed us to be Robin Millers at that time anyway. You couldn’t say anything because it would literally be used against you in a court of law. And after all my time on the fan end of things, it was quite rewarding to be able to speak up, come to your defense and bat for you in a way that really mattered. I took a lot of pride in that, especially as the news came in that no charges would be pressed. Of course, I was worried at many points that you would be done in the Sprint Cup Series after this. So I was glad to see that your career could continue without an ignominious end!

It also still astounds me how wrong all of the major news networks were in covering the story. They were working off of snippets. I was working off of thorough knowledge of you as a person, with the suspicion that if you actually wanted to kill someone with a race car, we would know almost immediately.

I lost a lot of respect for a good number of major American news outlets in those weeks, just based off of the way they covered everything. I learned a lot of lessons in those few weeks, and I’m hoping that they can be put to good use in the future in my quest to be more Robin Miller-like and to get the story right.

Continued on the next page…

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