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.

Why?

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?

Come on.

According to the Kern County Sheriff Department, Zachary Diamond, the brother of Jacob Diamond and son of Danny 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.

Mike Griffith can be reached at 661 395-7390. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeGriffith54.

(1) comment

KristenWhite

Hi Mike!!

I tried reaching out via comments on Facebook and messenger to try to see if we could get Zach’s gofundme added to one of your stories? I’m having difficulty getting it shared and Zach will be in the hospital for recovery for a undetermined amount of time. He’s currently still very injured and also having to learn things all over again like a baby. Below is what I wrote:

Hi There!!! I know that the mother is leery about speaking to the press due to the charges filed on the person who hit her son, but I’m still hoping that you can help me to get the word out on his GoFundMe? I’ve noticed that only Bakersfield.com has been made aware of the incident and I know how much the injured 20 year old will need the help. He’s got a very long road to recovery. Please see below posts that I’ve been posting everywhere.


“Hello family, friends, and kind strangers! My name is Kristen White and I am a long time friend of Linda Wilkins Valdez, mother to the recently injured, Zach Diamond. Myself and
Meg L Heslin Manson are working together to help this family in their time of need.

Linda’s 20 year old son, Zach, was recently physically assaulted for defending his mother during a verbal altercation with another man after a race at the Bakersfield Speedway (article link included). As Zach was trying to help his mom, he was hit in the head causing a skull fracture, hemorrhaging and swelling. Zach has been in the hospital since Saturday, June 9th. Originally in a coma and now in rehab to learn everything all over again. Walking, talking, etc... (Updates have been added to the GoFundMe campaign)

As any parent would, his mother, Linda and stepfather, Danny, have been at the hospital by his side ever since. As they, and Zach, are not able to work during this time and the mounting medical bills coming their way, we are working to try to get funds together to allow them to focus on what matters most right now - their son. Per Linda, ALL proceeds will go into Zach’s account for his everyday life bills (that he cannot work to support right now) and all of the medical bills that will be mounting. We’re so thankful for the prayers from all of you and to those who have donated! Please remember, even if it’s just $5 (gofundme’s minimum limit) that’s going to add up and help Zach tremendously!!! Please, please, please find it in your hearts to help! He still has a long road to recovery so the funds received are SUPER helpful in his time of need

All donations will be used to cover medical and living expenses.
With Linda as the beneficiary to this campaign, she will have direct access to all donations.

Every little bit helps but if you are unable to donate financially, we simply ask that you join us in prayers for their family, the doctors and nurses working to save Zach’s life and above all else, Zach’s healing.

Thank you!
#ZachStrong #DonateZach #Prayers4Zach”

GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/donate-for-zachs-recovery

http://www.bakersfield.com/sports/altercation-at-bakersfield-speedway-leaves-one-hospitalized/article_46ed00d0-6e66-11e8-bb08-371dc538b4cb.html

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