As long as there has been Motor Racing there has been Motor Racing fathers. Quite often these racing fathers have raced themselves, and many are very knowledgeable, while in others you see the "Soccer Dad" mentality, where they are living their dreams that they were never able to achieve through their kids.
This last weekends Champcar Race at Watkins Glen included an ugly brawl incident that started between Tony Kannan and Sam Hornish Jr, and escalated firstly to a shoving match between Sam Hornish Sr (Sam Hornish Jr’s dad) and Tony Kannan, and then to an all in brawl between a number of people.
Some comments were then made afterwards by Tony Kannan, asking why Sam Hornish Sr got involved, and then secondly stating that father should not be allowed near the pits.
This raises all sorts of questions. In my experiences over the years I have seen all different kinds of dads and indeed whole families who have been on the sidelines with their racing offspring. There are those that are quiet and remain in the background, and then there are those that are there all the time watching every move the team makes, offering advice and at times getting in the way. The burning question is should those fathers/mothers/families be around, or should they be banned from following so closely.
My thoughts, and again after years of being involved in this, are divided. These family people are the very people who usually have sacrificed as much, and even sometimes more than the driver to ensure the drivers early career actually got off the ground, and without these people there would be no young and upcoming drivers.
At the same time, once a driver has progressed to the upper ranks, there is probably a time where the family members should back off and let the team work with the driver un-interrupted. I know that there are many people involved in motorsport teams that hate for a drivers family to be around the driver at events, citing distraction as the biggest reason.
The only answer I can come up with on this question is "It depends". I say, yes the family members should be there, after all why should they not share in some of the glory after all the years of hard work and sacrifice, after all very few race car drivers have succeeded without a huge support teams behind them over the years, including their families. It also depends on the attitude of the family members. They do need to recognize that the driver has moved on from the early days racing in karts and other formula where a small family run team could win championships, and that now the teams running the cars are professional organizations whose only job it is, is to win races. On the teams side, team members need to remember that they would not be working with their "Superstar" if it were not for the family of that superstar working hard to keep the superstar racing in earlier days.
If both sides recognise the above points, the answer is yes, well behaved fathers/families should be at the drivers side in the pits, but then when fathers go bad, maybe they should realize they need to give their sibling some space and quietly keep their distance a little.
Let me know your thoughts on this tricky subject.