In an exclusive interview, MSNBC's Rita Cosby talked to racecar drivers Michael Simko and Don St. Denis, who got into a wild altercation on the Toledo Speedway and have subsequently been suspened from ARCA indefinitely.
Cosby also interviews Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip about tempers on the racetrack.
You can read the transcript below.
RITA COSBY: Well, if you haven’t seen the video of the fight between two racecar drivers, take a look now. Michael Simko is obviously angry with Don for spitting him out and wrecking his car. It is a one-sided fight at first, but eventually St. Dennis throws a punch as well. Pretty feisty, pretty incredible stuff here as you can see on the Toledo Speedway. And I’ve got both drivers with me now to talk about the incident, and also their punishment. Michael Simko and Don St. Denis are both now live from Detroit in separate studios. Uh, but I want to bring up to both of you - because we spoke with both of you yesterday - you both have been suspended indefinitely from ARCA sanctioned races. Um, first, Mike, how do you feel about that? Tough lesson?
MICHAEL SIMKO: Well, yeah, I totally understand uh, ARCA had to come down with a pretty harsh punishment. Uh, my conduct on the track was pretty inexcusable and, uh, they had to come down pretty harsh on me and I totally understand and accept the punishment.
COSBY: Don, what do you think of the punishment?
DON ST. DENIS: Yeah, I understand and I accept the punishment, too. It, uh, kind of got carried away and, uh, being professional people we are, we should have, uh, held our tempers a little better.
COSBY: You know, as you look at the video of you guys, uh, what would you both like to say to each other. Michael, here’s a chance to speak directly to Don, uh, you just - we just saw you do the drop kick, you’re punching him there through the window - what do you want to say to him now on live TV?
SIMKO: Well, I mean I just - I absolutely apologize to you Donny. I mean, I let the heat of the moment - you know that when you strap into the racecar it’s like going to battle and you know that hours after the race you’re still all hyped up, and I just - I let my emotion take over and I wish I would have kept it in check better, but, uh, just - it happened and I hope we can put it past us.
COSBY: Don, what do you want to say to him?
ST.DENIS: I, uh, appreciate Mike, uh, speaking up and, uh, accept- I accept apology from Mike and, uh, I’m really sorry about, you know, racing - being a lap down, but I figured I could try to get my lap back and, uh, if I could, uh, run back up to the front - there was an accident up in the front with the leaders - I might have had my chance. But, uh, getting into Mike was not intentional and I’m sorry that that happened.
COSBY: Are both of you embarrassed here when you look at this video? This video has now been all over the country. I understand Don, you had to go through a tollbooth and they said: “Oh, you’re the guy on the video!”
ST.DENIS: Yeah, it’s uh, it’s amazing that it went this far. I never thought it would be this big and, uh, I don’t think Michael expected this either and going about this and actually knocking one of the ARCO officials down, I’m sorry for that, you know, like Michael said, heat of the moment there. The, uh, adrenaline’s going wild and, uh, just went crazy.
COSBY: You know and Michael, we just saw you do this drop kick. Um, how embarrassed are you when you look at the video?
SIMKO: It’s just - It’s like I stepped out of my body and I’m just asking myself, “What are you doing?” ‘Cuz this isn’t my temperament. This isn’t my character by any means. I pride myself on being a well-mannered individual and, uh, again I just apologize to everyone. I know that every day I’m looking for sponsors, trying to- trying to go big time in racing- and this isn’t going to - this is going to put a black mark on my future, I think, and I just - I hope people can look past it and we can move on.
COSBY: Well, both of you hold on, because I want to bring in someone who knows a lot about driving- and a little about tempers on the track - NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip, the great Daytona 500 winner joins me now on the phone. Michael uh, first of all, great to have you with us and so many people look up to you in the racing community - you’re amazing what you do in winning the Daytona 500 in, what, 2001, 2003? What advice do you have for these two young drivers who definitely got things out of hand.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I think, as a racecar driver, you’ve got to understand we’ve all been there. What I think is the most impressive thing, to listen to these two talk today and understand that any time you lose your temper - we’re adults, you know - you have to keep your temper in check, it doesn’t matter what you do and - and they have faced up to that. I think it’s really cool that Donny uh, accepted Michael’s apology, and I’ve lost my temper before and I regretted it. And I hope that any sponsors or uh, any companies that are looking at sponsoring you two uh, they - they hang with you because what you have done today in speaking out and owning up to your shortcomings I think is the most important thing that will come out of this.
COSBY: And, Don, what do you want to say to Michael Waltrip - one of the great racers of all kind?
ST.DENIS: That’s pretty cool to hear from MW there. You never thought you would hear from a professional racer about, uh, what happened here today between me and Michael, so that’s pretty cool. Thanks Mike
COSBY: What do you think they have ahead for their careers, Michael, and do you think this may hurt their careers? Or do you think the fact that they’re coming here - this could maybe turn things around for these guys?
WALTRIP: Well, I don’t know. I just hope it’s not a factor either way. You know we’ve - we’ve seen other drivers, including myself, do some silly things, and when it’s all over - like the guy said - they just regret that it’s ever happened. Michael said it best when he said he stepped out of his body. Uh, you know the cool thing was, at least you made a nice move, Michael. That was - that was pretty much - I’ve never seen somebody jump through someone’s windshield.
WALTRIP: You didn’t look goofy, you looked like you were right on target. And the, Donny, when you got out, there was no way anybody was going to stop you from where you were going. So, uh, you know, nobody got hurt. You know that’s… that’s - it’s emotion, it’s - you know, everybody’s OK. We wreck each other in our racecars and you could really hurt someone and, you know, if you just get in a squabble after the race, and uh, you know I like to tell Michael I love the idea, ‘cause I’m pretty sure when he comes out, he’s coming after you.
COSBY: Michael Waltrip, thanks so much for calling in, this is terrific to hear from you. Thank you as always you’re doing a great job out there and we thank you. And thank you to Michael Simko and Don St. Denis as well.
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