If you’re looking for a line to cross that will provoke the wrath of NASCAR, stop wasting your time.
There clearly isn’t one.
Drivers purposely running into each other in retaliation on the race track?
“Have at it Boys.”
Competitors taking sports cars out for 128 mph joyrides on public highways with 45 mph speed zones?
Enjoy the ride.
Team owners slugging drivers in the garage area?
Make sure you don’t lose your jewelry.
There’s a Wild West mentality going on in NASCAR these days and the sanctioning body doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
For nearly two years the payback and on-track retribution of the “Boys Have at It” era has continued to escalate.
What began as a slogan to describe NASCAR’s intent to loosen its reins on competitors and not over regulate the sport has morphed into a free for all that has spawned paybacks on the race track as well as fisticuffs in the garage area.
The latest example came on Saturday when team owner Richard Childress decided he’d seen enough of Kyle Busch’s antics and decided to deliver a knuckle sandwich in the Kansas Speedway Camping World Truck Series garage.
According to witnesses not since Nolan Ryan delivered a whipping to White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura for making an ill-advised trip to the pitcher’s mound back in the day had a more senior member of the sports world dispensed such a beating to someone several years his junior.
NASCAR’s reaction to the altercation?
You guessed it, not much.
The die was probably cast on Sunday when the sanctioning body allowed Childress to remain on the grounds at Kansas, although “in a restricted manner.” The logic given was that since RCR did not have another senior management type at the track, sending Childress away would be unfair to the organization.
So with that response perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the final punishment handed out on Monday was not a suspension of any kind but simply a $150,000 fine and the laughable “probation” period that NASCAR hands out like Halloween candy.
Childress will pay his fine, which for the record is the second highest in the sport’s history trailing only the 200k NASCAR hit driver Carl Long with when he showed up at the track with an engine that was off specifications by 0.17 cubic inches. By the way Long was also originally suspended 12 races for that infraction before the sentence was cut to eight events.
However Childress will be back at work this weekend much lighter in the wallet but really none the worse for wear.
The same cannot be said for NASCAR.
Yet again the sport of stock car racing has put itself in a bad light and the spotlight has been taken off the product to another sideshow production. It no longer matters who wins a race. The real story is what controversy, fight or other distraction NASCAR is involved in each week.
There isn’t another sport in the world that would tolerate the behavior on and off the track that has gone on in NASCAR this season. But rather than step in, make a statement and do its best to police itself and its image, the best NASCAR can do is hand out hollow justice and reinforce empty policies.
When Kyle Busch made headlines from coast to coast with his 128 mph speeding ticket two weeks ago, NASCAR didn’t even make an attempt to address the situation even though, whether right or wrong, the sport received a ton of bad publicity and in many cases was ridiculed.
What was obviously a dangerous situation was ignored and in the process sent a message that perhaps NASCAR condones such behavior. Silence is not always golden.
Instructing Busch to take part in public service announcements as an advocate of safe driving or talking to school groups about highway safety would have been the responsible thing for the sanctioning body to do.
When competitors decide to use their fists to get their point across in any other sport with the exception of hockey, there are repercussions.
However in NASCAR such behavior seems to be actually encouraged. Oh and that encouragement isn’t limited to simply the people behind the wheel. As the Childress altercation clearly indicates, team owners are welcome to participate as well.
Imagine any other team owner in any other professional sport being involved in a fight like the one Childress was in on over the weekend. How long would the NFL or NBA or Major League Baseball wait before banning that owner from attending games or conducting business at an event?
If you answered instantly you’re today’s big winner.
Richard Childress is one of the most respected people to ever spend one minute in the NASCAR world and rightfully so. He’s a pillar of the community, one of the sport’s biggest contributors and a future Hall of Famer.
He did not conduct himself in a manner that reflects any of those accomplishments on Saturday. It is NASCAR’s job to ensure its participants, especially at the level of team ownership, maintain a decorum of civil behavior as representatives of the sport.
NASCAR did nothing to indicate it cares one iota about such matters and by doing so has added to a track record that long ago crossed the line of embarrassment.
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