Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:48 am
By Pete Pistone

The 2011 NASCAR season is one race away from going into the record book. All three of the sanctioning body’s top divisions have featured tight championship battles going down to the wire but none closer than the three points separating Cart Edwards from Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But when the Cup champion is finally crowned in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway it might be the second most memorable story of the season.

Unfortunately a year marred by a series of intentional paybacks and retaliation is what 2011 may be most remembered for producing.

The “Boys Have at It” era reached yet another low last Sunday in Phoenix when Brian Vickers purposely put Matt Kenseth into the wall as an obvious carryover from their feud at Martinsville two weeks earlier.

Kenseth said he knew it was coming because Vickers had told people all week he planned to extract more revenge for the duo’s several tangles at Martinsville. Vickers denied the accusation saying Kenseth does still have one coming except what happened at Phoenix wasn’t it.

"I wasn't planning on paying him back," Vickers said. "He wrecked me at Martinsville; he got wrecked here. I'm not saying I wasn't going to pay him back; I'm just saying that wasn't it." 

NASCAR saw it as a “racing incident” and did nothing to punish Vickers chalking it up to just two drivers competing for the same piece of real estate. 

But only a week earlier, the sanctioning body came down with a mighty blow on Kyle Busch for his intentional wrecking of Ron Hornaday in a Texas Motor Speedway truck race. Busch got parked for the remainder of the weekend’s races at TMS including Sunday’s Sprint Cup main event and was also fined $50,000 while being placed on probation until the end of the season. Busch’s problems continued through the following days when sponsors pulled out of agreements and team owner Joe Gibbs lowered the boom internally with disciplinary actions. 

All of which begs the question of what the difference was between what Busch did and how Vickers behaved on Sunday. 

It’s true that Busch’s actions took place well under caution and that certainly made it a much more egregious affair in the eyes of NASCAR. Insubordination is not a favorite display of behavior of the sanctioning body. 

But other than that it’s hard to make a case for Vickers at least not being parked for the remainder of the Phoenix race, as Busch was initially in the aftermath of the Texas tangle. 

The inconsistent enforcement in any of these cases has seriously impacted NASCAR’s credibility once again.

The intent of “Boys Have at It” was simple – to allow drivers to race each other hard and not worry about NASCAR stepping in and overly officiate races. 

Fans had cried for the return of “rubbin’ is racin” for years and when NASCAR decided to relax its grip the hope was to increase the level of competition and excitement. 

But now two years later the creed has turned things into a free for all and created an environment more in line with “wreckin’ is racin’,” which it is absolutely not. 

From the moment Carl Edwards flipped Brad Keselowski in a payback move at Atlanta in 2010, the Pandora’s Box was ripped wide open. NASCAR’s mild reaction of basically just probation for Edwards’ act set the bar for how this Wild West environment would be tolerated. 

It led to a multitude of intentional paybacks and retaliatory moves that weren’t limited to just the Sprint Cup Series but included ugly incidents in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Time and again NASCAR turned its head and refused to make any kind of call for even the most flagrant of fouls. 

And although there was supposedly some kind of line drawn after Busch’s actions in Texas, Sunday’s move by Vickers clearly demonstrates payback crashing is still very much an accepted form of behavior. 

It has to stop and immediately is not soon enough. 

NASCAR has to step up and do what major league professional sports leagues are supposed to do, govern their events and make the tough calls. Simply sitting back and letting drivers police themselves is not doing anything but giving every race the potential to turn into a county fair demolition derby rather than a big league auto racing event. 

It’s ironic that weekly short track officials around the country have less tolerance for the kind of behavior that many of the supposed best drivers in the world have been demonstrating. Any of the blatant spin outs or wrecks that have occurred across NASCAR’s top three divisions in the last two years would have resulted in a short track driver being parked or banned more often than not. 

But in NASCAR today it’s not penalized but rather encouraged. 

The off season is right around the corner and there will be plenty of time for NASCAR officials to discuss how to reign in this embarrassing behavior and provide some sanity to the sport.

More NASCAR coverage


Since: Oct 10, 2011
Posted on: November 18, 2011 9:16 am

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

At least we agree NASCAR SUCKS!!! Kyle Busch gets parked for retaliation in the truck series, taking him out of the Cup series !! Vickers crashes everything that passes him the last month no punishment make sense. Well i'm sure BIG Bill and all the men that founded this sport Thank you !!Mike Helton has turned this sport into a joke not single handed mind you but very calculated amongst the  staff at Nascar. Own all the Tracks or you won't get a race . Tear through the streets of Daytona high on COCAINE GET THE CASE TROWN OUT BECAUSE THE WRONG JURISDICTION FINALLY STOPPED THE PUNK ASS GRANDSON OF THE FOUNDER !!! Say your sorry go to a class  and Race again !! And all the public hears about is KYLE BUSCH AND Jeremy Mayfield Why is it because Kyle pissed off Hendrick, and Jeremy accused Ray Everham of SCREWING Erin Crocker while he was married !! Mayfeild has become a disaster!! But why is Frances grandson still aloud to drive? Just idle thoughts from someone  who USED to really LOVE the sport!!!!

Since: Dec 1, 2007
Posted on: November 16, 2011 5:05 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

The idea of retaliation is ok up to a certain point.  A driver that is P.O. 'd and takes retaliation during the heat of the moment situation is one thing, waiting a race or even more to intentionally cause a wreck is another thing.  I think that part of it has gotten out of hand. 

Since: Oct 6, 2010
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:08 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

If Edwards wins the cup and is up on the podium for the world to see then NASCAR just proves what a joke they are. Just a few weeks before Busch was hammered for doing something that was nowhere as near dangerous as what Edwards did. BK's car could have ended up in the stands. Then Vickers has a "racing incident". The only conclusion I can come to is that NASCAR thinks the fans are stupid.

Since: Feb 18, 2008
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:08 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

How 'bout a scoreboard in the drivers' meeting room for all to see?  There, the drivers can ALL clearly see who is due for payback, and how severe.  They can also write that more severe or less severe payback is necessary.

OR, NASCAR can simply do ITS stinking job (writing and enforcing rules) and letting the drivers do THEIR job - finish as high each race as possible - not worry about paying everyone back who ever cut them off during the year.

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: November 16, 2011 3:01 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

Just to clarify my post.  What I was suggesting in my earlier comment was geared towards keeping the guys that cause wrecks (al a Brian Vickers, Geoff Bodine and Michael Waltrip) to start driving a little smarter and stop playing pinball.  If you keep these types of drivers off of the track, than there will be more 'racing' and less cautions, which is how the race should be decided.

What criteria does NASCAR use to determine if a driver is capable of handling the vehicle in any of the various NASCAR series?  Ok, when you start out you get a 'rookie stripe', but has anyone ever been turned away because they just didn't have the skills needed at whatever given level?  It seems that decision is left up to the owner's and whether or not they are willing to allow a driver with less than stellar skills from getting behind the wheel of one of their race vehicles.

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: November 16, 2011 2:04 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

Forget fines - these guys have way too much money. What NASCAR needs to do is to not only sit drivers, but also ban the car from the next race. Hitting the owners with a loss of sponsorship dollars would make a big impact. A $25,000 fine is peanuts to most of these guys. Knock them 100 points and take them out of contention for a championship. Until the penalties are severe, nothing will change.

That said, NASCAR needs to start applying rules consistently. At the moment it is too much hit or miss.

Since: Jan 29, 2008
Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:32 pm

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

I have no issues with payback at all. To me it's the way it should be. It hasn't really affected the championship thus far and hopefully it won't. Back in the day they'd pay the guy back and get out of the car and finish a la Harvick, now that'd be fun to watch. If only Kyle wasn't such a punk that would have been awesome. As far as which will be more memorable it probably dependes on the race. If it comes down to the final laps people will remember it for sure and hopefully it will.

Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:39 am

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

I propse that NASCAR implement a crash/caution limit scale. 

Once a driver is determined to be responsible for bringing out 5 caution flags then the penalties should be something like:
  • #6 = monetary fine of $10,000
  • #7 = monetary fine of $25,000
  • #8 = driver/ower points of 5 points, and $50,000
  • #9 = driver/ower points of 15 points, and $100,000
  • #10 = parked for the remainder of the year

These drivers are supposed to be among the best drivers in the world and there is no reason that they should be causing wrecks.

Cautions caused by mechanical failure (i.e. blown tire or engine) or something like fluid on the track would not be counted against the driver/team.

The drivers/teams would not be so quick to exact revenge if they reallly had something to lose outside of a race care that had already been torn up.  When a driver goes behind the wall to fix the car just so he can go back out and take out the guy that took him out then the owner may think twice about having the team fix the car if he has more to lose, he may tell the guys to just load the car up and allow cooler head to prevail.

I have no problem with the 'BOYS HAVE AT IT', because NASCAR shouldn't have to play the role of a kindergarten teacher.

Since: May 7, 2009
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:38 am

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control


Since: Jan 4, 2011
Posted on: November 16, 2011 9:40 am

Idle Thoughts: Paybacks out of control

Why do owners put-up with this crap?!  If I had an employee who purposely caused several hundred thousand dollars of damage to my equipment, you know he'd be fired the next day.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or