Actions of NASCAR's Hamlin and Keselowski Demand Punishment

Roberta CowanContributor INovember 16, 2009

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #18 Z-Line Designs Toyota, leads the field during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Copart 300 at Auto Club Speedway on October 10, 2009 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Which is worse: an overly aggressive driver or a bully?

There are all kinds of ways to be an aggressive driver, but if you are going to drive aggressively, you have to use and keep your head.

A bully is a bully. Period. No one likes a bully. No one respects a bully.

So when does aggressive driving cross the line (or does it?) and when do repeated threats of personal harm and chaos cross the line from mouth to bullying?

In the real world, if you were to threaten to wreck someone's car or to cause them financial or personal harm, you would be arrested. If you actually carried it out, it would be a felony charge. If you used a 3,600-pound automobile to carry it out, it would be a Class C Felony—assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily harm. It carries a steep jail sentence and a felony record that will follow you the rest of you life.

Denny Hamlin did just that on national TV when he threatened Brad Keselowski. His claim that he would invite others "to cash their chips" against the young driver took it a step further. We all watched. Some of us sent our children to the other room. Some were not expecting it and are now trying to explain how NASCAR's WWE tactics could have possibly gotten so far out of hand.

Denny became a bully the last time this little war flared up. When you threaten a young driver with teaching him a lesson in the Cup series, you are wrong. When you threaten him with all your good buddies, you are wrong. When you claim that he isn't right in the head and so you are going to make him right and you don't need the sanctioning body, you have become not only a bully but a threat to the safety of everyone involved. And you should be dealt with accordingly.

Keselowski handled the interview a little better, stating that he drives like he is driven against and he holds no grudges. But his on-track performance showed different.

He was bumped up out of the groove. He spun Hamlin in front of a pack of cars. Granted, he didn't lose his when he was bumped and Hamlin did lose his. But lets be honest, the bumps were totally different. My daddy used to say that if you took the rear corner and were to the wheel, "it wasn't no accident." That was pretty apparent in this altercation.

Honestly, Brad was wrong. He crossed the line into overly aggressive when he spun Hamlin. He put others at risk for the sake of his anger and his vendetta. Innocent drivers just trying to run their race shouldn't have to pay the freight for his and Denny's grudge match. Other car owners shouldn't have to pay with their cars for these two's immature antics.

If Coach Gibbs and Dale Earnhardt Jr. want to pay that bill, let them take the track with no one else out there. Then no one else gets hurt and no one else pays the bill.

Nascar is responsible for both of these drivers as well as all of the others that could be hurt. They have allowed this grudge match to continue for over a year, stating that they have a policy of a self-policing garage. That must be something new, because others have been fined and suspended for both verbal and physical altercations as recently as California in the spring.

This is some more of NASCAR's WWE Bull Caca. They think by allowing this to continue they are going to drive up their sinking ratings. If there is retaliation or a fist fight it will sell tickets to the season opener next year to see where it will go.

Where it will go is nowhere good. Minor altercations in these cases usually have big consequences. Someone almost always gets hurts and it is rarely one of the feuding parties.

The drivers that are involved in this kind of threatened retaliation and cause the wreck that risks the lives and well-being of other drivers in the field should be parked—for their own good and everyone else's.

It's easy to act in the heat of anger and say "I don't care what the consequences are." It's a lot harder to close your eyes for the rest of your life and see the face of the driver you hurt and his family. It's just as hard to be a fan and watch it happen.

Points losses and money losses don't matter in comparison to the lives and well-being of fans, crew members and other drivers. There will be another race. There will be another season. If you sit this race out, you will think before you run your mouth and make threats again or lash out with a race car.

In a sport that has always prided itself on it's role models, NASCAR has sunk to an new low.

It is these kinds of outbursts that teach children to solve problems with violence. If someone hurts you, you hurt them back. Do we wonder why we have violence in schools if this is the picture our role models paint?

It's time to stop this fiasco before it gets any worse. There is a difference between self-expression and threats of physical violence. Who would have ever thought that they would have to stand up at a NASCAR race and say "stop the madness," our heroes mean more to us than that.

So what is the difference between an overly aggressive driver and a bully? Not a thing.

One intimidates and hurts you on the track and the other does so in the garage or on the TV screen. Both lack maturity and conscience for the results of their actions on other people.

But perhaps more importantly, both lack the compassion for those that watch their competition and the pain, trauma and fear that the results of their actions can cause.

Our sport can not afford to lose any more heroes. It has not rebounded from the last one lost. So sadly, as talented as these two young men may be, our sport can not afford them without some serious changes to their behaviors.

No one wants to see Keselowski become a mouse. And no one wants to see Hamlin become the Rev. Billy Graham. Somewhere responsibly in between the two would be the perfect solution.

But we can't afford them as they compete now.