NASCAR freed drivers to bump and bang without fear of penalty with their announcement last year of letting drivers go back to the roots of NASCAR.
During the annual NASCAR Media Tour in January 2010, NASCAR officials took a new stand with changes to policy. They spoke of the changes from the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C.
In a quote on SceneDaily.com, NASCAR's Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said, "We will put it back in the hands of the drivers and we will say, 'Boys, have at it, and have a good time."
President Mike Helton stated, "There's an age-old saying that in NASCAR, if you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing."
Helton went on to say, "And I think that's what the NASCAR fan and NASCAR stakeholders all bought into, and all expect."
In an Associated Press article on ESPN.com, Helton was quoted as saying, "It doesn't mean that you get a free pass-out-of-jail card, but it certainly means that we are encouraging the competitors for their character and their personality, within reason to be unfolded."
In a quote on NASCAR.com, the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR, Brian France, said, "NASCAR is a contact sport, our history is based on banging fenders."
Now the drivers have amped up their contact within the sport with their behavior at the track, and NASCAR is faced with where they need to draw the line. Drivers need to know where the line is drawn.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman garnered all the attention with their on-track antics the prior week at Richmond.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers headed to Darlington and a melee broke out with all the strange happenings at the track "Too Tough to Tame."
An apologetic Montoya sent five-time champion Jimmie Johnson spinning. His apology seemed less than sincere to the No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus and his driver.
Cars were going three wide on a one groove track. Spinning cars and mangled sheet metal added to the mix of cars with the traditional Darlington stripe on their right side.
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick battled on the track, with Busch calling Harvick's behavior "unacceptable" in a post-race interview on FOX TV.
After the checkered flag, Harvick came to a stop on pit road with Busch pulling up to his rear. Harvick abandoned his car to make his way to Busch's car so he could throw a punch.
Busch nailed the rear of the driverless car and headed for the garage. The No. 29 Budweiser car veered to the left and plowed into the inside pit road wall.
It was pure luck that one or more individuals were not injured with pit crew members walking down pit road.
Harvick and Busch were ordered to the NASCAR hauler where both drivers soon exited with little to say about the incident.
NASCAR must now decide if they need to step in a quash the excess personality drivers are showing with aggressive behavior. It will be unfortunate if more than a monetary fine and probation is assessed.
The policy of "Boys Have At It" is good for NASCAR. Fans are not only seeing great competition, but the type of racing that goes back to the basics of NASCAR.
Busch and all the competitors need to be warned of the potential repercussions of thoughtless behavior when intense emotions are at play and anger is rampant.
These drivers are among the best in motorsports and need to exercise some self control even when they find their frustration level over the top.
NASCAR was light on Carl Edwards in March 2010 when he made a premeditated attack on Brad Keselowski with his race car at Atlanta.
Edwards had been in the garage for a lengthy stay and returned to the track 153 laps down. Keselowski was contending for a win when Edwards took aim and sent him airborne.
It was an act that many thought Edwards should be heavily penalized for, yet NASCAR didn't want to back down on their policy to let the drivers police themselves and show personality. Edwards got a mere three week probation.
Harvick and Busch are both talented drivers in the sport of NASCAR. Both drivers have fans who love them or love to hate them.
The sport needs this type of rivalry as well as the bad boy activity that Montoya has been displaying. Heading to Dover's concrete "Monster Mile" should make for more controversial action on the track.
Competition may be at a higher level than we have seen in a while and the intensity to drive for a win will only gain momentum. If the drivers want to play rough, at least the cars are much safer than ever.
This is hardly the time for NASCAR to rein in the drivers. Racing is getting good, so let the boys be boys and let them race like NASCAR intended many years ago.
Update: A fine of $25,000 was levied on Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick for the pit road altercation at Darlington Raceway. In addition both drivers will be on probation for the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup points races.
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