It was announced today that both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were fined $25,000 and put on probation for the next four Sprint Cup Series events following the events that took place after the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway Saturday night. The penalties stem mostly, if not completely from only what happened after the checkered flag on pit road however, and not the preceding incidents on the track in the final laps.
Now that we have NASCAR's reaction to the altercation one has to wonder, are they headed in the right direction with how they police the "boys have at it" mentality they implemented at the beginning of 2010?
There is no doubt we have plenty of examples to consider when we ask that question. Most memorably has to be the near-season long debacle between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski where Edwards not only sent Keselowski flying into the fence at Atlanta in the spring, but later in the season at a Nationwide Series event at Gateway hooked Keselowski again, much like Busch did to Harvick last Saturday night. What did Edwards get after Atlanta? Probation for three races. What about Gateway? Nothing.
Keeping with the "on-track" incidents we only have to flash back to Richmond two weeks ago where Juan Pablo Montoya intentionally wrecked Ryan Newman after Newman assisted Montoya into the turn two wall. There was no post race confrontation, although there was speculation later in the week of Newman throwing a punch at Montoya during a meeting with NASCAR Officials, but ultimately no fines or probation were issued.
Newman was also involved in a dust up with Joey Lagano following a race at Michigan last year, and Lagano was again involved in a pit road altercation with Kevin Harvick following an incident on the track at Pocono. Neither of these incidents involved much physical retaliation, however, and thus neither resulted in fines or probation. The physical altercation between Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon following a crash in Texas yielded no punishment either, even though it is arguably the most physical that we've seen in the last two years.
That makes two strictly on-track incidents, one with a three race probation, and three off-track incidents that resulted in no penalties at all. Something doesn't add up, and by comparison of the past one-and-a-half year's events the only new thing we witnessed Saturday was an unmanned vehicle being shoved out of the way by Kyle Busch. Yet both drivers received penalties.
In Harvick's shoes is it acceptable to shove like Burton and Gordon as long as you don't punch? Is it perfectly OK to get in another driver's face and drop the f-bomb in front of media repeatedly like Lagano as long as you don't aim to level that driver in the nose? And in Busch's shoes is the f-bomb acceptable as long as you don't give the finger to any of those media or that driver?
Where is the line NASCAR? As a fan watching on a weekly basis I see the line as this: Cause as much damage with a 3,500 pound vehicle as you like, but don't you dare get physical after the race or we will drop the hammer. Again, something doesn't add up. Now I'm all for seeing some personality in drivers; therefore, I'm a huge supporter of boys who have at it, but I would much rather see a fight in the infield (Daytona 1979, anyone?) than I would see a car getting hooked in the right rear and turned into the wall or thrown into the grandstands.
Maybe it's just me, but it appears as though NASCAR has their judgement backwards.