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Friday, February 20, 2009

NASCAR should have been consistent, penalized Dale Jr. for rough driving

By now, all NASCAR fans have had countless discussions with their friends and family about the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Brian Vickers wreck that changed the complexion of the Daytona 500 and wrecked a bunch of race cars.

To be kind, Jr. had a rough day at Daytona on Sunday. Between his pit miscues and the Vickers incident, he didn’t get off to a very good start to the season. He was frustrated, and when Vickers made the decision to protect his position (which he had every right to do), Jr. ran into the back of him unnecessarily.

Most people agree that, at best, Dale Jr. was impatient and should have been more careful to avoid pushing Vickers into a field full of cars. But something that’s missing from many discussions is a harsh reality that should have happened, but didn’t -- Dale Jr. should have been penalized for rough driving just like Jason Leffler was punished Saturday in the Nationwide race.

Restrictor plate racing bunches up all the drivers, which raises a whole different set of safety issues and makes less things acceptable as far as rough driving. In Saturday’s race, Leffler ran into Steven Wallace and was penalized for five laps. On Sunday, Jr. ran into Vickers and was not penalized at all.

Was it because his name is Earnhardt? Many would argue just that. Others are saying it was just a racing deal and no penalty was required.

Maybe they’re right and it was just a racing deal. But NASCAR has to make up their mind. Either moves like this at restrictor plate tracks will be equally punished regardless of who the driver is, or neither driver should have been punished. But they can’t have it both ways.

I think a more reasonable penalty for both drivers would have been one lap. And while I’m not a conspiracy theorist regarding Dale Jr. and NASCAR, it’s hard to argue with the people who believe he got special treatment and Leffler did not this past weekend.


Anonymous yankeegranny said...

I think they were wrong to penalize Leffler. If they had not set him down for 5 laps, Sunday would been one of those "rubbing is racing" things and not the end of the world as we know it, Let 'em race.

February 20, 2009 at 3:01 PM 

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