Crew member’s 4-race suspension may be harsh, but so is life
Jimmy Watts, the gas man for the #47 Cup team, has been suspended for the next four races for his now infamous tire-chasing performance during Sunday’s race at Atlanta.
I can already hear the critics saying, “That’s too harsh! He just was following his instinct and trying to retrieve the tire. Cut him a break.”
While I know Watts regrets his decision now and have nothing against him personally, this is one of those times in life someone has to learn their lesson the hard way.
Instincts are not always right, and when they are wrong bad things can happen.
In this case, Watts’ instinctual decision to chase that tire halfway to the racetrack resulted in just 6 cars being on the lead lap instead of 30+. While he may not have changed who won the race, he certainly changed where a lot of the drivers finished.
For those who think NASCAR is being too hard on Watts, picture this scenario. Let’s say there’s a driver who had a strong car but finished several spots lower at Atlanta because Watts’ decision trapped him laps down. Let’s say that driver finishes 10 points out of 12th place and making the Chase. In theory, Watts’ decision would have cost that driver a shot at the Cup.
I know that’s an extreme example that probably won’t happen, but it illustrates how the actions of everyone on the track, including the crew members, can impact everything from race outcomes to championship winners.
Everyone, including the drivers who were very critical of him after the race, knows Watts meant no harm and was just trying to do the best job for his race team. But just as in everyday life, when you make a mistake you must pay the consequences. I’m sure as he sits home watching the next four races on his TV, Watts will be reciting the NASCAR rulebook in his head so he doesn’t ever have a similar impact on a race in the future.
A slap on the wrist would not have gotten the point across, and this suspension serves not just to punish Watts. It serves as a reminder to all crew members in the sport that they must follow the rules so they don’t influence the race in ways they are not supposed to.
To some, it still may look as though NASCAR is being too harsh and picking on a guy when he‘s down.
But life is harsh, so there’s no reason NASCAR should be any different.
I really feel for the guy, as he is now permanently recorded in NASCAR’s history for this error in judgment. But in the long run, it may be a positive influence on Watts if he takes it as a life lesson.