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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don’t believe the hype; NASCAR’s Richard Childress punishment was on target; no suspension was needed

In life, nothing is black and white; nothing is absolute.

This, of course, applies to NASCAR -- and in the wake of the Richard Childress punishment announcement following his attack on Kyle Busch, a lot of hyperbole is being thrown around.
Some people wrote that the $150K fine and yearlong probation, and the lack of any sort of suspension or ban from the track, was letting him off easy and encouraged NASCAR drivers and owners to be violent in the future.

That, my friends, is a bunch of hogwash. The fine was appropriate, in line with past NASCAR punishments, and perfectly in the line with the “Boys, have at it” mindset.
Here are some key bullet points to remember.

-- Those who are offended by the lack of a Childress suspension need to look at the history of the sport and when suspensions are handed out … it’s pretty rare. Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick have been parked for a Cup race, but that was only for directly disobeying NASCAR in Gordon’s case and announcing the intention to wreck another driver in a Truck race and then doing it in Harvick’s case. Jimmy Spencer was suspended when he punched Kurt Busch in the face at Michigan Speedway, but that was many years before “boys have at it” was introduced. Beyond that, while lots of physical confrontations have taken place on track and in the garage area, there are few suspensions to be found in recent years.
Suspending a team owner for putting Busch in a headlock and throwing a couple punches would not have been consistent with past decisions.

-- This is a “Boys have at it” era, so even those past punishments should be put in that perspective. The way I see it, only intentional dangerous acts – such as violent reaction on-track that could hurt a driver, or a violent physical attack outside the car that goes far beyond what Childress did – should lead to a suspension. Childress didn’t try to break Busch’s arms or anything “violent” like is being portrayed. He was angry at a guy who keeps disrespecting his equipment in multiple series, and wanted to send a message via an old-fashioned headlock and some fists flying. You may not agree with his methods, but it’s not fair to characterize it like Childress was hoping to send Busch to the hospital. He was letting the kid know that enough is enough, and now his pocketbook is a little lighter as a result.

-- It was a fight between two owners, and people forget that. People tend to look at this as a team owner attacking a driver, but really it was an owner-on-owner attack. So it should be treated no different than the driver confrontations of the past, which almost never lead to suspensions.

-- This isn’t table tennis or synchronized swimming. This is NASCAR. People are supposed to get mad at each other, and sometimes there will be confrontations. It adds to the drama surrounding the sport, and we all love that drama. For fans to get upset because there is a little friction and fisticuffs surrounding a NASCAR race is just silly in my humble opinion. How this sport went from one where we let Cale Yarborough and the Allisons battle it out after the Daytona 500, into one where we get all upset and worried because Kyle got a couple bruises, is beyond me.

-- A suspension might have been nice symbolically, but in practicalilty it would have meant little. Childress can pass on information even if he is not at the track – there’s technology for that and I’m sure he would have been kept in the loop via phone. The $150K fine is actually more impactful. Sure, Childress is a millionaire many times over, but you can bet he would much rather have spent that $150K on his race team, or something else, and not donated it to NASCAR.

The bottom line: While Childress was out of line and I don’t want the garage to turn into the Wild West with people assaulting each other all the time, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. People are going to fight when they want to fight, and this incident doesn’t change that. Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Carl Edwards and many other big names in NASCAR have gotten into scuffles in the garage area and nobody was suspended. This kind of drama is not an invitation for mayhem, and if fact it just adds more allure to the sport – which is much more about emotions and drama than it is about left turns.

Those who get upset about Childress not being suspended miss the point – the RCR organization and Kyle Busch have been at each other’s throats for months, if not years, and this was just the incident where it all came to a head. Busch did something stupid and unnecessary on track after the race because he was mad someone passed him by hard racing, and Childress decided that little love tap was the final straw. End of story. There’s no need to dramatize it more than that and suggest that this will lead to chaos and violence at every corner of the garage.

Tweet of the week
My favorite tweet about the whole incident came Sunday from Childress’ grandson, Truck series driver Austin Dillon.
“I wonder if Pop Pop will get a senior citizen discount on his fine?”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article and I completely agree.

June 8, 2011 at 5:28 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being from the south, I'd bet Richard Childress knows a little something about woodsheds when he was a kid. If anybody ever needed to cut his own switch and head for one, it's Kyle. In a perfect world, Mr. C would get to do the honors.

June 12, 2011 at 12:24 AM 

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