The Frontstretch: NASCAR Probation? No Problem! Do What You Want, And Don't Pay Later! by Amy Henderson -- Thursday October 4, 2007

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NASCAR Probation? No Problem! Do What You Want, And Don't Pay Later!

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday October 4, 2007


It all started with Tony Stewart.

No, it wasn’t a post-race war of words or an on-track shoving match (at least, not this time). When he failed to show his face in the media center following the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix this Spring, Stewart was placed on probation for failing to follow one of NASCAR's many rules; in this case, the one that says the top three finishers go to the media center and answer lots of reporters' questions. For whatever reason, Stewart was pissed off and didn't go.

Obviously, that didn’t sit well with the powers that be, and it wasn't helping Stewart’s cause that he'd said some not-so-stellar things about the sanctioning body on the radio earlier in the week. So, NASCAR put him on probation.

Translation: Play nice or we might take away your toys.

Next up were Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray; they became the newest “probies” following a shoving match at Talladega. They were soon joined in the penalty box by Juan Pablo Montoya, who flipped off a TV camera. Montoya claimed that he didn't know the footage was being broadcast live, but it didn’t matter; at least probation was not a lonely place to be. Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon jumped on the boat by July; of those, only Gordon has been stung, receiving a one-race suspension for his Montreal transgressions in August.

Back then, NASCAR was so angry at Gordon, they made the ultimate threat: screw up on probation and we'll suspend you again, pal.

With that statement, NASCAR painted themselves into a corner. They had thrown down a gauntlet, so to speak. But other than Robby Gordon, who has not raised any official eyebrows of late, they didn't really want to face the backlash of fans and sponsors if they suspended a driver. So, what has NASCAR done? Nothing.

That's right, nothing. Nada. As in, they have let anything and everything slide for these guys since then.

Stewart got a slap on the wrist for a naughty word at Indy, but NASCAR has let several much larger incidents slide without so much as the hairy eyeball. First, it was Harvick and Montoya nearly coming to blows at Watkins Glen. When Martin Truex, Jr. admittedly sent Montoya spinning into Harvick, Harvick responded by climbing out of his wrecked race car and advancing toward Montoya's. Montoya also got out, despite the fact that his car was at least drivable, and the two preened and postured for a few moments before entering into what may be the wimpiest on-track shoving match ever.

But a shoving match it was, and Montoya grabbed Harvick's helmet – a previous no-no that Stewart had been penalized for a couple of seasons back when he gave Brian Vickers a small helmet-shove at Sonoma. Clearly, had NASCAR followed their own directive, fired just days before, both drivers should have sat down a race; NASCAR expressly forbids fighting, and – even if this fight was girly at best – they would probably have deemed it an Action Detrimental to Stock Car Racing had it been anyone else. Instead, they looked pointedly the other way…probation had earned these men a free pass.

McMurray and Busch have been fine since their transgressions; however, Stewart has behaved badly. The BS slip aside, Stewart got ticked at Paul Menard at Dover and popped him from behind…not once, but twice. In the past, NASCAR has called such behavior "rough driving" and penalized in accordance to the rules. In fact, they have done just that several times over the past few seasons to all sorts of competitors – including Stewart himself in 2006. But this time, NASCAR looked pointedly the other way and whistled.

The following week, Stewart dropped an F-bomb on live TV while telling off an ESPN cameraman. Like Montoya in the Spring, Stewart claimed he didn't know he was being filmed. Unlike Montoya, they pretended to believe him, and then claimed that the transmission wasn't clear enough to tell if that was really what Stewart said. Even though several fans' eight-year-olds heard what he meant – not difficult to comprehend, unless Stewart has a no-hockey clause in his contract and was saying “Get that puck away from me!” – NASCAR developed a mysterious case of selective hearing, looked pointedly the other way, and whistled Dixie. Unless, that is, they later put all three on double-secret triple probation without parole and no ice cream for a month. Which could have happened, I suppose…nothing would surprise me.

Actually, with the inconsistent manner in which NASCAR treats everything else, I don't know if this is a surprise or not. On the one hand, if NASCAR suspended these guys, they'd have had to be consistent with their words…and we all know that's not their forte. On the other hand, why be “double inconsistent?” Penalize them for their actions, but don't suspend them like they would have Robby Gordon if they had half a chance to do so. Either way, the fans – and the drivers who uphold a higher standard of professional behavior – have to wonder what it's going to take for NASCAR to take the next step with drivers on probation.

At this rate, don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

10/05/2007 05:50 AM

Very good summation of a very sick NASCAR organization!

The folks making decisions at NASCAR make the THREE STOOGES look normal!!

10/05/2007 06:26 AM

Good review. NASCAR is so far out of line with “rules enforcement” that any credibility the organization may have had has long since vanished. Money and popularity rule rather than the “rules.” Inconsistency is the norm. Winners fail post race inspections and keep their wins and points and no one blinks an eye. The little scuffles and profanity slips are minor. It’s the real rules infractions that are inconsistantly enforced or systematically ignored that are the major problem.

10/05/2007 06:42 AM

As an original fan of the chase, I’m now disgusted about the way NA$CAR treats these idiots like patricians..

10/05/2007 06:44 AM

NACAR probably will not last another 20 years unless there is a major change in their way of thinking. I just can’t wait until Ford pulls out!!

10/05/2007 07:02 AM

As a long time fan of every type of auto racing there is , i think the fans and scribes need to calm down about fines and suspensions . When you think about it , what possible difference could it make to the fans if Stewart or any other driver gets a fine for anything . Here’s why it would matter . We want to see everyone get whats coming to them . Not if it happens to our favorite driver of course . But that mentality is destroying stock car racing . It wan’t long ago that the main concern in the minds of fans was Chevy beating Ford , and Dale beating Cale . When Jeff Gordon tripped and accidentally fell into Kenseth at Bristol ( cause he sure would have gotten whipped if Kenseth had thought he was serious ) , the big concern became getting back at the driver who wronged my driver . But worrying over things being fair and equal on fines and / or suspensions is really a meaningless exercise .

Margo L
10/05/2007 08:28 AM

The problem with rules enforcement has been a nascar legend for many years , and it didn’t start with Stewart . It started at the beginning of nascar but was brought to everyones attention in the 90s with Jeff Gordon and the other Hendrick teams . Except for Terry Labonte who never seemed to have any large cheating issues . Gordon was caught cheating over and over again , but his and the other Hendrick cars were always shown blatant favoritism by nascar ( as they still are today ) just as the Elliot team was in earlier years . Tire softener , hollow carburetor studs , lightweight right front hub and spindle , and constantly knocking other cars out of the way . Yet no penalties .

10/05/2007 09:47 AM

NA$CAR will never do anything to their Golden child Tony!! They changed the chase this year so Tony would not miss it again! They are doing everything in their power to give him the Championship this year. I bet NA$CAR is going to make up a new rule all of a sudden and is going to find something wrong with the cars of Bowyer, JJ and Jeff over the next few races. That way they can screw those guys and give Tony the championship like they want!
I wish what you said were really true Margo, but reality proves your 100% wrong! Too bad too! NA$CAR HATES Team Hendrick! They have proved that dozens of times this year! They screw them as much as they can! They have even chaned the rules midyear, just to screw team Hendrick.
But I can pray what you are saying to come true one day Margo! I hope it does!

10/05/2007 11:40 AM

That’s blasphemy! How dare you take the Three Stooges name in vain.

Steve M.
10/05/2007 12:00 PM

Amy, you really touched on something that has been talked about, a lot, for the past few weeks. There have been numerous readers of that have been commenting of the exact same thing…especially after the Harvick/Montoya slap fest. I’ll be the first to admit that we (the fans) all know, or at least believe, that EVERY team tries to get away with things..OK, they try to cheat. Some get caught, some don’t. But it’s not just one team (RHM), it’s all of them. However, when one driver or team does get penalized after an infraction; whether it be car related or media related, and another driver (team) doesn’t, well, that’s just wrong. And when a driver is on probation and continues to mock NASCAR officials and non-fans of his (2TonTony), well, that’s just a bit too much for some of us to swallow. I’m really hoping that Franchitti makes it in the race this weekend and he does something stupid to Stewart. Cuz if he (or anyone for that matter) does then we’ll once again see the Whiner’s true side. Question is, will we see NASCAR take ownership of the situation and do what rightfully needs to be done? Shake and Bake everyone!!!!

10/05/2007 12:51 PM

The only way that people are going to listen to nascar is to make the penaltys count . It is inexcusable for Tony Stewart to get away with not being a nice guy and nascar should suspend him for all of 2008 to give him time to think about what he has done . The rest of the Gibbs 20 team should be demoted to ARCA for all of 2008 . And for constant cheating on the part of Hendrick , all of their teams and personel should be removed from Cup racing for ten years . We have to get this disrespect for the rules under control !

10/05/2007 12:52 PM

What about “The Heir Apparent”, Kyle Petty?
Kyle Petty after getting sideswiped at a road course dropped an F-bomb, and received no penalties. And don’t give me the “well he didn’t know it was going to be broadcast” excuse. It was over the radio and he was the “In-Car Reporter”.
Then during the chase, he gets wrecked by the 11. Following that, he confronts Denny in the garage by dropping his net (touching another guys car is a no-no), yelling at him, giving him the one finger salute, and slapping him on his helmet. Then, KP doesn’t have the cajones to stick around when it looks like Denny’s getting out of the car; he runs away like a little girl. The King needs to pull the Court Jester aside and give him lessons on “manning up”.
That aside, what does NASCAR do to KP? Nothing! Not even probation! So, before we get all over Tony for using the S word (a much milder profanity than the F word) or JPM for flipping off a camera, or KH for a shoving match, let’s not leave out KP. If we do, we’ll be just as guilty of playing favorites as CASHCAR is.

Jeff Wright
10/05/2007 06:39 PM

I’ve had enough of the france machine and there money sucking!! I’ve quit attending all france family events and I go to the local non-france family sanctioned dirt track to watch real racers.
And speaking of things detrimental to stock car racing, what about the guy that smashed his lexus up in the condo parking lot down in florida over the winter. Oh my mistake that wasn’t on track. He wasn’t drunk either.

10/05/2007 07:31 PM

Not that I disagree with about any point made above, I just think half of what most of these “overlooked” infractions are because so many have been happening this year. I don’t think NASCAR can keep up with them. :)


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