The Frontstretch: Racing To The Point: NASCAR Penalizing Itself For Inconsistent Rulings by Brett Poirier -- Tuesday April 2, 2013

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Five expletives in one sentence. I wasn’t sure if the NASCAR race was still on or if FOX was showing an early presentation of “Hell’s Kitchen,” one where Chef Gordon Ramsey — Tony Stewart in this case — found out Joey Logano’s beef ravioli wasn’t fully cooked.

Stewart sure put on a post-race show at Fontana. It had all the same ingredients of the boxing match I watched on HBO on Friday night. Punches were thrown — or at least a water bottle — trash was talked and, in the end, the sore loser went on a profanity-laced tirade vowing for revenge.

If Denny Hamlin got fined $25,000 for saying the Gen-6 car needed a little work and Jeremy Clements got suspended for two weeks for a derogatory remark, imagine what NASCAR is going to do to Stewart. Suspend him eight races? Suspend him the whole season? Throw him out of the sport?

Wait, what? They did nothing?

Tony Stewart let loose an impressive string of expletives at Fontana last week and was penalized with… nothing. Why? NASCAR was in a good mood that day?

I wonder how Dale Earnhardt, Jr. felt about that. In 2004, Earnhardt Jr. said sh*t once during a post-race interview in Victory Lane after winning the fall race at Talladega. He was fined $10,000 for that small slip, and docked 25 points — which knocked Junior out of the Chase lead and put eventual champion Kurt Busch out front.

Compare that to 2013. In a fuming rage, Smoke let b*tch fly three times in a single sentence, during a post-race interview at Fontana — and he got away scot free.

What if Busch had done what Stewart did? Either Busch. My guess is they would’ve been fined and put on probation without any hesitation from the powers above. And why is that? Is it because Kurt and Kyle have troubled pasts? Well, so does Stewart. Conflict seems to follow in his path, too. Just ask Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Elliott Sadler, David Gilliland, Juan Pablo Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and now Logano (I’m sure there are some I’m missing).

Why would NASCAR do nothing in this instance? This question falls in the same category as: Why do rhinos attack? What’s wrong with Charlie Sheen? Why is my girlfriend mad at me?

We could take a stab in the dark, but we just don’t know for sure. In NASCAR’s case, I guess it just depends on which way the wind is blowing on a given day. How else could this unparalleled lack of disciplinary consistency be explained?

It’s not just in the use of profanity, either. Kyle Busch was suspended from Sprint Cup in 2011 for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday, Jr. after the yellow flag flew in a Truck race at Texas. Yet Jeff Gordon pulled one of the most malicious wrecks — OK, probably the most malicious wreck — I’ve ever seen at the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix in 2012. The punishment? He was fined and put on probation for the final race of the season, a race he came back the following week and won.

Remember, the Gordon wreck was ugly. He turned left into Bowyer and drove him nose first into the outside wall. He took Bowyer out of the championship, destroyed bystanders Aric Almirola and Logano, plus put everybody’s health in danger.

But he’s Jeff Gordon, so any notion of a suspension was quickly thrown out the window, kind of like Carl Long’s racing career.

In 2009, Long was fined $200,000 — and effectively was thrown out of Sprint Cup — for showing up at the All-Star race with an engine that was 0.17 cubic inches over the regulation size. Meanwhile, Chad Knaus has been fined and suspended on four separate occasions since 2005. No fine even came close to $200,000 for trying to cheat the system with the five-time championship team.

It certainly seems to matter who you are. But Junior’s fine in 2004 shows that even those at the top aren’t completely immune all of the time — just some of it.

There’s no semblance of consistency, no “Let’s take a look and see what action we’ve taken in a similar situations?” It’s as if Brian France is in his office playing darts and each spot on the board stands for a different level of action. After Fontana, he just missed the board completely with his throw.

Every sports league deals with gray areas, especially when it comes to enforcing discipline. Major League Baseball struggled with it for a long time in the steroid era and the NFL is struggling to determine the difference between a legal hit and a hefty fine right now. These aren’t always easy decisions, but the key to staying credible with players/drivers and fans is to develop some kind of consistency over time. Fans should be able to guess what’s going to happen before it does.

If Derek Jeter tests positive for HGH, I know he is suspended for 50 games. If Cole Hamels intentionally throws a fastball at a batter’s head, I know he’ll at least be “missing” his next start. If Ed Reed makes a helmet-to-helmet hit, I know he is going to get fined about $20,000. But if Jimmie Johnson swears twice during a television interview at Martinsville, I don’t whether he’s going to get a pat on the back or a $100,000 fine and a 25-point deduction. I’d feel the same if he physically hit someone or used his car as a weapon.

No other sports league in America would get away with such an absurd disciplinary system without major backlash, but nearly everything is gray in NASCAR — and we’ve come to accept it. The decision not to issue a penalty last week proves that in 2013, NASCAR officials are still just making it up as they go along.

And it’s bullsh*t.

Contact Brett Poirier

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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04/02/2013 07:49 AM

It’s hard to not believe that NASCAR is not rigged or biased to a certain degree.

Odd yellow flags coming out for no reason, Danica “just happens” to get the Daytona pole in her first full season Cup start, Jr. “just happens” to get the Daytona pole on the 10th anniversary of Sr’s deadly accident, the aforementioned penalty incosistencies, etc., etc.

Nope, something has got a real bad stench to it in all of this……….

MJR in Springfield, VA
04/02/2013 08:16 AM

All we
About is

I think this says it all!

04/02/2013 08:21 AM

Nascar fans everywhere should spread this article across the globe through the net.

Call your local sports stations, send a link to every media, print it out and share it.

Bombard the FOX crew with it (double for Larry Mac).

Yes, think if Kyle or Kurt Busch had done this. Especially Kurt.

Excellent article.

The Truth
04/02/2013 09:22 AM

The Truth approves this message.

The Truth
04/02/2013 09:24 AM

I wonder what Stewart’s fine will be after he wrecks Logano this week?

And FWIW, you forgot the Edwards/ Stewart dustup @ Pocono after Stewart intentionally wrecked Bowyer and collected Edwards in the process.

04/02/2013 09:38 AM

There is another “sport” in America that closely resembles the way NASCAR operates. It is Professional Wrestling. The California court system also works the same way with celebrities.

Glen Lasenby
04/02/2013 09:44 AM

It is pure bull and a disgrace that steward got away with his actions.Jrs 1 word $25000 steward none.nascar should hang head in shame and be disbanded and started up by some reliable people that has some real rules

Fed Up
04/02/2013 09:45 AM

Brett, if all the so-called sports writers would call NA$CAR out on this, things would change, but it isn’t going to happen. Brain Farce & Helter Skelter control the press credentials and no one is going to bite the hand that feeds them. Great column!!

The Mad Man
04/02/2013 10:30 AM

NA$CAR’s rules have been inconsistent since Day 1. Harvick intentionally runs into somebody and gets parked for 2 laps. KyBu intentionally runs into Honraday and gets parked for the weekend.

There may be a reason outside of NA$CAR why they’re not going after drivers for using profanity laced diatribes. That’s because the FCC can no longer take actions against people who use profanity on TV or radio. This was based on a Supreme Court decision a couple of years ago regarding the First Amendement. So if the FCC can’t nail people for profanity on TV or radio, neither can NA$CAR. Unless they’re saying derogatory things about the piss poor product, questioning the integrity of the officials, or besmirching the COT II and it’s poor handling qualities and increased aero problems.

04/02/2013 11:05 AM

Is anybody surprised here? Hendricks racing pretty much runs the show. They might as well change the name to Hendricks cup. And Stewart-Haas racing is nothing more than a satellite of Hendricks. Cheatin’ Chad has gotten away with more crap over the years then anybody else in the sport. Stewart is a hypocritical cry baby. What happens if Stewart takes Logano this week end? Probably nothing.

Team Owner
04/02/2013 11:13 AM

I will do one better. Also at the Fontana race a new team owner in the Sprint Cup Seies confronted another team owner in front of over 20 fans. He threatened and screamed he was going to kick the other owners a$$ multiple times as he tried to walk away then followed him across the parking lot screaming expletives and eventually belly bumping the other owner. This was reported to NASCAR immediately afterwords with witnesses. It then is found out this same new owner has physically threatened a different owner and a supplier in the same fashion yet NASCAR has done nothing over this new owners illegal threats. The sad thing is the new owner is a black man from New York. Now we are all going to get together and have to file communicating threat and assault charges against him since NASCAR didn’t do anything.

Bill B
04/02/2013 11:16 AM


1) NASCAR inconsistency undermines legitimacy of sport.

2) No agreement has been reached in Washington to avoid the fiscal cliff.

3) North Korea threatens South Korea and US.

4) Al-queda declares jihad on everyone that isn’t in al-queda.

5) The pope is catholic.

Feel free to add your own “headlines”.

PS: You forgot the blatant retribution wreck Dale Jarrett delivered to Ryan Newman in 2005(?) when Newman pretty much destroyed Jarrett’s chance of making the chase. But the best one was Carl Edwards being behind the wall for over a hundred laps and then coming back out with the sole intention of paying back someone by blatantly wrecking them and then going back behind the wall (can’t remember the track or driver). Anyone?

Team Owner
04/02/2013 11:21 AM

The reason above owner flipped out on everyone. He owed money to two of the others and found out the third had warned them about doing business with him.

04/02/2013 11:26 AM

You nailed it Rick Hendricks is the only common factor

04/02/2013 11:54 AM

I agree with the article! Nascar has already spoken but Tony Steward needs to man up and do some serious apoligizing this week because he was clearly out of line with Logano. And no, I’m no Logano Fan but I will call a spade a spade and just about every driver on the track has blocked at some time or another to protect their position even Steward. And, what Nascar did to Carl Long was criminal. And, you know what, had that have been a name driver there was no way they would have penalized them that much for an engine that was .17” over the limit. I have one answer that pretty much says it all-Brian France. The rich kid who has no idea what he is doing and it’s evident every week when you see the empty seats in the stands. And, Nascar is so embarrassed they won’t even release attendance numbers anymore. Well, if I were France and Nascar I would be embarrassed too. Like someone said, all media needs to come down hard on Nascar for these stupid calls and fans need to start boycotting races until some sanity is restored. Looks like that is the only thing that will get their attention.

04/02/2013 02:14 PM

As a 40+ year stock car fan, (since 1968), I really have to laugh at the comments that Brian France is the one responsible for this. Such inconsistencies go back to the days of Bill France Jr & further on back to Big Bill running the show. The biggest difference now is the fact that there’s instant media to show the inconsistencies more. They’re going to favor the big teams & drivers, always have, always will, & they are going to have different favorites among those, as well as an inconsistent approach about who among that elite group gets fined/penalized for “actions detrimental to the sport” at any given time.

04/02/2013 03:05 PM

You’re right Mark, however, it seems Brian France has elevated inconsistencies to an art form.

John Greene
04/02/2013 04:46 PM

Amen Brother I think that is why there is a lot of empty seats everybody is getting tired of the crap nascar is pulling

04/02/2013 08:06 PM

Brett, I couldn’t have said it better myself! As of this season, I’m no longer watching NASCAR races because the organization itself is a complete joke!

04/02/2013 10:03 PM

It’s another example of Brian’s rationale for decisions. “I’m making this up as I go.” (Indiana Jones)