Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday June 6, 2007
Just shy of three years ago, I wrote a column that clearly instructed the powers that be in NASCAR on how to handle the punishment of the children when they do not play nice on the playground. (See Post Race Behavior Modification for Dummies for more info.) Had Mike Helton heeded my advice back then, I'd place a wager that what Kurt Busch did on pit road this last Monday never would have happened.
For those of you who missed the race because you chose to do stupid, unimportant things like go to work, the wrecked No. 2 Dodge driven by Busch pinned Tony Stewart's car in the No. 20 pit after an on-track altercation in order to have a "chat." The manner in which he did so caused the jackman of the No. 20 to be in fear for his life, so much so that he quickly sought safety on the hood of the Home Depot Chevrolet of Tomorrow in a less than flattering posture.
Before the millions of Tony Stewart fans, and all four of the Kurt Busch fans, start writing in about who was at fault in the accident that led to the pit road confrontation, let me be blunt and save you the effort: I don't care. The events that led up to the pit road incident are a moot point. They were a part of racing. On the other hand, what Kurt Busch did with his car on pit road is an act of (almost criminal) stupidity. It’s also something that needs to be prevented in the future in order to ensure the safety of everyone that risks jumping over that pit wall.
Now, my supposition on how to totally nix these extremely stupid, “in the heat of the moment” actions by competitors, especially if it endangers the safety of anyone at the track, is the same today as it was in 2004. What is that, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you : hold the "parent" responsible for the "kid's" actions.
What I mean to say, in case you are to lazy to click on the above link, is hold the car owner responsible for the actions of the driver(s) they employ.
As this is being written, no announcement has yet been made by NASCAR on what, if any, penalty should be handed to Busch for his actions. Yes, he was parked for the remainder of the race, but that really was not much of a punishment as the car was no position to be competitive anyway. Some speculate that Kurt will not be in attendance for the race this coming Sunday in Pocono. No big loss if he isn't. Someone else will drive the car. Probably Mark Martin, seeing as how Mark seems intent on driving every brand of manufactured car currently in the series. (For those of you who are sarcastically challenged, do not write in and point out that Mark will be driving the No. 01 Army car. I know that!)
Well, what should have been done long ago is to set the precedent of suspending the car owner for one race when the actions of the driver are deemed over the top. In this case, that would mean no Penske-owned cars at all entered in the race at Pocono!
If that precedent was ever set, it would virtually guarantee the absence of idiotic stunts by hotheaded drivers. Imagine how quickly the owners, not to mention the sponsors, would lay down the law to their drivers not to put them in that position.
Ironically, if you have read the above linked column, you will notice that Kurt Busch was involved in one of the incidents I cited then, when he drove for Jack Roush. Can you imagine how fast Kurt would have been looking for a ride had he done something so stupid as to get all four of Jack Roush's cars, at the time driven by Martin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Busch, suspended for the next race?!
Any driver that managed to get his owner suspended for one race would only do it one time, you can bet on that. Imagine facing an extremely irate owner, not to mention ALL his sponsors and all your fellow teammates after you did something so stupid that you got them all excluded from the next race.
Of course, the suspension of a team owner would be reserved for only the most boneheaded of moves involving the safety of others or blatant disrespect. Both are situations K. Busch (take your pick) seems to be good at getting into.
It’s a cause and effect solution: if the children fear the wrath of the parents, the children will think twice before acting out inappropriately. Hopefully, NASCAR will figure that out one day.
(And yes, I do have children and they still love me, so don't write me about that either!)
Stay off the wall,
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