The Frontstretch: Bowles-Eye View : Payback Putting NASCAR In a Tough Spot by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday September 18, 2005

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Bowles-Eye View : Payback Putting NASCAR In a Tough Spot

Thomas Bowles · Sunday September 18, 2005

 

It’s hard to put an article together after what happened in New Hampshire because, simply put, so much happened. For whatever reason, be it improvements to the track, the pressure of the Chase, or simply the right conditions at the right time, Sunday’s race was one of the best events New Hampshire has put on since it began hosting the Cup series back in 1993.

Unfortunately, good side-by-side racing came along with a side of several wrecks which left a number of drivers’ tempers boiling over in an all-too-familiar way. And now, with aggressive driving and paybacks at a season high, NASCAR may be forced to put its foot down as they try and decide how much emotion is too much.

In case you’ve been out of the loop, here’s a quick review of the on-track incidents NASCAR has been dealing with in the past few weeks:

  • At the Bristol night race in August, Ryan Newman taps Chase contender Dale Jarrett, sending him into the wall. An angry Jarrett brings his car around a few laps later under green and slams into the lapped car of Newman, taking both cars out and in a multi-car crash that damages several others.
  • At California, Sterling Marlin taps Robby Gordon heading into the first turn late in the race, inciting a multi-car wreck. Robby waits until Richmond to return the favor, wrecking Sterling halfway through the race and starting a series of several bumps and spins between the two drivers, which not only turned both their cars into junk but caused NASCAR to park each car five laps for rough driving.
  • Also at Richmond, Tony Raines taps Jamie McMurray in apparent retaliation for McMurray pushing him out of the way through the first and second turns late in the race. McMurray hits the inside wall on the backstretch, ending his chances of making the Chase, and Raines is penalized 5 laps for rough driving.
  • At the Busch race in Richmond the night before, Martin Truex, Jr. gives Mike Wallace the middle-finger salute after Wallace wrecks him on the back straightaway. Truex is fined after the race and loses 25 driver points, critical in the race for his second straight Busch title.

All those incidents were already on the mind of NASCAR officials heading into this Sunday at New Hampshire, and what happened there was just about equal to the past few weeks combined. The wildness began as Scott Riggs wrecked Chaser Kurt Busch within the first five laps. Within minutes of getting out of his car, Busch could be found walking briskly to the 10 team’s pit and talking with Rodney Childers. That, surprisingly enough, was the calmest moment of the day, and while Busch took a few verbal potshots at Riggs and the 10 team once the race was over, he avoided a visit to the NASCAR hauler.

Unfortunately, that incident was followed up by two more. NASCAR’s “good guy” Kasey Kahne went bad after being wrecked for what seems like the 1,000th time this year, coming back and slamming his damaged car into Kyle Busch when he wrecked the 9 car coming out of Turn 2. He then followed that up with an open and honest interview about how he thinks drivers should pay back other drivers on the track, an emotional side of Kasey you rarely see but something that will clearly cost him money and points come Tuesday afternoon, evidenced by the fact NASCAR immediately parked his car for the day as soon as the interview was over.

Shortly after that, NASCAR’s “bad boy” Robby Gordon added another incident to his resume, as he lost his temper when being hit by Michael Waltrip on the back straightaway. Robby’s car was turned into the wall and totaled, and an angry Gordon got out of his car and threw his helmet at the 15 car before being escorted into the ambulance. He then followed that up with an “S” word live on national TV before storming off to his own hauler. Waltrip wasn’t helpful either, as he refused to apologize despite replays and radio contact that indicated he may have put the bumper to the 7 car for racing him a little too hard.

What to think of all this, you ask? Well, it’s definitely given the sport some emotional energy it’s been lacking. Drivers are now all too often being escorted away after a wreck before you can find out how they really feel, the drama of pure emotion replaced by the cookie-cutter script fed from a PR person so as not to get a driver’s sponsors pissed off. These incidents have shown a human side to the drivers we’ve been missing, and let us in on the fact that the media and the fans aren’t the only ones noticing how many more wrecks there’ve been on the track this year. Certain drivers are tired of being run over, and feel like NASCAR hasn’t been penalizing the drivers who repeatedly step over the line and then give out a politically correct “I’m sorry” after the person they bumped is sent into the wall.

But the bottom line is, while it gives the fans much needed entertainment, payback on the track will always be dangerous. The Jarrett-Newman tango was particularly severe and could have gotten a driver seriously hurt, and any of the payback incidents we saw on Sunday had that same potential. Not only that, but those wrecks mean thousands of dollars in repairs and tons of extra work for the crew who has to fix that race car. I don’t think the guys that work on the 5 car in the shop were laughing after Kahne rammed into their car after his wreck.

NASCAR’s been trying to ignore the problem, giving the drivers a little bit of slack in letting them settle their own differences. But, whether or not NASCAR should have stepped in earlier and penalized some drivers responsible for several wrecks this season is a mute point. This whole cycle of payback has spiralled out of control, and I fear there we may now have some major fines and even suspensions on our hands to correct the problem. And while it may take away from the emotion of the sport, it’s the right thing to do. No one wins if a driver gets hurt, no crew wins when they have to repair a wrecked race car, and no fan wins when they see their driver wrecked five laps later for what amounted to a simple mistake on the racetrack.

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KATZ
09/19/2005 02:48 AM
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THE MAIN PROBLEM IS THE FACT THAT NASCAR HAS NO RULE BOOK AS FAR AS SAYING IF YOU DO THIS YOU WILL BE PUNISHED WITH THIS. NASCAR DEALS WITH EACH SITUATION DIFFERENTLY, AND ALOT OF IT DEPENDS ON WHO IT IS. THEY NEED TO SPELL OUT TO THE TEAMS, AND THE FANS, A COMPLETE SET OF RULES. NO OTHER SPORT IS RUN LIKE THIS.

KATZ
BB6
09/19/2005 02:52 AM
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I agree, it has gotten out of hand…I fear NASCAR will hand out suspensions…imagine had Kasey Kahne been in the Chase, and this happened? Do you think NASCAR would dare set out a Chase contender?

It IS refreshing to see the drivers display honest emotion…personally, my only complaint is that NASCAR instituted a 5-second delay on their telecast after Jr dropped a curse word at Talladega a while back, so that they could prevent those things from getting on the air…and have they used it?? No…2 different episodes in the race today could have been censored rather than gone out over the air…and someone’s kids heard or saw things I’m sure their parent’s wish they hadn’t.

If NASCAR isn’t going to utilize the delay for it’s intended purpose, then get rid of it. Period.
E. Rudd
09/19/2005 03:57 AM
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Nascar would have parked someone like Ricky Rudd for what Jarrett did when he took out 4 or 5 cars in retallation his day should have been over
Aaron
09/19/2005 05:34 AM
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It is about time Kasey Kahne stood up for himself !!!
Rob
09/19/2005 05:50 AM
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The problem is that NASCAR is penalizing drivers that “payback”, while letting the driver that caused the problem get away scott-free. The message is clear: you can wreck anybody at any time with no repercussions, all the while knowing if that guy pays you back he will get penalized. This is breeding dirty driving tactics among the drivers that lack character, and the rest of them, like Jarret and Kahne, are getting tired of it. This whole problem has been caused by poor officiating on NASCAR’s part.
Don Jones
09/19/2005 06:49 AM
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It is very dissapointing to follow Nascar for as long as I have and see the new kids come in to the best car and equipment and have never earned the right to bee there. It is now really starting to show. This was susposed to be the top level of racing now it looks like a bunch of Jackasses running in circles. I am personaly very disspointed in the way Nascar has developed. You should earn the right to drive the top level race cars.
CD
09/19/2005 06:52 AM
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It’s all about whose butt you kiss in NASCAR. Therefore Jaws II (Waltrip) won’t have anything happen to him despite wrecking Robby on purpose while Robby will probably be parked for the season despite having done nothing that hasn’t been done before.
Don Taylor
09/19/2005 06:56 AM
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Robby Gordon is not a “bad boy”. If he is then so are a dozen others. Robby is NASCAR. Rugged individualism.
Lee
09/19/2005 07:18 AM
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I think it’s wonderful that the drivers are taking care of these “incidents” in their own way. I owe a race car and I also do the spotting for my car. I allow my driver to “correct” someone when they get too rough with us. You know when it’s an accident or not. If it’s not an accident, you should be paid back. If the incident has put you out of the race, the driver that caused you to be out of the race should also be put out of the race. This can either be done by the driver or NASCAR. If NASCAR doesn’t say right after the accident if they are going to put the driver out of the race, then by all means the wreaked driver shall go ahead and do it himself. Just a wonderful display of the drivers taking care of their own problems today. I really enjoyed the race. And for you that do not understand why I feel like this. Go out and get you a race car and race it, or have someone else race it. Then and only then will you understand were I’m coming from and only then can you question why I say this.
Frank
09/19/2005 07:30 AM
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If NASCAR wants to stop retaliation, penalize the originator.
betty
09/19/2005 10:06 AM
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I was happy to see a new side of Kasey. You know he has some spunk or he would never have got to this level of racing but he keeps in under control most of the time. I agree after having been run over “a thousand times”, it is about time he exploded. I also loved his refreshingly honest interview even if it is going to cost him dearly.
Robby is well known as a “bad boy” and I love him for it. We need more “characters” like him in the sport to keep it from getting boring.
David Carroll
09/19/2005 10:35 AM
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It is about time that racers started being racers like in the old days and showed some emotion, instead of playing by HRH France’s Mickey Mouse rules. It was good to see some one give payback to France’s mouthpiece. If I was intentionally put into the wall during a caution, I would have done the same thing. Unfortunately, Robbie Gordon will be parked and France’s mouthpiece will come away with nothing. Mikie deserved waht he got.
Matt2
09/19/2005 12:16 PM
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Robby was driving Mikey up towards the wall under caution and its Mikey’s fault that they wrecked? What race were you watching?
Patti
09/19/2005 01:16 PM
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After the wreck…
Strike 1. RG tries to hit MW’s car while still in his car.
Strike 2. RG then gets out of car on track and throws helmet at MW.
Strike 3. RG’s guttermouth gets live TV coverage.

Park his butt for a week, at least. During that week, perhaps someone can teach him how to turn left.
Kristen
09/19/2005 03:06 PM
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Robby shouldnt point fingers. Mike isnt the one with the wrecking ball reputation. Mike just has a slow temper and intentional or not, he did Nascar a favor if they suspend Robby for the chase IMO.
Tricia
09/19/2005 03:32 PM
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Though its not recent, don’t forget about the several race feud between Waltrip and Green. It’s not the first time Waltrip has been in one of these incidents. Hopefully NASCAR will show a little consistency and not fine or park the guys for what before only deserved a 2-5 lap penalty.
bob
09/19/2005 04:29 PM
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i find it quite amazing that kasey kahne is the only young driver who can pass cars without slamming them in a wall. He wants to win as much as anyone, but watching him race and finish a close second so many times, racing the best drivers in nascar hard but clean, separates him from these other rookies who can only pass cars by hitting them,. How much skill does that require ?
Chris
09/19/2005 05:16 PM
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If Nascar is going to enforce rules against retaliation, then 25 points and $25k is certainly not going to do it. The fines handed out today were down right dumb, either allow the drivers to take care of these incidents on the track or penalize them in amounts that will deter all other drivers from doing this next week. 250 points and $250,000 would probably work. I’m all for just letting these guys take care of it on the track, (although some incidents are truly not intentional) but the only deterrence that was put forth today was for the Chase drivers not to retaliate for anything. Hell any one of the 33 drivers next week will have no reservations of exacting revenge, but those top 10 drivers sure won’t. Either enforce it as a deterrence or don’t dock points at all, its simply adverse selection.
Allen
09/19/2005 05:31 PM
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There is too much concern about what gets said during an emotional moment. I sit in the parking lot at tracks and listen to other race fans while youngsters are nearby. Foul
language? You bet.
James
09/19/2005 11:13 PM
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A lot of local short tracks have a rule that if you are involved in a wreck, spin, etc. then you go to the back. The problem is NASCAR not taking action against the idiot drivers that cause the wrecks. The driver that get’s taken out is supposed to grin while the idiot that took him out is still out there making laps. I can’t blame Robby or Kasey at all.

 

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