(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Voices from the Cheap Seats: NASCAR Still Years Behind the NFL

While Brian France has made great strides to make auto racing akin to stick-and-ball sports, he still has a long way to go.

Brad Keselowski, however, helped narrow that gap by quite a margin with his post race meltdown last Saturday night.

As has been evidenced by the sports news, especially this past year, we all know the NFL is full of wife/girlfriend beaters, child abusers, murderers and dog fighters. What does NASCAR have? The odd druggie now and then, a cheater here or there, a few idiots in general, owners that have either done time or been pardoned – and, now, Brad Keselowski. But hey, the NFL has way more players than NASCAR so I guess in the end, percentage wise, it may even out.

To be honest, I am still in disbelief at the total randomness and utter lack of self control that the 2012 champion displayed after the race. But hey, it is all OK; this is what NASCAR wanted, right? Even some of the competitors themselves seem to have the notion that anything goes during this oh-so-stressful Chase elimination format.

“They love it. They were fighting afterwards, that’s what it’s all about,” race winner Kevin Harvick said about the battle between Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. Harvick, by the way, is betting that NASCAR doesn’t do a darn thing about the whole shameless ordeal.

Even Keselowski himself seems to feel justification in what he did.

“I rubbed into the No. 20 (Kenseth), and I think he gassed up and ran into Tony (Stewart), and I don’t think Tony knew what was going on,” Keselowski said. “He’s upset, and he has every right to be. His car was tore up. There was a whole lot of other stuff going on. I’m sure when he sees the whole situation, he’ll understand.”

Really? Is Brad Keselowski so obtuse, so self sanctified, so STUPID, that he actually believes that? We are talking about Tony Stewart here! Stewart showed his displeasure (and rightfully so, I might add) by throwing his car into reverse and crushing the front end of Keselowski’s.

Sure, there are plenty out there that are going to say Stewart should be penalized, or maybe Kenseth and Denny Hamlin as well. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right.

But let’s be real here: Keselowski instigated the whole thing and then just went wild.

Credit: CIA Stock Photography
Should Brad Keselowski be penalized for his actions after last weekend in Charlotte? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

As the entire scene unfolded, the sense of frustration was almost palatable and my first thought was of how a child lashes out, realizes what he has done is wrong but for some reason just can’t stop and continues to throw an all-out, full-fledged tantrum. Oh, sure, he feels bad now, he made a genuine, grade-A ass of himself in front of God and everybody. What’s he gonna say to that? Oh, that’s right: when and if we see the whole situation, the rest of us, like Tony Stewart, will understand.

What should have happened (and it would have helped the ratings just as much, not to mention letting NASCAR off the hook in deciding what to do to him as punishment) was to let Stewart, Kenseth and Hamlin kick his stupid ass right there on national TV. A good ass kicking goes a long way to installing a bit of humility (not to mention future restraint) in a person. Just ask Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch.

But let’s get back to this football comparison. Both the NFL and NCAA have ramped up their policing of flagrant attempts to take out an opponent with new phrases for penalties such as targeting. Targeting, by the way, gets you automatically ejected from the game. The NFL in particular, in an effort to hold its players to a higher standard off the field, has implemented a lifetime ban from football if a player is guilty of domestic violence a second time (first time is a lengthy suspension).

So, what is the right move for NASCAR? If using a car to run into other competitors isn’t targeting, I don’t know what is. Does NASCAR have the balls to step up to the plate and suspend Keselowski for the rest of the season? There is, in my opinion, no other punishment to suit the crime… well, there IS, but we’ve already established that a good old-fashioned beat down is out of the question. Monetary fines are useless against a person with millions of dollars. A points reduction is a moot point, since Keselowski has driven himself out of contention short of winning Talladega. No, the best thing now is for Brad to grounded for the rest of the season.

He is after all, a former champion, and as Kenseth put it, he ought to know better.

I guess we’ll know sometime today if NASCAR has any balls. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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Jeff is one of the longest-tenured staffers at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

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12 comments

  1. Avatar

    Well said Jeff. I am in complete agreement. I don’t think NASCAR can ignore this or it sets a precedence for the future where literally anything goes and someone will get hurt (badly).

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      I honestly cannot remember the last time NASCAR dealt more than symbolically with in car actions that crossed the line into the immediately dangerous. Given their past actions or lack thereof don’t expect nascar to impose any meaningful penalties now. Fining millionaires a few bucks is laughable in its ineffectiveness.

  2. Avatar

    Brad needs a multi-race suspension for his actions in the garage. Not as sure what the penalty should be for the pit road actions. He came in pretty hot when he sideswiped Matt. Kenseth’s reaction to that indicates how dangerous he felt that move was.

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      I like Brad K but he acted like my grandbaby when she does not get what she want s Time out for baby Brad K

  3. Avatar

    I’m not sure what Brad did while in his car the garage so it’s hard for me to comment on that, but if he put people in danger he should be penalized. I have no problem with him sitting out Talladega, but a multi-race suspension seems above and beyond how Nascar has dealt with these types of situations in the past. As for his actions outside of the car, I don’t think he did anything other than walk away and maybe run his mouth a bit; that doesn’t require any punishment.

    I think it’s important to look at all the circumstances when passing judgement on Brad. Yes, he was stupid and he could have injured someone. No argument; he should pay for that. However, I don’t think he has a history of pit road/garage incidents. His behavior, at least over the last three or four seasons, has been fine. He’s fan-oriented, media friendly, and represented the sport well as champion two years ago. He basically ended his 2014 championship hopes last Friday with a stupid move and he had to be frustrated by that. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but he’s certainly not the monster some folks have made him out to be this week. That includes you, Jeff.

    • Avatar

      I agree that the rest of his actions outside of the car should not be penalized, just like the other drivers involved, but his actions on pit road and in the garage area deserve a one race suspension. Nascar must set a precedent that endangering people will be met harshly, regardless of your name or what it means to your playoff implications. Incidents on the cool down lap on track are one thing, but there should be no tolerance for endangering people with your race car.

      I also think Nascar needs to create a rule that drivers are not to unbuckle until after their car is at their hauler. If they are Top 5, their designated area needs to be moved away from the entrance of where everyone else goes to the garage area and they unbuckle when all the other cars have stopped. Alot of the anger came from the fact that guys were getting bumped when they were already unbuckled in their car.

  4. Avatar

    Reads a little prejudicial to me. Why didn’t NA$CAR penalize Kennseth when he clipped the 2 car
    during the wave around? Why did Hamlin brake check Brad and not expect retaliation? The “boys
    have at it” works well until someone gets hurt. Hamlin was speeding in the garage also. Tony should
    get a penalty for actions on pit road if someone else does. Whatever NA$CAR does someone’s
    fans are going to be angry while Brian is laughing all the way to the bank.

  5. Avatar

    Are you really saying that drivers haven’t taken out their competition on the track before Brad? Are you new to Nascar? Seems as if there’s enough blame to go around here. Hamlin was chasing after the 2 car through the garage area…so what should Kez have done? Kenseth admitted that Nascar tells drivers to keep their belts and safety equipment on until they are at the haulers. He didn’t. Should he be fined for not observing safety protocol? Seems to me that some folks are getting might self righteous about the whole incident. Squeaky clean is no the way Nascar started out.

  6. Avatar

    If Brad was acting reckless in the garage then he should get at least a points penalty. Other than that, I thought the whole thing was good fun.

  7. Avatar

    Jeff your assessment seems a lot biased to me as it does not appear to explain or provide enough background information on the cause and effect of what happened. The situation as a whole needs to be viewed before judgement and penalties are handed out.
    Totally agree NASCAR needs to do something but it was not the behavior of just one person that needs to be examined.

    If NASCAR is going to do this then they also need to look at all the evidence leading up to the confrontations and keep that in mind as well. Hamlin apparently was being a complete baby about how he was being raced and bumped into a couple of times during the last couple of laps. Ok it’s racing, if you cannot handle those relatively minor bumps during the last couple of laps that did not wreck you or any competitors out of the race then stop driving a Sprint Cup car and go F1 racing. If Kenseth did actually side swipe the 2 on the wave around that needs to be looked at through the same driver endangerment lense as everything else. Stewart was an innocent bystander that over reacted to the bump on pit road that should not have happened but the 2 was pissed at the 20 and did a poor job of containing the situation to just the two of them.

    It appears that the 2 got around most everybody on pit road after getting clocked by the 14 and thus it appears would be getting chased by the 11 thus causing unsafe conditions in the pit lane/garage area so the 11 is not innocent in this either and should be punished.

    Kenseth, like the guy, but blindsiding someone is not cool and again should be dealt with. I really credit Paul Wolfe on how he handled Kenseth by getting him away form his driver but appearing to calmly listen to Kenseth verbally go off on what happened. That was the best thing out of the whole mess. I am always amazed that people can cause their own situation yet blame other for the reaction. If Denny manned up and goes it was a racing deal and does not behave childishly on the cool down lap how much of this would not have happened?

  8. Avatar

    I don’t think NASCAR cares about anyone getting hurt – not really, they say they do but like Harvick said, NASCAR is probably eating this up thinking about how much press this will all get assuming it will bring in the casual fans for the chaos that will be Talladega and for payback. I don’t really know who was to blame for the whole thing. I don’t follow any of those drivers and I didn’t see any of the on track contact (not even on the big screens at the track) but then again, as I said, I wasn’t watching them.

    My opinion is that using a race car as a weapon on pit road or in the garage is not ever a good idea. NASCAR has penalized drivers and teams before for doing that, but I am guessing that since most of the drivers involved are in BZF’s wonderous (in his opinion) chase, that nothing will happen other than a $ fine.

    BillB, I agree that doing nothing will set a bad precedent.

  9. Avatar

    For those of you who don’t race, a rule requiring a driver to stay buckled in until he gets to the hauler or garage is stupid. It’s a normal instinct to loosen up the belts and even loosen the Hans restraints when you get to the 10MPH pit/paddock area. Makes a hell of a lot more sense to me to initiate a rule that mandates a one race suspension for any retaliatory action taken off the track. That asshole Keselowski is lucky nobody got seriously injured. Thanks Brian, for your idiotic chase format.