Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: NASCAR Was Right Not to Penalize Gordon, Keselowski

To say that NASCAR has faced some criticism in the past for being inconsistent on issuing penalties would be an understatement. Seemingly similar incidents would get completely different penalties, and would sometimes be completely over turned by NASCAR’s own appellate staff. Even with the introduction of the new penalty system, the different levels assessed didn’t address behavioral issues.

We’ve seen several different physical altercations this year and the penalties have varied. However, in my opinion, NASCAR got this one right.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
How safe will Keselowski be at Phoenix? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

I understand why they had to penalize Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart after the Charlotte incident considering that they endangered other people, but I really hoped that neither Keselowski nor Jeff Gordon would get penalized for their involvement in last weekend’s post-race brawl on pit road. After all, NASCAR as much as admitted at the beginning of the season that this new Chase system would create a tenser atmosphere and lead drivers to do and say things that are out of character or altogether unacceptable.

As such, I was delighted that NASCAR decided not to penalize either driver for fighting, and instead decided on a select few crew members for actions that NASCAR deemed to be unacceptable. The penalties were extended to the crew chiefs responsible for those crew members as well. I think it’s fair enough if crew members stepped over the line, though the videos make it tough to tell who specifically is being targeted.

You might be wondering why I’m not including Kevin Harvick among those I hoped not to see penalized. Frankly, I thought the Harvick move was childish and unnecessary. How can crew members get penalized for pummeling each other for defending their driver and fellow crew members, yet Harvick gets away scot-free for essentially inciting the brawl when he otherwise had nothing to do with it? I understand that certain crew members were already pushing and shoving, but the real issue didn’t start until Harvick got involved, and that certainly wasn’t ok. It wasn’t his place to get involved, he had no right to, and NASCAR should have reacted to that.

Additionally, it seems like we are constantly talking about Keselowski, and not in the “he’s-the-favorite-to-win-this-championship” way that I thought we would be. In fact, this discussion surrounding the driver of the No. 2 car seems to be more about the drivers he is angering than his accomplishments on the racetrack. While I didn’t agree with what happened at Charlotte (using one’s car as a weapon is never ok with me), I don’t think Keselowski was wrong to take advantage of an opening on the racetrack to try and go for the win. What choice did he have exactly?

Could it have been done a little cleaner? Yes, of course, but playing it conservative is going to lose him this championship, and that’s if he makes it to the next round at all. Unless he wins next week, he’s not going to. In fact, there are several drivers who will likely have it in their best interests to make sure that he doesn’t advance.

I personally enjoy Keselowski’s driving style and love watching a driver who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to Victory Lane. But Kyle Busch has gone through this phase many times and, as Denny Hamlin said, it’s going to be very difficult for Keselowski to win this championship when he has so many enemies.

I think that about covers it. All this, and there are still two races left.

Now onto the mailbox:

“I recently attended the Sprint Cup race at Chicago and admittedly it’s been awhile. The noise from the cars approach deafening. No longer a deep throated roar but rather an irritating scream that is most definitely damaging the fans hearing. I found myself watching the infield TV to keep up with the race as the announcer (if there was one) couldn’t be heard. I couldn’t even talk to my friend seated next to me without screaming in his ear.” Jerry

I don’t understand. You’re complaining because the cars are too loud at the racetrack? This was a surprise to you?

I read somewhere that they now have scanners at the track (or somewhere) that have microphones attached so you can talk to the person you are sitting with without having to scream at them. I don’t know who has them and wasn’t able to find anything definitive online, but I’ve seen other fans talking about it. So maybe that’s an option?

Honestly, though, I don’t get this complaint. I think it’s pretty obvious what you are signing up for when you go to a race is that, once the race starts, you can barely hear yourself think, let alone the person sitting next to you. That’s why it’s a good idea to rent a scanner in the first place. At most tracks, you can barely hear the PA at all. Only on the big tracks can you ever hear it, and that’s generally only for a few seconds when the cars are on the other side of the track.

Seriously, of all the complaints I get/see/hear/read, this one seems like a no-brainer. Unless NASCAR starts fielding hybrids—and I think we can all agree that would be a horrible idea—that’s just the way it’s going to be.

“How does Roger Penske feel about all of this? He has to get sick of having to answer for his driver, especially since Brad brings a lot of him on himself.” Charles

Actually, Roger Penske has been rather supportive of Keselowski and that includes the incident at Texas. In a statement earlier this week, Penske said, “Brad Keselowski is a champion who competes to win in every race, which is what I expect of him. While the actions by others following the race in Texas were unfortunate, Brad has my 100 percent support as we now move on to Phoenix for the next stage of the NASCAR championship.”

In other words, Penske doesn’t think Keselowski did anything wrong and is fully on board with Keselowski’s driving style. That’s good for Keselowski because I doubt he is going to change his style anytime soon. He’s been grabbed, shoved, and punched several times over the course of the past couple of months. Clearly, he remains unconcerned.

This isn’t exactly the first time Penske has had to deal with troublesome drivers. Rusty Wallace, not one of the most popular drivers in the garage area in his time as a driver, drove for Penske. A no-holds-barred driving style is not something that Penske shies away from. In fact, if past history shows true, he kind of prefers it.

So don’t think Keselowski is going to be gone from this team anytime soon because his team owner is sick of dealing with him. On the contrary … he’s loving every minute of it!

“I don’t quite get how NASCAR decides penalties. If Harvick or Gordon or Hamlin or Kenseth and whoever else has a target on Keselowski’s back wrecks him intentionally at Phoenix, do we expect penalties? NASCAR doesn’t really seem to take away points anymore, but I can’t help but think it’s a possibility.” Lisa

NASCAR hasn’t specifically said they aren’t taking points away, but I agree they seem to be reluctant to do so for whatever reason. Whether that’s the Chase or not, I don’t know, but it sure seems that way.

However, recent memory seems to show that they deal with on-track penalties based on the severity of the accident. For instance, when Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski had their constant spat a few years back, NASCAR issued severe penalties against the both of them, but that seemed to be because many of the wrecks were rather awful (Keselowski flipping at Atlanta, spinning into oncoming traffic at Gateway, etc.).

Yet when Denny Hamlin spun out Keselowski in a Nationwide Series race around that same time, there was no penalty and I would imagine that’s because

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Gordon let his temper get the better of him at Texas. Can he afford to do it again? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Keselowski didn’t hit anything and the wreck wasn’t really a big deal—points-wise or wreck-wise.

I know these incidents are from several years back, but that seems to be the case even today. When Kyle Busch spun out Ron Hornaday in 2011, that was treated as severe and Busch was parked for it.

Basically, NASCAR assesses the situation and assesses penalties as they see fit. The more impactful the situation is or the worse the wreck is, the more harshly NASCAR tends to respond. I’m sure we can pull up some instances where that wasn’t the case, but history shows that is generally how NASCAR rules in these situations.

I would imagine, then, that if any driver with an apparent vendetta against Keselowski wrecks him at Phoenix, thereby ending his championship chances, they would be penalized. With that being said, what do they care? Like you said, NASCAR hasn’t been taking points away and several of them are already out of the championship hunt anyway. And NASCAR isn’t going to give Keselowski a Chase spot because he might have won had a certain other driver not wrecked him.

Honestly, I think Keselowski is really in trouble. I’m not trying to hype up another fight because everyone will have their own title hopes in mind come Phoenix, but if certain drivers find themselves in a desperate situation, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try something like this.

About the author

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Well I agree, Kez and Gordon should not have gotten penalties. I am hugely disappointed that P.T. Barnum Brian found his freak show act The Great Arsonist above the fray. P.T. Barnum must be thinking the townsfolk who where at the tent show on Sunday will pay full admission next week, hoping the Great Arsonist will inflame yet again.

I mean seriously, how can such a blatant act of Harvick’s go unscathed? It’s not like there is a monetary windfall invested blown if they sat him out, he is NOT Dale Jr. But P.T. Barnum see’s dollar signs and covets the antics of the village idiot then he does personal maturity, moral character and racing. The guy acted like a jerk yelling fire in a movie theater. I keep saying that, but he was the match to all of this nonsense. His smug face will be grinning ear to ear this weekend…



Harvick no penalty what a joke. Go Brad K don’t back down, if this was Dale jr or Jeff Gordon it would be called “racing”. Can you blame Brian France for having to create this . The last 10 years or so these drivers have been riding around getting checks, The attendance had gone down and the TV ratings couldn’t keep blaming the economy. They say in Baseball things like could Derek Jeter have played in your era. Could Brad K have raced with Petty , Allison, Cale Yarborough Dale Earnhardt Sr. Darrel Waltrip Tim Richmond, Rusty Wallace Yes Could Harvick and Kenseth , Hamlin. Kenseth isn’t fair as he doesn’t race he collects a check. Could Hamlin have driven for Junior Johnson, Could you Imagine what Junior Johnson would have though when Hamlin makes a statement he would wrather be liked and not a champion. he is the poster boy for what has all gone wrong the last ten years. As for payback it goes both ways. Brad K has been tackled from behind and didn’t hit back punched in the mouth didn’t get a chance to land one back. I think he owes them .Try wrecking him and he is out of it at Homestead then well don’t think he isn’t going to make it easy for them. I guess Nascar fans don’t know what they want . They say we wish we would have a drivers go for the win and heck with points . Nascar gives them that and a driver Brad K who wil now they say he is wreckless and drives crazy. If it was Dalr Jr they would say it was great.”Martinsville” Time for the has beens to move on Teresa Earnhardt was correct about him a few years ago do you want to be a rock star or a racer. She saw when Dale Sr was a nobody and what he sacrificed to get where he did. I was huge Dale Jr fan. As I was of Sr. But Jr want’s to try finally at 40. Time for has been to move on. Jeff Gordon upset as he knows he has been driving his heart out this year ” about time been riding around for a quite a few and he might have blew it and doesn’t think he can go through another year with that kind of focus and determination at this stage his career he is done. I was starting to like him but he reminded why I hated him to start with just an older whiner like he was then Move on, Tony Stewart move on if you still could drive as well as you still run your mouth you might still be a somebody. same with your buddy Harvick. Kenseth . Time for the never going to be anything like Stenhouse, Hamlin Kasey Kahne. Here is to a new crop of drivers who want to win. The changing of the guard. Change is good


..interesting Jim and I agree with a lot of it. I am dismayed though at this “Twitter” business. Seems anybody in this instance (Chevy drivers and of course the dimwit Hamlin) are pulling a full on character assault on Brad. I find it pathetic that the ones happy to speak to the media at any turn are the one’s who are the biggest “do as I say, don’t do as I do” offenders, and have done a remarkable job of providing to the world, insanely stupid comments and actions. Now they are playing the victim and are complaining about Brad. The bullies complaining to the principal, the victim isn’t handing over his lunch money. It is relentless, non productive and damaging to the sport overall. Whoever is urging these dimwits on is clearly not looking at the health and long term vitality of the sport in regards to its key players. One would also not be off base if they thought this is a calculated assault from the Gm crowd against Ford brand. Silly, but when isn’t anything in Nascar not these days.

Bill B

Strangely, all Americans are entitled to their opinion. I agree that all drivers have a “Do as I say not as I do” to varying degrees but that doesn’t mean in any given instance, on rare occasions, they may actually have a point. Not saying that’s the case here, but your analogy of bullies complaining to the principal doesn’t ring true in my opinion.


…and Bill as you so strongly pointed out, I too am entitled to my opinion. What a few drivers are doing is not so much an opinion, but a opportunity to sound childish. An “opinion” is very large umbrella to hide under. I’m guessing with your dislike of Kez, you are actually enjoying this immaturity, therefore your attitude..ahem… opinion. But then again that is my opinion and as you so perceptively pointed out, we all have them.

Bill B

I wonder if Jerry sat up higher in the stands in the past and had lower seats closer to the track than in prior visits. It make a huge difference. Otherwise, it’s laughable that anyone could have ever went to a race in the past and then be surprised by how loud it is when the return. It’s always loud.


” The noise from the cars approach deafening. No longer a deep throated roar but rather an irritating scream that is most definitely damaging the fans hearing.”

A few years ago my little lady and I went back east to visit my folks… While we were there we hit the
local short track for some Friday night mayhem. We had an absolute blast, joking and talking and pointing
things out to each other…. It was the most fun I’d ever had at a track….

It took a while to figure out why it was so much fun… Its because we could talk and laugh and joke with each other, and talk about the race while the race was happening… Why was that? MUFFLERs It sounded
like a race, it smelled like a race, and the racing was fantastic, but I could communicate with the person next to me…

Then we flew out to Texas a few years ago for the Cup race, just something to do… Sit there for 3 hours, and if you want to talk to the person next to you, you have to tap them on the shoulder and then scream in their ear… Not a lot of fun…

I never thought I would say it, because it just seems wrong, but put some mufflers on them things… It’ll still sound like a race, it’ll still be loud, but the fan experience in the stands will be much better because they will be able to interact with each other…

We had so much fun at little local track, and it was because of the mufflers and the quieter, though still loud, cars.

Bill B

I can see your point but it’s no different at a rock concert or football game.


That’s a pretty bad analogy. A rock concert? Of course at a concert you are there to LISTEN to music not talk to someone. At a race, baseball game, football etc you are there to watch the action, but still have the ability to talk to people next to you about the action that’s going on or anything else.


If the fans could vote on France and the Chase, both would be rejected like Obama was last night. Just sayin’…..


“I recently attended the Sprint Cup race at Chicago and admittedly it’s been awhile. The noise from the cars approach deafening. No longer a deep throated roar but rather an irritating scream that is most definitely damaging the fans hearing.”

You seemed to be a more than a little disingenuous when you say “I don’t understand. You’re complaining because the cars are too loud at the racetrack? This was a surprise to you?”.

This is NOT what he was saying. He is talking about the CHANGE in the sound of the cars since he last attended a race. He was clear that he attended at least one race previously so he would not be surprised the cars are loud.

Instead of responding to his specific concern you decided to ridicule him. Summer, how does this increase your credibility?


I’m going to have to agree that the sound of a cup car has changed to a more unpleasant tone than they used to be.
didn’t i read that part of the current rules package said that exhausts had to be on the right hand side of the car. I know it used to be an option and most teams would have their exhaust on the left hand side of the car at both new hampshire and dover. I clearly remember finding the sound of cup cars with right hand exhausts rather unpleasant. I also recall that over time, i believe sterling marlin was the first teams started to “tune” the exhausts. For me that’s when the sound became unpleasant and changed. They used to have a sound that would make you say “ground pounder” that is until you heard what a big block sprint car or a whelan modified sounds like.

Fed Up

I have truly become a Brad fan. He, along with Newman, are my picks for the trophy. They are racers and you don’t hear them saying anyone is racing them too hard. They love it and that is what the sport is all about,
not whining because someone laid a fender on them. I do wish NA$CAR would stop the fender flare pulling.
It is unfair as too who pulls how much; and creates a cut tire the moment someone gets close. It is a simple fix
and may put a stop to so many cautions since the driver with the flat will ride it until it creates debris and a caution to their benefit.

Carl D.

I keep hearing how difficult it will be for Keselowski this weekend at Phoenix. However, should Kevin Harvick find the Blue Duece in his mirror Sunday, his season might get short-punted as well.

Fed Up

I know I’m getting old, but is anyone else annoyed at the sound mix now being directed at us with the “sounds of the race or game”? Fox is the worst. They had the Series so miked up that is was a major distraction.


Yeah, they’ve made a mess of things. Also, hate when they throw it down to the pit road reporters and the first thing you hear is them playing an airgun sound effect. That isn’t live. That is something they play every time. It’s like the movie cliche when you watch the beginning of a film where they show a mountainous shot and they play the sound of an eagle screech. It just makes the whole thing seem more fake. Yes, and I’m getting older and been a fan for 40 years. Between Brian and the broadcasters, they’ll manage to kill this golden egg-laying goose yet.


Sadly what a joke of an author. A guy asks about the change in the sound of the engine and you ridicule him? The rest is poorly reasoned opinion piece.


Thank you for being sane. How could this ‘rising young’ columnist so entirely miss the point. The current timbre of engine noise is not conducive to a spectator sport.

Its a matter of the bass note disappearing for a more F1 like scream. At a time when cutting down 60,000 seats from the marquee track is a celebrated move, its boneheaded to respond with “OMG LOL What were U thinking!”

Its a fixable problem for nascar, but with all their insanity over Carl Long’s .25cc and dragging their feet on EFI, they continually forget that its a spectator sport.

And Ms. Begood, no need to reply to me. I can already imagine where a lack of reading comprehension and frantic rush to ‘have a hot take’ will get you on this one.


I have to say, with the way Hamlin has run this year, his bad mouthing of Brad sounds a lot more like sour grapes than anything.


Indeed it does…17th in the real dumb Chase, I haven’t looked up “the classic points” and this guy might be a Champ..oh that is just so wrong.

Ohio Kart Racer

Did you read in the papers yesterday where they quoted Jeff as saying, (talking about Dale Jr running ahead of him in the closing laps), “I would have moved him for sure. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Gordon said after finishing second to Earnhardt at Martinsville. “Everybody who is out there racing has o weigh risk versus reward. For me to win this race, it’s worth taking a lot of risk, even if you upset your teammate. I think everybody out there that’s not in the chase understands that if that guy can win that race and put himself in Homestead for the championship, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re going to get the bumper OR GET SLAMMED or something.”

Wow – makes his comments about Keslowski after the race seem pretty lame! I think he more upset with himself – not only for chossing the outside lane for the restart – and then getting high and leaving such a big hole for Kes! Can hardly wait for Phoenix!!

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com