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(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Truckin’ Thursdays: NASCAR Fails to Drop the Hammer for Fighting

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for last few days, by now you’re well aware of the “fight” between John Wes Townley on the track at Gateway Motorsports Park. In a wreck that was seemingly payback for earlier contact, the pair brought out the ninth and final caution when their trucks came to a stop side-by-side on the track.

Both drivers, clearly frustrated, got out of their trucks, and it wasn’t long before the first punch was thrown. Townley, who made the first move, connected a handful of punches throughout the fracas that moved down the banking all the way to the grass on the inside of the track. Meanwhile, track workers continued their jobs, leaving NASCAR officials to arrive and break up the fight, but not before Townley scored a takedown on Gallagher that was eerily reminiscent of a sloppy WWE move.

Of course both Townley and Gallagher were summoned to the NASCAR hauler for a discussion ahead of penalties this week.

Come Monday, after tempers had some time to cool down, Gallagher issued an apology through a team statement, though the Townley camp has been silent.

Also on Monday, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell made it clear on The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR that the sanctioning body would be handing down some sort of repurcussions related to the incident.

“We certainly like to see drivers who are going to express their emotions be outside of a race car, that’s where we really, really jump in and react when it’s drivers using their race cars beyond what is normal for a race,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to react heavily when we have to. We want to make sure drivers, if they’re going to do anything, are outside of their car but certainly don’t encourage what happened at Gateway.”

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon when NASCAR finally made its decision and issued penalties. Both drivers were placed on probation (what a joke!) until Dec. 31, and Townley was fined $15,000, while Gallagher was fined $12,500. Both were cited in violation of Sections 12-1; 12.8.1.c for being “involved in a physical altercation with another Competitor on the race track during a caution period.”

I suppose the reason the sanctioning body didn’t choose suspension as a penalty is because there wasn’t really concrete proof that the wreck was retaliatory and the two fought outside of their trucks. But the part that’s incredibly surprising is that the penalties weren’t stiffer. After all, Townley and Gallagher battled on the racing surface, and while the field was red-flagged at the time, there’s never a time when that should be acceptable. Ever.

But why the different dollar amounts on the penalties? Simple. Townley was the instigator and landed a handful of punches while Gallagher appeared to be spending the majority of his time trying to defend himself, while bringing the fight to a stop.

While I understand the importance of passion in the sport’s drivers, there are also specific behavorial expectations for all members in NASCAR. In fact, section 12.8.1.d of the rulebook states “
NASCAR expects Members to police their own behavior, attempt to resolve disputes with other Members, and generally act as a role model representing the sport.”

And what Townley and Gallagher engaged in Saturday night was from from acting as a role model.

Truckin’ Tidbits

  • After being sidelined for a back injury, Matt Tifft will be out indefinitely. A routine scan related to his back found a low-grade glioma in his brain (brain tumor). Tifft will undergo surgery for its removal and plans to return to the sport after being cleared to race again.

https://twitter.com/Matt_Tifft/status/747961108959371264

  • The fire at the ThorSport shop in Sandusky, Ohio has been ruled accidental. According to a report from ESPN, the fire began in mulch beneath the stairs of a patio. The fire marshal’s report couldn’t rule out that smoking materials may have been what started the fire, though there was no proof through the investigation that indicated anyone was smoking in the area at the time.
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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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One comment

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    Anybody ever notice in pro football? pro basketball? pro baseball? but auto racing has to be squeaky clean. Come on!!