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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Take Action After Rough Driving at Watkins Glen?

This past weekend’s road course events at Watkins Glen International had pretty much everything – turning both right and left, drivers spinning and sliding, tempers flaring and fantastic races to the finish on both days. Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race featured a battle between Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger, while Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event showcased a rematch between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr., with Cindric and Elliott emerging as the winners in New York.

However, the tempers were probably the biggest storyline heading into the week, though, with three different incidents resulting in retaliation – one during Saturday’s Xfinity Series event and two on Sunday for the Cup Series.

This begs the question of if these retaliatory moves should be punished or not. Is it better to let “boys have at it” or to crack down when necessary? Vito Pugliese and Adam Cheek debate.

We’re Not Fighting — We’re Communicating!

Kyle Busch had himself quite a weekend at Watkins Glen. Not only did he manage to invoke the ire of Chad Knaus, he managed to get himself hooked and spun by Bubba Wallace coming down the frontstretch.

While Knaus did not take kindly to the Toyota driver having his way with the Chevrolet of William Byron, there was a sense of a lack of respect by the No. 18 to the No. 24. That led to Knaus issuing a none-too-veiled instruction to his driver: “If I see the 18 come back around here without you knocking the f–k out of him, we’re going to have a problem.”

The bigger problem ended up being the nose of Byron’s Camaro stuffed in and requiring additional work to repair after Busch brake-checked him going uphill through the esses under caution.

So for those demanding punitive action here – why? Against whom? This seems like a self-policing incident between two drivers racing for position. Oh, and by the way, Bristol Motor Speedway is in two weeks — that was always the weekend of retribution for recent grievances.

The incident that garnered more attention was Wallace versus Busch. Coming out of turn 7, Busch and Wallace were beating door to door following an earlier incident that sent Wallace spinning into the wall. Busch got one last forceful slam right by the flag stand. Wallace, taking offense, had his, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore,” moment and hooked Busch, sending him spinning — much to the delight of any fans not wearing No. 18 gear. While it was certainly aggressive — if not warranted — it was largely ineffective as Busch never actually stopped rolling, let alone make contact with anything.

If a tree falls in the woods and a caution comes out, does anyone care?

The incident on Saturday with Justin Allgaier — well, that was a bit different and more egregious. Ross Chastain bounced off the curbing going through the bus stop and washed up into Allgaier, sending him spinning. Allgaier lost positions and a bunch of time on track, but the car was largely unaffected after stopping gently against the tire barrier. Allgaier, soon after, was behind Chastain through the bus stop, but didn’t repay the favor there. Through the inner loop, he continued to push and bump him, sending Chastain off line and harder into the tire barrier, causing significant damage.

That was a bit uncalled for, but he felt wronged and it’s his prerogative how big a deal he makes out of it. As a championship contender, he may not want to start a back-and-forth and arouse the wrath of the Melon Man later this fall.  It was a bit uncalled for after what appeared to be a legitimate racing incident bouncing off the curbs, but that’s kind of what makes stock-car racing fun to watch, right?

It’s the old argument of “boys, have at it.” Everyone bemoans NASCAR rules and interfering with action. Well, here’s some action and NASCAR letting the drivers handle business. Interfering with this would fly in the face of what makes racing fun: rivalries, contact and the soap opera that results.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention Bristol is in two weeks? -Vito Pugliese

React to Retaliation

If retaliation goes unpunished, does anyone learn anything?

On Saturday, we saw Chastain and Allgaier tangle twice, with the inciting incident being Chastain getting into Allgaier’s No. 7 car, sending him spinning but with minimal damage. A little while later, Allgaier retaliated in the carousel by punting the No. 4 car pretty heavily into the barriers outside the carousel. Chastain’s car was destroyed by Allgaier’s revenge, lighting up Twitter and sparking debates on just how much retaliation is necessary or acceptable.

Sunday’s event saw two different incidents, both involving the No. 18 of Busch. The first was instigated by Busch and Byron making contact in the first turn on the second lap, which spun out Busch’s Toyota. Later in the first stage, Busch nudged Byron as they raced into the bus stop, sending Byron’s No. 24 through the grass as the No. 18 sailed by. This led to Byron’s crew chief Knaus telling his driver, “If I see that 18 come back around here without you knocking the f—k out of him, we’re gonna have a problem.”

Byron tried — and failed — to do so, attempting to avenge himself in the esses. Busch knew what was coming and brake-checked the No. 24, damaging Byron’s front end and Busch suffering minimal damage himself in the process.

The second incident on Sunday also involved the No. 18, with Busch attempting to race his way back through the field after a penalty. As he neared the top 20, he and Wallace, who had gone for a spin while racing Busch earlier, battled it out down the frontstretch, beating and banging off each other and about knocking the doors off their cars. Wallace finally had enough and turned Busch going into turn 1, sending Busch off track. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver didn’t suffer damage but lost a number of spots and was understandably upset afterwards.

So, after the weekend’s chaos, should something be done about retaliation? Should we let it go? I don’t think so. I’m a complete supporter of minimal intervention and the “boys have at it” mentality, but sometimes it gets a bit out of hand, especially on Sunday.

Now, Busch has had his share of inexcusable moments, chief among them of course being his 2011 destruction of Ron Hornaday Jr.’s truck at Texas Motor Speedway. The two had been racing hard and had both their trucks damaged trying to avoid a lapped vehicle, sending both into the wall. Busch took it a bit too far, however, hounding Hornaday down the backstretch under caution and then sending them both into the wall at a not-so-slow speed. Busch was parked for the rest of the weekend.

That and moments similar to it certainly warrant penalties, but Sunday’s retaliation seemed to go a bit too far. Let’s start with Allgaier. Sure, Chastain got into him, but it appeared accidental — Chastain was under Allgaier and the two made contact. However, Allgaier completely destroying Chastain’s No. 4 car was entirely excessive and unnecessary. It’s a little bit similar to the Busch/Hornaday incident — an accidental move that led to over-the-top payback.

On to the Busch incidents, it’s my belief that Knaus should have been penalized for egging his driver on if the incident had been more catastrophic. I guess, in a sense, Byron’s smashed-up front end and a ruined race is punishment enough. That initial lap-2 incident seemed harmless enough, both drivers in the wrong place at the wrong time. Given Busch’s past temperament and the fact that blame could be given either way, it’s not a surprise that he sent Byron through the grass (with no damage to speak of either), but Knaus then encouraged Byron to go and wreck the No. 18 car — not just that, but to, again, “knock the f–k” of out him.

I’m all for drivers standing up for themselves, and young drivers like Byron and Wallace should certainly establish themselves in this regard early in their careers. But Byron went after Busch in the esses, where guardrails and barriers loom on either side, and it very well could’ve destroyed one or both cars if Busch hadn’t brake-checked him.

Wallace’s incident seemed just as unnecessary, maybe even more so. Yes, the two drivers doored each other down the frontstretch and both probably battled a little too hard for where they were, but I don’t think it warranted Wallace outright spinning the No. 18. I wouldn’t have penalized Wallace just for that, but imagine if, say, the brakes in Busch’s car had malfunctioned; he would’ve flown – possibly literally, with the lip that turn 1 has – into the barriers.

This is somewhat similar to the several incidents we’ve had in Major League Baseball this year — warnings should be NASCAR’s first, automatic step. The MLB has been very good about issuing warnings — you don’t want to allow teams to throw 95 mph fastballs at opponents’ heads or shoulders. That sets a dangerous precedent, and this analogy applies to NASCAR as well. You don’t want blatant revenge to be a commonplace thing in racing.

Excessive retaliation certainly warrants some sort of action, and not penalizing drivers during this somewhat sets a precedent for future incidents. A fine is a relatively reasonable response to these situations — especially Allgaier’s. I’d feel the same way about the two Busch incidents, but neither resulted in excessive damage — although it’s important to establish the precedent of warnings and further action. -Adam Cheek

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About Vito Pugliese

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Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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20 comments

  1. Avatar

    To all the Kyle bush haters,. Your just mad because Kyle is the best driver in Nascar hands down. Bubba Wallace tried to wreck him on straightaway. If Kyle had done that, Nascar would have parked him. Bubba usually wrecks by himself every week anyways. Richard petty just playing the race card in Nascar for some extra money.

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    Simple solution to this whole thing is to get rid of the chase and let the drivers actually RACE like they used to, this whole segment format racing and Chase for the Championship is stupid in my opinion . The drivers all want to win and if you get put out of the chase by someone trying to win a race then that sucks, but it’s racing, let them actually race for the full season, back in the day someone could be back 250/300 points and still win the championship, now with this chase format why should they even show up on race day if they have no shot at the title?

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    Racing is racing. However when someone ok intentually wrecks another they should be parked. Adolescent behavior gets driver’s hurt or even worse.

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    I like how we are talking about this more than what Ricky Stenhouse did when he purposely turned Kurt Busch, destroyed a lot of cars in the process, and nothing happened. Maybe a lot of drivers saw that the week before at Pocono and said hey, NASCAR is going to let us police ourselves out here….I am not so interested as to what happens at Bristol as I am to see if this plays out further in the playoffs…

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      I could not believe he did that at Pocono of all places.. Wrecky is a menace out there.

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        Last time I saw something that bad was Terry Labonte getting into Steve Park which appeared to be unintentional but hard to say.

        I do not understand Ricky, he constantly runs in the back, has proven he can’t get it done outside of super speedways and just continues to wreck people. Then again everyone on the track allows for it. Maybe it’s cause he is a non-contender and someone they just focus on lapping week after week?

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    I was just beginning to have respect for Kyle Busch. The key word here is “was”. After Sunday at The Glen, coach needs to have a heart to heart talk with Kyle. Some day he is going to pick on the wrong driver and find himself picking up pieces of s destroyed race car. Kudos to Bubba Wallace for standing up for what is right and just. Maybe that will send a message to Kyle.

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    Adam, Nice conveniently leaving out in your argument that Busch appears to have spun out the 43 earlier in the race causing the rear end damage. Without that incident I highly doubt that Wallace would have run the 18 toward pit wall and then subsequently spun him out.
    Also, the deal with the 24 car was 100% a racing deal when Busch spun on lap 2. Honestly the only one to blame on that one would be Busch himself. The 24 stayed on line, tight yes but, still gave the 18 room.
    Unfortunately replays of many of these other issues were not very good and could not tell the full story.
    Essentially Busch caused his own issues with the other drivers and got what he deserved if not even getting off light.
    Hopefully NASCAR sits down with him and lays down that if continues to act like an entitled, petulant brat he will not have any cover from NASCAR and the “boys have at it” is fair game no matter what.

    Wish I could remember how the line went in Days of Thunder when Bill France JR. had the two in his office. It fits with Busch right now.

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      brian – something about you two idiots that can’t race together on the track, he’ll pull their cars and do a chinese inspection on them. take the cars apart piece by piece. something like that if i remember.

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      If anything the contact with the 43 would of also been a racing incident where he appears from the last camera shot to be under the 43. Just like the Busch on the lap 2 incident, Bubba felt he was raced wrong and showed it. Busch did nothing on a day like that yesterday for you to only be pointing the finger at him. He pushed the 24 back telling him he did not appreciate the move he put on him. That to me is fair game, no damage to the 24, they are at a stage break so bring is in clean the grass off (or find a team mate and bump him to get it off) but to under caution fly up on someone (uphill) and then try to slam into the back of that vehicle? What was he thinking? This isnt a video game, anytime a vehicle makes contact with the less sturdy front end to a very sturdy back end it never works out….that was just dumb. No penalty or fine should be placed tho as both cars were able to keep going. The one with Wallace, he spun Busch back, albeit in an awful way and thank goodness the sand isn’t there anymore. If I were Bubba or someone close to him, I would tell him next time you want to spin a guy in a corner like that…drive behind him and simply use his vehicle to brake yours, lift his tires up off the ground and spin him out. 1) it doesn’t look so egregious and 2) less likely to get fined or suspended because (!) if Busch did slam into the wall and totaled out his car, there would likely be a fine carried with that move. Otherwise, I loved the young guys showing some balls out there today and retaliating. Kyle Busch will use his bumper to get by you and “rough you up” a little, so young guns! use your bumper and rough these guys up, don’t go to the mic or tweeter to discuss your frustration, show it on the race track.

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    It will all work out. If Kyle keeps giving no respect to the guys at the rear of the field, they will correct the problem come playoff time. Any one of them could take him out of the championship by choosing a pivotal moment to take revenge. He needs to learn that the hard way. The point is, you don’t want to piss other drivers off unless it really matters. Last weekend’s race was just a run-of-the-mill average race that really won’t mean anything to Kyle’s overall season. Was it really worth making all those enemies?

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      Very good point, he does not seem to have the same respect in regards to those drivers who run 20th on back as he does as the drivers up toward the front. That isn’t even just a Kyle thing, I have heard Harvick and Truex both express displeasure on the radio in the past about racing with those guys back there. SO about damn time some of them stand up and push back on the track! Loved it!

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        You are right about other drivers also having that streak of entitlement and lack of respect for the bottom half of the field. I just think Kyle take it to another level a lot more so than others. I am OK with some of that because, in all honesty, I can see that in a lot of cases they are more obstacles than competitors. Still, you have to show a little tact and sportsmanship as you pass them. You just can’t expect them to roll over every time. All Kyle needed to do was show a little more patience by taking a little more time to make his way through the field. Instead, he acted like “get out of my way you emeffin’ losers”. No tact no respect no big picture racing.

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          I didn’t see a lack of respect on his part given how many passes he made. (50 ?)

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            What does the number of cars he passed have to do with respect? Who cares if he passed 50 cars or 2 cars, it’s HOW he passed them. I must be missing your point or you don’t understand what to respect a competitor means.
            Quite honestly one of the most pointless comments I’ve ever seen.

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          Bill, I think he was impatient to get back up through the field cause they clearly had a pre-race plan in place and I think he was trying to get back on schedule and couldn’t let Chase and Truex get too far out ahead.

          Tom, someone on the fan page said over 80 but don’t quote me on that, only one pass matters and thats the pass for first 🙂

          Happy Friday

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            Yes, exactly! He was impatient to get back to the front. All the drivers want to get to the front. What makes him so special that he should be able to drive through everyone else to get there. I really hope someone blatantly wrecks him come playoff time and knocks him out of the playoffs. I doubt he would learn anything from it because he is a selfish, self-centered prick but it should would be fun to see him stomp his feet and whine like a baby when things didn’t go his way.

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    I guess you missed that Kyle caused the wreck that did so much damage to the 43? I think that William and Bubba need to either talk to Allgaier or watch tapes of The Intimidator so they can learn how to properly rattle a cage.

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      Or just take notes about how Kyle rattles their cage…seriously, last camera shot looks like Kyle has position and clearly faster. Bubba was running a little higher and I can THEORIZE Bubba was taking a higher arc into the corner out of the S’s, or got wide(?), they (clearly?) made contact, Bubba got loose and once he hit the speedy dry it was all over and into the tire barrier he went. That is an Earnhardt move right there, if he was faster and you left that door open he was coming in regardless of who or what position it was for. The only reason fans refuse to realize the two race very similar on the track (Outside of younger Kyle’s massive temper tantrums) is because it is Kyle Busch. But most time when racing for a win, racing for position, they race very similar. They are POLAR opposite personalities however which is why people don’t like Kyle and they seem to not be able to see past that. Sure there will be comments that follow this post (comparing Earnhardt and Kyle always brings the best out in fans) that will prove my point but no one will put on the tape.

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