They began with preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway and reared their head in the most recent ARCA race at Bristol Motor Speedway. However, the problem is not solely that drivers, team personnel and owners have been involved. Instead, it is that ARCA series officials have not thoroughly policed those instances, thereby allowing these types of incidents to continue.
With struggling car counts and its teams having smaller budgets, ARCA does not want to fine or suspend competitors and teams because it maims them long term. Completely understandable, and in many instances, placing a driver or team on probation would suffice.
Probation serves as a warning; another transgression would necessitate either points and or financial penalty.
On-track incidents are difficult to police because without direct instruction via communications and or admission, it is challenging to know if contact was intentional. Therefore, placing a driver under probation reminds these drivers to drive their car hard without becoming overaggressive.
Before the season began, ARCA wisely placed Taylor Gray on probation after he took an in-car video of himself at the preseason test at Daytona. Not only is using your cell phone while driving against the law in many states, posting the video on social media is an admission of guilt, a definite cause for penalty.
? Red flag ?
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) August 1, 2021
“This incident is under review by our competition folks, “ARCA Communications Manager Charlie Krall told Great Lakes Post reporter Casey Campbell. “Taylor unfortunately is on probation. We’ve monitored their social media traffic; we haven’t seen anything inflammatory so we’re going to take a look at some video and our competition folks will make a determination.”
Yet no penalties were issued. Because Gray was already under probation, he should have been penalized further. I thought ARCA should have docked Gray 20 points, or half of a full field, for this incident.
At Michigan International Speedway, Gray’s David Gilliland Racing teammate Thad Moffitt and Drew Dollar tangled. On the opening lap, Dollar washed up the track, taking Moffitt into the wall. Moffitt later got his revenge when he wrecked Dollar. Dollar spun into the wall, and with nowhere to go, Tim Richmond slammed into Dollar.
Richmond, unfortunately, suffered the worst of it all. His No. 27 was destroyed. He was also injured and has not returned to driving since.
The wrecked race cars are costly to both Richmond’s family-owned team as well as Venturini Motorsports. Richmond Clubb Motorsports team owner David Richmond estimated it was a $50,000 loss for his team.
— Mark Kristl (@MarkKristl) August 20, 2021
“We normally don’t get involved in any type of penalties to drivers for actions on the racetrack, particularly after a race is over,” Krall told Campbell. “If we do penalize someone, it generally is for retaliation on the racetrack, and it’s generally done right then and there.”
I doubt Dollar intentionally took Moffitt into the wall on the opening lap, and it is uncertain whether Moffitt meant to express his displeasure with Dollar via contact or outright wreck him. Moffitt has not admitted culpability. Either way, as David Richmond told Frontstretch, “It’s kids playing high-speed bumper cars.” That should never happen.
As such, ARCA officials should place both Moffitt and Dollar on probation. It would remind them to be more cautious and hopefully end wrecking innocent drivers, Sanchez at Winchester and Richmond at Michigan.
“We want to be that first step that drivers take as they’re on their way up the ladder,” Krall told Racing News Now. “We understand there’s a lot of learning to be done here whether it’s on the racetrack or off. These drivers aren’t polished or perfect; they’re learning and we’re going to give them that kind of leeway to make those types of mistakes. Everybody would rather make those mistakes early in their career than 10 years from now when they’re running in the Cup Series. Let’s get that out of their system here.”
Yes, mistakes happen, but as drivers are beginning their racing careers in ARCA, they also should learn mistakes have consequences. Probation serves as an entry-level consequence.
An unintended consequence of probation is it places a target on that driver. Everyone else can mess with that driver, yet if that driver retaliates, it will warrant a penalty. So, ARCA officials should use the probation penalty liberally, ideally ensuring racing stays clean.
ARCA officials were also dealt another situation when Jesse Love finished seventh at the Milwaukee Mile. His No. 15 failed post-race inspection, which under NASCAR rules results in disqualification. ARCA is a NASCAR-owned series, but has its own separate rules, therefore Love wasn’t DQ’ed. ARCA officials penalized Love five points as well as fined his crew chief $1,000. But if ARCA is indeed a NASCAR-owned series, a failed post-race inspection should result in a disqualification going forward.
Off the track, there have been several incidents, mostly levied with financial penalties and two suspensions.
After Moffitt wrecked him at Michigan, Dollar vandalized the David Gilliland Racing hauler. After ARCA fined him $1,000, Dollar immaturely tweeted a photo of his actions.
Violation of Section 12-8
$1000 ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/OtYjg0VnsR
— Drew Dollar (@DrewDollar00) August 26, 2021
Frankly, Dollar’s gesture was unwarranted. Team haulers are that teams’ workspace. Someone entering it and, in this case leaving tires in it, rightly needed a penalty. That fine hopefully reminded Dollar not to do that again.
“As we said in our drivers’ meeting today, ‘Hey guys, we’re a professional racing series. This is your first step. Don’t do anything at this level that’s going to tarnish your brand, your image, your career as you’re going forward,’” Krall told Racing News Now.
Following the ARCA race at Bristol though, that statement should also be applied to team owners.
Team owner David Gilliland and Dollar engaged in a shouting match. Based on this video, Gilliland also looked like he wanted to fight Dollar.
— Robby Lyons (@RLRacing2) September 17, 2021
“There was a line that was crossed,” Krall told Racing News Now. “We just want to make sure those lines are crossed as infrequently as possible.”
ARCA officials both suspended Gilliland one race and fined him $1,500. Although his words to Dollar are not publicly known, physically fighting, especially involving a team owner, is unacceptable. Therefore, ARCA’s penalty is justifiable: do not do it again.
ARCA serves as the lowest national rung on the NASCAR development ladder. Its drivers have ascended up to the national NASCAR series. Nevertheless, even on the lowest rung, violations must be aptly dealt with. Although ARCA officials have handled the off-the-track ones well, they ought to use probation to reduce on-track road rage.
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.