Thursday, March 30, 2006

If you want to fight, do it in your motor home

I guess I am OK with NASCAR’s decision this week to fine Jeff Gordon $10,000 and put him on probation until Aug. 30 for his shove of Matt Kenseth following last week’s race at Bristol.

I will say that it bugs me to hear people say it’s no big deal when an argument between drivers turns physical. It could very easily turn into a big deal under the volatile circumstances that exist after a contentious NASCAR race, especially one at tracks like Bristol or Martinsville.

If Driver A shoves Driver B, then Driver B doesn’t keep his cool and takes a swing at Driver A, now you’ve got something going. Driver A’s pit crew runs up just in time to see their guy get clocked, not having seen how it started. So the catch-can man takes a poke at Driver B. Now, Driver B’s pit crew is arriving and those guys see their driver getting punched by somebody on the rival crew.

It’s on. Everybody starts swinging and scuffling and before you know it some television reporter’s hair gets mussed. Now we’ve really got problems.

That absolutely could happen, and it’d take about 20 seconds to go from one shove to a brawl. Some people might say, "So what?" Some folks believe that NASCAR needs a little spice like that every now and then.

Hey, I am all for drivers showing their emotions. But if you actually want to get into a fight with somebody, do it where there aren’t dozens of people standing around who could get swept up into your silliness. All of the drivers spend weekends at the track holed up in fenced-off, guarded motor home lots. Go at it in there if you’re really serious about it.

Getting back to the NASCAR fine of Gordon, though, it occurs to me that NASCAR uses its rulebook the same way crew chiefs do when they’re trying to get by with something.
Think about it.

When something happens, NASCAR has enough leeway written into its rulebook so that it can pretty much do whatever it pleases. Jimmy Spencer takes a poke at Kurt Busch through the window of a race car and gets suspended for a race. Gordon shoves hands on Kenseth and it’s a fine and probation.

That’s because nowhere in the rulebook does it say "a driver laying his hands on another driver in a physical confrontation shall get the following penalty…" Instead, there’s gray area in that "actions detrimental to NASCAR" rule that’s always cited.

So if NASCAR itself turns the rulebook into a pliable document that can be stretched, pulled and otherwise manipulated to its purposes, how can it reasonably expect its competitors not to try the same thing on their side of the equation?

Like they say, it starts at the top.


Anonymous said...

Remeber, Busch sustained an injury from Spencer's assault, which made his participation in the upcoming race questionable. A musch more costly infliction and therefore a more costly penalty.

On another note, what can you expect, wrestling a car for 500 laps, bumping and banging into 43 other cars that want to occupy the same space you're in. I'm able to slug someone after only 15 minutes in traffic on the I-5. Drivers need somewhere to cool down after an these types of events....not a crowd in their face and media asking how they feel after a disapointing finish as they climb out of the car.

NASCAR mixes the powder on these short tracks, it's what sells tickets. It only has itself to blame if the concoction sometimes explodes.

Anonymous said...

I agree. If you have got to fight, at least don't do it on national TV! When Tony Stewart grabbed Brian Vickers after the 2004 Sonoma race he was at least smart enough not to do it on live TV. (but he still got fined $50,000 and docket 25 points)

Anonymous said...

well stated David, The France family mafia rule bok IS written in pencil. It seems unfair to Jimmy Spencer, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick, that time series champion Jeff Gordon gets away with a mere $10,000.00 dollar fine

Jo said...

How do we even know that NASCAR has a rulebook? They only ever cite about four strangely-numbered rules. But unlike all the other major sports, fans like us can't get a copy of the rulebook or see what is covered in it. (By contrast, the NFL and MLB have theirs on their websites.) Here's another place where NASCAR needs to step up if it wants to be a big-time sport: the rules can't be private interpretations anymore. Until NASCAR makes that rulebook public, how can it expect us to take its rulings seriously? I would love it if sometime in one of those rare press briefings, you would ask Baby Brian or Daytona Fats Helton when the rulebook will be published. The eruption ought to be good for as many laughs as Harvick got at Bristol, anyway...

Anonymous said...

1) Jeff Gordon got fined 65 points, just not by NASCAR.

2) Matt Kenseth was stupid enough to approach someone he had just crashed out and cost 65 points. In the heat of the moment, Gordon could easily interpret this as aggression on Kenseth's part.

3) This was Gordon's first infraction in all his years of racing NASCAR, not counting owner points for the 48 car.

4) A shove, logically, is a less serious offense than punching someone in the nose.

So maybe NASCAR, like me, felt that Jeff Gordon had already been punished enough. But they had to make a jesture and the $10,000 seems appropriate.

Anonymous said...

who cares. All they do is drive in circles and make left turns. I would get mad too! so he pushed somebody, i dont care and they should not be making such a big deal about this.

Man gets pushed by man: Fine
Man gets pushed by car: Nothing

Makes alot of sense. Who cares! It is NASCAR!

Anybody can be a driver and go fast!

WOW>.they are such great athletes.

David Poole said...

Jo -- Actually, there is a rulebook. I don't have a 2006 one yet, but I had one last year. Carried it with me to every track. So it does exist. The problem with it is they leave so many loopholes in it they can do what they want to.

Reply No. 6 -- No, you couldn't do what NASCAR drivers do. You might think you can. But you can't. Basketball is throwing a ball in the air. Golf is chasing a little white ball around a cow pasture. Baseball is hitting something with a stick and running around. Football is wrestling with a pumpkin. You can minimize any sport. And if you don't think racers are athletes, you are every bit as clueless as you sound.

Anonymous said...

ive always said that the rulebook is an etch-a-scetch device. It seems that all fines come from (actions detrimental to the sport) thus etch-a-scetch #3454

Brad said...

The reason you don't have a rulebook for 2006 is it has to be written. Seriously though, the point of it not being available for the people that pay these guys, THE FANS, makes it appear that NASCAR has different sets of rules for different drivers/teams. It would be enlightening for fans to see for themselves the loopholes that you mention. An enlightened fan base will be a more devoted fan base.

As far as racers fighting, I am all for these guys slugging it out for 3 rounds on TV, in a controlled environment (Busch v. Harvick and Kennseth v. Gordon). How about a boxing ring in the grass on the front stretch at LMS about 3 to 6 hours before the All-Star race. Sell it on pay-per-view. It would have a bigger TV audience than any other sporting event that day.


Anonymous said...

Nascar is starting to look very scripted like the world wrestling federation. It doen't treat all the dirvers the same. To much media and and to much of the retired competitors not accouncing what is happening but carrying on about what is nascar gonna do about this or that gosh how is miss Neil Bonnett and Benny Parsons

jo said...

David--if there IS a rulebook, who gets one? Only the teams and the media? Or can it be purchased?

David Poole said...

Jo - My understanding is that you have to be a NASCAR license holder for the Cup Series to get a rulebook, except for media. And a license costs something like $600.

Brad said...

Regarding your last response to Jo about the availability of a NASCAR rulebook; the 3 most important things about real estate are location, location, location while the 3 most important things about NASCAR rules seem to be subterfuge, subterfuge, subterfuge! NASCAR wouldn't want fans to know what's going on and have them point out the disparities that seem to happen weekly. It might not be a good reflection on the Frances.

David Poole said...

Well, the LAST thing NASCAR needs is a bunch of biddies sitting around with rulebooks in their hands watching TV and shouting about every possible perceived violation. It stinks when golf fans call up because somebody sneezed crooked on a PGA Tour event and they start calling meetings and telling a guy he may be disqualified.

Brad said...

Thank you for your response.
I don't like the fact that golf fans can call and get someone disqualified either. That wasn't my point. My point is, if the rule book was available for fans to read, then there would be both direct and indirect pressure put on NASCAR to close the numerous loopholes that you mentioned. (Golf example: Before Tiger and 20 members of a gallery moved a boulder out of his way, would you have considered the boulder a loose impediment? Me neither but there was a loophole that allowed him to do that. That loophole no longer exists.) One major benefit would be that the conspiracy theorists, who believe that some wins are scripted, would have one less leg to stand on if they knew exactly what the rules were and why one driver was penalized while another received a slap on the wrist or a free pass. One of the reasons I have watched less and less over the last 3-5 years is the arbitrary nature of NASCAR's rulings.

Anonymous said...

I seem to rmember an incident in Daytona a little while back where Stewart and Robby Gordon got into a shoving match. Nothing was done by NASCAR in that case, no fine, no statement, nothing. Also, why in the world did NASCAR park Jeff Gordon next to Kennseth after the race?? I think NASCAR is 2-faced, on one hand they say YES!!! when driver's get into an altercation, but on the other hand they are the stern teacher that scold publicly and fine the drivers!

8BudGirl said...

They should have parked Gordon next to Truex.....How do you think Jeff would have faired in that match?

Enough with the panty-waste cry-babies. I say let 'em slug it out if they have to. Better than doing it on the track and risking someone else.

Anonymous said...

Kennseth needs to be fined as well. He should not be allowed to walz over there like nothing happened. If you punish one you should punish the other