By admin | November 13, 2011
By Richard Allen
On Sunday in Phoenix, NASCAR again proved it has no absolute understanding of its own policy. For two years, drivers have been told to “Have at it” as a means of settling their differences. However, the sanctioning body’s rulings of the past few weeks have offered no clear indication of where the line is regarding that unofficial policy.
For the purpose of what is almost certainly an unnecessary refresher, Kyle Busch was parked in the middle of a Camping World Truck Series race in Texas when he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday. That punishment was then extended to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events of that same weekend.
So a line in the sand was drawn, right?
Well, apparently not. During the Kobalt Tools 500, driver Brian Vickers slammed Matt Kenseth on lap 178, forcing the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford into the outside wall and causing significant damage.
To offer some background, Kenseth and Vickers had a run-in recently at Martinsville in which Kenseth’s car hit that of Vickers and sent him into the fence and caused significant damage. Kenseth reported that Vickers had gotten into him multiple times in the laps leading up the incident and that he had tired of it and “Had at it.”
Later on in that same race, one in which Vickers was responsible for several caution flags, his #83 Team Red Bull Toyota retaliated against Kenseth with a hard shove in the rear. But that did not settle the score in Vickers’ mind. He has essentially advertised the notion that he intended to again wreck Kenseth when the opportunity presented itself.
That opportunity presented itself in Phoenix. To be fair it must be pointed out that Vickers claims he did not get into Kenseth on purpose and that the #17 had slowed dramatically due to a brake failure. But at the same time it must be pointed out that a number of other drivers had managed to make their way around Kenseth, who was running an exceptionally high line around the track to avoid other cars.
With all that said, it seemed to this writer that the move by Vickers was a blatant take out maneuver. Considering that he has stated his intention to wreck Kenseth and the fact that so many other missed the slowing car, the evidence seems overwhelming.
To me, this action was every bit as bad, if not worse, than that of Busch in Texas. At least Busch’s situation could be chalked up to the heat of the moment. Vickers’ takes on more the appearance of premeditation over weeks.
So why the heavy handed punishment of Busch but not of Vickers? The answer to me seems simple. As stated before, NASCAR has no real grasp of its own policy. They have certainly relished in the promotion of “Have at it” and have certainly not discouraged television networks and other forms of media from brandishing the term as often as possible. They just haven’t bothered to lay down any clear guidelines or develop a standard way of handing down punishments.
Quite simply, if Busch was parked, how could Vickers not be?
NASCAR says it was because they perceived the incident as a ‘racing deal’. “Had we felt it was more than a racing incident, we would have reacted,” declared Director of Competition John Darby. That was laughable and insulting.
This column was in no way meant to endorse or excuse the actions of Kyle Busch in Texas or even to condemn Vickers‘ actions in Phoenix. Instead, it was written to question NASCAR’s policy and the punishments handed down as a result of that policy.
What happened in Phoenix was essentially the same as what happened in Texas. NASCAR’s reaction to it was not. That inconsistency makes it difficult to take the sport’s rule makers seriously.
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