By admin | May 6, 2012
By Richard Allen
Last season, Kyle Busch became frustrated with fellow driver Ron Hornaday after the two had gotten together during a Camping World Truck Series race and proceeded to run into his competitor after a caution had been displayed. The result of that second contact sent Hornaday head-on into the wall, destroying his machine and ending his night.
Upon review of the situation, NASCAR decided to ‘bench’ Busch for the remainder of the weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. The Las Vegas native was kept out of the following Nationwide and Sprint Cup races on the following Saturday and Sunday.
This past Saturday afternoon, a somewhat similar occurrence took place at the very end of the Nationwide Series event at the Talladega SuperSpeedway. As the cars raced to the finish line, Sam Hornish, Jr. drifted toward the outside wall. Trouble was, Danica Patrick already occupied that space and the two machines came in contact with one another. Patrick’s car was forced into the outside wall which caused minor right side damage.
As the two cars drove on toward turn one, Patrick caught up with Hornish and tagged his rear bumper. The Hornish car turned almost head-on into the outside wall, causing significant damage.
“We blew out a right front tire coming off of turn four,” Hornish explained regarding the initial contact. “By the time I got to the tri-oval the car wouldn’t turn anymore. I was doing everything I could do to get slowed down and stay out of the wall. But obviously, we weren’t able to do that. Then I got hooked into the wall after the race was over which isn’t very cool at all.”
After the two drivers brought their machines onto pit road they briefly discussed the matter.
Hornish was asked by an ABC reporter about the nature of that discussion. “She said ‘yeah right’,” he responded. “I’m not sure why anyone would drive in on the bottom of the tri-oval and then run themselves into the wall on the exit just to prove a point. I don’t know, she’s got something stuck in her head that isn’t quite right and spinning somebody after the race is over isn’t right either.”
The two incidents in question seemed remarkably similar, yet there is no talk of a forthcoming Danica suspension. There’s little question her post-race move was intentional, just as there was little question in the Busch incident. So, why the difference?
I’m not necessarily saying I think Danica should be parked. Last November, I wrote two separate pieces on the Busch matter in which I argued both sides.
After having said, “Boys(or Girls), have at it” it’s more than a little contradictory to park a driver who is “Having at it”. But on the other hand, the move by Busch last year was dangerous and unsportsmanlike, as was the move by Danica on Saturday.
So, again, I’m not necessarily calling for some sort of suspension. I’m just asking why the two very similar situations are being treated differently.
One possible explanation would be to say that Busch had a somewhat notable track record as a ‘bad boy’ prior to the Hornaday incident. And even though NASCAR often says they don’t take previous troubles into account, human nature suggests that is difficult not to do so. Danica, on the other hand, has no real track record of misbehavior so perhaps she received the benefit of the doubt in this case.
However, if that is indeed the case, then isn’t that telling every driver they have one free shot before any serious penalty will come their way?
Of course, another possibility some might suggest would be that suspending Danica would be bad for business. Since sponsors seems to covet her endorsements and since she is at the center of much of the marketing campaign for the Nationwide Series, causing her to miss a race could hurt the bottom line. Whereas, suspending Busch might actually help business in that it helps perpetuate that ‘villain’ image he carries as well as soothes fans who do not like him.
Obviously, if the reason these two situations are being treated differently is because of what was stated in the previous paragraph, NASCAR has a major credibility problem on its hands.
I don’t know whether there ought to be any punishment for Danica Patrick for what happened on the cool down lap at Talladega. What I do know is that there was a punishment handed down for Kyle Busch in what seemed to be a very similar circumstance. So, my real question in this piece is more about whether or not NASCAR is treating everyone the same in their rulings. And for any sports sanctioning body, that is a question that must have a right answer if that organization is to be considered legitimate.
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