Getting Away With Retaliation

NASCAR has often been criticized for it's seemingly random penalty system. One driver does something wrong and is penalized for it. Another driver does something similar, and receives a completely different punishment. NASCAR officials always seem to have an explanation for their "system" of punishments, but that doesn't stop the nay sayers from looking at NASCAR with a sidelong glance, and wondering if there's a bit of favoritism being shown.

This week NASCAR made yet another questionable decision in doling out a punishmentÉ or I should say a lack of punishment.

During the race at Phoenix, Kyle Busch was spun around while racing into the corner with Casey Mears. Busch got the worst of the contact, suffering major damage. At about the same time, another wreck was happening, leaving cars strewn across the track, and forcing NASCAR to wave the red flag until the track could be cleared.

Apparently Kyle Busch took the red flag as an opportunity to exact a little revenge. With his recent nemesis stopped on the track (along with the rest of the field) Busch pulled up along side Mears' car and bumped into himÉ obviously intentionally. There's no other way to look at it. After his retaliatory bump, Busch drove to the garage to begin repairs on his car.

45 laps later, Busch returned to the track, and was black flagged for "the bump". NASCAR officials penalized him by making his sit on pit road for 5 laps. BIG DEAL! He was already 45 laps down. What's another 5?

This week, NASCAR officials decided not to punish the young driver further, saying the 5 lap penalty would suffice. Huh? A competitor intentionally runs into another car, during a red flag, and that's all the penalty they receive? No points deduction? No fine? Nothing else?

Let's look at this penalty.
Kyle Busch was already 45 laps down. After his penalty, he was 50 laps down. If he wasn't gong to miraculously make a 45 lap comeback, I doubt another 5 laps makes much difference.

You could say he was still racing for position against other drivers who had sustained damage. But he finished the race in 36th position. The next closest driver was Joe Nemechek, who finished the race in 35th place. At the finish, Joe was 24 laps ahead of Kyle. So even without the 5 lap penalty, Kyle would have still finished in 36th place. Of course, he would have only been behind Nemechek by 19 laps.

So, with or without the penalty, Kyle Busch ended up in the exact same position. Those 5 laps didn't cost him any points. They didn't cost him any positions on the track. They didn't cost him anything except a stern reprimand. At the very least, intentionally bumping into another driver should warrant a monetary fine. Or a few points. And doing it during a red flag should make the penalty even more severe.

NASCAR could have done just as well to simply yell "Bad Kyle! Don't do that again!" It would have about the same effect.

Published on April 26, 2006 in