Race Weekend Central

Happiness Is… Meh, Fines & the Weekend

Last week, this column assailed one of the many strange consequences of the Chase. More specifically, the topic addressed was how a driver can earn a playoff berth while having played so very little of a season. The rules surrounding what makes a driver eligible are certainly one of the things that need to be re-examined at some point because there’s something unsettling toward the notion of competition if some drivers have no fear. That is to say, imagine if your favorite football team would make the playoffs because they started 2-0. They’re in, that’s that. A scenario like the one we just described seems to be a little mystifying.

There is a consequence to such safety that has yet to really be analyzed. Let’s look at things from a corporate standpoint (groan). Say you’re Shell, plastering Joey Logano’s car in yellow with the big emblem on the front. As a company, you’re pretty thrilled that you won the Daytona 500 and that you’ll be in the Chase. Everything is gravy.

But let’s say the company had a rough first quarter, or that you may be thinking of reducing your investment in the sport or leaving altogether. Once again, you’re thrilled you’ve got a win and that your driver is in the Chase, but maybe how you view things changes. Maybe you start selling off races here and there, recouping some of the company investment, while still holding on to the important Chase races because your driver is likely to be featured prominently (with security for at least three events).

The repercussions are that regular season races get devalued. For a change, it could be the big money teams that are taking a hit, though admittedly it wouldn’t be as problematic to them as the lesser-funded ones enduring their issues. Such a shift in thinking could once again alter the sport. While the initial school of thought wondered whether or not sponsors might sell off if their driver didn’t make the Chase, there is a chance that the same thing could happen if they do make the Chase.

Oh, what has NASCAR wrought? The opposite of happy, it appears…

Happiness Is… Meh. That dude in the No. 48 car did one of those winning things again. That makes it, hmm, hold on, carry the two, oh, right: 74 wins. It’s an amazing number. Consider that Tony Stewart is stuck on 48, or that the closest active driver to Stewart is Matt Kenseth and he has only 32 wins. Or think about the fact that the driver sitting behind Jimmie Johnson on the all-time win list is Rusty Wallace; his total stopped at 55.

The thing with Johnson is that it doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down. He drives for a storied organization with a stellar crew chief and though the cries of cheater surround him at times, NASCAR hasn’t taken anything away – he’s still got the wins and championships. The startling truth is that this season, he could knock of two milestones: matching Dale Earnhardt in wins at 76 as well as joining Earnhardt in the club of seven-time champion.

While Johnson keeps clicking off the wins, the realization that he had gotten so close to hitting those marks so quickly is just kind of astounding. Sure, his crew chief has figured out the Chase better than everyone else, but everyone else had the opportunity to figure it out too and didn’t quite get it done. Yet for all of his excellence, there’s still a “whatever” element to everything he does. Earning a 10th Dover victory seemed to elicit a collective yawn considering the circumstances.  Funny how that is.

Happiness Is… Fines. Fines in NASCAR are some of the most comical and confusing things that happen. If you’re Denny Hamlin and you cut down the sport with some ill thought out Twitter comment – BAM, $1 million. OK, his fine wasn’t that bad. But if you futz around with a part, the fines seem to range between 49 cents and $250k. It’s a wonder that NASCAR hasn’t just switched to super secret double probation like in Animal House.  

This week again brought more senselessness to the equation. Trevor Bayne, after wrecking (which seems to be a common occurrence for him anymore. Seriously, how does he still have a job? Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he’s like the guy in Office Space who keeps coming to work to look after his stapler. Bayne’s continued career is worthy of further exploration.) Anyway, after wrecking, Bayne got out of his car before he should. Drivers have been told to stay put until the safety crew arrives. On a hot day, sitting in a hot car that’s been totaled, it’s likely that Bayne wasn’t considering the pre-race direction by NASCAR. Jennifer Jo Cobb did the same thing two days before during the Camping World Truck Series race.

They’re both guilty of the same offense. In fact, Cobb wandered around the track and looked to be giving one of her fellow competitors hell. So, then someone please explain why Cobb is fined $5,000 while Bayne gets to sign over $20,000. Sexism – Bayne had to pay more! Kidding. It’s just strange that the fines wouldn’t be unilateral through all of the series. Then again, it’s NASCAR, and drivers do not even get fined for intentional wrecks.

Happiness is… The Weekend. It’s a rather full weekend of racing coming up. The Cup Series will hope to continue its recent trend of actually having good races at Pocono. Both the Camping World Truck Series and IndyCar will be down in Texas. The trucks put on excellent shows at the oval but the open wheelers have been hit or miss. The hope will be that whatever worked at the Indy 500 may again work in the Lone Star State. The most frustrating race of the weekend, by comparison may be the Canadian Grand Prix. For such a good track, it’s disappointing that the American racing series haven’t been able to work out deals to race there. The F1 race seems to act as a reminder of what could be while also acknowledging what is.

Enjoy the weekend and the races.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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J. Smith

So what did Hamlin say this time? Denigrating the sport will not be tolerated even if a comment is the truth. There’s something inherently wrong with fining a person for speaking the truth. Sends a good message to kids. Reminds me of the corporation I work for. My first day on the job I was told NEVER lie on a time report up to and including dismissal. The second day my manager said to lie on my time report to maintain the appearance of productivity.


NASCAR has been a tin pot dictatorship since the days of Big Bill Farce. Historically truth tellers have felt the wrath of NASCAR, so why are we still talking about it like we just found out? The only thing that surprises me is that in these days of zillionaire drivers no one has yet developed primary sexual characteristics and bought a few lawyers and finally put the bully boy Frances in their place. What NASCAR needs more than anything is a Curt Flood. The product can never improve until it can be criticized honestly.

Bill B

The regular season has been devalued since 2004 when the chase started.

If you want an answer to why the fines are different in the truck vs cup series just look at the purses for each series. Everything is scaled to that I would think.


Monetary fines are a tricky thing. Carl Long got a $200,000 fine in Cup that he couldn’t afford to pay and so couldn’t run again in that series. In his case it was for running an old Chip Gnassi engine (as I recall) that was 50 horse down on power and blew up. For some reason NASCAR decided to examine it and found it to be a fraction of a cubic inch larger than the max allowed. Again, if I recall correctly, experienced engine men said that oversize measurement being as slight as it was could have been caused when the engine blew.

At any rate, they fined Carl $200,000 for an oversized engine. So, what did they accomplish? A $200,000 fine for a mainstream Cup team doesn’t really hurt them. That’s the cost of doing business. Whereas a significant points penalty or driver suspension would really stop them from trying to go oversize (which I don’t think was the actual case here).

I think the fines for exiting the car were more for show than anything although I would think that Cobb will feel that $5,000.

And then there’s the idea that NASCAR over-reacted by putting that rule into place. I think it was more of a PR move to head off criticism in the media who didn’t seem to distinguish between sprint cars and the Sprint Cup series.


When is it safe to start calling Trevor Bayne–Trevor “Cope”? At this rate with Chris Buescher and Bubba Wallace preforming well in the Xfinity stable, Trevor won’t have a long leash.

Biff Baynehouse

The “Office Space” (circa ’99) character you mention is “Milton” (Waddams), played by Stephen Root. He is, perhaps, most renowned for his role as “Jimmie James” (the boss), on “NewsRadio” (also ’99). He is a journey man actor & has played a very wide variety of parts & is still in very high demand today. Lest we forget, Milton burned that b**** down, so I’d be careful how you talk about TBay! Lol! We have already had one too many garage fires this year.
Nascar’s rules delineation & penalty/fine schedule has always defied logic, but this is slightly more mystifying that usual imo. Once again, I preface by saying, comprehensive footage of the #6’s & the #18’s infractions (yes, the #18) have, inexplicably, not been made public by Focks or Nascar, which serves to elevate confusion surrounding the Dover circumstances. Regardless, JJC was obviously the most flagrant of the three (yes, three) infractions at Dover. There-in, hypothetically deserving of the stiffest penalties. This was a gleaming example of why & how these new post-wreck driver protocol rules came into existence & were implemented, essentially, globally. TBay, [seemingly] simply walked across the track to the ambulance prematurely, there-in NOT nearly as flagrant as JJC’s rampaging rhino imitation & hypothetically worthy of small “token” penalties. So imo if JJC was 5K, TBay should be 2K.
But… you forgot to mention & seem to exonerate #18 [KyBu] of wrong-doing (there-by giving notification of where your loyalties lie Huston, hehehe, just kidding). Imo the #18 clearly & prematurely un-strapped & got out of his car with out the direction or assistance of safety workers & walked around after his wreck also. Yes, he was only on the apron & was, supposedly checking on another wrecked drivers well-being (cough, yeah right, cough). But, imo, NO SALE! As the rule is written, this is a clear infraction, there-in [seemingly] just as deserving of “token” punitive measures as the #6. Curiously the #18 seems to have been given special consideration because he was on the apron & did not “the track”. Curious, because by assuming this position, Nascar contradicts the concise verbiage & the intent of the new rules. The application of these post-wrecked driver protocol rules & the definition of “the track”, there-in (as the rule is written), is from inside to outside walls, INCLUDING the apron, which makes prefect sense, since wrecking cars do not suddenly halt at the yellow line that typically marks the grade change between the track & the apron. So, per their own rule book, the penalties for walking across “the track” should NOT be delineated by the apron yellow line & should cover all areas (including grassy ones) within the barriers.
But even more illogical are the fine amounts. They seemingly take driver’s incomes into consideration leveeing them. Pfft, who knew? JJC is clearly the most challenged regarding budget, so, despite her infringement being FAR more sever, she gets the smallest fine? And TBay, who has somewhat more resources, for a much less flagrant infringement, gets fined 4X as much? Just this aspect alone is mind-bogglingly counter-intuitive, but lets just say, for the moment, that it did make sense, lol! Then, how does KyBu figure into this equation? He is daddy war bucks compared to these two paupers [TBay & JJC) combined! …and he gets NOTHING? …not even a verbal warning? No attempt to explain this will do justice in my eyes, so on to Pocono we go!
Speaking of “walking across the track”, why are winning pit crews allowed to jump over the wall & celebrate on pit road? Imo, very dangerous, considering the vast majority of the field is still at full speed under a green flag & not taken the checkered flag yet. It [men getting hit & rag-dolled by race cars] has happened may times through out the history of motor sports & it is gruesome. Thankfully, it is a rare occurrence now, but allowing entire pit crews to do this is an open invitation for tragedy. There’s already has rules about when & how many pit members can go over the wall, including after the race, yet this checkered flag loop hole is routinely exploited. I am surprised it is tolerated & would like to see it cease.




Good point about the pit crew celebration. Maybe if they would stop this practice, FOX can show cars crossing the finish line instead of the pit crew celebrating every week. A little off topic but I never understood why we need to see the pit crew celebrating live every week. Save that for replay and show the battles to the line.

And the answer to your question as to why Kyle didn’t get fined and the others did, the higher you are up on the totem pole, the more you are protected by Nascar. Pretty simple really. Although I do commend Nascar for using some common sense in fining JJC. Given her team budget and the dwindling numbers in the truck series, the small fine was the right call. Nascar can’t afford to be running teams out of business in that series, so for once they were smart about it.


I have been saying for years Trevor Bayne is a human pinball and his push me/pull you win at Daytona prolonged his stay in the Xfinitiy series as well as his time in Cup. I don’t know how he has lasted this long, nice guy or not.

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