Race Weekend Central

A Precedent of Unprecedentedness

Whenever a key NASCAR decision is about to be handed down, I find myself filled with a small sense of dread. 

It’s not because of the nature of the penalties themselves, of course. They have no bearing on me and my personal life. 

I’m just sick and tired of not knowing which direction the sanctioning body is going to go in until the moment the penalty is handed out. 

The latest example came Tuesday (Oct. 18), when myself and countless others waited until 5 p.m. ET for NASCAR to announce its penalty decision for Bubba Wallace after he appeared to intentionally right-hook Kyle Larson toward the outside wall during Sunday’s Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: NASCAR Suspends No One, Except Bubba Wallace

There were numerous questions ahead of the decision. When would the penalty be announced? What would it be? Would the sanctioning body focus on precedent or the severity of the accident itself? 

In the end, NASCAR went with one of its harshest options, suspending Wallace one race. He’s the first driver to be suspended for any NASCAR national series event since Johnny Sauter for an intentional crash of Austin Hill under caution at Iowa Speedway in 2019, and the first Cup driver to be forced out for a race since Matt Kenseth after his infamous 2015 crashing of Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway. 

Make no mistake, the powers that be at NASCAR had little choice but to suspend Wallace. The act was too egregious and came at a time when safety concerns from Cup drivers are as significant as they’ve been in decades. Two drivers are currently out with concussions, including the original driver of the No. 45 Toyota that Wallace used for his accident, Kurt Busch. 

The only real issue with the decision is that it stands in contrast to others in recent weeks. 

Just three months ago, Noah Gragson intentionally crashed Sage Karam in an Xfinity Series race at Road America, setting off a massive accident that ultimately had playoff repercussions for Landon Cassill and left Brandon Brown rattled and upset. Gragson was fined $35,000 and docked 30 points for the incident, but was allowed to continue competing. 

Not even a month later, Carson Hocevar appeared to intentionally hook Colby Howard into the outside wall in the Camping World Truck Series’ return to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. His penalty? Nothing. Nothing at all. 

While not as severe, Ryan Blaney intentionally turned Daniel Suarez after the conclusion of July’s Cup Series race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, a retaliatory move for earlier contract between the pair. Two months later, William Byron ran into the back of Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas Motor Speedway, sending the three-time Daytona 500 winner spinning through the infield.

Even Larson himself isn’t entirely innocent. Remember when he shoved rookie Justin Haley into the inside wall at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum? 

Blaney wasn’t penalized at all for his accident. Larson either. Byron was initially penalized 25 points and fined $50,000, though an appeal removed the points penalty and changed the fine to $100,000. 

Should any of those accidents have resulted in suspensions?

It’s difficult to say. An argument could clearly be made for the wrecks involving Gragson and Hocevar. Both involved intentional crashes in dangerous ways that could have resulted in injury. 

Were they at the same speeds as Las Vegas? No. Are those vehicles seemingly safer than the current Cup car? Sure. 

But dangerous accidents can occur anywhere and rising contenders in lower series should be held to the same standard as the sport’s top stars. After all, the goal of the sport’s lower levels is to serve as a ladder to Cup itself. Unlike in other sports, Cup competitors also dip down and run in those series themselves on occasion. The standards should be no different. 

But suspensions and post-race penalties aren’t the only source of confusion when it comes to decisions from the sanctioning body.

Far from it. 

There’s the indefinite argument over what should or shouldn’t constitute a caution. The fear over who (if anyone) will be penalized for yellow line infractions at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Whether a driver should or shouldn’t be black-flagged/disqualified for various things – most recently potential team orders from Stewart-Haas Racing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Ross Chastain’s sneaky shortcut at the IMS road course. How to handle rain. Whatever happened at the end of the All-Star Race in May. 

The collective source of potential confusion for fans and competitors in NASCAR is staggering. There are so many situations and processes without clear, obvious rulings that the sanctioning body is finding itself constantly chasing its tail in the midst of what should be a celebratory 2022 campaign. A strong regular season has been completely overshadowed by a playoff where the weekly focus has rested more in off-track politicking than on-track action. 

See also
Did You Notice?: NASCAR Bubba Wallace Suspension Sets New Precedent It Must Uphold

In its defense, NASCAR has a large number of variables to deal with that some other sports don’t. Each driver and team offers another potential source of variability, leaving hundreds of potential snags in what I’m sure the sanctioning body hopes will be simple, enjoyable race weekends. 

NASCAR also isn’t alone. Nearly every sport is currently going through pains of identifying and standardizing processes. What constitutes pass interference or roughing the passer in football? How does one determine what is or isn’t a foul in soccer? Is it even possible to travel in the NBA anymore? 

But few sporting entities find themselves so frequently debated on the merit of their processes and decisions compared to the quality of their product itself. It’s creating a frustrating viewing experience for fans and a confusing environment for competitors. 

The running joke for years has been the only thing consistent in NASCAR is inconsistency. Whether fair or not, it’s going to take some serious effort and streamlining of processes to make that perception fade in the years to come. 

Using Wallace’s penalty to set firm precedent for future accidents would be a nice start.

Follow @aaronbearden93

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kb

You could have saved yourself the trouble of writing this article. You can go on YOUTUBE google Kyle Petty Motormouths. 10/19/2022. All your questions will be answered regarding this nightmare named “Bubba”. Kyle Petty was not a NASCAR media sheep today explaining how he felt about what happened. A breath of fresh air with some irrefutable, obvious truths. Check it out! Good stuff.

Jeremy

Thank you for that recommendation, I hadn’t watched that one yet. Kyle is 1000% spot on.

The worst part is when Kyle points out that Bubba has not “got the message” NASCAR was trying to send with this penalty. And I believe Kyle is absolutely right.

Bill B

I also am glad you mentioned that appraisal from Kyle, kb.
His view of this deal and where we stand now, pretty much falls in line with my view of it.

I also agree that it doesn’t seem like he’s figured out that he needs to make a sincere statement in front of a camera that includes an apology to Larson. Perhaps he will not be able to avoid it once he gets back to Martinsville in two weeks and cameras are being shoved in his face by every reporter out there.

I also find it amazing in a bad way that we haven’t gotten much reaction from McDonalds. Aren’t they one of those sponsors that are supposed to uphold a certain set of values?

One last thing. Isn’t it about time that the word unprecedented get shelved for a few months. You rarely heard it until Covid and then you heard it every day (and rightly so because the term really fit). Now the word is so over-used it’s lost it’s meaning.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill B
kb

Spot on!!!!

janice

i’m surprised too about mcdonalds. not like they were associate sponsor for this particular race. but then look at mcdonalds. sure a lot of stores are franchises, but the service in these places is crap at best. i don’t go to mcdonald’s often but a few weeks ago when i did for the first time in a year, for a plain hamburger and med fry it took 20 minutes to get my order to me. and that was after i tried, very unsuccessfully, to get someone’s attention. people that ordered after me got their food and left. then i got attitude cause i questioned where my food was. the 4 people working in the store were more interested in their phones than preparing orders. typical behavior i see in the world now.

i know home depot and mars candies got the message out right away about the behavior of their respective drivers at those particular times not being in line with their corporate values. but alas, times have changed.

Jeremy

Doesn’t seem to bother Toyota in the least how their drivers act either. How many times have they said anything about Kyle and his meltdowns? No comment about Baby Gibbs. Surely nothing will be said about Bubba’s totally unhinged, unprofessional behavior either. There’s another similarity going on here too… why is it the team owner who makes a point to publicly display his faith to proclaim his high moral values supports team members who repeatedly display the worst character traits / behavior? Just seems odd, especially compared with the class typically shown by members of other large, successful teams (giving credit to Hendrick and Penske here).

Last edited 3 months ago by Jeremy
racerx

Denny Hamlin, too, seems to have issues if anyone races him just a little hard.

Look at the antics he pulled with Ross Chastain earlier this year at WWTR.

Not a peep outta Toyota…

Tom B

McDonald’s job is to write a check that doesn’t bounce.

johndawgchapman

The only consistency with NASCAR, is it’s inconsistency.

John

If you watch the Tony Roper or Blaise Alexander or Davey Allison getting hooked by Kyle Petty in the 92 (I think) All Star race, it becomes quite apparent what the risk to life or severe injury is when you hook a driver at that speed in the trioval of a 1.5 mile track. That configuration may be good for fan viewing angles, but it creates some very bad angles is someone is intent to injure another driver. Spinning a driver under yellow is stupid, not reckless endangerment. Dumping anyone on a quarter mile track is low risk to both parties. Gragson’s stupidity should have been dealt with in the same fashion as Bubba’s, in my opinion, and I’m a fan of both of them.
That being said, the drivers responsible for killing Roper and Alexander never got so much as a reprimand. Carl Edwards deserved a weekend off for what he did to Keselowski in retaliation for Brad driving into a hole left open by Edwards. Wallace showed by his post race behavior and interview, plus his apology only to those that could hurt him that he needed to be sent a message that despite his attractiveness to sponsors to the sport, Nascar will run races with him and Nascar will run races without him. It is a privilege to drive in front of this many people and make the money he now makes.
Worst of all, Darrell Wallace Jr by his presence and performance was changing the minds of the narrow minded. He was thrust into a hornet’s nest with Black Lives Matter, the Kyle Larson banishment for saying “the word.” and then the noose issue which was not of his doing. Yes, you have stress in your life. So does everybody. Time for you to either act like you belong in Cup, ditch the street thug mentality, and grow up. Darrell, this is said by a fan of yours…hope you read this.

Roger

If one was to ask Bubba what he would do if he saw a baby on the track he just might say I DONT LIFT!!
Such a tough guy!

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