Instead, Crafton was fined $25,000 while Sanchez got docked $5,000 for his role in the incident.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the video in question.
The decision Tuesday (Oct. 3) on these penalties was handed down by Senior NASCAR Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer, first announced on SiriusXM Radio Channel 90.
“Well, I think if you look at our history with our drivers and how we’ve handled these situations, a suspension was definitely considered,” Sawyer said. “We had long conversations yesterday about that with our group. And this is where we landed.”
With that statement, the seriousness of the fight and these penalties assessed, I think Sawyer has clarified any confusion as to what NASCAR’s “Boys, Have At It” policy really means. It’s the latest in a series of incidents the last 12 months that have drawn a consistent baseline from officials in the ivory tower. Agree or disagree, I’ll give the sport credit; it’s the clearest their stance has been since former NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton first uttered the phrase back in 2010.
‘Boys, Have At It’ Rule No. 1: Obvious Retaliation on the Racetrack That Puts Another Driver in Harm’s Way Equals a Suspension
The two most prominent examples of this behavior have happened in the NASCAR Cup Series over the past 12 months. First, there was the incident between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Both cars wrecked once Wallace turned hard left into the No. 5 car in frustration after contact between the two.
The retaliation in these two crashes was obvious. Both Wallace and Elliott turned hard left at high speed on 1.5-mile ovals. That move hooked their victims, Larson and Hamlin, in the right-rear corner, sending them into a head-on collision course with the outside wall at 150+ miles an hour. The risk for serious injury was readily apparent, far different than hard racing or the tit-for-tat we saw last year between Hamlin and Ross Chastain.
In both cases, NASCAR issued a one-race suspension to the offenders, Wallace and Elliott, sending a message that that type of obvious aggression won’t be tolerated.
“We landed on the fact that this was an act that definitely — in our view and with the resources and the data we collected — was intentional,” Sawyer said then of the Elliott wreck. “Hooking someone in the right rear and turning them head-on into the fence is just not something we can tolerate.”
‘Boys, Have At It’ Rule No. 2: Talking About Intentional Retaliation Costs You Points
We saw this penalty with Hamlin, who opened up on his podcast about intentionally roughing up Chastain days after the March Cup event at Phoenix Raceway.
Section 4.4B of the Cup Series rule book allows for points to be taken away, recommending 25-50 for what amounts to an intentional wreck. Once Hamlin spoke the word “intentional,” it made him vulnerable for NASCAR to make a test case out of the rule.
Since then, no one else has been penalized in quite this way but the message was also clear: if you’re trying to rough up another driver, but there’s no “hard” evidence, keep your mouth shut. A racing deal only becomes more than that when you openly admit your own guilt.
‘Boys, Have At It’ Rule No. 3: Laying Hands on Another Driver — Go Right Ahead! You’ll Lose Money but You Won’t Sit Out
This one has now been made crystal clear. If you get into a public fight where blood gets drawn, forcing Sanchez into the infield care center, then nothing more comes of it than a fine? NASCAR feels drivers have the right to physically assault each other as long as it’s not happening inside the car.
Agree or disagree, there’s no question Sanchez-Crafton has led to more eyes on the Truck Series. 2.8 million people have seen the initial video on Twitter/X alone at last count — that’s nearly four times the number who watched the Talladega Superspeedway Truck race live on TV.
There’s a reason the NHL, for example, allows the gloves to come off and players from opposing teams slug it out. It often comes with cheers from the stands as fans enjoy the boxing match; they’ll say it allows the players they root for a chance for their personalities to come out.
Sure, drivers won’t always get away scot-free. Both Crafton and Sanchez got fined.
“We felt like some of the comments that were made by Nick [Sanchez] — and we totally understand that it’s in the heat of the battle, understanding the situation. But we just can’t have those type of comments,” Sawyer explained. “… And then on Matt’s [Crafton] side, you know, we looked at the fact that Matt had had some time to think about the situation. It wasn’t like both drivers got out on pit road, heat of the battle, they go down and have a discussion with each other.
“This one spilled over into the garage sometime after the event. So it felt like it could have been handled different. And that’s why Matt’s fine was at $25,000.”
Does money really matter though for Crafton when he was trying to prove a point? The three-time Truck champion has already been eliminated from title contention and is racing out the remainder of a disappointing season. We’ll have to see if that means additional action at Homestead-Miami Speedway as he has far less to lose than Sanchez, who’s still fighting for a position within the Championship 4.
We just know intentional hijinks and on-track contact will lead to a NASCAR suspension at this point. The sport is willing to look the other way when blood spills on the asphalt of the NASCAR garage; it just can’t happen on the asphalt of the racetrack.
It’s the way they’ve chosen to handle it. Judge for yourself from here.
P.S. There is one decision I will vehemently disagree with. Sanchez’s father, Rene, was suspended for the rest of the season based on his role in Saturday’s fight.
“Having other people involved in that situation — whether it’s family, whether it’s pit crew members … if you’re in the middle of that and trying to break it up, that’s one thing,” Sawyer said. “If you’re in the middle of that and you’re throwing punches, we are going to react. We are not going to tolerate that type of behavior.”
To that, I say, does NASCAR understand what it’s like to be a parent? Nick’s father, according to Sanchez’s side of the story, watched his son get ambushed with a punch that left blood pouring down his face. No self-respecting father would sit there and watch if they felt their child was in that much danger, no matter the age.
Could Rene have potentially handled himself better? Sure. But the gravity of the incident is what caused his involvement, a punch thrown by another man closer to his age than Nick’s. I would have expected a greater degree of leniency there.
Again, the end result of this week’s penalty is NASCAR giving the wink-wink for this type of off-track fighting to continue for years to come. They’re making a conscious choice the same way the NFL is looking to market itself following the sudden appearance of Taylor Swift at Kansas City Chiefs games.
We’ll see how it all works out.
Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …
- The difference between Brad Keselowski holding his spot in the Round of 8 (for now) and 23XI Racing sitting on the outside looking in? Stage points. Keselowski earned 10 by winning the second stage while both Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace combined for a single point. Remember that if the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL fails to shuffle the deck.
- Keep an eye on what Kaulig Racing chooses to do with Chandler Smith. In just three Cup starts, running a part-time third car, he has an average finish of 14.3, posting no result worse than 17th. Compare that to AJ Allmendinger and an average result of 19.9 with just two top-five finishes with the full-time No. 16. While Daniel Hemric has more Cup experience, it would have been interesting to see Smith get a shot considering his recent success. Or is it still coming anyway?
About the author
The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.
You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.
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