Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: NASCAR, Cursing & a New Era

This week I was looking forward to seeing the latest penalty report from NASCAR.

I wasn’t waiting with baited breath or anything like that.

But I was definitely curious about what it would include.

I didn’t care at all about what penalty was in store for Chris Buescher‘s team after he lost a wheel and tire Sunday (March 3) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And I definitely didn’t devote any mental energy to lug nut penalties from the Xfinity or Truck Series.

No, I wanted to know if Tyler Reddick would be included in it.

“But Daniel, Reddick didn’t do anything wrong last weekend.”

Oh, I agree.

But there were undoubtedly some people out there in the universe that clutched their pearls when Reddick let slip a little four-letter word during his post-race interview on Fox.

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It came when Reddick was lamenting 23XI Racing’s ongoing saga of pit road mistakes.

“Same shit, different year,” said Reddick. “It’s kind of frustrating.”

Come Tuesday, Reddick wasn’t on the penalty report.

Why should I care?

OK, kids. It’s time for a history lesson and the obligatory “back in my day.”

The year was 2004. Which was …. *sigh* 20 years ago.

The track: Talladega Superspeedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — my favorite NASCAR driver growing up (and to this day) — was in the middle of the best season of his Cup Series career.

He entered the EA Sports 500 third in the points standings, behind Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch.

But 188 laps later, Earnhardt had his fifth career win at Talladega, his fifth win of the year and the points lead.

The points lead lasted two days.

How does someone lose a points lead on a Tuesday?

Well, in 2004, you did it by cursing in victory lane while celebrating a victory.

After emerging from his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, Earnhardt was interviewed by NBC’s Matt Yocum.

Yocum capped it off by asking the jubilant Earnhardt what it meant to win his fifth Talladega race.

And then, well….

“It don’t mean shit,” Earnhardt declared. “Daddy’s won here 10 times.”

Now, here are some things to remember.

It was 2004. Just six months earlier was the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google it. You had to be there.

As a result, TV networks — and in this case, sports leagues — were on high alert for anything deemed “offensive” to the delicate sensibilities of those watching non-cable television channels.

So what happened 48 hours after this?

NASCAR fined Earnhardt $10,000 and docked him 25 points.

He went from leading the points to trailing Busch by 12 points.

This came after similar penalties earlier in the year with Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday.

At the time, NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said drivers knew that “as a family sport, we’re taking this very seriously and adhering to FCC guidelines.”

“The timing is unfortunate for Dale Jr.,” Zizzo continued, “but NASCAR also made it clear to the competitors that we would police the last 10 races just like we did the first 26.”

There’s no guarantee Earnhardt would have gone on to win a championship had the penalty not occurred.

However, the change in position undoubtedly changed the team’s strategy going forward.

Anyway, Earnhardt finished the season in fifth, which would be the highest he ever placed in the standings for the rest of his career.

Flash forward to last weekend.

In no way shape or form did I want Reddick to get penalized.

But given that the race was on network Fox and not in cable land on FS1, the possibility of it happening crossed my mind a few times.

It’s a relief that NASCAR isn’t flustered by verbal “shit” getting thrown around in 2024.

There are worse things that could be said.

Just ask Earnhardt.

My disappointed inner 13-year-old took notice of the penalty report.

But let me be clear, 33-year-old Daniel is not bitter.

Narrator: That was a lie.

This is Daniel McFadin’s 11th season covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his fourth year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021.

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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WJW Motorsports

Thanks DF – that was a good piece. Still my favorite Jr. quote to this day and along with Tony’s imma gonna whup his a$$…. in my top 10 all time. On the bitter scale though you have a ways to go – add 20 more years and just wait. You will find though that NASCAR “the governing body” was a joke then, and remains a joke today. Doubt I’ll be around in 20 more to find out what they are like then but not all that optimistic about it.

Joshua

I’ll be a fan as long as there is a NASCAR…we don’t need fairweather fans.

Echo

Jr was excited. I’ve heard Brian France drunkenly use more profanity on live TV just because he missed his mouth taking a drink.

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