I just want to take second to THANK everyone for all the support for the last post (the Open Letter To GMA). It was truly overwhelming to see how many of you out there not just felt the same way as I did but shared the link, shared your thoughts (either on the original post, on FaceBook, on twitter)! While I have no doubt that my letter did little in the overall scheme of things- especially judging on the ABC Nightly News coverage this evening, I like to think that us fans banding together at least showed that
Tony Stewart fans NASCAR fans are not blind to slanted, biased reporting. Hopefully it somehow got back to Tony and his people that we support him on a wide scale. Onto the actual post.
I think after the post-race antics last Saturday night, most of the NASCAR world was waiting and watching to see what the NASCAR sanctioning body would dole out. I know I certainly was. In case that you haven’t heard yet (and I know most of you have) these were the penalties doled out by NASCAR today:
Brad Keselowski was fined $50,000 and placed on probation through the Phoenix race. Tony Stewart was fined $25,000 and placed on probation through the Phoenix race.
I know everyone has thoughts on what should and should NOT have been done with the penalties. I know I certainly do and judging by some of the things I read on social media afterwards my thoughts may not be the most popular ones. So I ask that you approach my thoughts with an open mind- and remember these are MY opinions and nothing more.
What NASCAR Did Right
NASCAR created this kind of drama. How? The new Chase format. I find the CHASE format to be a pressure cooker and I am just a fan. I know how stressful I feel every third race- knowing drivers are going to be eliminated, and as a Stewart fan I don’t even really have a horse in the race. Can you imagine how stressful that is for the drivers in the chase? They are fighting tooth and nail to make it through to the next round- when in chases past they wouldn’t have to worry about that elimination. If they had a bad race the could hopefully recover and carry on. That is not the case this season. Every race counts. The three major players in the shenanigans after race, Keselowski, Hamlin, and Kenseth, are three of the twelve drivers fighting for those eight spots in the next round. Tempers are bound to flare.
That, combined with the fact that Hamlin and Kenseth used their words as well as a little physical scuffling- really didn’t warrant NASCAR penalty in my opinion. No one was in any real danger- especially considering the throngs who showed from all three race teams, as well as NASCAR officials and others to keep the drivers from landing any real blows. I didn’t even see Hamlin throw any blows- just what looked to be a towel in the footage I saw. If NASCAR truly wants to have a “boys have it” attitude- well that is just part of boys having at it. So not fining Hamlin and Kenseth was the first thing NASCAR did right.
Secondly- while I admit that I think Brad Keselowski should have been fined more, I think just a monetary and probationary fine was indeed appropriate. He should get one pass to not miss the chase for losing his cool. Yes it was careless to burn out through a garage area rifled with people- which is why I think the fine should be quite a bit more. However, I can’t think of any driver who hasn’t lost his cool at some point. Should it ruin his chances at a championship? Not the first time. (I am not saying that I want him to win the championship mind you- I stand by my grid no matter how busted my brackets may be). Now if he does something again? Then I say take away enough points so that he is effectively eliminated from the chase. But not the first time, especially when the new chase format seems to breed angst.
What NASCAR Did Wrong
NASCAR, however, was wrong to penalize Tony Stewart. Yes Tony backed into Brad Keselowski at the entrance to pit road. We all saw that. Brad did instigate it, by nailing Tony pretty squarely in the rear bumper. Whether Brad meant to do it or not, we can’t be sure, it looks like he actually glanced off of “rubbing” Matt Kenseth and may have accidentally bumped into Tony. What Tony did was a knee jerk reaction to being rear ended while he was at a complete stop waiting to be able to turn into the garage area. He had likely just witnessed Brad Keselowski purposely pit Denny Hamlin on the cool down lap (if you look behind the action where Brad hit Denny- you can see Tony Stewart skirt by from behind). Tony likely didn’t have a beef with Brad and wondered WTF he did to warrant Brad’s ire. I mean wouldn’t you? You just witnessed him try to take out Denny on the cool down lap and then he rear ends you? So that is the first reason, that Tony should not have been penalized. Not to mention the fact that if you take the entire scheme of the post race altercations – what Tony did? Was just a teeny, fairly inconsequential portion of the larger picture.
My second reason that Tony shouldn’t have been penalized- is a little more convoluted. NASCAR has been promising us fans that they are not levying any “secret” fines, like the ones they use to issue in the days of yore for especially those in the “detrimental to stock car racing” category. We all know that Tony’s image in the mainstream media is not the best right now. We also know that the $25,000 fine was a mere slap on the wrist. However, with the position that Tony has been in lately- mainstream media is going to have a field day with it. Or rather ARE having a field day with it (have you seen ABC Nightly New’s report of Tony being fined. Did they even mention Brad getting a fine?). This is not the kind of press that NASCAR needs, nor Tony Stewart. Makes me wish we were back to the days where fines were sometimes secretive. That way- mainstream media wouldn’t be given anything to fuel their biased-against-Tony fire.
One Thing NASCAR Might Consider
Am I the only one who expects to hear an announcement that it will be a rule that you must keep your safety gear on (seatbelts, HANS devices, Helmets, ect) on until your car is parked in the garage? I have seem more drivers than just Matt Kenseth start to unbuckle on the cool down lap or bringing it into the pits over the years. Things happen- and it should be common sense that you keep your gear on. (Not to say that I wouldn’t be mad if someone hit me while I was unbuckled like Matt Kenseth was on Saturday night. In that moment- I can totally understand his fury with Keselowski). But safety is safety.
So those are my thoughts on Penalty Tuesday. Share your thoughts with me as always…I love hearing them.
Have you seen this blogpost by The Orange Cone: It’s Almost Halloween Let the Witch Hunt Begin! I tell you the more I read the Cone- the more I love what he says.
Tony getting into his car at Charlotte Motor Speedway, October 9th, 2014. (Photo credit; Tony Stewart Official Store Facebook/David Yeazell/CIA Stock Photo Copyright)