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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.

ALSO:

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

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)

I really do NOT want to continue to beat a dead horse by going into the Richmond stuff again- but I feel that I have to respond to the penalties that followed the NASCAR race at Richmond especially after I posted my opinions on what happened during the race and what I thought NASCAR should do and what I thought they would do (which as I mentioned were two separate things). I posted an initial reaction to the penalties on my Facebook page, and retweeted several tweets if you follow me there- but I really feel the need to expound on what I said in both places.

Well, I think the first thing is all of us to remind ourselves, it’s a sport.  It has a tremendous amount of fun to it.  Occasionally, and particularly our role, is to regulate the sport and police it and officiate it so that everybody has got a reasonable playing field to participate in.  So we have days like today that we run across and have challenges that our role is to react to, and this is one of those days.-- Mike Helton, NASCAR President (source: 9-9-13 press conference transcript)

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I wasn’t going to discuss the roe between Carl and Brad more than I did on my previous post.  I was, literally, all set to publish my next entry (about NASCAR -related commercials if you are curious) when I found out that Carl Edwards was given a three race probation for his antics with Brad Keselowski at Atlanta on Sunday.  So I have to interrupt my own regularly scheduled post to rant a bit.

Now, I realize that NASCAR is trying to loosen the reigns on the drivers so that the drivers can feel free to be a bit more aggressive with their driving.  I get that and frankly I agree with it and am all for it.  But wow…this wasn’t a little bit of aggressive driving gone too far. This was a blatant attempt to take out another driver- revenge style. This was not a bump and run,  this was an all-out crash and burn.  Add that to the fact that national broadcast commentators told us several times during the race that Atlanta is THE FASTEST track (because of restrictor plates being used on the super speedways) right now in the series- it’s really scary! It’s one thing to bump a guy’s bumper to make a point or rub some fenders making a pass. It is a completely other thing to take a 3400 pound race car at speeds of 190+ mph and purposely aim for another guy also in a 3400 pound car, also going 190+ mph, for two laps.  That is not being an aggressive driver- that is being a vigilante.  While neither Brad nor Carl are favorite drivers of mine I don’t want to see ANYONE get hurt. Do I want to see some exciting racing? YES. Do I want to see ANY driver or fan (or crew member, track official etc) maimed or killed? ABSOLUTELY NO!

A huge part of me wants to bring up the whole Kurt Busch/Tony Stewart Bud Shootout practice from 2008. That really didn’t put anyone in danger. That was expressing some frustration.  The bumping was fairly low speed; neither Kurt nor Tony were pointing their cars at each other going 190+ in front of a grandstand filled with spectators. Yet if memory serves correct Tony got put on probation for an entire year (and there may have been points and monetary fines as well I don’t remember honestly- it was a long time ago and my brain is nearly filled to capacity).

I mean I know that I am kind of comparing apples to oranges in a way since the Kurt/Tony incident happened two years ago before NASCAR adapted their looser stance on penalties. But let’s be honest here…what the heck is probation going to do? Nothing. Just make Carl mind his p’s and q’s for a couple races? That’s like slapping a kid’s hand for getting in the cookie jar- then giving them a cookie– in my opinion (obviously you can probably tell by my analogy that I am not a parent).

Mostly I guess I just was using this post to try to work through why NASCAR would do a 180 and be so lenient. As always comments are totally welcome….