Bearden: NASCAR sets new precedent with no penalty decision

Nigel Kinrade/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

With no penalties of any kind for Kyle Busch, Joey Logano or any of their crew members following Sunday’s skirmish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NASCAR has set a precedent for how they’ll handle feuds moving forward.

Now they need to hold steady and deal with the consequences, however good or bad they may be.

When Monster Energy was announced as the new presenting sponsor for what would become the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the prevailing thought was that the company’s raw, gritty image would make its way to the series.

NASCAR took a step in that direction on Wednesday, confirming that neither Busch, Logano or their crews will see penalties following their feud after the Kobalt 400.

Link: No penalty for Kyle Busch, Joey Logano after Las Vegas feud

The move was an expected one, matching the sentiment set by both NASCAR CEO Brian France and executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell in separate interviews with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier in the week.

“It is what it is,” France said. “The drivers are doing everything they can. The pressure on these guys today is so difficult. So it shouldn’t surprise anybody that every once in a while somebody is going to boil over, somebody is going to think that they saw an incident in a different way, and whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, emotions are going to get the best of them. That’s just part of it.”

O’Donnell released an official statement shortly after the release of Wednesday’s penalty report that echoed France’s comments.

“After a full review of multiple videos and discussions with both competitors and their respective race teams, we felt Sunday’s post-race incident does not warrant any further action,” O’Donnell said. “NASCAR was built on the racing that took place on the final lap by two drivers battling for position. The emotions of our athletes run high, and Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are two of the most passionate and competitive drivers in the sport. Both competitors are very clear on our expectations going forward and we will be meeting with them in person prior to practice on Friday in Phoenix.”

The decision lines up well with both sponsor Monster Energy’s brand image and the sport’s history. It was, after all, a fight that first catapulted the sport to fame in the 1979 Daytona 500 – though it should also be noted that the decision to issue no penalties is a change in mindset from the last notable fight between Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and their surrounding crews in 2014, which garnered penalties for multiple crew members.

The sport can also now profit off of the incident without being accused of hypocrisy, a notion they’ll likely appreciate after the controversy that surrounded promotions including Matt Kenseth and Logano’s 2015 run-in during the fall race at Martinsville Speedway.

NASCAR was accused of hypocrisy for using Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano’s penalized 2015 run-in for promotional material in 2016. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

However, it also sets a precedent that could be tested moving forward.

When Busch came to confront Logano, he didn’t enter with a shrill tongue or empty threats, he arrived directly with a fist.

When Logano’s team reacted, Busch was left bloodied and beaten, saved from the bottom of a pileup solely by a group of NASCAR officials.

To call the incident more than a post-race dustup would be hyperbole, but the imagery of Logano (nearly?) stricken and Busch bloodied without repercussion for those liable is one that is likely to stick both with those in and outside of the sport.

The field has now been put on notice. The “boys have it” mentality will be observed in earnest this season.

Passion and emotion aren’t to be hushed for the sake of public relations. They’re expected.

Previous history suggests that there won’t be many more feuds this year. But if there are, those involved will be under the impression that they can feud without worry, so long as they don’t go too far.

And therein lies the new question. How far is too far?

How far can a driver or crew member push the issue before they deserve a penalty?

Would it take an injury to force NASCAR to deliver a penalty? A “Malice at the Palace“-esque brawl?

The answer to those questions are unknown for now. If NASCAR’s lucky, they won’t have to produce an answer anytime soon, either.

Still, with today’s ruling and the stress of the stage races and playoff format, the possibility for fights, and therefore escalated incidents such as those listed above, is as high as its ever been.

NASCAR has sent its message loud and clear.

Boys -and Danica Patrick, of course- have at it.

If you believe you’ve been done wrong, feel free to react as you see fit, so long as it’s within reason.

Monster Energy came to NASCAR with hopes of showcasing the sport’s passion. In just its third week, the MENCS got one of the strongest displays of passion and emotion the sport’s seen in the past 10 years.

If that level of tension continues moving forward, NASCAR and its fans may be in for an exciting ride.

2 Comments

  1. Bill B

    March 16, 2017 at 5:47 am

    There is no such thing as setting precedence for NASCAR. They make it up as they go along. Something similar could happen next week and there could be penalties. I think there may be a big wheel somewhere that has various penalties listed on it (as well as “no penalty”) and they just spin it after each incident to determine the penalty. “Wheel Of Misfortune”.

  2. Gordon Schwarzer

    March 17, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Gosh they suspend a crew chief 3 races for a missing lug nut… I found it. It’s MR. FRANCE. To many reg’s not enough racing.

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