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Archive for Thursday, July 15, 2004

NASCAR’s indecision at root of recent pit-road fight

July 15, 2004

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Sunday was the first day of harvest for NASCAR.

It reaped a pit road brawl between Kasey Kahne's and Tony Stewart's crews at Chicagoland Speedway after sowing seeds of doubt and frustration by its lack of decisive action against Stewart following an incident at Infineon Raceway.

By not suspending Stewart after his confrontation with Brian Vickers, NASCAR ducked the responsibility of keeping the controversial driver in line.

What message did that send?

"NASCAR refuses to do anything," said Ray Evernham, Kahne's car owner. "You got a guy that does this week in and week out and nobody's doing anything about it. I'd like to have 10 minutes with Tony Stewart and handle it myself. ... He should have his (expletive) beat. That's the problem. Nobody has ever really grabbed him and given him a good beating. If he doesn't get suspended, maybe I'll do that."

When NASCAR gave Stewart only a meaningless fine, points deduction and probation in the Vickers incident, teams decided the people who keep saying they're "in control" of the sport lacked either the courage or the will to deal with Stewart.

If anything is to be done, the teams feel they're going to have to do it themselves. That's what led to the scuffle on Sunday. We now have a vigilante atmosphere directly fostered by NASCAR's jelly-kneed response to Stewart's previous outbursts.

NASCAR said if it felt Stewart had hit Kahne's car on purpose on a restart, leading to a wreck that may have ended Kahne's chances to make the Chase for the Championship, it would have penalized Stewart at that point.

Some of Stewart's crew may be fined for the brawl, but if anybody gets suspended over that it will be -- and should be, by the way -- Tommy Baldwin, Kahne's crew chief.

Baldwin went to Stewart's pit to confront crew chief Greg Zipadelli, bringing several of his crew members with him. Regardless of what he says his intent was, that action means Baldwin created the flashpoint for emotions by being somewhere he wasn't supposed to be. Under NASCAR rules he's responsible for the actions of his crew, too.

Stewart should have been suspended after the Vickers incident and Baldwin should sit out at least one race for what he did Sunday. But how in fairness can NASCAR come back and sit Baldwin down after not suspending Stewart?

NASCAR is caught in the cavern it created by caving and not sitting Stewart down when it should have.

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