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OPINION: NASCAR should pick a lane and stick to it when it comes to fighting

Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image Credits - Phil Cavali, The Podium Finish

The NASCAR All-Star race in North Wilkesboro got underway with Joey Logano leading the pack to green, and chaos immediately ensued. Behind Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Kyle Busch went toe-to-toe coming out of turn two. However, Busch made contact with the wall allowing Stenhouse past. 

Busch felt he was used up and hit by Stenhouse, prompting him to retaliate just a few turns later, hitting Stenhouse’s rear end, sending the 47 car into the wall, and ending Stenhouse’s race. The #47 racer then drove back to the pitlane, parked his car in Busch’s pit box, showing his disdain for Busch’s retaliation move.

Image Credits - James Gilbert, Getty Images

With no underground tunnels to get out of the track, Stenhouse was forced to wait in the infield until the race was over, and with nothing else to do, he waited for Busch in front of Busch’s trailer. Stenhouse alongside his father Stenhouse Sr and the pit crew confronted Busch, who was walking back to his trailer after the race.

Stenhouse said, “You hit the fence yourself!” 

Busch denied it and exclaimed, “You ran into me!”  

“I didn’t touch you!” 

“We both hit each other!”

“No we di… You hit the fence, then hit me!” 

“I don’t believe it.” 

After, Stenhouse told Busch to “go back and watch it”, then immediately threw a right hook at Busch’s face. They were then pulled back by their respective crew members, but Stenhouse Sr had a few moments of shirt tugging with Busch, before the 47’s crew members took over and put Busch on a chokehold.

Image Credit - Anthony Damcott, Frontstretch

A few more of Busch’s crew members then dragged Stenhouse’s crew members away from the trailer, and the two sides both walked away from the scene soon after. 

After the incident, NASCAR fined Stenhouse Jr a record 75,000 USD, while suspending Stenhouse Sr indefinitely, mechanic Clint Myrick for eight races, and engine tuner Keith Matthews for four races. 

In past years, we haven’t witnessed such unprecedented fines and suspension for an infield tussle of this type. It is questionable whether a shorter race ban would have had the same effect upon the drivers and the crew, but that is up for debate.

However, the more interesting thing to see is NASCAR continuing to promote the incident on their social media, but penalise the driver and the crew members. It’s just incredibly hypocritical to parade the incident and the drivers around like champions, then turn around to punish said drivers. 

Multiple drivers commented on the situation, with Daniel Suarez taking to X (formerly Twitter) asking the million dollar question: “If it is so wrong then why is it all over NASCAR social channels? We should be allowed to show our emotions, I don’t get it…” 

Chase Elliott also called out NASCAR, saying: “You’re gonna fine him but you’re gonna promote with it? Like what are we doing? …It’s not okay [to fight] but we’re gonna blast it all over [social media] to get more clicks.”

And they have, in my opinion, told no lies. The self-contradiction of NASCAR is pretty hard to stomach, especially after eleven posts on Instagram, seven posts on twitter, five posts on TikTok, and a NASCAR sponsored podcast featuring Stenhouse Jr. speaking on said incident. 

This particular fighting incident will probably also end up on one of the promotional videos or advertisements in the near future. 

Whether you are a supporter of the unapologetic, confronting, and slightly violent culture of NASCAR or not, one must admit that the way NASCAR handled these situations shows the dysfunctional state of NASCAR as a company. 

On one side, the social media/marketing team are promoting the fight, bringing more attention to the sport and most definitely increasing ticket sales and merch sales. 

On the other side, the sporting/governing department wants to maintain law and order within the paddock, protecting and preventing the drivers from sustaining an injury from a fight. Obviously, no one wants a driver to be forced to miss races due to cuts and scrapes from a  fist-fight.

The worst of it is this: These different departments aren’t lined up, therefore sending mixed signals to everyone. NASCAR would most like to have it both ways, because while the fight brings in views, the disciplinary actions can prevent the drivers truly throwing haymakers at one another at the heat of the moment, but trying to have it both ways just leads to further confusion. 

One might even argue the fact that NASCAR promotes these fights on their social media encourages drivers to go after one another, as it brings in free publicity, in turn leading to more merch sales.

Someone in the boardroom needs to take charge and align these departments, instead of sending mixed signals that just infuse more uncertainty within the drivers, the crew, the audience, and everyone else. 

It’s time to pick a lane, NASCAR.


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