Two drivers racing for a win wreck on a restart, and a few crew members from each of their teams have words after the incident.
It seems like an everyday chain of events for a NASCAR race, but last Sunday took on new meaning after Joe Gibbs Racing suspended two employees on the pit crew of Martin Truex Jr., whose wreck with Kyle Busch triggered the argument.
The crew member who taunted Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, was wrong. But Stevens’ decision to enter the pit box of the taunting crew member also was wrong. The second crew member who screamed at Stevens made a forceful demand, but everyone in racing understands the unwritten rule of “don’t come in my pit area.”
No one threw a punch. No one was injured.
It was just some highly competitive people blowing off some steam — but two of the three won’t be at Pocono Raceway this weekend because they are employees of JGR.
This is wrong.
To be clear, I haven’t won multiple Super Bowls as a coach, nor have I run a business with hundreds of employees, but I believe this is the incorrect precedent to set for crew members and the fans of the sport. I’m of the belief that most fans tune in to see individual drivers battle it out for wins and positions — not an individual organization made up of multiple teams.
Imagine Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin having an on-track incident while racing for a win and then having words afterwards and the next week one is suspended because they are on the same team.
Oh, wait: That mostly happened during the 2010 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. What didn’t happen were suspensions for either driver.
How is this different? Because corporate decorum doesn’t allow an employee of lower stature to confront a “superior”? Has this sport moved in the direction that it’s OK to hold crew members within the context of a race to that standard?
I damn sure hope not.
I do not condone or approve of violence in solving problems, but that didn’t happen here.
I would not have supported a suspension for Kyle Busch when he threw a punch at Joey Logano earlier this year (NASCAR and JGR did not penalize Busch). But had the punch landed and caused an injury to Joey, I believe a substantial fine would have been appropriate.
None of those involved at Indy threw a punch, and yet two are sitting at home because of a decision by Joe Gibbs Racing (again, NASCAR wasn’t involved in any penalties).
This is wrong for the crew members and wrong for our fans.
Team members should have pride and passion for their individual teams. It should hurt like hell when things go badly, while winning should bring a feeling of success and accomplishment that compares with nothing else.
It’s the essence of NASCAR and all of sports. If they don’t have that passion, how can fans share it?
Multicar teams have provided security for team owners, drivers, employees and NASCAR itself, but they have also created some issues that are not so favorable — and this is clearly one of them.
Martin Truex Jr.’s fans are pissed off that Kyle Busch decided it was no longer time to play nice on restarts. Kyle Busch’s fans are furious that Martin lost control and took out Kyle and his chance to end a yearlong winless streak.
Why shouldn’t the teams be allowed to have the same emotions?
Normal corporate policies have no place in sports arenas where emotions are a requirement for success.
When the teams and drivers don’t care — or aren’t allowed to show their emotions in a reasonable way — then fans will certainly not be far behind.
And if that happens, we all are the losers.