BY: Mike Prison
This isn’t WWE: NASCAR must suspend Kyle Busch now
OK, boys and girls, have at it. NASCAR has given the green light for fighting. Driver vs. driver. Driver vs. opposing crews. Opposing crews vs. opposing crews.Have at it. After all, it’s an emotional sport and things happen.NASCAR CEO Brian France had the perfect opportunity to nip the childish, even dangerous, behavior in the bud, but instead the top series official decided it was easier to do nothing.
Kyle Busch felt he was on the wrong end of a cheap shot on the track on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so he decided to deliver a cheap shot of his own on fellow driver Joey Logano (and Logano’s crew) after the race. Busch lost the fight — he was the one bleeding from the forehead after the skirmish, at least — but NASCAR isn’t keeping score. OK, maybe France and his staff went back to NASCAR HQ after the race and enjoyed all the social media buzz and tweets.
The sport can’t have its stars brawling like little kids in a daycare. It doesn’t happen in other major professional sports (NASCAR, do you really want to be treated like hockey by the mainstream media and networks?), and it doesn’t have to happen in NASCAR.
NASCAR needs to suspend Kyle Busch.
There is precedent. In 2003, Jimmy Spencer punched Kurt Busch after a race at Michigan (I was there) — while Busch was in the garage area getting ready to get out of his car. NASCAR came down swiftly and suspended Spencer for eight days — one race. So why is baby brother Kyle getting a free pass this time? Is it because Kyle is a past champion and a ratings grabber?
Waiting for France to suspend Kyle Busch for his actions is like waiting for the PGA commissioner to kick Happy Gilmore off the PGA Tour for getting into a fistfight with talk show icon Bob Barker during a Pro-Am (and, like Happy, getting his ass kicked). Not going to happen — after all, look at the ratings! This is gold.
France and NASCAR are hypocrites. The sport spends millions making the sport safer, from safer cars to softer walls to better equipment. Yet no one wants to react when a driver or crew coldcocks a rival after a race. Drivers now need to watch their backs when getting out of their cars after a race?
In France’s own words: “There is just a lot of emotion and a lot of pressure on these guys to do well and compete at a high level. When something goes terribly wrong, as it did for Kyle, you know, emotions are going to get the best of all of us at some point or another. Obviously, that’s what happened on Sunday.”
Huh? What kind of argument is that? What professional sport doesn’t have a lot of pressure on everyone involved to compete at a high level? What professional athlete doesn’t compete with emotion?
A late-race on-track battle between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano resulted in multiple contacts, a spin and a post-race fight on pit road.Busch and Logano were racing inside the top 5 on the final lap …
Consider this, France. What if Dale Earnhardt Jr. cuts off Busch (or anyone else, for that matter) on the last lap of a race and puts Busch into the wall. Now, Busch is pissed. He chases Junior down after the race, slugs Junior in the face.
Here’s the not-so-funny part. Junior suffers another concussion and doctors advise him to retire from the sport. There, how cool is that? You just knocked the sport’s most popular driver out of the sport — for good. Oh, but you can’t penalize Busch for slugging Junior because everyone knows “emotions are going to get the best of us all at some point or another.”
And speaking of concussions, shouldn’t Busch be going through concussion protocol this week and have to sit out the next race? After all, he left the track clearly bleeding from the head, i.e., a head injury. NASCAR did have their doctors make sure that Busch didn’t suffer a head injury, right?
France also curiously said this week that there won’t be any retaliation between Busch and Logano the next time out. How can he say that with a straight face? How does he know when “emotions are going to get the best” of anyone?
“There will be no retaliation,” France said. “That will not be happening. That’s not going to happen anyway. The drivers understand what we did a couple of years at Martinsville (suspending Matt Kenseth two races for wrecking Logano), that is unacceptable. So what happens on the track, good or for bad for one driver or another, that’s where it stays, and we move on to the next event.”
But what happens, France, if “emotions” get the best of Busch this week and he goes after Logano, either on or off the track? Clearly, that would be OK because, as France also said: “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 true doesn’t matter, emotions are going to get the best of them. That’s just part of it.”
And France, what happens if rival crew members start fighting in the pits because someone didn’t like what a rival driver did to their guy on the track? After all, emotions run high among crew members, too. Memo to crew members: NASCAR says fighting is OK. Have at it.
Baseball players don’t go after opponents after a game; football players don’t cheap-shot opponents on the way to the locker room after a game; NBA players don’t fight in the tunnel on the way to the showers after a game — and, gee, those are also professional sports where emotions run high — without facing suspensions.
There are those who say, “It’s always been that way. There’s always been fighting in NASCAR.”
Well, they also used to use open-face helmets and cement walls around superspeedways, too. Times change. It’s time for the sport to grow up.
C’mon NASCAR. You’re better than professional wrestling, aren’t you?
Well, maybe not