The governing body of NASCAR drew a line in the sand this week when they doled out penalties to drivers Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears. Ambrose and Mears were involved in a post-race scuffle at Richmond that escalated when Mears grabbed Ambrose and ended when Ambrose punched Mears. The result of the scuffle was both of them being placed on probation until May 28th as well as fines of $25,000 for Ambrose and $15,000 for Mears.
Although a majority of the NASCAR community does not agree with the fines, I happen to think they fit the crime and should have been handed out. While I agree that Mears should not have touched Ambrose and Ambrose has a right to defend himself; I also believe that both drivers need to be more professional. The whole “in the heat of the moment” argument does not fly with me. Can one lawyer punch another lawyer in the face because he pulled a dirty move in the courtroom that could potentially ruin months of hard work?
So what makes it okay for Ambrose and Mears to do it? Just because they are not wearing suits doesn’t mean that they are not making a lot of money in a well-paying occupation where they are expected to act professional. I understand that back in the day things were different; well back in the day a lot of things were different, but we no longer live back in the day. Both men made mistakes and as a result had to pay for it and the punishment was appropriate. I am sure Ambrose feels that $25,000 was well worth punching Mears in the face.
That being said, NASCAR created a slippery slope by passing out this punishment. Ambrose and Mears were not the only ones that were upset that night in Richmond, Brad Keselowski was also pretty mad. In fact, when the race was over Keselowski showed off his anger by chasing down Matt Kenseth and brake checking him. This action of course caused Kenseth to slam into Keselowski thus damaging the No. 20 machine. This incident also collected and damaged the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who had absolutely nothing to do with that situation as he finished 7th.
So why didn’t NASCAR fine Keselowski?
It would seem that NASCAR is sending a message that says using your fists is bad but using you car as a weapon is okay. I know that might seem like an extreme stance but Keselowski essentially used his car on Kenseth the same way that Ambrose used his fist on Mears. Granted in the case of Keselowski the only thing damaged were the cars as opposed to Mears’ face. Upon further review you could even argue that Keselowski acted in a more unprofessional manner than Mears and Ambrose did. At least Mears and Ambrose hashed out their issue face to face. Keselowski on the other hand took a cheap shot at Kenseth by brake checking him, something that Kenseth most likely didn’t even see coming.
I do not condone fighting in NASCAR in the sense that I do not feel it should become part of the sport. Did I enjoy seeing Ambrose and Mears? Of course I did, but I also felt there should be a punishment. If NASCAR wants to take the stance of “we don’t care if you throw a punch but it’s going to cost you a lot of money,” I am okay with that. However that brings us back to the question of what made the Ambrose and Mears situation wrong but the Keselowski situation okay.?
Ambrose and Mears were found in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 12-4.9 (Behavioral Penalty; involved in an altercation in the garage area after the race) in the 2014 NASCAR Rule Book. Apparently NASCAR doesn’t view Keselowski driving around and wrecking cars after the race as “actions detrimental to stock car racing.” This is a dangerous road for NASCAR because all it takes is one ill advised cheap shot on the track to hurt somebody. I am not saying that NASCAR needs to go around handing out penalties and fines to everyone but there does seem to be a bit of a double standard here. Bumping, spinning or moving a guy during the race is one thing while tearing up race cars in anger after the race is another.