NASCAR Gets It Wrong Once Again

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody is perfect.

Everyone from everyday people to those who run multi-billion dollar entities make mistakes at times and have their own flaws. That being said, there are times in life (and business) where situations arise and certain people simply have to get it right. This past weekend in Dover NASCAR was given two similar situations and an opportunity to get it right.

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Unfortunately, NASCAR got it wrong.

The two situations that fell into the lap of NASCAR involved Jennifer Jo Cobb and Trevor Bayne. Both drivers broke the same rule; a rule that had yet to be broken since it was established. Both drivers decided to leave their wrecked vehicles and walk onto a live racing surface thus being the first drivers to break a rule against doing just that. The rule was established by NASCAR in the aftermath of the Kevin Ward Jr. accident last summer in which Ward Jr. was struck and killed when he walked out onto a live track.

Cobb was the first to break the rule in the Truck Series race on Friday. Cobb was spun out (or at least that is her take on the situation) and then she left her truck and walked halfway up the track to express her frustrations at the driver that she believed took her out of the race. Following the incident Cobb acknowledged that she forgot about the rule mostly due to the anger that she had in the moments following the wreck.

On Sunday during the Sprint Cup Series race Bayne became the second driver of the weekend to break the rule. Bayne wrecked during the Dover event and he decided not to wait for medical personnel to arrive on the scene. Instead, Bayne departed his No. 6 machine and walked across the live track. Although Bayne was not looking to angrily confront another driver, he still walked onto a live racing surface which constitutes a violation of the rule.

NASCAR spoke to both drivers after their respective incidents and it quickly became common knowledge that both drivers would be receiving penalties this week. Those penalties were handed down on Wednesday.

  • Trevor Bayne – $20,000 fine and probation until the end of the year.
  • Jennifer Jo Cobb – $5,000 fine and probation until the end of the year.

Before NASCAR announced the penalties it was safe to assume that any monetary fine would not be equal. NASCAR tends to skew the monetary fines in the lower series since the teams are smaller and the money in those series isn’t what it is in the Sprint Cup Series. That being said, NASCAR had a chance to really get this right and they completely missed the mark.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The rule was put into place after a driver was killed. The rule was put into place to protect everyone on the track. The rule itself is actually one of common sense (don’t walk onto a track where you could get hit by oncoming racecars). Unlike many of NASCAR’s rules and policies, this one doesn’t have a grey area. There isn’t anyway that a driver can push the envelope or step outside of the box on this one. The rule is crystal clear; stay in your car until medical personnel arrive (unless staying in your car presents a danger) and do not walk onto a live racing surface.

On Friday Cobb did exactly the action that took the life of Ward Jr. and made this rule a thing, in a moment of anger she walked onto a live track to yell at oncoming cars (or trucks in her case). Then following the race she admitted that she knew of the rule but simply forgot given how she was feeling in that moment. NASCAR’s response ($5,000 fine and probation) doesn’t only seem light but on some levels it’s baffling. I understand that $5,000 is a lot to a team like hers and that the probation means suspension if she were to do it again but to me it should have been more. NASCAR had the chance to drop the hammer here and show how serious this rule is and they didn’t really do that.

A couple of days later Bayne does the same thing which is troubling in that the Cobb scenario had just happened. Although Bayne wasn’t going after another driver he still walked onto that live racing surface for which there just isn’t an excuse.

The next time that a driver feels they were done wrong I don’t think that a $5,000 to $20,000 fine is going to be enough to stop them from walking across the track if they really want to. If Jimmie Johnson puts Harvick into the wall, the last thing that he is going to be thinking about is a small fine. I hate to say that suspension should have been on the table for Cobb and Bayne but at least in that case it would have truly drawn a line in the sand as opposed to what NASCAR did with the penalties that they handed out.

Many fans won’t see either issue as a problem but we all know why the rule is in place and putting yourself or another driver in a position for that to happen again is senseless.

Next: NASCAR Penalizes Kevin Harvick And Several Others?