Written by: Ben Blake, RACER Magazine Loudon, N.H. – 9/19/2005
NASCAR Vows to "Do What It Takes" for Race Control
NASCAR insisted Sunday that it would take whatever action necessary to prevent on-track and on-air violations of NASCAR policies, this after Sunday's vengeful and angry Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
The 300mi race at the tight, flat oval was the first in NASCAR's fall playoff, and it can not be said certainly that the "second season" magnified events on the track, or NASCAR's response to them. Only one of the involved drivers is in the so-called "chase for the championship".
Still, NASCAR vp/communications Jim Hunter sounded resolute in declaring NASCAR's position, after meetings with the miscreants concerned.
"I think we're going to see some pretty stiff penalties coming out of this, Tuesday at the earliest," Hunter said. "We're going to do whatever we need to do -- park a guy for a week or park a guy for nine weeks. We're going to do whatever we have to do to prevent retaliation on the race track, particularly under the caution."
Actually, the mayhem was fairly well confined, although it started early. Contender Kurt Busch, who won this race last year to launch his championship bid, got hit from behind by Scott Riggs on the second lap, causing Busch to wreck and ruining his day.
Busch, under full camera eye, strolled down the pit lane to Riggs's pit, where he climbed the box and had a brief discussion with Riggs crew chief Rodney Childers. Busch said later that he wanted to let Childers know that the No. 10 car's loose set-up could be a danger to other competitors.
Hunter said NASCAR had approved Busch's visit, despite a "rule" that prohibits a member of one team from visiting the pit area of another. Two NASCAR inspectors accompanied Busch to the No. 10 premises, as did a dozen reporters, which created some chaos.
The action picked up dramatically at Lap 165, when Kyle Busch and Kasey Kanhe tangled, sending Kahne's car hard into the wall. Kahne, who had run as high as fourth, waited for Busch's car to re-circle under caution, then turned his wrecked car right into the path of Busch. Busch was able to stop, and no further damage was done.
The climax came when volatile Robby Gordon was hit and wrecked by Michael Waltrip on Lap 191. Gordon climbed from his car with intention showing that he intended somehow to confront Waltrip. After removing his shields, he picked up his helmet, walked past the emergency vehicles, and waited.
When Waltrip's car approached, Gordon stepped in front it (caution speed) and gestured, and as Waltrip passed, Gordon fired his helmet at Waltrip's door, the helmet bouncing off and into the path of trailing leader Tony Stewart.
That wasn't all. Caught immediately by TV crews, Gordon vented. "You know, everybody thinks Michael is a good guy," he said. "He's not the good guy. The caution was out and he wrecked me. He's a piece of shit. It is what it is."
Oops. That one word, even if uttered on cable (TNT) rather than network, is of a species of word and gesture which has cost at least three drivers heavy penalties (including points deductions) in the past year -- or since Dale Earnhardt Jr. unwittingly dropped the s-word after last fall's victory at Talladega.
Therefore, Robby is likely to suffer big-time when the penalty sheet comes out this week.
Hunter said Kahne and crew chief Tommy Baldwin, Waltrip and crew chief Tony Gibson, and Gordon were called to the office after the race.
Some wondered why the "five-second rule", implemented after Earnhardt Jr.'s slip last fall, is not still in force. That was not explained, although cable-vs.-network may have something to do with it. Hunter said NASCAR had no plans to call for such a policy. "We're going to tell our athletes not to use bad language when talking on television, that's all," he said.
Others wondered whether NASCAR's severe public face covers a promoter's glee and whipping up the sparks. Hunter carefully walked the line on this one.
"We have to maintain control," he insisted. "Somebody has to make decisions and somebody has to invoke whatever penalties to keep it on a reasonable level.
"We would prefer not to have obscene gestures and bad lauguage. I don't want anyone to think we would promote those sorts of things. This is a high-emotion sport, like all professional sports are. But by the same token, we'll do whatever we want to do to keep it within reason."