There is no question that driver Kyle Busch has been through a lot in the past week. It’s also obvious that NASCAR has been under a lot of fire this past week for the actions that were taken against Kyle during this week. For deliberately wrecking Truck Series Championship contender Ron Hornaday, Busch was sent home for the rest of the Texas weekend. For this, many praised NASCAR for taking the appropriate action against a driver who has been pushing the limits on the ‘boys have at it’ policy implemented a couple of years ago.
This policy allows drivers to take altercations into their own hands, instead of NASCAR policing the driver’s every action. The new policy allowed drivers to police themselves and deal with altercations themselves. With this in mind, NASCAR made clear that there was a boundary that cannot be crossed without consequences. In Texas, this boundary was crossed.
Coming into Phoenix, some drivers claimed that the boundary between aggressive and dirty driving was clear, while others were still uncertain of where NASCAR stood on the subject. Nonetheless, everything revolving around this issue was fairly clear, until an incident between Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth resurfaced. During the Martinsville race a couple weeks ago, Brian Vickers was involved in a total of five accidents (although not all were his fault, his driving was severely criticized). After Matt Kenseth booted him out of the way, Vickers sought retaliationwhen it came time. That time came last race at Phoenix.
We have seen this time and time again in NASCAR. A driver, who has been recently pissed off, seeks revenge by punting another driver; many times this results in the aggressor driving by unscathed while the victim’s car ends up in the wall. In times past, NASCAR has penalized the aggressor with a one or multiple lap penalty for aggressive driving, and possibly even being parked for the rest of the race. An example of the latter occurred at Atlanta in 2010 when Carl Edwards spun out Brad Keselowski after being multiple laps down, which resulted in Kes flying through the air. NASCAR wouldn’t let Carl complete the race.
Why, then, was the Vickers incident controversial? For one, NASCAR didn’t do anything. Not even a one-lap penalty. The bigger concern, however, was that NASCAR didn’t take the same action against Vickers that they did against Busch just one week earlier. Although I agree that NASCAR should have at least held him a lap for clearly intentionally wrecking a driver who, although a long shot, was in contention for the championship. What makes absolutely no sense are the accusations against NASCAR for not suspending Vickers, just as they did with Busch. The two incidents are very different, and thus different consequences are appropriate.
Kyle Busch’s retaliation against Hornaday was very blatant: he destroyed his truck after the caution waved. Many argue that similar to Hornaday, Kenseth was a championship contender. Although this is true, Hornaday was riding a wave of momentum and many considered him to be a favorite. Kenseth had an outside chance at best. For any levelheaded fan or media guru, the two incidents are very different. If NASCAR did what many thought would be appropriate (suspending Vickers), a floodgate would open and there would be a serious tear in the “boys have at it” policy. This year alone has seen many Vickers-esque incidences. Take Darlington when Kyle Busch took a hard left into Kevin Harvick’s rear quarter panel. Similarly, Harvick conducted a very similar move to Trevor Bayne in this year’s fall Nationwide race at Richmond. Neither driver had even remotely severe consequences. Take Busch’s deliberate retaliation against Elliot Sadler in the Bristol truck race. Was there any suspension initiated? No. Why, then, would it be appropriate for NASCAR to suspend Vickers after his retaliation on Sunday?
The argument, all in all, makes very little sense and has very little ground. Fans and media-heads, nonetheless, will still argue NASCAR’s call and say that their policy is “bi-polar” and that they chose sides. Neither case is true. Vickers, even though there’ll be no suspension, will feel many consequences for his recent actions this off-season. As a driver looking for a ride next year, many teams looking for drivers will take all of his actions into consideration. After glazing over his embarrassing Martinsville performance, and then his retaliation against Kenseth on Sunday, Vickers has suddenly found himself in a deep hole that will be hard to get out of. Even though he is not getting a formal suspension, Vickers will feel the heat of his actions.