NMPA
c/o Bridget Holloman, Exec. Secretary
P.O. Box 500
Darlington, SC 29540
Phone: (843) 395-8811

Columns
Third Place
Kenny Bruce, SceneDaily.com

Kyle Busch Shouldn’t Face Further NASCAR Penalties
            NASCAR punished Kyle Busch for wrecking Ron Hornaday by sitting him out of the remainder of the Camping World Truck Series race and then not allowing him to compete in the Nationwide or Sprint Cup races this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
            The punishment was seen as justified by most, both in the garage and in the grandstands, but now the question becomes should NASCAR further discipline the Joe Gibbs Racing driver beyond what it has already done?
            NASCAR attempts to legislate the sport on a case-by-case basis and no two cases are the same. Likewise, no two drivers are the same and just because one driver immediately understands the severity of his actions and any resulting reaction from the sanctioning body – thus requiring no further reminders – for others that moment of clarity might not come so quickly.
            NASCAR opened the door, to a point, with the whole “boys, have at it” declaration, and then watched as tempers and the number of on-track incidents began to rise on the track.
            That isn’t to say the drivers aren’t equally culpable. There’s never been a case of a driver not knowing retaliation was wrong. At what point NASCAR would step in, however, has previously been open to debate.
            NASCAR officials felt harsher measures were required to drive home their point in the case of Busch. And it’s entirely possible that by not allowing him to compete, its point has been made. Only time will tell if that is indeed the case.
            However, Busch has been penalized for his actions and further punishment isn’t warranted. It would not be regardless of the driver in the center of the controversy, just as a driver’s points position or who else was involved in an altercation should not play a role in such decisions. Judge it based on what took place and not by who was involved.
            Busch has lost points and any monetary earnings by not being allowed to compete. A further loss of points or money now would be, well, pointless.
            Yes, Busch has been in his share of incidents. But his prior track record is a part of what led NASCAR to take the drastic step it did in the first place. It should have no bearing moving forward as NASCAR contemplates possible additional sanctions against the driver.
            In dealing with the issue from this point forward, that “past incidents” card has been played.
            How Joe Gibbs Racing reacts, however, is another matter. While it is true that Busch was not competing for JGR Friday night – he was driving for his own team at the time - his actions still damaged the reputation of his Sprint Cup Series employer. Busch represents JGR every time he climbs into a race car, regardless of the situation. That may not be fair, but it’s a simple fact.
            He also represents Cup sponsor M&Ms, and all other sponsors affiliated with the No. 18 team, whether he is competing in a truck, Nationwide or Cup.
            Busch did not speak with the media Sunday, even though he was at the track, watching the race from atop his team’s pit box.
            With the potential for further action from all partners involved still pending, there really wasn’t much he could say.
            Has he learned his lesson? Only he knows that for sure.
            But from a NASCAR standpoint, the issue regarding this latest incident has been dealt with. It’s time to move on.

Cross the line, If You Can Find it, and Suffer the NASCAR Consequences
            FORT WORTH, Texas – NASCAR’s rule book is filled with technical information regarding competition, but the rule book on driver etiquette is a little less defined.
            OK, it’s a whole lot less defined.
            There is, and always has been, a bit more “gray” when it comes to policing what takes place on the race track. There is no template by which officials can “measure” retaliation.
            Cars that fail technical inspection might do so because of the same infraction – and thus result in similar penalties – but incidents on the track rarely unfold under the same circumstances.
            And ever since the advent of the “Boys have at it” era in 2010, those gray areas regarding what occurs on the track seem to have become even more muddled.
            How much is too much? How aggressive is too aggressive? When does a “racing incident” become retaliation?
            Competitors have been given leeway, but until now, the limits on getting even have been as vague as the mist.
            “You’ll know,” they were told.
            Perhaps NASCAR officials cleared up the confusion a bit Saturday morning at Texas Motor Speedway when Mike Helton, president of the sanctioning body, announced Kyle Busch would not be allowed to compete in this weekend’s Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series races.
            Maybe so, but don’t go looking for the line that Busch was said to have crossed. It’s there, but then again it’s not.
            The “parking” of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came on the heels of Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race, a race in which Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday after the two had contact early in the event.
            NASCAR’s reaction was harsh and unexpected. And the reasoning behind the reaction remains, at least publicly, as unclear as ever.
            What Busch did was wrong, but what many are wondering is how his actions differed from similar incidents that have taken place during the past two seasons. And that’s a fair question.
            “It’s not going to be a defined line. It’s going to be their judgment call and what they say goes,” Denny Hamlin said after finishing second in Saturday’s Nationwide race, filling in for the vanquished Busch.
            “I don’t know where the line is. There’s not much difference [in] what happened last week [at Martinsville]. There were a lot of incidents, very, very similar, that took guys out and things like that.”
            Busch is not the first driver to retaliate on the race track. He and Kevin Harvick were placed on probation earlier this year for a postrace altercation on pit road at Darlington. But both were allowed to continue to race.
            Last season, Carl Edwards was put on probation for three races following an altercation with Brad Keselowski at Atlanta. Keselowski’s Dodge became airborne after contact from Edwards Ford.
            The rivalry didn’t end there, as both were put on probation for much of the second half of the season following an on-track incident at the end of a Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis.
            Likewise, other than having to be on their best behavior, Edwards and Keselowski were left free to pursue their individual endeavors.
            A Cup driver hasn’t been parked by NASCAR since 2007, when Robby Gordon was not allowed to compete in a Cup race at Pocono after ignoring NASCAR orders the previous day during a race in Montreal
Helton said he believes those in the garage “understand the difference between being responsible and crossing the line.
            “But we’ll have to wait and see how the opinions react to this,” he said. “As annoying as the comments that I’ve made personally in the past about ‘we’ll know it when we see it’ might have been, we saw it last night.”
            Helton isn’t wrong. Those in the garage do understand there’s a difference. But there’s a big gap between knowing a line exists and knowing where it is located.
            Officials don’t encourage retaliation, despite the ‘Boys have at it’ edict, but how they have policed the matter when it has occurred has perhaps raised as many questions as it has answered.
            There is a line. And it’s out there.
            Somewhere.

Is NASCAR Playing Favorites by Not Ejecting Richard Childress?
            KANSAS CITY, Kan. – NASCAR’s decision to allow team owner Richard Childress to remain at Kansas Speedway following his involvement in an altercation with driver Kyle Busch on Saturday smacks of favoritism.
            Any way you look at it.
            The official reason Childress was not ejected in the wake of his physical confrontation with Busch, according to NASCAR President Mike Helton, was “because there does need to be leadership of an organization represented [at the track].
            “[Ejection] was considered in this case,” Helton said. “Historically we rely on crew chiefs, but since both organizations have multiple teams, we decided that it would be better if there was an authority from the team here and there’s not a second level authority present this weekend from his organization. Joe Gibbs is here from Joe Gibbs Racing and we chose to allow Richard to participate today.”
            So, because ejecting Childress would seem to mean that no one was here to mind the RCR store, he gets a free pass for now.
            No doubt that decision didn’t sit well with Gibbs, who publicly said he would allow NASCAR to handle the situation but privately had to be steamed. Gibbs, after all, has had to deal with his share of incidents instigated by his own drivers during his stay in NASCAR.
            NASCAR has often conducted races without the presence of team owners on site. Childress has often been traveling on hunting trips, Rick Hendrick has been absent for a variety of reasons and Roger Penske is on site only as often as his schedule allows.
            And they aren’t the only ones.
            NASCAR officials reacted with what they felt was the best interest of the sport, but their failure to eject a team member – whether that person be an owner, driver or crewman – gives the impression that that person is being judged by a different set of rules.
            Were the circumstances different in this instance? That doesn’t appear to be the case. And NASCAR officials aren’t saying.
            Were officials worried about possible retaliation by one or more of the RCR teams? Possibly. But it’s not the sanctioning body’s fault that a member of a team was involved in an incident that, in previous instances, would result in expulsion.
            Officials could have informed Childress on Saturday that if his actions could have been determined to be cause for ejection, he should plan to have another member of his organization on site to oversee the operation of the group on race day.
            NASCAR didn’t create the problem for the team, and it shouldn’t be the sanctioning body’s responsibility to correct it.
            NASCAR hasn’t hesitated to eject others in the past without regard to who would replace them. And this case should be treated no differently.
            No two wrecks on the track are exactly the same. No two altercations are the result of the identical events.
            Every situation is different.
            And so too, it seems, is NASCAR’s reaction.

Wood Brothers Rediscover the Magic with Rookie Trevor Bayne
            DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The unexpected occurred.
            The unbelievable? It’s true.
            The incredible? It unfolded before an announced crowd of 182,000 sun-drenched fans here at Daytona International Speedway.
            Trevor Bayne is the Daytona 500 champion. Believe it.
            And the legendary Wood Brothers Racing organization, the very same one that began racing in Daytona back when the cars were slinging sand over on the beach just off A1A, is back in victory lane.
            “I keep thinking I’m dreaming,” Bayne, who turned 20 only a day earlier, said upon climbing from the familiar red and white No. 21 Ford. “How cool is it to see the Wood Brothers back in victory lane?”
            How cool indeed.
            Pinch yourself Trevor. It’s true. At 20 and a day, you’re the youngest Daytona 500 winner in history. And just the seventh to score career win No. 1 in the sport’s biggest race.
            It was only the second career Cup start for Bayne, who isn’t even running for points in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series this season. His championship aspirations lie in the Nationwide Series, where he’s competing fulltime for team owner Jack Roush and Roush Fenway Racing.
            The Wood Brothers might be frugal. Then again, they simply might be wise. They aren’t convinced that it’s a good idea to throw away money they don’t have chasing a dream that few achieve.
            But when they do race, they race to win. And they come prepared.
            Bayne’s victory was the 98th for the team, third best among active organizations. They’ve fielded cars for some of the sport’s most talented, most successful drivers. Marvin Panch, Curtis Turner, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Neil Bonnett and Buddy Baker have turned a wheel or two for the legendary Woods.
            It was the fifth Daytona 500 victory for the organization, and the 600th win for Ford in NASCAR’s top series.
            The Woods’ last Daytona win? You might remember it, too, because it was kind of memorable. Richard Petty and David Pearson banging off one another coming off the fourth turn and chasing the checkers. They crashed, spun, and wound up on the infield grass, with Pearson eventually able to coax that No. 21 across the finish line first.
            Pearson was on hand for the prerace festivities, but was en route to his home in Spartanburg when the checkered flag flew. Grinning, no doubt, at the unexpectedness of it all.
            “I told him to keep his head straight and not to do anything crazy,” Pearson said in a statement. “I told him to stay relaxed. … I’m proud of him.”
            Bayne, who scored a 17th-place finish for the Wood Brothers in his first, and only, Cup start last fall at Texas, is only scheduled to run 17 events for the team this season. Maybe a Daytona 500 victory changes those plans, maybe it doesn’t.
            “I think we had a pretty big payday today,” Len Wood said of the $1,462,563 prize for winning. “We were talking about running the first five. I guess Martinsville (the season’s sixth stop) here we come.”
            In retrospect, the two-by-two racing that most feared would lead to a less-than-stellar season-opener was instead one of the most competitive, most interesting races in recent years.
            The DIS record book took a beating thanks to 74 lead changes, 22 different leaders and 16 cautions.
            It was a crashfest. It was the Demolition Derby 500. Several race favorites found themselves knocked out of contention early. Some managed to race their way back and into the heat of the battle.
            But in the end, it came down to a final two-lap shootout, the race eventually extended eight laps beyond its originally scheduled 200-lap distance by a pair of yellow flags.
            Bayne, in his first Cup start on the historic 2.5-mile track, had a mirror full of hungry veterans nipping at his heels when the green flag reappeared for the final time. Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya are race winners. Stewart and Busch are Cup champions. None, however, were Daytona 500 winners.
            And that remained the case as fans slowly filed out of the speedway and darkness descended.
            “I’ve listened to a lot of drivers on the radio and he reminds me of the great ones,” an emotional Eddie Wood said of his young driver. “He will be a great one. I told somebody the other day that I felt like he just might be the next big deal, and I think he is.”
            Bizarre? Crazy? Wild? Take your pick. The 53rd running of NASCAR’s season-opening event was all that and more.
            And in the end, lil’ old David went out and slew Goliath.
            Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500.