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Childress makes statement on fine
10 June 2011
Richard Childress met with the media ahead of this weekend's 5-Hour Energy 500 Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway and inevitably had to tackle the outstanding issue of his altercation with Kyle Busch last weekend at Kansas Speedway, and the $150,000 penalty he received from NASCAR for his actions.
Elsewhere, Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya were keeping tight-lipped about rumours that they, too, had come to blows in the NASCAR hauler back in May.
Childress made it clear that the statement would be brief, and that there would be no encores: "Here is the deal," he said. "I am going to make one statement on this deal.
"I appreciate everyone's patience during the last week when I couldn't talk to everyone. The main thing is I take all the responsibility for my actions last week. I am very passionate about this sport. I am passionate about my race teams, our fans and I let my emotions come in front of my passion. But that is behind us."
Childress made it clear that he accepted that his actions had been wrong: "I guess the next thing is the fine that was levied against me ... I agree NASCAR should have done something with me."
However, he was clearly still angry that Kyle Busch had escaped any sanction at all, in particular for the on-track, post-race bump that he gave to Childress' Camping World Truck Series rookie driver Joey Coulter on the cool-down lap: "I don't agree that they didn't handle the situation that happened on the cool-down lap.
“Hopefully Kyle and myself will both end up learning something from this," he added, giving the clear indication that he considered the $150,000 money well-spent if it had taught Busch a lesson.
When it came to the fine itself, Childress revealed that he had been sent money from fans to help him out with paying it off. "We had a lot of fans to send in donations last week toward our fine," he admitted, but said that "I am going to pay it personally."
As for the donations he'd received, he said that he would instead give them to charity. "All that money that has been sent in, that is still coming in, we're going to take and donate to the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. At least in every bad situation, something good will come out of it."
RCR had already asked fans to direct any donations to the organisation via a mid-week tweet. "I would like to encourage anyone who still wants to make a donation to please direct their hard-earned gifts to the Childress Institute," Childress had said on the team's Twitter page.
And with that, the press appearance was over: "Thank you all very much. Talk to you later. That's it." He did not take any questions.
Childress had earlier released a press statement immediately after NASCAR's penalty was announced, but this was the first time he had appeared in person to talk to the press - although the message was essentially the same.
The altercation had started after Kyle Busch, apparently unhappy with the way that RCR rookie Joey Coulter overtook him for fifth place on the final lap of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, gave him a bump on the cool-down lap after the chequered flag. Busch later characterised it as a "congratulatory bump", but Childress showed up 30 minutes later and hit Busch in retaliation. Busch himself remains on probation until June 15 for an unrelated disciplinary matter dating from an on-track clash with another RCR driver Kevin Harvick at Darlington in mid May.
Some pundits were surprised that Childress did not also receive a track ban for at least a race, as driver Jimmy Spencer had done in 2003 when he punched Kyle's older brother Kurt after a race at Michigan. Spencer himself - now a member of SPEED TV's NASCAR coverage team - this time backed Kyle Busch and said Childress had "stepped over the line", adding: "He let his temper lead him to assault someone."
Pot calling the kettle black? Spencer admitted that "if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have hit [Kurt] ... I went over the line with Kurt Busch," Spencer said. "I made a better person out of Kurt by punching him, but I also know I shouldn't have touched him. I've been in many brawls and nobody benefits from it.
"I don't think NASCAR did enough," Spencer continued, returning to the subject of Childress' penalty. "The $150,000 fine was fine but a three-week suspension would have been more appropriate. He took responsibility for what he did but never apologized for it because he's really not sorry."
NASCAR may have decided against a ban because of an even more recent precedent than Busch/Spencer.
According to pit lane gossip reported by The Associated Press, Ryan Newman may have received a secret fine from NASCAR for throwing a punch at Juan Montoya early in May, when the two drivers were brought together in the NASCAR hauler to try and resolve a simmering feud that had broken out into a public on-track spat at Richmond when Montoya spun Newman out of the race in retribution for an early collision.
The meeting was in private and neither driver commented on what happened, Montoya saying afterwards: "I'm not going to tell you [expletive]. Let's leave it at that. What happened in the trailer was between me, Ryan Newman and NASCAR. That's it."
But FOXSports.com quoted a source who claimed that Montoya said privately that "Newman hits like a girl" afterwards, indicating that the meeting may have got physical, and this week NASCAR refused to confirm or deny reports that Newman was handed a $50,000 fine for allegedly throwing a punch.
Asked directly this week if Newman had hit him, Montoya replied "I don't know, ask him ... I could tell you either way, couldn't I? I could make something up. Let's leave it at that."
"That's just speculation," Newman said in response to the rumours. "It was a private meeting. That's why we had it at the hauler. With conflict there are varying opinions, that's what causes the conflict. I'm past it."
"Anything relevant to discussions that NASCAR has with competitors in the hauler will continue to stay between NASCAR and the competitors, and NASCAR will always work to protect that bridge of confidence," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp insisted.
But punishments for meetings held in private in the NASCAR hauler have happened: Tony Stewart got a six-week probation for hitting Kurt Busch during one such meeting at Daytona in 2008.
Secret fines aren't unprecedented either: Denny Hamlin revealed that he had been fined $50,000 for criticising NASCAR on Twitter, leading to Ryan Newman revealing that he had also been secretly fined in April 2010 for critical comments he made about the style of racing at Talladega.
At the time, many fans were outraged at the idea that NASCAR was not only fining drivers for honestly speaking their minds, but then not even telling anyone they were doing it. Such secret fines made NASCAR look "untrustworthy", fans complained.