14 October 2014
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Fines, probation for Keselowski and Stewart
Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart have both received fines and four-race probations following post-race events at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The post-race altercation at the end of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night has resulted in fines and probation periods for two of the drivers involved.
NASCAR has fined Brad Keselowski $50,000 with a four-race probation for his actions on pit road immediately after the end of the race, in which he retaliated against Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin for on-track incidents earlier in the evening.
Stewart was fined $25,000 and also put on probation after he retaliated against Keselowski who had inadvertently run into his car while trying to take a swipe at Kenseth's parked vehicle. Stewart took umbrage at being caught up in the post-race fall-out and decided to respond by reversing the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into Keselowski's car, which succeeded in crumpling the front end of the #2 Penske Ford.
Neither Keselowski or Stewart plan to appeal their penalties.
With the announced penalties, it's clear that NASCAR took a dim view of the two drivers using their cars to vent their anger on opponents in what is meant to be a 'safe zone', and where there were other team personnel and track officials on foot in the vicinity. However the sanctioning body held back from penalties such as points deductions that might have materially affected the outcome of the current Contender 12 round of the 2014 Chase.
In both cases, the drivers had been deemed in breach of sections 12-1 and 12-4.9 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rulebook. The former governs actions detrimental to stock car racing, while the latter relates specifically to behavioural penalties for being involved in post-race incidents. Behavioural penalties are not covered by NASCAR's new six-tiered penalty system and are instead handled on a case-by-case basis with penalties ranging from probation to expulsion.
“These penalties are about maintaining a safe environment following the race,” explained Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's senior vice president for competition and racing development.
"We knew that the new Chase format was likely going to raise the intensity level and we want our drivers to continue to be themselves," he added. "However, the safety of our drivers, crew members, officials, and workers is paramount and we will react when that safety could be compromised."
"NASCAR sent the right message," FOXSports analyst and former Cup driver Darryl Waltrip said later. "It's strong but not too strong. If Brad Keselowski had it to do over again, I'm sure he would do things differently. But matters escalated and things got out of control.
"Keselowski had just run a 500-mile race, and then throw in the fact his whole season could be blowing up before his very eyes because of a bad race," Waltrip continued. "That's a lot of pressure, and sometimes you just snap. We've all had a bit of road rage driving down the highway when a total stranger has made us mad.
"I understand the Keselowski penalty but maybe not the Stewart penalty. Stewart was minding his own business and probably didn't know what was going on until he saw Keselowski in his rearview mirror. Stewart reacted to someone running into his car unprovoked," Waltrip added. "For all kinds of reasons, it's unfortunate Stewart got dragged into this. Because of the incident in New York, the media know who Stewart is, saw what happened and jumped to their own conclusions and made judgments. That's unfortunate because Stewart had nothing to do with what happened on Saturday night."
There was some surprise that there were no penalties directed at the Joe Gibbs Racing pair of Kenseth and Hamlin for their part in the post-race brawl that broke out afterwards.
Hamlin had attempted to confront Keselowski on pit road but was pulled away by crew members and was only able to throw a towel at Keselowski's head; Kenseth was subsequently more successful in hunting down the 2012 Cup champion and at one point appeared to try throwing a punch at Keselowski before getting him in a headlock, after which team and track officials intervened.
Earlier this year NASCAR fined Marcos Ambrose $25,000 for punching Casey Mears following the April race at Richmond, with Mears also fined $15,000. However with no conclusive footage of either Hamlin or Kenseth landing a punch on Keselowski last weekend at Charlotte, it appears that NASCAR is satisfied that no penalties are warranted against either driver on this occasion.
"I thought everybody would get a little penalty, but I guess NASCAR decided Hamlin and Kenseth were more victims than instigators," commented Waltrip. "Whatever their reasons were for not penalising Hamlin and Kenseth, I'm sure they weighed all the evidence. I was afraid they'd overdo the penalties, but I think they nailed it."
Neither Kenseth nor Hamlin added to the comments they made to the media immediately after the fracas on Saturday.
"Matt was nearly out of his car," Hamlin had recalled. "He [Keselowski] just ploughed into Matt and then ran into Tony and then went in through the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage. Just acting like a dumbass instead of a champion."
"I went after him [Keselowski] because I don't want to get hurt or killed on pit road," Kenseth said on the night. "If he wants to come and talk about it like a man then go do that, but to try to wreck somebody on the race track and to come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with my seat belts off and drive into the side of me is just inexcusable. There is no excuse for that. He's a champion and he's supposed to know better than that."
"The #20 car and the #11 car both hit me under yellow and once the race was over I hit them back and they couldn't take it," Keselowski had countered in turn. "I gave it back to them and now they want to fight, so I don't know what's up with that."
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