Pocky’s Paddock: A Ryan Newman penalty would mark a change in direction by NASCAR officials
By Bob Pockrass
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby says what happens in the NASCAR hauler is "nobody's business."
Fans can expect NASCAR to penalize Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick this week for their confrontation at Darlington Raceway Saturday night. NASCAR will penalize them because Harvick threw a punch and Busch hit and spun Harvick’s car on pit road, endangering crew members.
Probation is likely. Fines are possible. Points? Not out of the realm of possibility, but given the “boys have at it” approach NASCAR has tried to embrace, it would be a mild surprise if points are taken away.
But what about Ryan Newman? He is rumored to have thrown a punch at Juan Pablo Montoya inside the NASCAR hauler, an allegation neither driver denied.
If he did, does that mean it is OK to have a physical altercation inside the NASCAR hauler?
It has appeared that way in the past. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby often says: “We’ve always had a policy that once that door in my office closes, it’s nobody’s business.”
NASCAR officials wouldn’t waver on that stance when contacted Monday, although they said they’re not done with Newman and Montoya, who were still angry over two on-track incidents at Richmond. NASCAR officials are still considering their options as far as penalties are concerned.
If a driver is penalized for his actions inside the NASCAR hauler, that would be unprecedented.
Tony Stewart supposedly hit Kurt Busch in the hauler three years ago after an incident in Budweiser Shootout practice at Daytona followed by a confrontation on pit road.
They both were given six weeks probation, but the NASCAR news release specifically said it was for their on-track actions.
If there is no penalty for Newman and Montoya, the message to drivers will be that fighting is acceptable in the NASCAR hauler.
NASCAR punished Robby Gordon swiftly after an altercation with Kevin Conway in the garage area at Las Vegas earlier this year. They put him on probation the next day even though no NASCAR official witnessed the alleged fight.
That can’t be the case with Newman and Montoya. If anything happened, it was right in front of NASCAR officials.
So far, nothing has been done.
NASCAR could decide to increase the penalties if it feels it doesn’t get its point across. So if it does penalize Newman, it could fall back on the reasoning that drivers are fighting too much and it needs to crack down, that it can’t have fisticuffs even if it happens in a place that is “nobody’s business.”
Or maybe NASCAR would like to send a message that if a driver wants to risk a penalty for fighting, then doing it out in the open where everyone can see might be a good thing to generate interest in the sport.
Free Agent Talk
It’s been pretty quiet on the free agent front the last couple of weeks, but expect that to change in the next three weeks.
After the race at Dover this weekend, the series moves to Charlotte for two weeks for three big events – the Sprint All-Star race, the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction and the Coca-Cola 600.
There is plenty of time during those two weeks for owners, corporate executives and drivers to get together.
If they want to get a deal done by the middle or end of summer, significant talks should occur in the next month.
Carl Edwards is the biggest free agent driver on the market, with Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya also among those still without contracts for next season.
Mark Martin and Danica Patrick are wild cards because their intentions are not totally clear. Martin, who will be leaving Hendrick Motorsports, must decide how many races he wants to run and where. Patrick must decide if she wants to race in NASCAR full time and if so, which series will she run.
Barely Getting By
Robby Gordon’s next full race will be the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway later this month.
Gordon treated last week’s race at Darlington almost like a test session as he ran some laps, came into the garage for several laps and then went out and raced some more. He completed only 87 laps.
Gordon had not planned to run the entire season – he had tentatively planned an 18-race schedule – but has shown up at each event this year.
There have been 42 cars that have gone to every race this year. The race at Dover this weekend will have 44 cars with the new Inception Motorsports team and a second Whitney Motorsports team on the entry list.
Inception, which has David Stremme as its driver and is housed in Stremme’s shop, has made the first two events it attempted to qualify for, finishing 34th at Richmond but then parking after 27 laps at Darlington. Stremme’s team has four cars and will run as many races as possible.
Stremme has Steve Lane as his crew chief. Lane came from Robby Gordon Motorsports. Samuel Stanley replaced Lane at RGM.
In Case You Missed It
It wasn’t a surprise that tempers heated up at Darlington. With drivers angry with each other or angry at their crews at Richmond on April 30, drivers explained why there was the potential for more emotion at Darlington and beyond: http://bit.ly/ir7T17