Back before the 2010 season, then Senior VP of Competition Robin Pemberton uttered those famous words, that now have many fans scratching their heads… Boys, have at it.
NASCAR was accused by many of being too strict and taking away the “rubbing is racing” attitude that fans supposedly loved.
But shortly after that loosening of the apron strings, many thought that NASCAR went too far and that lines were being crossed. From cool down lap confrontations to Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville to Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday, Jr. going at it in the 2011 WinStar World Casino 350 race, drivers then proved to NASCAR that they do indeed need boundaries. From fines to suspensions to being parked during a race, NASCAR has many tools at its disposal to rein in what they consider inappropriate behavior so they can ensure the “orderly conduct of the event.”
Josh Williams was parked and suspended this season in the Xfinity series. After being told to park his car, Williams left the car parked on the track in defiance of NASCAR which earned him a race suspension.
In the Cup series, we have seen recent race suspensions for what NASCAR and some drivers consider dangerous on track retaliation.
Both Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have discussed that NASCAR needs to have consistency – that’s the most important thing. Harvick didn’t come out and say the suspension was warranted but did say that NASCAR needs to be consistent and that using car data to confirm what they see on track is the appropriate thing to do.
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Hamlin has been more vocal about the suspension but seemed to be calmer at Gateway after he and Chase Elliott had spoken.
If this new “line in the sand” by NASCAR is what drivers want, and need, then let’s do it. So the next time Hamlin runs someone up the racetrack and into the wall, he knows that he won’t be rear hooked but perhaps some other form of retaliation will be appropriate for the way he races. And he can stop posting Dale Earnhardt video clips to make his point. He is not Dale Earnhardt—not even close.
I have just one other thought on all of this. A race suspension means absolutely nothing to the driver or team if NASCAR keeps granting waivers. If they want the drivers to know that NASCAR means business about on track safety, then they need to stop granting waivers. If a driver has a waiver based on injury, then a race suspension should mean they could lose that prior waiver.
Things of note: Corey Lajoie didn’t have a great race at Gateway
Corey Lajoie got a wonderful opportunity to run in a top tier car but found that it isn’t as easy as it looks to step into a premier ride and cruise to a Top 10 finish. Subbing for the suspended Chase Elliott, Lajoie started P30 and struggled to a P21 finish. Afterwards, an obviously dejected Lajoie said he knows he still has a lot of work to do in his ability to translate what he needs to the team. He’s back in the 7 car this week and I believe that time in the 9 will help him become a better driver.
Next up: Sonoma
I just love this race. Daniel Suarez is the defending race winner while Chase Elliott is the top rated driver at the track.
Kyle Larson (2021), Martin Truex, Jr. (2018, 2019) and Kevin Harvick (2017) round out the recent winner line up.
Kevin Harvick was once a pretty decent road course driver and finished P4 last year but he will need track position and a decent set up to repeat that.
Will Chase Elliott return with a good run at a track he performs well at or will he struggle after missing seat time?
Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are both running well and could win this. Ryan Blaney seems to flourish at this time of year so a Top 5 wouldn’t be unexpected for him.
Track position is everything at these road courses so if Michael McDowell, Austin Cindric or Chris Buescher can find their way to the front, a Top 5 isn’t out of the question for them either.
Stay cool and keep the shiny side up.