Home Did NASCAR really have to bring down the hammer on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. like that?

Did NASCAR really have to bring down the hammer on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. like that?

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NASCAR generated a lot of publicity out of the Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Kyle Busch fight, but it still had to close out that story by bringing down the hammer on Stenhouse and his race team.

Stenhouse, on Wednesday, was fined a record $75,000 for instigating the fracas, and his father, Ricky Stenhouse Sr., was given an indefinite suspension from the track for getting involved in the fight.

NASCAR also suspended Stenhouse mechanic Clint Myrick for eight races and engine tuner Keith Matthews for four races.

Busch, who wrecked Stenhouse out of the All-Star Race Sunday night on Lap 2, in what was clearly a fit of pique after Stenhouse had passed Busch on the inside on the opening lap of the race, escaped penalty.

It wasn’t as if you couldn’t see what was coming. Stenhouse, after getting knocked out of the race, parked his car in Busch’s stall on pit road, then climbed the spotter’s tower to have words with Busch’s crew.

The car later had to be towed out from Busch’s stall.

I don’t know that I’d ever seen a driver do that before.

Stenhouse later said on-air on the Fox Sports broadcast that he would “handle it” after the race, and when reporter Bob Pockrass asked what he meant by “handle it,” Stenhouse replied: “You can just watch afterwards.”

He had 198 laps over the course of the next couple of hours to stew, since the North Wilkesboro racetrack where the All-Star Race was being run doesn’t have an exit tunnel, meaning drivers who are knocked out early have to stay around on the infield through the end.

Maybe NASCAR, in retrospect, could have had somebody there with Stenhouse when the checkered flag came down, but then, if that had been the case, we wouldn’t have had the viral moment that has been all over the sports media the past few days.

That’s sorta, kinda the Catch-22 that comes part and parcel to NASCAR: the diehards follow for the drivers, the bumper-to-bumper, side-by-side racing, the strategy, but the casual fans only seem to perk up when there’s a wreck or a post-race fight.

NASCAR’s social-media team, to its credit, has been all over the video from the fight, drawing tens of millions of clicks in the process, but that’s akin to how the NFL made millions back in the day – and not that long back in the day – off videos of various hard hits and cheap shots that we now know have left a lot of retired guys walking around with CTE.

And so it is that NASCAR, while basking in the glow of publicity from the Stenhouse-Busch fight, also felt that it had to throw down a big fine and some suspensions.

I’m not convinced that the fine and suspensions aren’t all just kayfabe, personally.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].