Following what has become the usual practice of NASCAR to review evidence of any irregularities on the Tuesday following a race weekend today the sport’s governing body announced that Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have each been fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the next four Sprint Cup Series races.
NASCAR stressed that the punishments were meted out specifically for the altercation that took place in pit lane immediately after the race and that the incidents during the race that led to the frayed tempers fell within the parameters of NASCAR’s “have at it, boys” policy.
Those incidents started when Harvick swung down from the wall exiting a turn and hit Busch’s car. It was one of those moves that was really hard to define whether it was intentional or genuinely just a racing incident. Busch decided from the get-go that it was intentional.
As the pair of them, who have a well known mutual dislike of each other, started tapping into each other Clint Bowyer, Harvick’s teammate saw an opening underneath the feuding pair and decided to go for the gap. At that point Busch nudged Harvick who in turn hit Bowyer and sent him hard into the inner wall and out of the race. This was all happened with just five laps left to go and everybody trying to race for the win.
Whilst Bowyer was spinning to a halt replays of that moment showed Busch’s car drive across the track and catch the rear quarter of Harvick’s car and turn him around. It looked very deliberate.
NASCAR since the beginning of 2010 has adopted this policy of not interfering in these racing incidents, whether intended or accidental, preferring instead to let the drivers resolve these issues between themselves and in the process devolve NASCAR of some of its policing duties.
After the checkered flag as the cars were approaching pitlane Harvick was clearly hanging back for Busch’s car to come round. At the pitlane entrance Busch spotted him and elected to miss pitlane and head back on to the track. Harvick followed him.
Busch clearly was trying to avoid the confrontation and started to back up to the pitlane entrance but in the process broke reverse gear so turned the car and drove to pitlane, all the while accompanied by the aggressively driven car of his nemesis. Back in pitlane Harvick climbed straight out of his car and headed back to confront Busch.
With no reverse gear on the no. 18 Toyota, and still determined to avoid the confrontation, Busch drove forwards and away narrowly avoiding what appeared to be a punch thrown in his direction, and in the process hitting the no.29 Chevrolet and sending it, driverless, across the pitlane and into the wall.
And that was the one thing that most incurred NASCAR’s ire.
A car heading across an area of track where some of the pit crews were still working was not acceptable.
NASCAR tested Busch’s car and found that the reverse gear was indeed broken but nevertheless thought both drivers actions contributed to a situation that was reckless and could have had injurious consequences.
“Have at it, boys” is acceptable and tolerated on the race track but the drivers have had a warning shot across their bows – it is not going to be condoned in pitlane.