Where's the Line?

Jenn Rants

When Scott Wimmer received a DUI, it was barely mentioned in the press, partly because the driver had yet to start in NASCAR and he was a rookie, without many fans. When AJ Allmendinger got his own DUI last week, it was suddenly a hot topic. Not only did NASCAR and Richard Petty Motorsports put the driver on probation, but he also received a fine. Some might say that’s fair, but don’t tell that to Jeremy Mayfield.

Mayfield was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for failing a random drug test. He still denies that he took illegal narcotics, but the story is basically a dead one. He can’t prove he didn’t use drugs and as far as NASCAR is concerned, it’s one strike and your out.

So, where’s the line? Is driving under the influence a less serious offense than using an illegal drug? And who exactly makes that call?

Consider Driver A and Driver B. Driver A kicks back with his friends on Monday night and maybe decides to just go ahead and release a little steam by smoking some marijuana. It only affects him for that one night, but Friday when he’s called in for a random drug test, he fails and he’s immediately suspended from NASCAR.

Driver B hangs out with his friends on Monday night and decides to release his steam by having a few too many drinks. He then climbs behind the wheel of his car, putting the lives of himself, his passengers and innocent bystanders at risk. NASCAR finds out and essentially gives him a slap on the wrist: probation and a fine. Basically they tell him not to do it again, or he might get in real trouble.

Do those rules seem fair to anyone? Driving drunk puts dozens of lives at risk; smoking pot risks your brain cells. Some might argue that it’s a legal matter. Then what happens when a younger driver gets pulled over for a DUI? If Joey Lagano, or another driver under 21, gets pulled over and cited for a DUI, do you really expect NASCAR to suspend that driver indefinitely?

NASCAR needs to examine the rule book and possibly make some significant changes. Doing drugs is wrong, but so is driving drunk and driving drunk is more dangerous than using some types of drugs. Some might argue that marijuana is legal in certain states, so what prevents a dispensary from sponsoring a car? If Joe’s Dispensary of Southern California sponsors a car like Budweiser, Miller Light, Crown Royal, etc. do, then will we see the failing of a drug test result in just a slap on the wrist? For a sport that prides itself on safety, NASCAR is sorely missing the boat.
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the writer and not Skirts and Scuffs. Disagree? Contact Jenn at Twitter.
Where's the Line? Where's the Line? Reviewed by Jenn on Wednesday, November 04, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. I think a lot of it has to do with the illegality of the drug of choice. Since the rule book is super secret we don't really know. It's not illegal to drink alcohol but it is illegal to smoke marijuana or use meth as Mayfield has been accused of doing.

  2. NASCAR drivers shouldn't even race under the influence of cough syrup.

    I don't think they should be allowed to drive with a fever, either.

    It's not about the legality of the drug, it's about the driver's ability to drive in excess of 150mph when the green flag flies. If that ability is compromised, then the other drivers are put at unnecessary risk.

  3. I'm not condoning drug use while in the car, but drugs and alcohol often affect the body in the same way. It might not be in your system anymore, but it will still turn up on a drug test. Marijuana can test positive up to 6 months after you use it. I just think it's odd that you can drive drunk off the track and get a slap on the hands, but if you use drugs off the track, you're banned from racing.

  4. You made a good point about both examples. But in NASCAR, they make a bigger deal about drugs then drinking. It doesn't matter I think AJ still should have gotten some penalty for doing what he did, he got arrested but he probably didn't get the chance to go behind bars. All he had to do was to pay his bail and he's free to go, just like that. Kurt gets pulled over in Phoenix back in 2005, he may have been a little drunk due to his attitude with the police officer and he only gets a ticket and he gets suspended for that Phoenix race and Homestead. And as much as I want to say he didn't deserve to be suspended, he got the right treatment. But with AJ's problem he's gets arrested and charged with drunk driving and in NASCAR he gets a slap on the wrist with a small fine and probation for the rest of the season, just about two months, give me a break that is nothing! He should have at least sat out for two races for his own good. So what he felt guilty about it, he still should have been suspended, he really didn't learn anything in this situation.

  5. The Kurt thing got blown way out of proportion, especially considering he didn't get a DUI and the cop who pulled him over, later admitted that not only wasn't Kurt drunk, but it was the attitude that got him in trouble.

    I like your thoughts on a suspension because it seems like NASCAR is afraid of suspending drivers now. Harvick got a suspension in the Cup Series for something he did in the Truck Series! They (officials) pulled the old "detrimental" line and pulled him from the car.

    NASCAR can't decide who's life is more important: people on the road or people on the track. Imagine what would have happened if (god forbid) AJ had hit someone!

  6. Mayfield had my sympathies until he popped a positive the second time. He knew he was being monitored.

    As far as the DUI's go, I have a serious issue with being penalized before having the chance to appear in court. A DUI arrest is often no more than a ticket (as was the case in AJ's situation) based on the likelihood of guilt. By having a fine and NASCAR probation served they have tainted the court hearing he has in December. A breathalyzer does not equate to being guilty of DUI, as the most reliable form of testing blood alcohol is a blood test.

    I have a serious problem with the way our society has begun to see guilt before innocence in DUI cases. If AJ worked on Wall Street and was treated the same way, they would be opened to a lawsuit. So, it appears that yet again NASCAR feels it can act outside of the rules everyone else has to play by.