Speak Your Mind: Should there have been penalties after Fontana?

Pieces fall off Joey Logano's No. 22 Ford at the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.
Credit: Brandy Valentine
A last-lap wreck. A serious injury. A pit road scuffle.

NASCAR put speculation to rest Tuesday with the announcement that no penalties will be issued after the controversial events of Sunday's Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Calif.

Following their skirmish at Bristol, the last-lap wreck between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin upset many fans, especially with Hamlin suffering a broken vertebrae in his back that will take him out of his No. 11 Toyota for at least six weeks. Fans were also riled up when Tony Stewart threw punches at Logano on pit road because Logano blocked Stewart on the final restart. After the confrontation, Stewart gave an expletive-filled but accordingly bleeped TV interview.

Did NASCAR make the right call to forgo penalties? Our writers at Skirts and Scuffs sound off.

Carol D’Agostino: The action at the Auto Club 400 could be aptly described as the good, the bad, and the ugly, but was it penalty-worthy? I say no. Remarkably I am in agreement with NASCAR on this one. When I look at all the “ugly” incidents, most notably the one that sent Denny Hamlin into the wall, I did not see anything wrong with the racing strategy. I’m not sure whether the result would have been difficult if it had been two different drivers.

I also feel that the block that Joey Logano put on Tony Stewart was just that, a normal run of the mill block. What can be deemed offensive was Joey Logano’s post-race comments about Denny getting what he deserved.

Joey’s attitude comes down to integrity, and even NASCAR can’t legislate integrity or good sportsmanship. They can certainly make racing teams think twice about making illegal adjustments to the cars or other similar actions, but they can’t make someone be a better person. Only that person can make those changes.

Joey’s issue will be resolved in the garage and on the track the next time someone has to decide whether they can trust him as a drafting partner or in a normal give-and-take situation on the track.  Best of luck with mending fences with Tony Stewart, Joey, you’re going to need it!

Lacy Keyser: When it comes down to it, Sunday’s race is what everyone wants to see on the final lap: two drivers driving hard for the win. What we don’t want to see, however, is a driver laying on the ground clearly in pain.

Honestly, as long as the drivers are OK, that’s all I care about. I happen to like seeing them race hard for the win, and not just let someone drive on by with it. Tempers flare and for Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, their tempers had been flaring for a while now. But I don’t believe this was payback for Bristol.

As for Tony Stewart, that’s just another story waiting to be told. I am very anxious to see if something happens at Martinsville, or will Stewart make Logano sweat it out?

As for no fines - I agree, I feel like each driver reacted in the right, I don’t believe anyone was wrecked intentionally. Like I said earlier, it was just two drivers driving hard for the win. As for Stewart, he was just reacting after a long day’s race - nothing wrong in my eyes how he reacted. No one likes being blocked and from watching the replays, Logano almost did make Stewart wreck, so I could see why he was so upset.

But in the end, knowing Hamlin will be OK is all that matters. Sadly, yes, he’s out for six weeks, but in the end, as long as he recovers fully, that’s the most important thing.

Denny Hamlin walks through the garage before
Sunday's Auto Club 400. Credit: Brandy Valentine
Unique Hiram: In regards to what happened on the last lap of the Auto Club 400 race this past Sunday between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, I don’t agree with NASCAR’s stance to not issue any penalties or fines. At the least, I think that “Sliced Bread” should have received some type of probation or ordered to sit out for a race or two due to the extent of Hamlin’s injuries. Regardless of this driver’s previous back issues, that hit caused some major damage and could possibly take him out of competition for a little while. I will agree that both drivers were racing each other hard, but we also know that Logano had an ax to grind because of what happened in Bristol when he got spun out.

I can recall two separate incidents where some heavy hitters were penalized for their respective on-track retaliation: Carl Edwards had to serve a three-race probation when he flipped Brad Keselowski in Atlanta (2010) and Kyle Busch was parked for a Sprint Cup race in Texas when he wrecked Ron Hornaday in the Truck race (2011). No one was physically hurt in either of those incidents; however, there was some very extensive and expensive vehicle damage resulting in NASCAR dropping the hammer down on both of those drivers.

As far as the altercation on pit road between veteran driver Tony Stewart and Joey Logano, I fully support the decision of no penalties or fines because there is nothing wrong with a little hand to hand (excluding the water bottle) contact every once in a while. Having served in the military for 21 years, I feel that it is perfectly OK to participate in this type of physical activity from time to time. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little “old school” throw down. 

Ro Cowan: If you are going to say “Boys Have It,” then you have to step back unless it's obvious that someone is going to get hurt, involved or not involved. What I mean by that is in the case of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski; the actions of the Edwards could have very likely got someone badly hurt. Mr. God was kind to him in that no one was seriously hurt.

If they want to get into fistfights afterwards that is between them, and if it can't be contained, that is why they have law enforcement on the pit road. Very often the only effective measure to stopping a situation like this one is let it run its course and let the drivers hand out their own type of retribution. Believe me, every one of them knows how each other will drive on track. They know being out there behind the wheel if what happened was intentional or not, and they all heard by now what was said afterward. They also know by now that Joey Logano didn't call Denny Hamlin. They will deal with it within their circle of peers.

For NASCAR to hand out penalties and try to control something that they are obviously making money on is contrived and hypocritical. They have been under the gun for years over trying to intervene in situations that were best handled by those involved. You can hand out penalties or fines, but the bottom line is that until the drivers handle the situation and deal out their own "punishment" - if you will, it's not over. It just goes underground and pops up somewhere like Talladega, where more folks can be involved and injuries are even more likely.

I personally do not condone retaliation; however, there is in every professional group that code that you don't step on that line that says you don't go further than this. For the most part, it is well understood amongst the group and not publicly shared. It can usually be figured out by the response of others in the group. With that being said, look at the reaction of the group as a whole and you will be able to figure out that Logano stepped over the line. Roger Penske may defend him and Brad Keselowski may not speak against him, but that doesn't change the ultimate outcome in that they will police their own.

Rebecca Kivak: I actually agree with NASCAR's decision not to issue penalties after the incidents in Sunday's Auto Club 400.

Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin were racing hard for the win when the last-lap crash ensued. Were they racing each other harder because of their issues at Bristol? Most certainly yes. Were they trying to take each other out? No, but that's what happened, the product of hard racing. Hamlin gave Logano room, and Logano moved up the track to battle Hamlin, but that's not punishable behavior - that's trying to win a race.

Logano's comments after the race - specifically, "He probably shouldn't have done what he did last week, so that's what he gets" - were in extremely poor taste, especially since he was unaware of Hamlin's condition after the wreck. From his comments, many inferred that Logano wrecked Hamlin on purpose, but I think that was Logano commenting on the wreck after the fact, not an admission of retaliation. This is different from the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski incident at Atlanta in 2010, when Edwards admitted he went back out on the racetrack multiple laps down with the intention of wrecking Keselowski, whom he blamed for an early-race incident. Edwards was rightfully penalized after that race (not hard enough in my opinion), but I do not think the motive of retaliation was established for Logano to have been penalized after this race. Logano's post-race comments, however, as well as the fact he has yet to reach out to Hamlin after the wreck, don't do him any favors.

As for Tony Stewart, I can understand why he was upset at Logano - after all, that block caused Stewart to fall back 20 or so spots, ending his shot at a win. However, I think he overreacted by confronting Logano. Logano did what any driver would and should do to hold onto his position.

Stewart is known for his no-tolerance of blocking, but his reaction also came off as hypocritical, considering it was his block that caused a multi-car wreck last fall at Talladega.

Do I think he should be fined for going after Logano? No - I'd rather these guys settle things with their fists than by using their cars as weapons on the racetrack where others could get hurt. Considering the curse words in his interview were bleeped out, I see no reason to fine him for that either. Between Stewart throwing his helmet at Matt Kenseth last year and now confronting Logano, Smoke's fire (or should I say ire?) has been stoked after initially toning down when he became a team owner.

Lisa Janine Cloud: NASCAR's version of a grand jury decided not to indict Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart for the events of 24 March 2013 at Auto Club Speedway Sunday. No penalties, no fines. None of them called or texted me to ask my opinion on the subject, but I'm going to express it anyway.

I completely agree with NASCAR's decision.

Nothing that happened on the track between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin rates so much as a slap on the wrist. Perhaps Logano made some unwise choices in focusing so completely on one former teammate that he lost any chance he might have had at keeping the other former teammate from winning the race, but he didn't intentionally wreck Hamlin. Hamlin may have bowed up to him a little, but is old enough and experienced enough to have been ready to give Logano a wide birth, but he didn't intentionally turn Logano into the wall. Had Hamlin climbed unharmed from his car, his fans might have been indignant, but I doubt anyone would have called for penalties.

As for Stewart - perhaps he's guilty of overreacting. Maybe he's guilty of going after Joey for something he's done before.

*Cough* Talladega *Cough*

But Stewart's nothing if not consistent when it comes to the subject of blocking. Just ask Brian Vickers. And at least Smoke chose to use his fists instead of the No. 14 Chevy. A number he chose because of his racing hero and mentor, AJ Foyt, who's been known to throw a few punches and use salty language.

It's not the first time a competitor has gone after another competitor with flailing fists. It won't be the last. Promoters use the footage of those episodes to sell tickets. Heck, Eddie Gossage of Texas Motor Speedway already has an ad with Stewart vs. Logano on it.

Plus, Stewart's earned the right to speak his mind. He's won enough races and enough championships that he can say things for which other drivers might be fined. The TV reporters who braved his wrath to ask the unavoidable questions chose not to do so on live TV because they've been around Smoke post-race before. They already KNEW the answers, and they knew he would not be thanking God and his sponsors in that moment. They KNEW he was going to use colorful language, yet they asked the questions anyway and didn't air the piece until they'd had time to edit and censor it.

Bottom line, the day Tony Stewart gets out of the car after a race like that and mealymouths his way through an interview is the day he needs to hang up his helmet.

Speak Your Mind: Should there have been penalties after Fontana? Speak Your Mind: Should there have been penalties after Fontana? Reviewed by Admin on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 Rating: 5