CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blog By Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker and Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America photo — This surely has been quite the weekend for controversy, hot tempers and social media scuttlebutt.
In this week’s Around The Track, Tom Baker and Jacob Seelman sound off about the incidents at Charlotte on Saturday night, NASCAR’s penalties and ABC/ESPN’s behavior before and after the race.
TOM: Alright, Jacob. I’m generally a pretty big fan of NASCAR and I understand how “big” their job is, running three national series and trying to please everyone in the process. Normally I don’t make a habit of being negative, but not suspending Brad Keselowski was just wrong on several levels.
JACOB: Oh, yes. NASCAR got this wrong in so many ways it’s not funny. NASCAR set a precedent in 2011 when they parked Kyle Busch for the Cup race at Texas after the incident he had with Ron Hornaday in a Truck race under caution. Now, if you think under caution is bad? Try a chase through the garage area and contact on pit road. Not only did Brad get into both Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart on pit road, but he proceeded to go back to the garage, send a transmission flying, do a burnout through his garage stall and could have easily cleaned out crew members, officials or fans that were nearby in the process. How is that not ten times worse than wrecking someone under caution?
TOM: NASCAR also sat Kevin Harvick down in 2002 for bad behavior, so there’s plenty of past history to draw from here. Not suspending Brad is bad enough, but they didn’t take points either. As much as the “fan” in me squirmed at the thought of him not racing at ‘Dega, not sitting him down sends a terrible message. I think they should have suspended him for a race, doubled that fine to $100,000 and took 25 driver points minimum. You can’t have drivers playing car wars on pit road, much less doing it in the garage area. Just because nobody got hurt doesn’t mean nobody could have, and with all the scrutiny everyone is placing on driver behavior in our sport these days, NASCAR should have taken a much stronger stance here. They had a chance to prove exactly what this kind of behavior will get you and a slap on the wrist shouldn’t have been it.
JACOB: Thank you for bringing up the exact penalty I was going to, by the way.
TOM: What can I say? It’s a gift.
JACOB: Anyways, it bothers me too that we saw Tony Stewart get penalized and both of the Gibbs drivers get off scot-free here. My opinion on that is — if you’re going to penalize one driver, you gotta penalize them all in this case. Okay, sure, Matt Kenseth may not have given BK a black eye like Casey Mears got from the Tasmanian Devil, but a headlock is a better alternative and doesn’t deserve a penalty? Come on guys, this isn’t “Saturday Night Raw”.
TOM: The Tampa Bay Bucs could have used Matty K on their D-line Sunday afternoon. They couldn’t headlock a poodle in the first half, much less bother Joe Flacco. I agree with you. I think Denny and Tony should have been equally fined, while Matt gets 50k and Brad at least 100k and some rest in the “time out” chair. This is going to come back to bite NASCAR on the backside. If Brad wins ‘Dega on Sunday, it’s going to take every cop in Talladega County to keep law and order there. I’ll give you the final word on this before we move on.
JACOB: And I’ve got seven: Talladega is going to be “game on”.
TOM: Oh boy…
JACOB: But you’re right about one thing — if Brad advances, it’s going to get ugly. As I told our dear friend @nascarcasm on Twitter this morning, he might want to make Brad some of the “Candy Corn glazed” pancakes he was talking about, because I think they’re going to be the only friends that Brad has on Sunday come race time. #WillDraftForFood
TOM: Well played! I’m glad we could sneak an @nascarcasm reference in here, just to lighten the mood.
JACOB: I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it later. Just because I’m nice, go follow @nascarcasm on Twitter.
TOM: Anyways, now back to the complaint department. Is ABC/ESPN trying to flip NASCAR the bird or what? If not, they did a pretty good job of acting like it. First, they prioritize the end of a preseason NBA game over the start of the race and stick the first 25 laps on ESPN3, and then Good Morning America lowers themselves to TMZ status by using Tony playing Demo Derby with Brad on Saturday as an excuse to continue the witch hunt from the sprint car incident. Are you kidding me?
JACOB: Well, let’s tackle this one piece at a time. First, the reason we were worried about ESPNEWS and the NBA game that went into overtime is because ABC had the end of the Baylor/TCU game on (and I do have to admit, it was a good game) and didn’t expect the basketball to do what it did. That being said, I know ESPN has a lot of contracts to honor, but they also have millions of NASCAR fans who are now very pissed off because most of them missed the opening stint of Saturday night’s race over what most of us in the industry call “stick and ball sports”. ESPN has done this kind of thing before though; look at the numbers. At least 15 times (and that’s only as of 2010, the number increases when you add the last four years into it) NASCAR on ESPN/ABC has moved their pre-race show or even the start of the race to ESPN Classic or ESPNEWS because of college football, Little League baseball, or other sports. As I’ve heard from many fans — and I’ll echo their sentiments, as well as Dave Moody’s, here — It’s time to clear out the group that doesn’t care enough to give NASCAR the respect it deserves and bring on NBC.
TOM: I couldn’t agree more. I’m looking forward to seeing what NBC does with the series. I’m excited about that transition. Now, your thoughts on the GMA segment? I have nothing good to say about it so I’ll just stop here and let you have the lead on this last part.
JACOB: Oh, that’s a scary thing, but you asked for it.
TOM: Here we go…
JACOB: Unfortunately, I watched the two-minute disaster that was that GMA segment, and I’ll echo your thought from a few minutes ago. Are you kidding me? So, it’s not enough that the mainstream media slanders Tony Stewart during the Kevin Ward aftermath, but now we have to make his life a living hell because he reacted to the fact that Brad hit him on pit road? I’ll admit, Tony is under the microscope right now and probably shouldn’t have done what he did, but a small part of me disagrees with that feeling because you know what? It means at least a bit of the old Tony is back. And that’s not a bad thing for the sport. Oh, by the way, let it be known for the record that Hamlin wasn’t even mentioned in the segment, they left out Keselowski’s response basically recognizing Stewart had a right to be upset, and they didn’t even mention that Harvick won the race. Again I ask, are you kidding me?
TOM: Tony shouldn’t have done what he did. Wrong is wrong. But there were four drivers involved. Be fair or be quiet. But then, nowadays fairness is not required in much of the media.
JACOB: Keep in mind that ABC and ESPN’s parent company is Disney, Tom.
TOM: Let’s not even get started on that subject. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and SHR on a huge win on Saturday. Now it’s on to ‘Dega on Sunday. It’s been fun Jacob.
JACOB: Well, I don’t know for sure that I would call it fun, but I know what you mean. Let’s go racing, Talladega-style boys! And may the best eight Chasers advance…