NASCAR finally issued penalties to drivers Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick for issues that took place last weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Busch was fined $10,000 for not showing up to his post-race interview in the Xfinity race last weekend. Busch did not agree with NASCAR's decision to not throw a caution when Busch blew a left front tire after taking the white flag. As much as fans would love for me to comment on this issue, I actually agree with NASCAR's decision. I understand that no driver would be happy under those circumstances, but Busch has an obligation to post-race interviews. Now, on to Danica.
Ms. Patrick was fined for her actions during Sunday's race when Kasey Kahne turned her head on into the wall. After exiting her vehicle, Danica walked towards Kahne's car which was a violation of section 10.4.2.1a in NASCAR's rule book which states, "At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron. At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle" (Jayski.com). Patrick will be on probation for the next 4 points paying events (Martinsville, Texas, Bristol, Richmond) and was fined $20,000. With all the news out of the way, let's get to the knitty gritty of this post. Though Patrick did in fact 'approach' the racing surface, I do NOT believe she should have been penalized by NASCAR. Below I will discuss two major reasons why Danica should not face any penalties from NASCAR for her actions on Sunday, but first let's re-watch the incident and Danica's reaction (end of video).
First, she stayed on the apron. Reviewing the video, Patrick never reached the racing surface. NASCAR's rule DOES include the apron, but the penalty on Patrick is a bit ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I support any rule implemented in the mind of safety, but Patrick never put herself in danger. Patrick's feet probably get within five or six feet of the racetrack, but never close enough for any harm to be done under caution. Lastly, she never showed any aggression that would lead NASCAR to believe she would step over the line. Danica calmly walked up the racing surface with her hands held high, with no intentions of ever putting herself in harms way. While it is important for drivers to understand that anything can happen under caution, the issue of the apron seems to be a bit over board.
Second, Patrick kept her distance from cars on track. It is understandable that NASCAR would implement a policy keeping drivers away from moving vehicles, especially after the incident involving Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. Again, I support this policy, but not in the case of Danica Patrick. If you watch the replay again, look and see how close Danica was to the cars on track. Patrick had to have been no less than 20-25 feet away from the moving cars. In fact, if you look at the replay, you can barely see Kahne and the #7 car of Regan Smith roll by. I would understand a penalty if Patrick entered the bottom lane on track and put herself within 10-15 feet of the racecars, but there was no immediate danger in sight. Simply put, Patrick wasn't even close enough to throw equipment at Kahne's car, but yet she is penalized for putting herself in danger.
Overall, I respect and understand all of NASCAR's safety policies. While Danica did in fact break the NASCAR rule regarding approaching the track and/or vehicles, the penalty is a bit obsessive. NASCAR should make 'situational' rulings on incidents of this nature. In my opinion, these types of instances should be a judgement call, not a white-and-black ruling. At the end of the day, Danica never put herself in real danger, and is getting fined $20,000 for taking less than 10-steps towards the racetrack. If you calculate that with her fine, she is paying over $1,000 per step, just think about that!
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