NASCAR photo - Jeff GordonEnlarge Photo
Actions have repercussions, something that Jeff Gordon was well aware of before he deliberately hunted down and crashed Clint Bowyer in last Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 in Phoenix. Arizona.
We now know what those repercussions are, as NASCAR was swift in handing out penalties to drivers and crew members. For his on-track antics, Gordon was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points for the 2012 season. Furthermore, the Hendrick Motorsport driver was put on probation until December 31.
If you think that’s absurd (like we do), it gets better: Brad Keselowski was fined $25,000 and placed on probation until December 31 for the unthinkable act of carrying a cell phone in his fire suit.
Let that sink in a moment: for breaching regulations designed to prohibit electronic aids like traction or stability control (of which the cell phone clearly produced no advantage), Keselowski was fined $25,000. For trying to injure or kill another driver, Gordon was fined just four times that.
Lest you think that $100,000 is a lot of money to Gordon, think again. In winnings alone, the driver earned $5,778,970 this year. Last year, his endorsement deals netted another $15 million, so lets call his 2012 earnings thus far an even $20 million.
Translated into dollars that more of us can understand, Gordon was fined the equivalent of $257.07, based on the 2011 U.S. average household income of $51,413. While none of us would want to write an unexpected check for that amount, let’s be honest: it wouldn’t change our lifestyle one bit.
Docking Gordon points is symbolic, since he was out of contention for the 2012 championship. Putting him on probation through December is worse, since it makes a mockery of the sports rules and regulations. There’s just one race left, so “through December 31” really translates to “through November 18.”
Most of us here have raced cars at one time or another (though obviously not at Gordon’s level), so we understand how emotions can get the best of you. Maybe it's because repairs come out of our own pockets, or maybe it's because we have more common sense, but we understand the difference between hard racing and dirty racing.
We also understand that crews are there to back the driver, so we're not opposed to the occasional pit-lane dust-up, as long as potential weapons like breaker bars and screwdrivers are left in the tool box. We'd like it even better if the off-track boxing was limited to drivers, because that keeps innocent bystanders safe.
NASCAR’s penalties in Phoenix are laughable, and do nothing to prevent drivers from taking similar actions in future races. Maybe the sport is attempting to regain fans and viewership, but if it continues down the path it’s headed, driver fatalities are inevitable.