Opinion: NASCAR fails another self-imposed test

NASCAR had a self-imposed test this week and in almost record time it failed once again.

Opinion: NASCAR fails another self-imposed test
NASCAR Senior Vice President Steve O'Donnell talks about adding SAFER barriers to the track following Kyle Busch's crash
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after a fight on pit road
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kevin Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Paul Wolfe, Crew chief of Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Steve O'Donnell

On Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway, in response to a meeting NASCAR called between drivers Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell issued the following edict, “We’re very clear that we’re not going to allow a car to be used as a weapon.”

It took less than 36 hours for another driver – Austin Dillon – to test that line.

In Saturday’s Xfinity race, Cole Custer tried to make a hole where there wasn’t one on the track, and in the process collected Dillon – a contender for the race win – in a wreck.

After Dillon drove away, he slowed his damaged race car on the track waiting for Custer – who received far less damage – to come back around the track and then proceeded to slam into Custer’s car to express his displeasure.

At the time, NASCAR “parked” Dillon, directing his car to proceed immediately to the garage, but that “penalty” came with virtually no consequences.

Dillon’s car was likely beyond repair anyway, and if it was fixed, the only thing of consequence Dillon, a Cup driver, was running for in the Xfinity race was the victory – which became impossible after the initial incident.

Tough words followed by no action

Given O’Donnell’s words on Friday, it was assumed by many that this week’s penalty report would include something more for Dillon.

Instead on Wednesday, there were severe penalties handed out for the teams of Brad Keselowski (for a failing postrace rear wheel steer) and Kevin Harvick (for an unapproved track bar assembly).

But for the guy who “used his car as a weapon”?

Nothing. Silence.

Once again, we get words with no meaning.

If Dillon’s car was not used as a weapon, what was it used for in the retaliation incident?

Was he just trying to adjust the paint job on Custer’s No. 00? Add another dent to match one from the earlier incident? Some sort of new cool method of on-track celebration?

Yes, Dillon was parked after the incident, but it was a punishment with no real effect.

I don’t know what was said to Dillon by NASCAR officials that day or any other day – although I’m certain they’ve had plenty of conversations – but the public isn’t privy to those words.

Meaning what you say

Fans and the media only get to see the public reaction – and that’s the only thing we have with which to judge whether the words/decrees/edicts NASCAR officials offer have any real, practical effect.

And once again, it appears NASCAR doesn’t mean what it says.

I understand the desire to treat each incident as separate and unconnected by the prejudice and passions that may come unintentionally from other similar incidents.

But in choosing that path, NASCAR also opens the door to complaints of favoritism – doling punishments based on who is involved rather than what they did.

That door has been wide-open for far too long. It’s past time to shut it and place it under lock and key for good.

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