Thursday, August 25, 2011
No Role For NASCAR In Busch/Sadler Incident
Busch clearly stepped over the line Wednesday. The initial incident happened only after he crowded Sadler to the wall in an attempt to finish off one of his patented “slide jobs.” Busch said he was given the all-clear by his spotter, but admitted afterward that “maybe I was too late” in moving up the track when Sadler already had his foot in the door.
Busch’s bout with the frontstretch wall was the kind of thing that happens every day at tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway. “Driver A” misjudges a pass and crowds “Driver B” toward the fence. “Driver B” chooses not to yield – or is unable to do so -- and somebody ends up in the fence. Welcome to NASCAR, everyone. It’s a contact sport.
What happened after the initial crash, however, was something entirely different. Despite having only himself to blame, Busch decided Sadler was in need of punishment. In a fit of anger, he waited for the #24 Chevrolet and right-turned Sadler at the exit of Turn Two, sending him spinning. He then put the bulls-eye on Sadler a second time for good measure, hitting him in the left-rear corner as he spun.
By virtually any reasonable yardstick, Busch’s move was a cheap shot. Cheap shots are not unprecedented in NASCAR, however, and the sport has a long and storied history of drivers policing themselves. Stick me in the wall this week, and I’ll return the favor next week; tit for tat, an eye for an eye. Rough riding and poor sportsmanship are two-way streets, and NASCAR knows it. That’s why they washed their hands of situations like these more than a year ago, with their now-famous “Boys Have At It” decree.
Given time, situations like Wednesday’s always seem to work themselves out. A year ago, it appeared that Carl Edwards would be satisfied with nothing less than Brad Keselowski’s head on a pointed stick. They exchanged take-out moves for a number of weeks, culminating in a horrifying, upside-down pummeling of the Atlanta Motor Speedway wall by Keselowski that had many fans (and some competitors) screaming for Edwards to be suspended. NASCAR stayed out of it, allowing the two combatants to figure out – on their own – that their feud was doing nothing but destroying race cars, ruining their championship hopes and endangering their lives. Today, they race each other cleanly and with respect, with sanctions or threats from the sanctioning body.
They may not always act like it, but NASCAR drivers are adults; generally reasonable despite the occasional outbreak of ill manners in the heat of battle. Busch and Sadler can mend their own fences without NASCAR assistance.
“Boys Have At It” continues to work well.