|Gordon will race as planned Sunday|
Since 2010, NASCAR has stuck to a firm policy of allowing competitors to enforce their own standards fof on-track etiquette. Rather than spending hours each weekend determining "who bumped who," NASCAR has wisely remained at arm’s length from competitive disputes, allowing the competitors to decide for themselves who stepped over the line, and when.
There are plenty of examples to prove that the policy works.
In 2010 – first year of the “Boys Have At It” era -- NASCAR allowed Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski to feud publically for a number of weeks, wrecking numerous race cars without any involvement from the sanctioning body. Even after Edwards sent Keselowski upside-down into the Atlanta Motor Speedway catch fence at nearly 200 mph, NASCAR responded with only a three-race probation, while restating the sanctioning body’s desire to have drivers settle their own on-track differences.
Since that day, Edwards and Keselowski have raced thousands of miles together, without any discernable issues. They learned – eventually – that expressing anger with a 3,400-pound racer car results in only two things: wrecked race cars and even more anger. They learned that while it is sometimes necessary to stand one’s ground with a competitor who insists on taking unfair advantage, long-running feuds produce little more than bad publicity, distraction and a wholesale loss of championship points.
|Gordon (24) expresses his unhappiness|
Last season, Brian Vickers engaged in a pair of wreck-fests with Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth at Infineon and Martinsville, trading takeouts with the former Sprint Cup Series champions without any response from NASCAR. All parties talked tough for a time about defending their personal turf, but quickly settled their differences without additional unpleasantness.
There is a line beyond which NASCAR will not step, however. Kyle Busch learned that lesson last season, serving a one-race suspension from Sprint Cup competition after wrecking championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution period in a Truck series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The pair has not clashed since, and Busch – acknowledged by many to be NASCAR’s resident bad boy – has had a quiet season in terms of on-track conduct.
Clearly, NASCAR’s “hands off” policy works, as evidenced by the complete and total lack of long-term feuds in the sport.
Drivers still get upset from time to time, and occasionally express that unhappiness with a well-placed front bumper. Repeat offenses, however, are rare, telling NASCAR that their handing of these situations – or more accurately, their non-handling – is indeed the correct approach.
Jeff Gordon is a four-time champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and has represented his team, his sponsors and his sport in exemplary fashion from Day One. Prior to Sunday’s race in the Valley of the Sun, he had no history of dispensing “Frontier Justice” on the race track, and there is no reason to expect any further misconduct from him, or his camp.
Gordon and Bowyer will work out their differences in the coming weeks, if they haven’t already. And one year from now, NASCAR’s latest controversy will be long forgotten.Sometimes, as NASCAR has said, the best thing to do is nothing at all.
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