Tuesday, November 13, 2012

COMMENTARY: "Boys Have At It" Still Belongs

Gordon will race as planned Sunday
Despite the $100,000 fine levied against Jeff Gordon for an intentional takeout of rival Clint Bowyer Sunday, NASCAR’s “Boys Have At It” policy remains effective, and in effect.

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.

Photos: Getty Images


  1. Amazing leaving Kyle Busch out if the argument if anyone else done what Gordon did ti Bowyer the punishment would have been alor different. I guess we now know what the price is for intentionally taking someone out of a race. I'm curious to see how consistent NASCAR is when this happens again wheb ut doesn't involve a hugh profile driver. I doubt NASCAR will be as understanding.

  2. Why didn't they let the Kyle Busch Ron Hornaday deal just ride? Some of us now know Hornaday was just tring to get browning points with Harvick.

  3. Boy looks like I can't spell after 12 drinks anymore. Glad I can still drive.

  4. mrclause10:22 AM

    Let's see, Gordon slows on the track intentionally waiting to take out another car, announces it over the radio, takes out that car, eliminating that car and driver from a mathematical chance at the title, and doesn't get a suspension? But does get police protection?

    We heard the comment from Gordon about his intent to "repay" Bowyer and I'd bet money that NASCAR did as well, why no yellow flag to prevent it? I'll tell you why! NASCAR continues to make bush league decisions by bush league officials. Then to have the egotistical Robin Pemberton and his BS reasoning be the spokes person? NASCAR should fine themselves for actions detrimental to the sport and suspend their officials until they can prove they have something real to offer the sport.

  5. The argument is that by letting them try to kill each other NASCAR made sure Edwards and Keselowski figured it out. That they haven't been fighting lately is seen as vindication of Boys Have At It.

    It is not. All that's happened is Edwards' career has fallen off the map. Nothing between them has been resolved; at some point they will fight again because NASCAR didn't punish them before - thus enabling them.

    Boys Have At It came about because the myth was perpetrated that NASCAR was stifling driver personality, a preposterous notion then and now on its face. By staying away from driver feuds NASCAR has done nothing but enable them.

    1. Edwards career has fallen off the map??? They guy TIED for the championship a year ago! How quickly you forget! The Edwards/Keselowski feud was in 2010, three years ago. Both have run up front consistently and contended for championships, with no incidents at all.