Jeff Gordon will spend the rest of the 2014 season without the services of three team mechanics, after NASCAR handed down penalties for Sunday night’s post-race brawl at Texas Motor Speedway.
The most serious sanctions were assessed to No. 24 team mechanics Dwayne Doucette and Jason Ingle and No. 5 rear tire changer Jeremy Fuller; all of whom waded into the melee with fists a’ flying. Fuller was captured on videotape throwing multiple wild haymakers at driver Brad Keselowski and his crewmembers, despite the fact that Fuller’s driver, Kasey Kahne, had no apparent issues with Keselowski during the race.
Fuller, Doucette and Ingle were each fined $25,000 and suspended for the next six point-counting races. Dean Mozingo, who serves as transporter driver and mechanic on Gordon’s No. 24 Chevy, received handed a lesser, three-race suspension and $10,000 fine. The loss of those three mechanics could affect Gordon’s drive for a fifth Sprint Cup title, but Hendrick Motorsports enjoys significant depth of personnel and should be able to replace them with minimal impact.
Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs Kenny Francis and Alan Gustafson were both fined $50,000 and handed a six-race probation under Section 9-4A of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rulebook, which holds crew chiefs responsible for the actions of their team members. Gordon and Keselowski were not penalized, despite the fact that Keselowski remains on NASCAR probation for his role in a post-race incident at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
While the Team Penske driver clearly caught a few haymakers during the melee, there is no evidence to prove that he landed any. Likewise, there is no evidence to prove that Gordon landed any blows. The difference between puncher and punchee – at least in NASCAR’s eyes – is approximately $25,000. Kevin Harvick, whose push from behind launched Keselowski into the lion’s den and arguably triggered the embroglio, was not penalized for his role in the incident.
NASCAR senior vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton hinted at the sanctioning body’s stance late Sunday night, saying, “Holding onto each other and grabbing… that's one thing. When punches are landed, it's a different scenario.”
He elaborated in yesterday’s penalty announcement, saying Fuller, Doucette, Ingle and Mozingo “crossed the line with their actions. While the intensity and emotions are high as we continue through the final rounds of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the actions that we saw from several crew members Sunday… are unacceptable. A NASCAR championship is at stake, but we can't allow behavior that crosses the line to go unchecked, particularly when it puts others in harm's way."
While there has been considerable debate over the penalties handed down yesterday, the sanctioning body has actually drawn a very clear line in the sand.
Grabbing, wrestling and questioning a man’s parentage are allowed. Punching someone in the face is not. It’s a simple case of personal accountability.
Act like a fool and you’ll be treated like one.
Turn “Billy Bad Ass” on national television, wading into a confrontation that has nothing whatsoever to do with you, and you can expect to write a lovely, five-figure check to the NASCAR Foundation.
It’s really quite simple.