Don’t have at ’em boys

I’m a big fan of Kyle Busch, although sadly after Friday night even I have to admit that he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy. To this Limey he is up there with Lewis Hamilton as the most exciting racer at work in the world today. Every lap Kyle drives is a thrill-ride, there is nothing more entertaining than seeing the number 18 being hustled round by the 26 year old; bouncing off walls and pulling off last gasp wins are his trademarks. Sadly he is also known for crashing, moaning and getting into off-track punch-ups. With nicknames like Wild Thing and Rowdy you know what you are getting, but on Friday night he became stock car racing’s public enemy number one with a shocking display of petulance that would be bad at any time let alone after two weeks of analysing the dangers inherent in racing.

Early on during the Camping World Truck Series race at Texas the arch-villain Kyle Busch was roughed up by a clumsy Ron Hornaday, the veteran meant nothing by the rub and by Nascar standards it was barely even a tickle. In the ensuing caution period Kyle did the unthinkable, pushing himself and Hornaday into the wall with frightening speed. It was enough to damage not just the truck but also the engine in Hornaday’s machine. Worse than that, it took lost Ron a chance at the title. Both Hornaday and his team owner Kevin Harvick had strong words for Busch and rightly so, but instead it was Nascar officials that took it upon themselves to sort this one out. They duly parked Busch for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, effectively ending Kyle’s quest for the premier title.

This isn’t quite an unprecedented punishment, but it is certainly an unusual one. Nascar has employed a ‘have at ’em’ rule that goes beyond ‘rubbin’ is racing’ and opens up the possibility of on-track revenge being exacted. Leaving the officiating of driving standards up to adrenaline-pumped young men and women is a disaster for safety but a hit for at least some of Nascar’s many fans. The flaws of one driver hunting down another at 190mph does not need explaining, except to the people who run the sport, or so it seems.

I personally believe that it’s the ‘have at ’em’ rule that should be parked along with Kyle Busch. The list of Nascar racers who have taken revenge using their cars or their fists is a long one, the list of those punished for such actions is somewhat shorter. At Talledega in 2009 Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski came together in the most almighty shunt that scattered debris into the crowd. Was this a warning that even fans were in being placed in danger by over-aggressive driving? Not to Nascar it seems, they proceeded to let Carl and Brad carry a grudge onto the racetrack on more than one occasions since then, including this massive airbourne wreck last year. A totally unacceptable state of affairs.

If we hadn’t have had such a horrid few weeks for motorsport I suspect Kyle’s stupidity wouldn’t have been punished by anything other than Ron Hornaday’s fists. However much I enjoy seeing the Wild Thing at work, I’m glad Nascar has taken a stand. I just hope that some sensible rules are drawn up that outlaws racing revenge all year round. If that doesn’t happen then we are just counting down the days until somebody does something that they truly regret. In such a litigious country I would picture that Nascar could find itself in a massive legal case if a non-accidental wreck results in casualties, which despite SAFER walls and HANS devices it could very well do. Now it is up to Nascar to make bans such as Kyle’s a standard punishment for all drivers, not just the ones playing the role of ‘baddie’ and nor should it just be a card that is played in sensitive times. No matter how large or small the wreck is, whether it is behind the pace car or under green, this cannot go on – it may come to threaten the entire sport.

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