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Pedley: ‘It’ Is Dividing The NASCAR Garages

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 14 2011

Kevin Harvick is listening for some kind of direction from NASCAR rule makers. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

It became pretty obvious after Friday’s round of press conferences at Dover that the most famous words in NASCAR – and I’m not referring here to “Drivers, start your engines” –

are, in the minds of some, followed by a question.

The question being, “Have at what?”

It was a question which has clearly divided drivers into two camps: Those who have an idea of what “it” is, and those who are searching for a more precise definition.

The confusion over “it” has been burbling and churning away just under the surface of day-to-day intra-sport dialogue like habanero wing sauce and stomach acid since NASCAR disciplinarian Robin Pemberton uttered “Have at it” a year ago.

After the bumping, blocking, punching, runaway car events involving Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at Darlington a week ago, and the resulting penalties, the issue of “it” refluxed into the garages at Dover on Friday.

In the one camp, there are drivers like Busch who say “it” is more than adequately defined. And a darn good “it” it is.

Jeff Gordon stepped forward for that camp Friday.

“Maybe it’s not written down in any book or on a piece of paper, but I feel pretty confident what the boundaries are,” Gordon said. “I think if you walk away from

The only thing that is gray at Dover for Kyle Busch this weekend is the sky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

whatever incident it is and you go, ‘Oh boy, maybe I shouldn’t have done that,’  you can be expecting that they’re probably going to react.  It’s pretty clear to me that what happens on the track and even deliberate things that happen on the track don’t seem to affect their decision making. It’s things that happen on pit road or once you get out of the race car.”

Carl Edwards shrugged the question of an ill-defined “it” off.

“I guess that is why we wear helmets,” he said. “This is auto racing. It is a wild sport. I think NASCAR has done a good job of letting us take care of things ourselves and yes it has gotten out of hand a couple times and I have been a part of that stuff. Right now I am just glad to be leading the points, no controversy, running well, winning races and having fun. It is fine with me right now, everything is good.”

Clint Bowyer tried to play mediator. “We’re all professionals. I think good old common sense solves a lot of that.”

But the thing about common sense is that there can be a lack of commonality.

For instance: For some people, if they don’t really like what other people are saying, it’s just common sense to pull out their gun and start blasting.

Tony Stewart made a few headlines after the Busch vs. Harvick incident when he made a

Kevin Harvick is still sideways about what happened at Darlington. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

plea for a more stringent defining of the “it”. He wanted to know what “it” is and what the precise consequences would be for excessive “it”.

Harvick said, right on.

Friday in Dover, that plea found more support.

“I think we’re all in a gray area where we know that in the past, that things that have been done, penalties would equal suspension potentially and probation for sure,” five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said. “And now we’re in this gray area and I think that NASCAR is still trying to feel it out. There’s a point there where it’s ‘have at it, boys’ and then there is crossing that line.

“And I know exactly what Tony is speaking about and he’s right, where you would like some clarity. But I think as a group, we’re trying to understand what that really is. We don’t want the on-track stuff to be a wreck-fest and to take the competitive spirit out of it. And at the same time, you can’t have people in harm’s way on pit road. So I think our clarity is developing as these incidents come along. As a competitor, you want to know where that line is and what’s allowed and what’s not. So I definitely understand where Tony is coming from but I think it’s a progress in motion right now.”

Some drivers appeared to have a foot in both of the camps.

“I would say that clarity is a good thing when it comes to the situations we’re put in and at the same time, every situation is a little bit different so it is hard to clarify that from NASCAR’s perspective,” Ryan Newman said.

But it was also Newman who injected the most important element into the debate; the human

Ryan Newman says boys will be boys. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

element.

When Harvick was lowering his window net last weekend, getting out of his car and forming his hand into a balled-up fist, he was not staging an internal debate about the definition of “it”. Nor was Busch when he pushed Harvick’s car out of the way and into the pit wall.

They were thinking neither of the punitive nor the preventative aspects of “it”.

“If you’re frustrated,” Newman said, “you’re going to react.”

So, “it” can be explicitly defined by issuing a menu of actions/penalties or “it” can roll along as a fuzzily defined concept. Doesn’t matter. The boys are going to have at “something” not matter what.

Maybe the best way to deal with “it” is they way Greg Biffle is. He was asked Friday if he wanted to be part of the whole brouhaha.

“I want to be a part of it because I want to sell the hats and the t-shirts,” the Biff said. “I don’t want to be a part of it though because I don’t want to lose the points and be backwards in the fence or have the radiator busted out of the car and finish 35th. It is fun for the sport though. Trust me, I have been there enough and the season is not over yet. We will just have to wait and see. It is creating excitement though.”

I say, right on.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 14 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Terry says:

    No blood no foul…..
    Yipping at each other ” with maybe a 3rd graders push ” is not anything to watch.
    It is beginning to look like a bad Jerry Springer rerun.
    Nolan Ryan pounding Ventura on the mound….was the baseball exception. This all looks like a MLB on field huggapalooza……
    When Ryan Newman ACTUALLY…..throws a right cross into Harvick-Busch-Kaslowski-whoever deserves it’s NOSE…….then NASCAR will wee their collective britches and go back to Disney racing like it had become.
    It should have been left alone all along.
    Like hockey……let it be natural….NO RESTRICTOR PUNCH RACING !!!!