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Woody: Surely They Jest About The Gist

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 18 2011

Kyle Busch was summoned to a meeting with NASCAR officials after his encounter with Kevin Harvick at Darlington. Both Busch and Harvick walked away free men. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

I don’t know if it was a typo, a misunderstanding by the transcriber or an intentionally-clever play on words by Kevin Harvick.

This is what he was quoted as saying about being called in and chewed out by NASCAR following his Darlington dust-up with Kyle Busch, according to the printed transcript:

“That was basically the jest of the meeting.”

I suppose Harvick meant to say “gist of the meeting.”

But “jest” was more accurate.

NASCAR fined Harvick and Busch $25,000 and put them on four-race probation. It was all theatrical, of course – a dough-for-show fine and a meaningless probation.

I guess NASCAR had to call some sort of token foul, like a basketball ref who toots an occasional whistle on somebody to keep the game from getting too physical beneath the basket.

But it’s understandable when drivers complain that NASCAR is too arbitrary in its rules enforcement and sends mixed messages. One day it bellows, “Boys, have at it!” and the

Kevin Harvick was issued a small fine and put on meaningless probation. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

next day it penalizes them for putting a ding in somebody’s paint job.

In fairness to NASCAR, it is forced to walk a fine line. If the racing becomes too tame and bland, nobody will watch it. But if it gets too rough someone could get hurt.

That’s why it has to make an occasional token call just to maintain control.

It happens in every other sport, of course. In football, holding in the offensive line could be called on every play; the refs fling an occasional flag just to keep it from getting out of hand.

And talk about judgment calls: in basketball how many times have we seen one ref signal a charge while another calls a block? The refs feel like they have to call SOMETHING on SOMEBODY.

Ditto for offensive/defensive pass interference in football; most call could either way.

Usually the best call is a no-call, and that applies to most NASCAR incidents.

But NASCAR felt compelled to do something about the Kevin & Kyle fracas, and so it did about as little as possible. A $25,000 fine is chump change and the four-race probation is, of course, absolutely meaningless.

We all remember when Tony Stewart was placed on probation by NASCAR, and during the probation period he became involved in another incident. NASCAR did nothing except simply extend his probation.

NASCAR is not going to suspend its two most exciting drivers. Everybody knows that – especially Harvick and Busch. Instead of fining them, NASCAR ought to send them flowers and a thank-you note.

Replays and re-hashes of their Darlington donnybrook got twice as much air time and column inches throughout the following week than any other event so far this season. And it will be replayed again and again during lulls in the action and leading up to this weekend’s All-Star race.

Kyle and Kevin were told to play nice, but they know there is no bite in NASCAR’s bark. The gist of it is that it’s all in jest.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 18 2011
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