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How Does the Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Penalty Compare to Other Fights?

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On Wednesday, NASCAR dropped the hammer on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his race team for the post-race brawl at North Wilkesboro. However, many fans and even some drivers, both current and former, were unhappy with the penalties. Today, we look at other fights in recent years to see how they truly compare to the Stenhouse Jr. fight, and see if NASCAR is being as consistent as they claim.

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  • To keep this comparison in a relatively modern lens, we will look at fights from 2019 onwards when Jim France took over as the Chairman and CEO of NASCAR. This removes the extra variable of different administrations and potentially different philosophies regarding these types of penalties.
  • We will examine multiple fights from this era and see what made them different from the Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fight. Were there certain things that forced NASCAR to act or not act based on how things ended up?
  • Fans always love talking about fights because of the drama it creates. However, the penalties regarding fights are a bit fuzzy for some people.

2019 All-Star Race – Clint Bowyer vs Ryan Newman

Penalty: None

Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman fought hard on the track late in the 2019 All-Star Race, prompting the two to make contact on the cool-down lap. The last piece of contact between the two sent Bowyer into the wall after the race was over. Bowyer ran over to Newman’s car after the race and started punching into the window before crew members stepped in.

NASCAR gave no penalties for this altercation despite Bowyer actively lunging at Ryan Newman. Crew members were involved, but they were primarily there to split the two drivers up and keep everything from escalating even further. Typically, NASCAR takes a hands-off approach to fighting, especially if there’s no further escalation after the fact, and this is the prototypical example. A similar incident happened in 2023 at Pocono between Ryan Preece and Corey LaJoie, with the penalties being the exact same.

2019 Martinsville – Denny Hamlin vs Joey Logano

Penalty: None for Drivers; Joey Logano crew member suspended for 1 race

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano made contact late in the Playoff race at Martinsville in 2019, with Logano sustaining significant damage. Logano went to confront Hamlin after the race, and, after Logano slapped Hamlin on the shoulder, Hamlin tried to lunge back at Logano. One crew member from the No. 22 team can be seen pulling Hamlin to the ground.

Just like the Newman vs. Bowyer fight earlier that season, NASCAR declined to penalize the drivers. However, they did penalize the crew member who tackled Hamlin, which set a precedent. Crew members who got involved by doing anything other than trying to break up the fight would be penalized.

2023 Kansas – Noah Gragson vs Ross Chastain

Penalty: None

After contact on the race track, Noah Gragson approached Ross Chastain to confront him. After that, Gragson can be seen grabbing Chastain before Chastain punches Gragson in the face. No other crew members were involved.

Similar to the Bowyer/Newman fight, this was in the heat of the moment after the race. While there was physical contact, NASCAR let the drivers solve it that way, and nothing else escalated further than that. No crew members got involved, so no penalties were given to crew members.

2023 Truck Series Talladega – Matt Crafton vs Nick Sanchez

Penalty: Matt Crafton Fined $25,000; Nick Sanchez Fined $5,000; Nick Sanchez’s dad suspended for 2 races

During NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega in 2023, Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez made contact, setting off the “Big One” and ending Crafton’s day. Crafton waited until after the race to confront Sanchez, and the two came to blows, with a bloodied Sanchez threatening Crafton, saying, “I’m going to F—— kill you!” Sanchez later alleged after the fight that Crafton tapped him on the shoulder and sucker punched Sanchez.

For multiple reasons, this fight received the largest penalty of any on this list. One, Crafton’s move to confront and potentially fight Sanchez was pre-meditated after spending time stewing on the incident. Secondly, there were verbal threats to inflict harm, particularly from Sanchez. Third, we had a family member, Nick Sanchez’s dad, get involved, which elicited a 2-race suspension from NASCAR. All fights before this were heat-of-the-moment arguments after the race, but this fight was very much pre-meditated.

Back to Stenhouse Jr.

Penalty: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fined $75,000; 2 crew members suspended (4 and 8 races, respectively); Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s father suspended indefinitely.

Now, looking back at the Stenhouse Jr./Kyle Busch incident, we have multiple things to consider. While addressing the media, Stenhouse Jr. made verbal threats that he would confront Busch after the race. Stenhouse Jr. waited and stood by Busch’s hauler, intending to do something. Multiple crew members and Stenhouse Jr.’s dad got involved and ambushed Busch, necessitating that suspension.

Like the Sanchez vs Crafton fight, this was an act Stenhouse Jr. thought about and stewed on. Not to mention that Busch didn’t actively threaten Stenhouse Jr. in any way. With it being so similar to NASCAR’s penalty of Matt Crafton, one could argue there’s precedent for this kind of penalty. The fines will also be bigger since it’s the Cup Series, and those drivers and teams make more money.

No matter where you stand on this argument, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still ended up with a $75,000 fine, and NASCAR has data to back up their penalty. Even if NASCAR’s social channels spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday breaking it down from every angle possible.

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