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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. HAMMERED For North Wilkesboro Fight

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What’s Happening?

On Wednesday morning, NASCAR announced severe penalties for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his team following the brawl at North Wilkesboro. Stenhouse Jr. was fined $75,000, while NASCAR suspended crew members of his No. 47 team, Keith Matthews (4 races) and Clint Myrick (8 races), along with Stenhousr Jr.’s father, Ricky Stenhouse Sr. (indefinitely).

  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was upset at Kyle Busch after Busch wrecked Stenhouse Jr. on lap 2. Stenhouse Jr. waited for Busch in the infield as the race continued, and the two met in the garage area after the race. After some words were exchanged between them, Stenhouse Jr. threw a punch at Busch, starting the brawl in which Matthews, Myrick, and Stenhouse Sr. all got involved.
  • This is one of the biggest penalties NASCAR has ever handed out for a brawl. It’s not uncommon for crew members to get suspended or drivers to get fined, but, usually not to this extent.
  • Fans are not thrilled with these penalties. Many believe it’s hypocritical of NASCAR to promote the fight on social media, then turn around and penalize the drivers so severely.

The Full Context

The tensions stemmed from this crash on lap two. Kyle Busch hit the wall off of turn two, and he assumed that Stenhouse Jr. ran into him. At the height of his frustration, Busch pushed Stenhouse Jr. all the way through turns one and two, spinning the No. 47 car.

Stenhouse Jr. then expressed his displeasure by parking his car in Kyle Busch’s pit stall. In multiple interviews, he also promised to confront Busch after the race, even telling the NASCAR on FOX broadcast, “Maybe Richard [Childress] (Kyle Busch’s car owner) will hold my watch after the race.”

Sure enough, when Kyle Busch walked back to his hauler, there Stenhouse Jr. was, patiently or impatiently waiting. The two exchanged words, and then Stenhouse Jr. punched Busch, starting the bawl.

As the fight continues, Stenhouse Jr. can be heard calling out for someone to get his dad. Crew members, assumedly the now-suspended crew members, are also seen going after Busch.

After they separated, they shouted at each other again, and Stenhouse Jr. threatened to wreck Busch at Charlotte. Busch responded, “I don’t give a f—! I suck just as bad as you!” NASCAR on Fox put together all of the subtitles from the full exchange.

NASCAR’s Comments

NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Elton Sawyer, discussed the penalties on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio this morning. When initially asked, he focused particularly on the crew members and family members getting involved.

I think it’s fair to say that when you have crew members and family members that put their hands on our athletes, our drivers, we’re going to react. There’s not a lot of detail that I’m going to get into this morning due to the fact that these are appealable penalties and I want to make sure that we’re fair to that process. With that being said, and we’ve been consistent with this. When crew members get involved and family members get involved, we’re going to react. We looked at all the audio and video from the incident on Sunday night, so, at this point, that’s all I’m going to comment on the penalties.

Elton Sawyer

Sawyer is correct that NASCAR generally punishes family members or crew members who get involved in altercations. In 2023, Nick Sanchez and Matt Crafton got into an altercation following the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega. Sanchez’s father was suspended due to the altercation, but, not Sanchez or Crafton. That incident can be viewed below.

As far as the $75,000 fine to Stenhouse Jr., Sawyer explained that Stenhouse Jr. waiting around for Busch after the race was what caused that big of a fine.

What I will say, when you wait 198 laps, and you make those decisions that were made, we’re gong to react to that. There could have been different decisions made. Once we start to get to the point where it gets physical, we want the two drivers to be able to have their time to express their differences, but, again, once it escalates to where there’s been a physical altercation there, we’re going to react. Granted, there was no tunnel, there was no crossover bridge, but, better decisions could hace been made throughout that period of time between the incident that happened on the race track and the incident that happened in the garage post-race

Elton Sawyer

Back to the Crafton and Sanchez altercation, that’s another fight in which a driver (Crafton) was wrecked out earlier and waited until the end of the race to confront the other driver (Sanchez). NASCAR stopped short of suspending both drivers, but they did fine both drivers.

Stenhouse Jr. said on live television that he would confront Busch after the race, even alluding to potentially getting physical. No one really knew what he would do, but Stenhouse Jr.’s confrontation with Busch was premeditated and intentional.

The most notable driver missing from the penalty report was Kyle Busch. He received no penalty for anything that happened, even the seemingly intentional wreck of Stenhouse Jr. Sawyer explained why Busch did not receive a penalty.

You look at the race track, and the situation. It’s early, it’s the All-Star Race, it’s hard racing. I will defer to Ricky and Kyle whether they agree to disagree on what happened on the race track. I think it’s been consistent over our time. If we see something, we have proven over time that intentionally hooking someone in the right rear [will be penalized], and we’ve reacted to that. We really as a sanctioning body, and we do, stay out of the on-track incidents unless we see something that blatantly comes back to us that we need to react to. In this case, we reviewed it, we looked at it, we listened to audio, and, again, hard racing, but also, totally appreciate where the two drivers stand on it. We’ll let those guys decide and agree to disagree.

Elton Sawyer

NASCAR has not taken kindly to intentional wrecks over the years. Matt Kenseth in 2015, Bubba Wallace in 2022, and Chase Elliott in 2023 were all suspended for one or two races for intentionally wrecking another driver. Kyle Busch was even suspended for a weekend in 2011 in Texas for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday under caution in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.

However, this incident with Stenhouse Jr. was not a right rear hook. It’s pretty obvious Busch made that contact to send a message to Stenhouse Jr., but, was the intent to wreck Stenhouse Jr.? That’s a little more unclear.

The OUTRAGE From the Penalty

A few industry insiders and fans were very critical of the penalties NASCAR handed out. One reason, as Daniel Suarez pointed out, was that NASCAR had spent the early parts of the week promoting the fight all over social media.

Since the fight happened, NASCAR has posted 5 unique angles of the fight including audio, made a photo post of the punch, put together a graphic with the quotes of both drivers, and allowed Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as a guest on Corey LaJoie’s “Stacking Pennies” podcast, a NASCAR-produced show.

NASCAR took this publicity and ran with it. Then they turned around on Wednesday and decided to hammer down on the penalties.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also critical of the fine. He pointed out the 1979 Daytona 500, where “The Fight” played a big role in the race being as iconic as it still is, even if NASCAR did not penalize them.

Pete Pistone offered an alternate viewpoint, suggesting that no evidence claims these types of fights help promote the sport. He also believes that these incidents are, overall, “Not a good look for the sport,” pointing out that the 1979 Daytona 500 was 45 years ago.

In fairness to Pistone, NASCAR wasn’t even totally sure how to feel about the fight as it was happening during the 1979 Daytona 500. In the documentary “A Perfect Storm: The 1979 Daytona 500,” NASCAR’s News Bureau Director Alexis Leras said that she thought, as the fight was happening, “Oh no, this is not good! This is not how we wanted to introduce our sport.”

Regardless of what side you may or may not fall on, the penalties are done. Now, we are waiting for whether or not the appeals come.

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