With Ambrose/Mears penalty, is ‘Boys, have at it’ history in NASCAR?

Jamie McMurray (pictured) says the penalties against Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears were unnecessary.

Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images

Is NASCAR’s "Boys, have at it" era introduced before the 2010 season now history?

To hear Jamie McMurray’s take on Tuesday’s penalties against Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears, it just might be.

Despite NASCAR handing down what amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist to both drivers, McMurray believes the sanctions — a $25,000 fine for Ambrose, a $15,000 fine for Mears, and matching probations through May 28 — were unwarranted.

Neither driver was suspended for his actions last Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, where the two engaged in a shoving match before Ambrose landed a firm punch to Mears’ face that left his newfound nemesis with a black eye.

"I hoped that NASCAR would just let that go," McMurray, speaking on a national teleconference, said Wednesday morning. "They have preached to all of us that they want us to be who we are, and I think it’s good that you have some characters in the sport. I’m not calling Casey or Marcos out, but not everyone is willing to — or is the type of guy that would — punch someone, right? Everyone has a moment that they’re extremely upset, but I think you can count on one hand the guys that would actually throw a punch.

NASCAR fines Ambrose, Mears, places both on probation

"Everyone is talking about it. I’m building a house, and when I got up to the home site, that’s all the guys wanted to talk about was, ‘Oh, my gosh, did you see that?’ and they wanted to know if I have any inside scoop.

"I think it’s great. I don’t want to see anyone get punched, but it’s been … how many years ago has it been since someone actually punched someone?  It’s got everyone talking about the sport, and I think it’s good you see those guys’ passion."

NASCAR concluded a penalty was in order, however, despite NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton downplaying the incident when asked about it immediately after Saturday night’s race.

"I was really hoping that NASCAR was going to let it go or that the fines would be less because that’s a huge — $25,000 is massive," McMurray said. "My opinion of that is that you won’t see it happen again because I think people will think about that and be like, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth $25,000 for me to express exactly how I feel at this time."

Fight club: Tempers flare on the short track in Richmond

Kevin Harvick, speaking at a media event Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway before the penalty was announced, expressed a view similar to McMurray’s, and didn’t expect Ambrose or Mears to be penalized for their scuffle.

"From everything that I’ve gathered, when it’s driver to driver, I don’t think NASCAR has a problem with it," Harvick said. 

McMurray doesn’t believe the punishments fit the crimes in the case of Ambrose and Mears.

"If it was happening every week, I think it would be different, but if they hadn’t fined those guys, I don’t think it would have happened again for a long time," McMurray said. "Like I say, I think there’s only a few guys — I think there’s maybe five guys that are willing to do that, and it takes both those guys getting together on the same night and being extremely upset before it would happen. I think if they would have let it go, I don’t think it would have happened again for a while. I think it’s very circumstantial with the two right guys, you know.

"And, look, I think if you watch the video of that, my take on it, I don’t think (Ambrose) had any intentions of throwing a punch. Casey went over there and was wanting to get his point across. I don’t think he had any — when he got hit, you could tell he was like, ‘I can’t believe I just got punched,’ right? I don’t think anyone had that mindset going into it."