NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR could have punched even harder in wake of Stenhouse-Busch brawl
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR could have punched even harder in wake of Stenhouse-Busch brawl

Updated May. 22, 2024 5:13 p.m. ET

NASCAR made the right move in how it handled the right hook and what followed Sunday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway. In fact, it could have punched harder if it wanted.

NASCAR fined Ricky Stenhouse Jr. $75,000 for waiting in the garage for Kyle Busch and, after a short conversation, punching him. It suspended Stenhouse's dad indefinitely and two crew members — Keith Matthews for four races, Clint Myrick for eight races — for their involvement in the fight.

The video of fights will be used to promote future races, so some will say that there shouldn't be a fine for the punch. But NASCAR can't condone punches being thrown, especially when a driver has had enough time to change into street clothes and can't claim it was done in the heat of the moment.


It probably should fine drivers who throw the first punch regardless of when, even if in the heat of the moment right after the race (currently NASCAR doesn't), but certainly it needs to send a message that a driver can't make a clear decision to assault another driver after having had time to cool down.

NASCAR suspended crew members, too, and those suspensions had to happen — NASCAR needs to send the message to crew members that getting involved in a driver-vs.-driver fight will result in them being sat for a certain period of time. Just like in other sports where those who are not in the initial fight get involved, the price is big.

That policy keeps things manageable for events such as Sunday night, where crew members were pushing and shoving amid tires and other equipment. It is a small miracle no one got hurt (at least what we know).

Fights involving crew members have become less frequent in recent years because of those suspensions, plus a NASCAR policy of not allowing more than a couple of crew members by the car when the drivers get out. After a cool-down period, crews are then allowed to come over to the car. 

Punches thrown between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch

Few will dispute that Stenhouse had reason to be angry with Busch, who typically doesn't just retaliate for no reason (especially in recent years). Busch didn't seem to have a great reason for dumping Stenhouse, as the Stenhouse move was far from egregious. Considering the speeds of a short track and that Busch's retaliation wasn't an egregious hook at high speeds, NASCAR made the right call in not penalizing Busch for the on-track incident.

Pretty much this should be the rule: Throw the first punch at a NASCAR race as a driver, NASCAR will respond with a slap on the wrist.

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Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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