NASCAR Cup Series
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Kyle Busch fight fallout: How will NASCAR handle punishment?
NASCAR Cup Series

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Kyle Busch fight fallout: How will NASCAR handle punishment?

Published May. 20, 2024 1:17 p.m. ET

NASCAR loves to show fights in its highlight packages that demonstrate the emotion its competitors have when they feel wronged.

But NASCAR also must balance wanting the highlight as well as making sure the sport doesn't become a weekly free-for-all.

So where will it land in the Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-Kyle Busch incident?

Punches thrown between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch after All-Star Race


NASCAR's code of conduct rules state that a fine or suspension can be issued for "Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence (e.g. striking another Competitor) and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment."

If that's relatively vague, it's on purpose. NASCAR typically gives drivers more leniency than non-drivers.

Last year in the truck series, NASCAR fined Matt Crafton $25,000 for punching Nick Sanchez in the garage well after the race at Talladega. and suspended Sanchez's father for the final two 2023 races for getting involved.

Using that as precedent, expect a suspension to Stenhouse's father, who got in the middle of the fray on Sunday night and was tussling with Busch. That might be the only suspension unless NASCAR determines any crew members threw a punch.

The tougher call for NASCAR will be whether to penalize Stenhouse Jr., who had about 80 minutes from the time Busch crashed him out on the second lap of the NASCAR All-Star Race to when he met Busch at his hauler following the event.

Stenhouse, twice in post-crash interviews, had telegraphed things could get physical.

He said on the FOX telecast that "maybe Richard would hold my watch after the race." That is a reference to a 2011 incident where team owner Richard Childress gave his son, Austin, his watch before going over and decking Busch well after a truck race. Busch now drives for Childress.

Then in his post-crash media session with non-broadcast partners, he said he would handle it after the race. When FOX Sports asked him how he would handle it, he quipped: "You can just watch afterwards."

Normally, Stenhouse would have left the track after being crashed out, but the North Wilkesboro Speedway does not have a tunnel nor a bridge for people to leave the infield during an event. So he was going to have to wait until it was over.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. vs. Kyle Busch at North Wilkesboro | Fast Thoughts with Bob Pockrass

"Being stuck in here definitely doesn't help the frustration," Stenhouse said after the fight. "If there was a tunnel, I'd have probably been home watching the end of that, but here we are."

Stenhouse was waiting at Busch's hauler after the race ended, they had a brief discussion and then Stenhouse threw a right hook. Stenhouse was eventually tackled by a Busch crew member and a NASCAR security officer. Busch was pushed toward his hauler, grabbed by Stenhouse's father and tussled with him before they were pulled apart. Crew members were everywhere amid the pushing and shoving.

"He hit the fence and kind of came off the wall and ran into me, and when I was talking to him he kept saying that I wrecked him," Stenhouse said about their conversation. "Just definitely built-up frustration with how he runs his mouth all the time about myself."

NASCAR typically wouldn't fine a driver who has just gotten out of the car. Ross Chastain and Austin Hill are among those who have thrown punches on pit road and not been penalized in the last couple of years.

If NASCAR fines Stenhouse, it could be more than it fined Crafton because this occurred in a Cup Series event rather than the trucks, where the purse money for a race finish is significantly less.

NASCAR typically announces penalties on Tuesdays but might wait until Wednesday this week because its 2025 NASCAR Hall of Fame class voting and announcement is Tuesday, so it wouldn't want to overshadow that and some of those who make the decisions on penalties are part of the voting panel.

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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